Chelsea’s (in)famous Loan Army is likely to be smaller this season than in recent years, thanks in part to incoming new FIFA regulations (starting in 2020) that will limit the number of players teams are allowed to “hoard” and send out on loan, but the first new member of the 2019-20 Loan Army was confirmed yesterday as Nathan Baxter joined Ross County. (Victor Moses, Álvaro Morata, and Charly Musonda are continuing their loans from last season, too, at Fenerbahce, Atlético Madrid, and Vitesse, respectively ... at least for now.)
The 20-year-old goalkeeper, who backstopped Chelsea’s triumphant FA Youth Cup and the UEFA Youth League campaigns in 2015-16, has been dutifully and smartly trodding the loan path ever since, opting to join lower league (and even non-league) teams to gain valuable, first-team senior experience from an early age. This will be his fifth loan move in fact, after playing for Met Police (non-league, sixth tier), Solihull Moors (conference, fifth tier), Woking (non-league, sixth tier), and Yeovil Town (League Two, fourth tier). Compared to those, recently promoted Ross County will be a massive step up in the Scottish Premier League. Ross County won the Scottish Championship but have since failed to agree terms with starting goalkeeper Scott Fox, who has left the club.
Ross County Football Club are delighted to announce that @ChelseaFC goalkeeper, Nathan Baxter, has joined the club on a season long loan deal. (Subject to international clearance).— Ross County FC (@RossCounty) June 19, 2019
More info online here - https://t.co/nYBDD4wEUR#Staggies #WelcomeNathan pic.twitter.com/OldyAOzLTn
Baxter’s season on loan at Yeovil Town may have ended in relegation, as they finished bottom of League Two to drop out of the EFL after a 16-year stay, but Baxter himself earned plenty of praise for his heroics between the sticks and even received all five of Town’s Player of the Season awards.
Playing in 34 out of the 46 league games, Baxter was able to keep 10 clean sheets and let in just 45 goals. Noted for “impressive footwork and agility”, the 6’3” youngster certainly got plenty of practice thanks to the woeful defense in front of him.
Thank you to the club for the player of the season and young player of the season awards. Also thanks to the YTCST, the DSA, and the Cary Glovers for their player of the season awards. pic.twitter.com/tnjZDQ6ILD— Nathan Baxter (@NathanBaxterGK) May 4, 2019
While Baxter has a long way to go to be ever considered at Chelsea, he does have four more years left on his contract. Kepa Arrizabalaga may be entrenched as the long-term first-team choice, as would be expected for a world record signing, but Willy Caballero is on his last legs and we’re currently without a third goalkeeper after Rob Green’s second retirement, the release of Brad Collins (who yesterday signed with Barnsley) and Jamal Blackman still injured. Academy youngster Jamie Cumming, 19, is next in line.
“I can now focus on my loans and climbing up the ladder. I think [my new contract] takes me to I’m 24, which is Kepa’s age, doesn’t it? So hopefully when I’m 24 [Chelsea] won’t have to go out and spend a lot of money and I’ll be ready, you never know.”
-Nathan Baxter; December 2018
In any case, good luck, Nathan! Do us proud.
Now this isn't to say Nathan is the same calibre of goalkeeper or has the same chance of reaching the same heights, but it does perhaps demonstrate the importance of getting out and playing meaningful football early and often as a young goalkeeper. The progress is evident.— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) June 19, 2019