Ex-Doncaster Rovers, Walsall and Mansfield Town midfielder lifts lid on ‘whirlwind’ debut week in management

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Rookie boss James Baxendale wants to turn new-look Armthorpe Welfare into a force to be reckoned with.

Former Doncaster Rovers, Walsall and Mansfield Town midfielder Baxendale has been thrown in at the deep end in his first management role and inherited just one player – defender Shadrach Onwubiko – from the previous regime after almost every member of the squad followed Lee Morris out of the door earlier this month.

Baxendale, aged 30, now works as a recruitment consultant and used all the skills from his day job to snap up 16 players before last weekend’s FA Vase victory over Winsford United.

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"It’s been a whirlwind to say the least,” Baxendale, from Thorne, said of his first week in management.

James Baxendale in Doncaster Rovers colours. He hopes to borrow youngsters from his former club.James Baxendale in Doncaster Rovers colours. He hopes to borrow youngsters from his former club.
James Baxendale in Doncaster Rovers colours. He hopes to borrow youngsters from his former club.

"My missus has been saying I have got three full-time jobs at the moment.”

Four of Saturday’s starting XI only met their new teammates before kick-off but Welfare progressed to the second qualifying round on penalties after coming from behind to draw 2-2.

“It was great,” said Baxendale, who brought himself on as a second-half substitute.

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"I praised the boys and thanked them for everything they gave me. Reflecting on it, I don’t think I gave them enough praise.

James Baxendale in action for former club Mansfield Town against Blackburn Rovers.James Baxendale in action for former club Mansfield Town against Blackburn Rovers.
James Baxendale in action for former club Mansfield Town against Blackburn Rovers.

"The Saturday before they were sat on the settee or on a bench somewhere, nobody was match fit.

"We have got a lot of lads coming from Sunday league football, they said they had never met an hour-and-a-half before the game before or done a warm-up that intense.

"They are used to getting out of the car and putting a shirt on.

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"That’s a learning curve for me because I have been used to something different throughout my career.”

Welfare return to league action with a trip to Beverley Town in the Toolstation Northern Counties East League Division One on Tuesday, meaning the team won’t have a chance to train together until next week after their first session last Wednesday.

“Hopefully it can only get better,” said Baxendale, who came through the academy ranks at Leeds United before joining Doncaster – at that point a Championship side – in 2011.

He went on to play almost 150 times in the Football League before representing a host of non-league clubs following a brief spell in America.

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Baxendale has spent the last three seasons as player-coach with Worksop Town and Pontefract Collieries.

It is hoped his professional pedigree, coupled with non-league nous, can help take tenth-tier Welfare to the next level.

“People were writing us off before my appointment,” he said.

"That’s where I want us to be from the outside. I’m not going to accept the fact we haven’t won a game yet this season.”

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Welfare picked up one point from their opening three league games under Morris.

"I don’t want to be down at the bottom of the table for too long,” said Baxendale.

"I had a decent enough playing career but I probably feel like I want to achieve more as a manager.

"I love the game and think I have got so much knowledge to share. I have full belief my ideas are the right ideas.

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"I don’t want Armthorpe to be seen as a small village club in Doncaster anymore.

"I would like it to be put on the map, that’s mine and Tony’s ( Tony Walton, chairman) ambition.”

Baxendale has already put his extensive list of contacts to good use.

He also convinced ex-Shamrock Rovers and Chesterfield youngster Onwubiko to stay put and be part of his future plans at the Marra Falcons Stadium after he expressed a desire to leave.

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Baxendale spoke to as many as forty players last week as Welfare scrambled to assemble a side capable of competing and is still in the market for four more experienced players.

"I have got good connections from all levels,” he said.

"I have already spoken to people at Doncaster Rovers about getting some good young lads on loan.

"My football career has had a bit of everything, from playing in the Championship to Step Four, it’s given me a good grounding of the levels.”

Both Baxendale and his assistant Matthew Flanagan will combine management duties with playing.

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"It’s not my main priority, it’s just a case of as and when the team needs a bit of help,” said Baxendale.

"When I was on the pitch on Saturday I thought ‘I’m going to have to put a performance in!’.

“I have got to allow the players to make mistakes and learn the level but at the same time we have to win games of football.

"I want to make sure Armthorpe is a team people know about. We had the best part of 200 people there on Saturday, we normally get about 100.

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"I want there to be double that on a regular basis and I want local boys involved in the team.

"There’s a lot of untapped talent out there I’m going to bring in from Sunday league, or young lads from the development team, and I want people to come and watch good, competitive football.”

Elsewhere, a crowd of more than 700 saw Dearne & District end Doncaster City's unbeaten start to the season on Friday night.

Bailey Lowe's goal proved the difference between the Central Midlands League Premier Division's early pacesetters at the Goldthorpe Recreation Ground and kept Dearne top of the table with five wins from five.

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Rossington Main also progressed to the FA Vase second qualifying round on penalties after a 2-2 draw against Wythenshawe.

Ross Hannah and Danny Deakin scored for Main in normal time before they converted all four of their spot kicks to book their spot in the next round.

Lewis Hill also saved two penalties with Hannah, Cody Prior, manager Ben Hunter and Manasse Kianga on target for Main in the shoot-out.