Huddersfield Town Coach: Mark Fotheringham Name 9 ‘YOUNG STAR’ That Can Help Build The Term.

One of my favourite things about Huddersfield Town’s 4-0 win against Stockport last Saturday was how the team that played from sixty minutes onwards was able to continue dominating the game, despite being mostly made up of academy graduates.

Huddersfield Town’s transfer policy this summer suggests that they have confidence in this younger generation too, as it seems like we’ve been comfortable moving on experienced professionals who are mostly backup players when we’ve got youth players capable of providing the same role. For example, Duane Holmes most likely left because Brahima Diarra was deemed as good enough cover for attacking midfield just like Will Boyle could leave as Loick Ayina is not just potentially a better option but will also be on a lower wage too.

This summer’s policy of trimming the wage bill by moving on senior pros that aren’t likely to be regular starters is mostly driven by the budget restraints that are currently in place. But it also presents an opportunity for our younger players too. So with that in mind, I’m going to write about eight players in our squad that I think have potential to make this season their breakthrough year. Plus one extra that’s not really a youth player but I’ve put him in anyway, just for fun.

1. Jaheim Headley
You could even argue that Headley has already broken through, after he was recalled from loan at Harrogate early last season and made 11 Championship appearances and scored a lovely goal too. He handled the step up to Championship football more comfortably than older and more experienced players have managed in the past and his pace and direct running were a handful for opposition defenses. However, he sometimes left his fellow defenders exposed, particularly when played as a conventional leftback but as a wingback he looked very handy.

I think his target for this season will be to prove that last season wasn’t a flash in the pan and that he can compete week–to-week in the Championship. It would also be good to see him tighten up the defensive side of his game while also keeping the gung-ho attacking style that makes him exciting to watch.

2. Loick Ayina
His game in the FA Cup for Town last season was cut short as he seemed very likely to be given a red card, after picking up a yellow and continuing to boot PNE’s players at every opportunity anyway. Despite getting sent off in his first game of his loan spell for Dundee United in their Scottish FA Cup fixture, he came away from Scotland with positive reviews and the experience north of the border has hopefully taught him how to channel his aggression into dominating opponents without picking up fouls and cards.

Sometimes young defenders need a bit of time to develop physically but Ayina is built like a shed already, so looks ready to step up to men’s football. His experience out on loan has hopefully knocked off some of his rough edges too and I think he could be useful as a backup option. The tricky decision will be whether to keep him around just in case of injury problems or to ship him out on loan again to build his experience. We’re well stocked in central defence, with Helik, Lees, Pearson, Nakayama, Ruffels, REG and Hogg all potentially getting in ahead of him. But several of those players have roles elsewhere on the pitch too, so to bulk up the squad depth, I think we might keep him around, particularly if we plan to play mostly with three central defenders.

3. Brodie Spencer
A player that made his full international debut before he made his senior debut for his club, which is made all the more unusual when you consider that his club is Huddersfield Town and the nation he represents is Northern Ireland. They’re not exactly giants in international football but they’re also not San Marino-level either.

After getting his international callup, it was a bit of a disappointment when Spencer struggled when he was given a chance in Town’s first team early last season. The game I saw him in was the awful drubbing we received in the League Cup against Preston. But he was up against a Manchester United loanee, who was superb down Preston’s left flank. And he received almost no cover from Connor Manhoney, who was supposed to be playing in front of him, but went missing for long periods and was quite frankly embarrassing to watch – rather than help out the young player behind him he aimlessly trotted about the pitch. So Spencer’s struggles weren’t actually his fault and even an experienced full back would have found that scenario very difficult.

So a year on from a slightly bumpy start, I think it might be easier for Spencer this season than last. Things were chaotic at Town last season and it would have been tough for any young player to step into that sort of whirlwind environment. With Warnock involved, there’s a calm at the centre of things which means young players feel a bit less pressure – so Spencer and the other players in this article should have a better chance of shining when they do get their opportunities on the pitch.

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4. Ben Jackson
I really like Ben Jackson, I think there are two main reasons for my disproportionate affection for him. Firstly, he is the only genuinely two footed town player that I can ever remember playing for us. I may be overlooking someone obvious but I can’t think of a player from my thirty odd years of following Town that could properly strike the ball cleanly with both feet, but Jackson seems decent with either foot. His left is his best foot but I’ve seen him shoot with his right and he connects with the ball better with his supposedly weaker foot than many of our players can with their preferred foot. Secondly, he’s a real terrier in the true sense of the word; he is relentless and chases endless lost causes in the way that Town fans love. While there’s more to football than just running around lots, I think having a great work ethic will always get you a long way and it certainly always means you’ll be loved by Town fans.

I worry that Ben Jackson might struggle a bit with Phil Neville’s problem, in that he can do a job in about six different positions but that means he can never hold down one position and make it his own. So it’s unlikely he’ll become first choice left back if he’s filling in at defensive midfield, or right wing, or a pressing number ten. I suppose at this stage of his career, it’s good for him to be getting game time in the Championship and his best position will become apparent over time.

5. Josh Austerfield
Austerfield is probably the least well known of the names on this list, as he’s not played much for Town, least not Huddersfield Town, but he’s had a couple of spells on loan at Harrogate Town and played plenty of minutes for them. During that time he’s developed physically as well as gaining experience of league football and it may be deemed that this is the season to see if he’s ready to step up to the Championship.

It’s probably a bit of a gamble, as the step up from League Two is a big one but Austerfield fills a gap in the squad that we desperately need to fill. He’s a deep-lying midfield playmaker that can also drop into defense and play alongside the central defenders if needed. So, he’s a bit like a more cultured and less aggressive Hoggy. I’ve only seen glimpses of him playing in the past but his technique on the ball is always lovely and he has the vision to pick out a pass and start off attacks. I’ve been hoping for a few years that he could be the long-term successor to Hogg, this could be the year that he steps up to take that crown. From the very brief glimpses I’ve seen off him, I worry that he may struggle with the pace of the Championship, as he looks at his best when he’s got time on the ball to pick out a pass, but I guess the frenetic pace of League Two will have helped him to learn how to make quick decisions and win the midfield battle before you can try to play fancy passes.

6. Brahima Diarra

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Like with Headley, you could argue that Diarra has already broken through, as he played twenty games last season. However, I don’t think he’s properly made the impact he needs to. Out of those twenty appearances he didn’t score a single goal and only made two assists. So I think the breakthrough for Diarra isn’t to get time on the pitch, it’s to use his time to really make an impact on games and turn those runs he goes on into chances that lead to goals.

Being handed the number ten shirt for the season suggests that Neil Warnock sees him as a key part of his plans but the fact he’s heading into the final year of his contract makes me a bit nervous. It would be nice if we could tie him down to a new contract fairly soon to avoid losing another young player too soon, after we recently had to sell Etienne Camara when it became clear he wasn’t going to sign another contract.

7. Pat Jones
If it wasn’t for injuries, it’s possible that Pat Jones could already be an established Championship player and even a full Welsh international as he looks like he’s capable of tearing up this league if he stays fit. He’s incredibly fast and has good one-on-one finishing ability too. So all you really need to do is feed the ball to him and let him do his thing.

In a Neil Warnock team that struggles to hold possession and plays mostly on the counter, Jones could really thrive. Last season, during the spell of games we were averaging twenty-odd percent possession, we were crying out for a player like him who we could launch balls for him to run on to and try to make something out of. I’m that confident in his ability, I think fitness is the biggest barrier to him having a good season but sadly he’s not been able to stay fit these last few years, so it’s far from certain we’ll get to see him for an extended run of games. I think players with exceptional pace seem a lot more prone to muscle injuries and it’s a balancing act to get the best out of them while keeping them fit.

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8. Kian Harratt
For a young player, there’s something very old fashioned about the way Harratt plays. Maybe it’s the way he’s built or the way he moves around the pitch but he seems like a proper striker and I get the feeling that Neil Warnock likes the look of him. He was certainly full of praise for him when he scored at Watford last season within seconds of coming off the bench.

My impression of Harratt is that his strength is that he’s a natural and instinctive finisher, so any chance that comes his way will be put to bed. The challenge for him will be that in the Championship you can go long spells between chances being presented to you and there’s a lot more to the role of striker, particularly if we play a system with only one up front. So he may have to work harder than he’s been used to in youth football to get chances and that can make it harder to finish when the opportunities do come.

9. Kyle Hudlin
I’ve included Hudlin here as a bonus, as he’s a B Team player that seems to be stepping up to the first team this season, given he’s played in every first team friendly so far. However, we only signed him last season, he’s 23 (so similar in age to Koroma and Thomas) and therefore not quite in the same category as the players above. Regadless, it’s worth including him as I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of him this season.

I like the look of what he brings to the team, he wins the ball in the air (obviously), but he’s also able to hold it up nicely when we play it into his feet and has proven he can finish with his goal at Stockport.

He struggled on loan at AFC Wimbledon last season, rarely starting in the league but doing well whenever they played him in whatever they’re currently calling the LDV Vans trophy. It’s a bit of a stretch to see how you can go from not getting into a League Two team to being able to play in the Championship, but I suppose Josh Koroma went from not getting into Portsmouth’s League One team to not only starting for Town in the Championship but also being our key player during the run-in to our season.

Gah! I made it through three paragraphs talking about Kyle Hudlin without talking about his height but now I’ve made it the fouth it’s all I want to write about. I mentioned him winning the ball in the air in the second paragraph and somehow didn’t say anything about it then but it’s actually not humanly possible to write about Kyle Hudlin without mentioning that he’s incredibly tall. Ginormous. A man mountain. A beautiful specimen of humanity stacked up high. Maybe one day I’ll mention him and the novelty factor of his height will have worn away and he’ll be just Kyle Hudlin the footballer but sadly not today, today he’s Kyle Hudlin the tall footballer.

Did I miss any youngsters? Add them in the comments if you think there are others that might break into the first team this season.

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