Back in October 2018, an article from The Sun discussed the lowly FIFA rating given to a young Oxford United teenager. Shandon Baptiste was handed the ignominy of being FIFA’s lowest-rated player on the game with an overall billing of just 47.
But those who knew of Baptiste’s talents will have confidently doubted EA Sports’ talent scouts on this occasion. On a September night last year, former England golden child Jack Wilshere found out the hard way just how inaccurate the rating was.
Baptiste ran the show as Oxford thrashed their Premier League opposition 4-0. Starring against the 34-cap former Arsenal wonderkid certainly felt like a turning point for Baptiste when it came to people taking notice.
Baptiste, who scored the fourth goal in that game, certainly enjoyed it. “It was good to play against a player you’ve watched for so long. He’s a top player and a tough opponent,” he stated. “I knew I had to be good on the night to have a chance against him and I think I did that.”
After the game, Oxford United fans were waxing lyrical about Baptiste on Twitter. Some even suggested he was worth £20 million after running both Wilshere and 88-cap Colombian international Carlos Sanchez into the ground.
In the end, according to The Athletic, he cost around £2.25 million, as Championship side Brentford swooped in January.
“I knew they had been watching me for a while and then at the end of the transfer window I got a call from my agent saying Brentford want to buy you. It literally happened that quickly,” he explains. “I didn’t know much about it.”
He made the move along with Oxford team-mate Tarique Fosu, which he admits has “helped a lot” and has now cast his eye on promotion with the Championship’s surprise package of the season. For Baptiste, that’s the dream.
“Of course every player that plays football wants to eventually play in the Premier League. We are hoping that we can turn that dream into reality.”
But the importance Oxford United have played in his development is not lost on Baptiste. Especially when it comes to Karl Robinson.
Following a successful loan spell at Hampton and Richmond Borough, Robinson took an immediate shine to Baptiste in the summer of 2018, who quickly became a first-team regular.
“I enjoyed my time at Oxford,” he says. “They were the team to give me a chance so I will forever be grateful.”
Even after a shoulder dislocation and a serious knee injury, Baptiste’s ability shone through for the Oxford United coach.
So it is no surprise that Baptiste holds his former boss in high regard. “Karl is a top manager and really developed my game. Without him coming and giving me a chance, I would not be where I am today.”
Baptiste is now settling into life at Griffin Park. Whilst a first goal eludes him, he’s immediately become a part of the first-team picture under Thomas Frank.
Like his transfer moving partner Fosu, Baptiste will also have one eye on a former team in the Championship calendar. An upcoming hometown reunion at Reading has been postponed for now, the Berkshire team that clearly let both Baptise and Fosu go too soon in their respective developments.
But Baptiste clearly holds no grudges over the decision.
“They made a decision and I had to deal with it. I think I’ve done alright for myself so far.” He continues, “It’s my hometown and hopefully a lot of family and friends can come watch me play.”
It is that hard-working and down-to-earth attitude that has taken a released Reading academy player into the fight for Premier League promotion despite the injury setbacks along the way.
As for that FIFA rating, Baptiste is now sitting on a handsome 65 overall rating with an impressive 79 potential. Quite the rise from that 47 in 2018. Not that Baptiste is concerned.
“I don’t play Fifa that much so it never bothered me. But it’s always nice to see your rating go up. Maybe (my potential should be higher). I’m not too sure. You’ll have to ask the fans.”
Those fans might suggest EA Sports have underestimated Baptiste yet again.