JOSE BAXTER is looking forward to more teasing with his former Everton team-mates before Oldham mount their second bid to knock the Toffees out of the FA Cup.
The 21-year-old playmaker, who rejected a new contract at Goodison Park last summer in pursuit of regular first-team football, played his part for Oldham in their dramatic 2-2 draw against David Moyes’ men in the fifth round on Saturday.
Matt Smith’s equaliser deep into stoppage time sent Boundary Park into raptures and put Oldham’s name in the hat for the quarter-finals for the first time since 1994. The teams will do battle again on Wednesday, February 27, at Goodison.
Baxter has remained in regular contact with a number of the Everton first-team squad and exchanged text messages with England duo Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka before the match, in which the latter handed the Premier League side a 2-1 lead.
“It’s only friendly banter like ‘I’ll see you soon’ and Bainesy having a little bit of a joke,” Baxter said.
“They’re proper professionals. They wouldn’t disrespect me or the club and say they’re going to beat us.
“They really are top lads and the performances they put in for Everton show how good they are.”
Baxter retains a strong affinity for a club where his appearance on the opening day of the 2008/09 season against Blackburn made him the youngest player in their history at 16 years and 191 days – a record that still stands today – and he relished an at times overwhelming occasion yesterday.
He said: “It was unbelievable, seeing so many of my old team-mates and my old manager who gave me the chance that I’m really grateful for, and what a manager he is.
“Instead of them being my team-mates and my manager they were the opposition, so it was a bit of an awkward one but I didn’t half enjoy it.”
Smith scored twice in an all-action display when Oldham stunned Liverpool 3-2 in round four, only to suffer a shoulder injury late in the contest.
The 6ft 6ins striker climbed off the bench for his first action since then in the final half-hour on Saturday and rewarded caretaker manager Tony Philliskirk by powering home Jonathan Grounds’ right-wing corner.
“A few of my Scouse mates won’t be happy with him, but I sure love him,” Baxter said.
“I think he’s done fantastically for us. He came off the bench and had a great influence, along with Dean Furman and (Robbie) Simpson. The lads who came on really did show they were fresh-legged and ready to go.”