James Baxendale is looking forward to the chance of regular first team football after signing full-time for Mansfield Town this week after a frustrating season at Championship-chasing Walsall.
Baxendale admitted he had no axe to grind with the high-flying Saddlers as they were not going to change a winning side.
But, like the time as a youngster when he went and played half a season at Buxton when he could not break into the Doncaster Rovers side, the energetic midfielder has shown he just wants to play football.
Baxendale arrived on loan for a month, scoring and winning man of the match in Stags 2-1 win over Stevenage on his debut last month.
But this week, he penned an 18-month deal and said: “Obviously I had a good month here on loan and this was something I spoke about pretty much as soon as I got here. So I was glad to get it done.
Click HERE to see Baxendale’s debut goal for Mansfield
Click HERE to see an interview with Baxendale on his arrival at Mansfield.
“I felt like I settled in here pretty much straight away and saw the way the club is run day in and day out. The lads have welcomed me in well, as have the management. Now it’s done and I want to kick on with the season.
“I came in on the Friday and we won the game on the Saturday – you can’t really settle in much better than that.
“The lads were joking there’s only way for me now. The debut was good and then we’ve won three of the first five games since I’ve been here.
“At this stage of the season, picking up points is important as, if we continue that kind of form, we’re going to be there or thereabouts.”
He was not fazed about being pitched into the first team within 24 hours of arriving.
“You look forward to it because with the situation I was in at Walsall I was itching for football,” he said. “So to come in on the Friday and know you’re going to play on the Saturday is exciting and something you’ve worked for for a while.
“When you’re out the team you keep yourself fit for the time a game does come, so I couldn’t wait to get started.
“Sometimes it helps you out as they can see what kind of player you are. You don’t have a week in training to get a feel for it, you are thrown in and people see what you’re about. Sometimes that can bring you closer together.
“You’re here to play football. So to do it within a day is perfect.”
Since then he has tasted defeat at AFC Wimbledon and at home to Luton before playing his part in two away wins in five days last week.
“Luton were decent on the day, but we played some good stuff as well,” said Baxendale. “We were all gutted on the day after the result, but we watched the game back and we dominated possession but just didn’t really penetrate.
“The two away games after were both really good team performances. We dug in for 90 minutes both games, stuck to the game plan, and it worked out well again. When you win away from home, it’s a good feeling.
“Win your home games and pick up the odd point away, that’s what people say is the form to get you up there. So if we can pick up a few more wins at home, we’ll be there or thereabouts.”
This Saturday Stags have an ultra-quick home return with Morecambe less than two weeks after two late goals saw Stags turned around a 1-0 deficit to beat the Shrimps 2-1.
“That’s the way the fixtures are I think we’ll have the psychological advantage after scoring the late goals there, which will have deflated them,” he said.
“They will come here and know we’re not going to give up for 90 minutes regardless of what the score is and if we can get the early start they will feel like they’ve got a mountain to climb.”
Baxendale has no regrets at leaving Walsall and hopes to see his old club achieve their promotion dream.
He said: “The team at Walsall is flying and I wish them all the best. But from the personal side of things, I had to come away to play some games and I think I’ve found the right club.
“It’s been frustrating for the last season or so as I wasn’t really getting regular football.
“When I first started at Walsall I was playing every week which was ideal and I got a good grounding there and a feel for what first team football is about. But now it’s time to come here and kick on.
“The Walsall team that started the beginning of this season have not lost many as you can see – they are second in the league. So there’s been no way for me to bang on the manager’s door and say ‘why am I not getting a game’ as they lads have been so good.
“So it was either be happy to sit on a bench every week and watch them win or come away and find myself first team football. I am not one to sit on a bench so that’s what’s happened.”
He added: “It was a similar situation at Buxton. I started off the season in and around the first team at Doncaster. Then a change of management came and I found myself out.
“But I was only 18 at the time and a first year pro and I needed to get regular football again. You go from the youth team playing every week to no football whatsoever.
“You need to kind of do whatever it takes to get yourself ready for when you are called upon in the League.
“It gave me a good grounding. Every game you play you learn. So when you are a young lad every kind of experience you can get is invaluable really.
“It was good at Buxton. It was around Christmas time when I started playing there and the pitches were turning. So there wasn’t a lot of football played.
“But coming from the youth team, where it’s perfect football, to go to play football against men that want to kick you up in the air, you do learn.
“You learn that you’ve got to get away sometimes and you learn more about the game there than you can learn in training or reserve team football. For me it was crucial.
“The manager was Scott Maxwell. He lived in the same area I did and looked after me. To be fair he was very good with me.
“You are driven. As a young lad, if you want to make it in the game you’ve got to be driven – whatever it takes. And I just wanted to play regular football and get out there at 3pm on a Saturday, so at the time it was whoever would give me a game.
“Scott gave me games and that experience you get on the pitch you can take forward.”
Baxendale came through the youth set-up at Leeds United, but failed to break into the first team.
“The facilities were unbelievable at Leeds,” he said. “You see good players coming into the first team, and you go to Elland Road, which is inspiring as it is.
“That was what I always aspired to do – try to get out in front of that Elland Road crowd every week.”
His early loves were Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday, though his footballing heroes played for neither.
“I had a season ticket at Forest when I was a kid, and then as I knew better I went to Sheffield Wednesday.
“But my heroes were Steve Gerrard and Joe Cole really. Gerrard can carry a team on his own – he won that Champions’ League final in Istanbul on his own in my opinion.
“Then players similar to myself like Joe Cole - well maybe not similar to myself - in the sense that he carries the ball and excites people. Football is an entertainment sport and he entertains people.”
Baxendale loves to get on the ball and run at players, but accepts he will have to mix that up with a more direct game at times in League Two.
“You can tell here that we adapt to win a football game,” he said. “You want to play the attractive football but everything’s got to be done to win a game – whatever it takes. And it seems we can mix it up.
“We can go longer if needs be and we can keep the ball as well as anyone.”
He added: “You want success. You play every week to win.
“You want to be as high as possible up the league, but I think it’s good we’ve taken the approach that if we have a game we will try to win it and wherever that takes us, it takes us. But, of course we want to get in the play-offs.”