The Imps are currently having a look at another former Mansfield Town player, attacking midfielder James Baxendale has been training with us for the last week.
It’s been heavily rumoured and there have been pictures of unidentified players on social media, or at least players who aren’t familiar. The Mansfield Chad confirmed that Baxendale is indeed on trial with City.
So, who is James Baxendale, and how would he fit into the squad plans, should he be successful? He’s a ‘veteran’ of over 100 League One appearances, but at 24-years old he also still has youth on his side as well. He started his career at Leeds United, but failed to win a professional contract and ended up being released in May 2011.
He signed for Doncaster Rovers, then of the Championship, but after outings against West Ham and Tranmere he ended up heading out on loan. He spent time with Buxton and latterly Hereford United, but upon completion of his Rovers contract he once again found himself released.
He then moved on to Walsall where he played the bulk of his first team football. He initially joined on a one-year deal, but after putting 34 first team outings on the board and bagging fur goals, he impressed enough to earn a three-year deal. The next two seasons saw him enjoy a prolonged spell of third tier football, but he lost his place for the 2015/16 season, citing a loss of form and niggling injuries as the cause. After 122 outings and eight goals for the Saddlers he linked up with Mansfield Town on loan, and he made an immediate impact for Adam Murray by scoring on his debut against Stevenage and winning the Man of the Match award.
He made his move to Field Mill permanent in February 2016, and Adam Murray was delighted by the signing at the time:
“We are very happy to complete the signing of James Baxendale. He will add quality and guile to our attacking third and we believe he will give us that cutting edge, with a final pass and end product, which we have been missing in recent weeks. He will complement the attacking players which we already have and is a good string to our bow. James hasn’t played a lot of football over the last 12 months, this being mainly due to Walsall [his parent club] having one of the best ‘number 10s’ in Romaine Sawyers. However, James’ pedigree and reputation is highly regarded.”
Despite Murray’s enthusiasm for his new signing he wasn’t able to maintain his grip on the Mansfield managers job, and he left in November 2016. Baxendale soon found himself to be another casualty of the Steve Evans ‘revolution’, and he was released at the same time as Matt Green this May.
Baxendale is primarily billed as an attacking midfielder, a position you might think we have covered with Elliott Whitehouse and Billy Knott, but he has also been billed as a winger in his career too. He can also operate as a number 10, which is perhaps where Adam Murray would have preferred to see him deployed. I haven’t seen Danny and Nicky exploit utility players too much in their time with Lincoln, certainly not across the forward line, but maybe they’ll see his apparent versatility as useful.
Being on trial doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll lean either way, it will be up to the player to prove his worth. I’m sure Danny will see the League One experience as a positive, but he’ll need more than just an impressive CV. Last season James Caton spent a long time on trial and it appeared as if he would get a full-time deal. He didn’t, and that came amidst rumours of issues with the amount he tracked back. Any trial players must show flexibility and intense application, as well as showing they can add something to the group.
James Baxendale could certainly add options in terms of his position, he could add experience and he’s still young enough to develop as well. Whether he can convince Danny and Nicky he is worth a one-year deal is another question entirely.