A HOME tie against Liverpool in the FA Cup this Sunday is what dreams are made of for Oldham forward Jose Baxter.
A life-long Reds fan who became the youngest player in Everton history when he made his senior debut in 2008, Baxter has excelled with Oldham since leaving Goodison Park in search of regular first-team football.
The last of his 11 goals in 27 appearances to date came as the Latics stunned Nottingham Forest 3-2 in round three, and the 20-year-old – who played 14 games on loan for Tranmere last season, scoring three times – was enjoying a well-earned lazy Sunday when the fourth-round draw took place a day later.
“I was lying in bed, just watching the draw itself,” he said. “I was actually dreaming of Liverpool to be honest and it came out. It was mad, I got loads of texts from friends and family so it was a really good day.
“It’s going to be great for me, being a Liverpool fan – it’s going to be massive.”
Life as a professional since his formative years has not dulled the enthusiastic fan in Baxter.
“I try to get to every (Liverpool) game I can when I’m not in training or not playing. I’ve followed them all around the world as a young kid growing up,” he said.
“Steven Gerrard is my idol. He has been for many years and he’s someone I look up to. I’d love to be half the player he is.
“But on Sunday I wouldn’t really ask for shirts and stuff like that.”
Such an attitude demonstrates the sense of duty Baxter feels to the Oldham cause and to manager Paul Dickov, who finds himself under increasing pressure following a run that has seen the team take only one point from eight npower League One matches.
Following an unsuccessful trial at Crystal Palace on the back of turning down a stay at Everton, Oldham handed Baxter a short-term deal in September.
And despite widely reported interest from clubs in higher divisions, he penned a 2½-year contract earlier this month.
“They took a gamble on me and I tried to pay a little bit of respect back, but also I was happy here and playing football, so it was an easy decision,” he said.
“Everton offered me a contract and I had an amazing time there but I got to an age where I thought I needed to go out and play games rather than sit on benches and play reserve football.
“I had a little spell on loan at Tranmere last season and it made me hungry, made me want to get out there and play.”
As a tireless worker on the pitch during his playing days, that is an attitude Dickov understandably welcomes.
“It’s really refreshing,” Dickov said.
“It’s very rare nowadays, with the publicity that players and agents get, for a player to come out and just want to play his football and find a home somewhere where he wants to play his football.
“It’s a credit to him. He’s a good footballer.
“I think he’s one of the best talents outside the Premier League at the moment.”
Baxter believes the former Manchester City and Scotland striker can play a vital role in his development.
“He was a legend as a footballer and I think he’s a great manager as well,” Baxter added. “We haven’t been getting results but that’s not down to him. He can put his best team out and it’s us that step over the white line.
“He’s a great manager, a great coach, and with him having played in a similar position to me there’s no one better to look up to.”