James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Baxter must realise playground rules no longer apply

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“Knowing others,” Lao Tzu opined. “Is intelligence. Knowing yourself is true wisdom.

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” Jose Baxter could do with a little Taoism in his life right now.

The Sheffield United midfielder is a supremely talented individual capable of imposing his will on both opponents and the ball. But, as the wholly unnecessary challenge which earned him a red card during Tuesday’s Capital One Cup defeat by Fulham illustrated, he is also flawed.

Nobody does outrage quite like the sensitive souls who inhabit social media or text radio shows these days. It’s no longer enough to simply disagree or feel a little bit let down by others. Instead, in 2015, only absolute disgust will do. So it was no surprise to see timelines swamped with calls for Baxter to be hung, drawn and quartered after he went through Tom Cairney like the proverbial dose of salts at Craven Cottage in midweek.

Such faux anger and angst probably explains, to paraphrase Tony Benn, why weather vanes, not signposts, dominate modern politics. Those who actually stand for something invoke the pseudo-fury of the mob while people who allow their principles to be guided by public opinion enjoy a much quieter life.

Baxter had his reasons, albeit bloody stupid and misguided ones, for doing what he did. Apparently, he thought Cairney was guilty of showboating after Fulham went 2-0 up. Ridiculous, I know, but an anathema to someone who only recently ditched his jet black boots.

Baxter, as Adam Barton can testify, has previous and, despite being a likeable lad, clearly needs to be careful about the company he keeps following a well-publicised run-in with the authorities earlier this summer. But one of the reasons why watching Baxter play can be such a joy is because he approaches his work like a playground kickabout. Raw, unadulterated enthusiasm with no commercial edge.

United manager Nigel Adkins, who was understandably fuming after the 23-year-old’s latest indiscretion, must discover whether he can curb his baser instincts without diluting that uncomplicated approach.

Baxter, now suspended for three games starting with tomorrow’s visit to Swindon, greater understanding of what actually makes himself tick.

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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