A TELEPHONE call from Kenny Dalglish led to Englishman Stuart Baxter being thrust into the J.League spotlight as team manager of the Hiroshima-based Sanfrecce club. Birmingham-born Baxter, 39, has the honour of being the first - and, so far, only - European coach in the first season of Japan's J.League. And he has Blackburn Rovers boss Dalglish to thank for getting him there. Baxter, whose playing career took him to England, Scotland, Australia and Sweden, was coaching Swedish club Halmstad when he received a call from Dalglish. ''Liverpool had been to Sweden to play Halmstad when Dalglish was manager and I got to know him a bit then,'' recalled Baxter. ''Dalglish rang me to say he had a friend trying to organise a training camp in Europe for a Japanese team who were on their way to England to play Manchester United in a friendly. ''So I put together a little tournament in Sweden to give the Japanese some match practice.'' The Japanese team were Mazda, who would evolve into Sanfrecce Hiroshima and go into the first J.League season with capital of US$12.1 million. ''In the tournament I played our reserve team against Mazda because our first team were preparing for a league game. We beat them 2-0 - and it should have been 6-0. ''They seemed to be impressed because when they moved on to Manchester they left two officials behind to video our training sessions. ''I had forgotten all about it when, a year later, they contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in preparing the club for the J.League. ''We met in Copenhagen, the money was good and everything just fitted. I had been with Halmstad for four years and was looking for a new challenge so decided to move to Japan.'' Baxter, who lives with his Swedish wife, Cecilia, and two-year-old daughter, Natalie, arrived in Hiroshima in April 1992, a full year ahead of the start of the J.League. His 17-year-old son Lee, a goalkeeper on the books of Blackburn, is at Sanfrecce too, on loan. Baxter said: ''I came on a one-year contract but after six months they wanted me to sign for another two years.'' Sanfrecce - a combination of Japanese and Italian words meaning ''three arrows'' - finished fifth in the first phase of the championship. In the second phase they lie fourth with two wins from four games, only one victory off the pace. Baxter's playing career began in England with Preston before moving to Dundee United in Scotland, Helsingborg (Sweden), South Melbourne (Australia), Landskrona (Sweden) and Orebro (Sweden), where he retired as a player in 1984 and took over as manager. He also gained managerial experience with Tromso in Norway before beginning a four-year stint with Halmstad. ''The J.League is the biggest challenge I have had,'' said Baxter. ''I think it's very difficult living here. ''Although I have an interpreter to assist me, I would be stupid if I did not admit that the language barrier was not limiting me. You feel you are losing a bit of your personality and at times it can be very frustrating.''