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Feature Interview: Nathan Baxter

15 December 2021

In an exclusive sit-down chat, the goalkeeper discusses his upbringing at Chelsea, his loans through the footballing pyramid and how he is focused this season with Hull City...

The 23-year-old is on a season-long loan with the Tigers from Premier League giants Chelsea, with Baxter first joining the Blues when he was just seven. Idolising Petr Čech and Carlo Cudicini when growing up, Baxter spoke of his development at Chelsea’s Academy and how he speaks to them both regularly.

“I loved every minute of playing at the academy as soon as I walked through the doors at Cobham,” said Baxter. “I feel like they helped me grow up not just as a player, but also as a person.

“It’s crazy to think now that I get to work with both Carlo and Petr and discuss my career path with them, because they were the guys I grew up dreaming of emulating.”

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In a memorable 2015/16 season, Baxter helped secure the FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League double for the Blues. Former Tigers loanee Fikayo Tomori was one of the names who played alongside Baxter that season, with the 23-year-old also training with some of the best goalkeepers in the world.

“If you look back on that team now, loads of them have gone on to play for Chelsea and play in the Premier League, so it stood me in good stead regarding training and playing-wise to a high level.

“To train with people like Thibaut Courtois, Asmir Begović, Willy Cabellero, and in most recent years Kepa (Arrizabalaga) and Édouard Mendy, you learn and take little bits off each goalkeeper, because they’re all very different and I like to think I have included a little bit of people’s games into my own.”

Baxter took his first steps into senior football at the beginning of the 2016/17 season, joining Metropolitan Police on loan for the first half of the campaign, before moving to Solihull Moors for the second half. Making a combined 36 appearances, the goalkeeper praised Chelsea’s Head of Youth Development Neil Bath for the role he played.

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“It was the best thing I ever did (going out on loan) and I have to thank Neil for that. It was very much a joint decision between me and Neil, and the way he has supported me ever since has been above and beyond.”

The following season, Baxter joined National League side Woking, making over 50 appearances in all competitions. During his time at the Cardinals, Baxter played an FA Cup second-round fixture against Grant McCann’s Peterborough United and despite suffering defeat in a replay, the custodian left an impression.

“We played Peterborough United twice in the FA Cup and took them to a replay. I know that helped in the sense that the manager knew me from a long time ago to bring me here now, so that loan spell is probably even more relevant now than it was last season.”

After winning the Fans’ Player of the Year award at Woking, Baxter made the step up from National League to League Two as he joined Yeovil Town the season afterwards. Winning five end-of-season club awards with the Glovers, as well as captaining the side at 19 years old, the Chelsea loanee looks back on that temporary spell with fond memories.

“I was very proud of that season at Yeovil, because I captained the club and broke the record for consecutive clean sheets, keeping six in a row. To then win five awards at the end of the season was great and to play every week was beneficial.”

Nathan Baxter Cardiff A November 2021.jpg

A move to Scotland was next on Baxter’s career path, joining Ross County. A shoulder injury in pre-season prevented the shot-stopper from starting the season, but Baxter forced his way back into the starting XI, making 13 league appearances before the season was curtailed by Covid-19.

“It was a weird season in the sense that in the first week of pre-season, I had to come back from my shoulder surgery, started playing every week and then Covid happened,” reminisced Baxter. “However, to play in front of 60,000 fans at Celtic and 50,000 at Rangers was great for me, because there is nothing that is going to faze me crowd-wise moving forward.”

Covid-19 made the following season even stranger as the majority of fixtures were played behind closed doors. Baxter spent the 2020/21 season on loan at Accrington Stanley, with the move not coming about until the last minute.

“It was another strange season in the sense that at the start of it, I was going to stay at Chelsea and be third choice and it was a bit of a last-minute move, but I really enjoyed it. It’s strange to say I’ve played for a club and never played in front of the supporters, because I think everyone can tell that I love playing in front of fans and that I wear my heart on my sleeve.”

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Playing in both of Accrington’s fixtures against the Tigers last season, Grant McCann made the decision to sign Baxter on loan for his first spell in the Championship. Despite waiting until last month for a league debut due to Matt Ingram’s form, Baxter has featured in the Tigers’ last six fixtures, and is looking to help out the club as much as he can.

“I said the day I signed here that I don’t see myself as a Chelsea player, I see myself as a Hull City player and hopefully the fans can see that I am giving everything on the pitch.

“I just want to be a positive influence around the group. It is nice to be playing games and I’m desperate to keep the unbeaten streak going and keep helping the side.”

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