Huddersfield Town have been forced to turn to youth on more than one occasion this season in the Championship, with Carlos Corberan facing an injury list to rival no other in the division.
Rarmani Edmonds-Green, Romoney Crichlow, Scott High and Kieran Phillips are all regularly involved in the first-team set-up under Corberan, whilst Aaron Rowe is another youngster that’s had very good moments in the FA Cup and Championship.
Additionally, we’ve seen Corberan promote Ryan Schofield since his return from injury, muscling out Joel Pereira and Ben Hamer, and now keeping Jayson Leutwiler waiting for his chance.
Our graphic below (stats from Wyscout) looks at the key numbers from Schofield’s season so far, with the 21-year-old getting that first real taste of Championship football for his boyhood club.
Schofield had to wait until November 24th for his first start of the season, kicking things off with a clean sheet in a goalless draw with Wycombe Wanderers. He would feature again in a 3-2 win over Middlesbrough, but lose his place in the side to Ben Hamer again for the next three fixtures.
Nevertheless, by the time a handful of fixtures had past and we were into the middle of December, Schofield was back in the side after Hamer’s injury in the heavy loss at Bournemouth.
Since then, he hasn’t looked back, clocking almost 2,000 minutes of Championship football.
Hamer was moved on to Swansea City in the January transfer window, with Leigh Bromby quoted at the time saying: “Ryan Schofield’s performances since breaking into the team would have resulted in a reduction in Ben’s future playing time.” The faith of everyone at Huddersfield is with Schofield now.
He’s conceded 28 goals in his 21 appearances so far, but continues to outperform is xCG (expected conceded goals), which stands at 32.03 from 85 shots faced.
In recent weeks he’s made good saves from Sean Morrison and Will Vaulks in the goalless draw with Cardiff City, whilst the reflexes to deny Todd Kane in Saturday’s win over QPR drew reaction from Corberan – a former goalkeeper himself – about its importance to the result: “For me, it was an important action that was very decisive to the result.”
There have been mistakes from Schofield, but nobody at Huddersfield has been flawless this season and the goalkeeper has more than made up for his errors; showing character to develop week-on-week.
One aspect of his game that’s consistently improving is his command of his penalty area. 18 exits suggest he’s got work to do still, but there has certainly been a positive shift from Schofield in this department.
Having that confidence to express yourself as a goalkeeper is vitally important and that’s also true with regard to the use of possession.
Corberan has had a high focus on his goalkeeper and defenders having confidence on the ball, with Schofield having to adapt to demands like that. Almost 150 more short passes than long passes underline how Huddersfield try to play; the success rate differs naturally.
There has been a slight shift in Huddersfield’s style in recent weeks as they look to pull away from trouble in the Championship table. Corberan has been vocal about playing that little bit more direct, which might shift Schofield’s ‘long passes’ and ‘long goal kicks’ column up between now and the end of the season.
Huddersfield’s entire squad is having to be receptive to Corberan’s methods. The head coach is learning in a pressure environment with the Terriers and he has young players doing the same. Schofield is one of those, but he’s also a goalkeeper with a very balanced attitude; he speaks well to the press and oozes self-belief.
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When you look at the injury situation that’s developed at Huddersfield over the season, you could be forgiven for thinking that Schofield’s emergence was coincidental.
It feels a little more planned than that, though, and the numbers the young goalkeeper are producing continue to convince you that it was the right call moving Hamer out in January.
In the long-term that decision could prove to be a wonderful one for Huddersfield Town.