Exclusive: Nathan Baxter talks choosing between two sports, football experience, and hopes for Bolton’s Championship promotion

In an exclusive, Nathan Baxter opens up about his cricket and football debacle, and describes his football journey thus far as he hopes for a Championship advance with Bolton at the end of this season.

Neil Goulding
Neil Goulding

Last Updated: 2024-04-29

Louis Hobbs

8 minutes read

Bolton Wanderers' English goalkeeper Nathan Baxter applauds fans on the pitch after the English FA Cup third-round match

Nathan Baxter has been a safe pair of hands for Skybet League One promotion-chasers Bolton this season.
Before suffering torn wrist ligaments in early February, Baxter had kept a string of clean sheets including an FA Cup shut out against Premier League Luton.

But Wanderers’ number one gloves man could have made a career in another sport where catching is key.

Between two disciplines of sport

Baxter, who joined Ian Evatt’s Trotters last summer after a nomadic loan existence, was a talented cricketer in his younger days.
So much so, that he represented Kent and the South of England. A talented batsman, Baxter, now 25, shared the crease with

England international Zak Crawley. Australian run machine, Marcus Labuschagne and Crawley’s fellow Test star, Ollie Pope, the latter recently scoring 196 to register the fourth-highest score by an Englishman in India.

Westminster-born, the former Chelsea keeper also represented London and the East at the Bunbury Festival, an annual showcase for the best Under 15 cricketers in the country.

Baxter was stumped whether to pursue cricket or football. But a professional contract offer from Chelsea, where he had been since the age of eight, and the lure of a pre-season trip to Austria made up his mind.

“I think playing lots of different sports as a kid has helped me,” says Bolton’s man between the posts.

“I enjoyed all the fielding training and that probably helped me with my goalkeeping as well.

“And with cricket, when you are standing there batting and you are hearing the sledging, it is no different to standing in goal and hearing the crowd behind you.

“There are a lot of similarities between opening the batting and playing in goal. One mistake and you are out, in a sense.”

Soaking up experience from different leagues and teams

Baxter never made a first-team appearance for the Stamford Bridge side. But he was a member of the Blues’ 2016 FA Youth Cup winning side.

Teammates in a 4-2 aggregate victory over Manchester City included: Mason Mount, Trevor Chalobah, Fikayo Tomori, and Tammy Abraham. He was also a substitute the same year when Chelsea lifted the UEFA Youth League trophy.

To obtain greater game time, having to go out on loan didn’t phase Baxter. In fact, he embraced the challenge of travelling to

Dingwall in the Highlands to represent Ross County and taking the lower road to Yeovil.

Image Credits: Chris Vaughan - CameraSport/Getty Images

Image Credits: Chris Vaughan - CameraSport/Getty Images

There were also stopovers in Solihull, Woking, Accrington, and Hull before Bolton stepped in to make him a replacement for Burnley’s England Under 21 star, James Trafford.

“I played for lots of different managers, lots of different styles, and in different leagues,” added Baxter. “All those experiences have helped me.

quote icon

I remember once I was playing as the goalkeeper against the (Chelsea) starting team and my defence had players like John Terry and David Luiz.

Image Credits: Nathan Baxter

“Then I played in the evening and my centre back was like a bouncer in a local night club.”

Hopeful for a climb up the league ranks with Bolton

History will show Baxter quickly endeared himself to the Bolton faithful with shut outs in his first two games against Lincoln and Cheltenham.

And for someone with a 2:1 Open University history degree and penchant for dates, he’s hoping 2024 will be remembered by the White Army as the year Wanderers clinched promotion back to the Championship.

“Hopefully, we’re at the point where we can all move on together and progress up the football pyramid,” he added.

“Playing a great style of football at a huge football club which I can hopefully call my home for many years.”

Bolton is sitting pretty in third place in the League One table and, although they luck unlikely to have pinched automatic promotion with only one game to go, the Trotters are guaranteed a play-off spot and understandably fancy their chances of winning promotion to the EFL Championship.

For more exclusive interviews in the world of football, make sure to stay in touch with 

Neil Goulding
Neil GouldingSenior Sports Reporter

Neil has been a journalist for longer than he'd care to remember, having written for national newspapers and respected publications for over 25 years. For the last three years he has worked freelance for BBC Sport, working on the production desk as a sub-editor and also as a writer, covering a whole range of sports.