Baxter, who hails from Wolverhampton in England and has Scottish parentage, was also being linked with a return to the South African Premier Division (PSL). However, according to our sources, the 66-year-old has been impressed with Odisha’s project and is keen on a move to the ISL.
The Brit has a vast, 35-year-long, experience in coaching. He began his career in 1985 with Norweigian club Örebro SK’s youth team after retiring as a professional footballer. Then, in search of success, he would travel to Portugal, then Sweden, then Japan. He even managed the English U-19 side for two years.
Baxter’s worst stint probably came when he was the head coach of the Finland national team. During his tenure, the country’s position in FIFA World Rankings has sunk from 33 to 86 and it was alleged that Baxter had failed to establish communicative relationships with his players and would instead favour certain players.
Nonetheless, the gaffer is one of the most respected coaches in South Africa, having enjoyed a lot of success in the PSL. He first arrived in South Africa in 2004, where he succeeded Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba – the man he would once again replace in his second stint – as national team coach. His first spell at Bafana though lasted less than two years, but the Scotsman would enjoy a slightly longer stint when he took over the reins once more in 2017.
In between his on-and-off tenures with Safa, Baxter also enjoyed successful stints with two clubs in the top flight in Kaizer Chiefs, where he lifted four trophies – including two league titles – and Supersport United, who won back-to-back Nedbank Cup trophies under him.
However, since evering his ties with Bafana Bafana, citing an untenable working relationship with Safa, Baxter has been without a club.
Former Kaizer Chiefs defender Tefu Mashamaite, who played under Baxter, described Baxter as “a great man-manager” — he said, “To have someone like Stuart Baxter who was a great man-manager helped us. He pushed us and constantly reminded us how good we were as players. This helped put us back to the confidence level that we needed to be at, which ultimately led to us reclaiming the glory.”
After Josep Gombau’s departure, Odisha were in search of an experienced coach. Last season did not go as per plan for the Juggernauts. In a new city, they took time to settle but towards the latter half of the season, they were able to give a good account of themselves. This season, though, they have much higher ambitions and appointing the right coach was a high priority. In Baxter, they seem to have found someone who is not only experienced but also knows how to win.
Ahead of the upcoming ISL season, Odisha want to be well prepared and have gone about their transfer business in a very astute manner so far. They have completed the signings of youngsters like Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Hendry Antonay and Saurabh Meher and have reached an agreement with Kamaljit Singh. It will be exciting to see how Baxter shapes the team up if he does take charge.