Hull City’s Chelsea goalkeeper Nathan Baxter has wise head on young shoulders
More than many players can sometimes experience in an entire career, in fact.
Hull is the seventh port of call for the Chelsea custodian. Previous time on loan has been spent out west at Yeovil, way north at Ross County and a fair bit closer to home at the likes of Met Police and Woking amid the tough school of non-league football.
If you think that this shows the characteristics of a driven individual with an old head on young shoulders who is independent in thought and willing to step outside of his comfort zone to broaden his education – as opposed to taking the easy route of pottering along in under-23s football – then you would be emphatically right.
He had completed over one hundred first-team appearances while he was still a teenager and also captained a first-team side before he hit his Twenties. If that does not speak volumes about his character, nothing will.
Baxter, who will battle it out for first-team duties with Matt Ingram in 2021-22, told The Yorkshire Post: “There are not many goalkeepers who have played at the level I have at that age (18).
“Those who have done that have tended to have big careers. But that does not give me any right that I am going to go on and do that. Each time I step up to a new level, I have to prove I am good enough to.
“I have always done that in the past and see this as the next progression for me and I am really excited to do it all again this season.
“Most people who have worked with me in the game will see that my mentality is one of my biggest assets as a goalkeeper. That has come from playing senior football at such a young age.
“There are lads here who have played at the top level, but I want to come here and stamp my authority in the dressing room in the right way.
“I am still very respectful that there are lads who have got the club promoted who are a lot more older and experienced than me.
“In the right way, I will try and come in and help the boys as much as I can.”
Baxter – who lined up against Hull in the colours of Accrington Stanley last season – joins a winning dressing room who sampled the intoxicating highs of clinching the Tigers’ first title since 1965-66 in exhilarating fashion in the Spring after a pretty textbook 2020-21 campaign.
By common consent, returning to the Championship and making an impact is likely to be far less smooth.
Bumps in the road will occur and Hull – placed under a transfer embargo last week and not ruling out player sales if they receive ‘fair value’ offers – will not have it their own way with some testing times ahead.
Baxter has coped with adversity before and was not found wanting.
The Londoner captained Yeovil back in 2018-19 and claimed an outstanding five trophies at the club’s end-of-season awards night.
The Glovers were relegated at the end of that season – and the hope will be that Hull do not avoid a similar fate. With individuals like Baxter, they should have a much better chance of avoiding that scenario.
Baxter, on the books of Chelsea since the age of eight, continued: “I was Yeovil’s youngest ever captain in the league at 19 and I don’t think I would have been able to do that if I hadn’t played senior football at the age I have.
“Quite often, lads don’t realise how young I am – on the pitch and around the dressing room, I try and be a leader. I don’t think it matters what age you are; you can still be a leader.
“I don’t think I would have been like that if I’d just stayed and played (under) 23s football. It is not right for everyone and great for some lads, but for me, I felt at this time I was ready to play senior football and Chelsea thought the same.
“The club (Chelsea) have people who come to watch almost every game and give you feedback. The club are brilliant with me and have always been very supportive of my loans.”
Specifically on being handed the captaincy at Yeovil, he said: “There were a few lads who had played for the club for a while who were a lot older and more experienced. From my point of view, we were in a relegation battle and the manager did what he thought was right.
“I wanted to try and help the boys and at the time, he saw me as a leader in that dressing room.
“I’d always try and be a leader. That does not necessarily mean having to be the most vocal. I am a lot of the time, but there is a time and a place.
“Each dressing room is different. I have been a leader in the dressing room, but equally at Accrington, there were lads who had played 500 times for the club. You don’t go in from day one, telling everyone the way it is.
“I want to try and help the boys at Hull and it is about doing certain things to helping the lads get three points.”