The final day of the 2020/21 winter transfer window brought a rather sizeable opportunity for Taylor Harwood-Bellis.
With just a handful of appearances for Manchester City under his belt up until that point, the 19-year-old centre back was given the chance to go out and get regular first-team football between now and the end of the season, completing a loan move to Championship side Blackburn Rovers.
Having so far been made to wait for his chance at The Etihad, this was Harwood-Bellis’ first real chance to prove himself at senior level, and lay the foundations for the rest of his career.
But just how have his attempts to do that gone so far at Blackburn? What issues does he face at Ewood Park? And what might be next for the teenager?
Here, we’ve taken a look at all that, in our latest hat-trick feature.
How’s it gone so far?
Initially, it was something of a slow start to Harwood-Bellis’ time with Blackburn, with his first two appearances for the club coming from the bench, with Everton loanee Jarrad Branthwaite having already established himself in the side following his own loan move earlier in January.
However, an injury to Rovers first-choice centre back Darragh Lenihan saw Harwood-Bellis handed a chance alongside Branthwaite, and since Lenihan’s return, it has been Harwood-Bellis who has retained a place in the starting XI.
Since then, the Manchester City loanee has produced a string of impressive individual performances – despite some disappointing results for Rovers – looking more than capable at Championship level across his 11 appearances in total, and settling well in the left centre back position, despite manager Tony Mowbray’s general reluctance to play a right-footed player such as Harwood-Bellis in that particular position.
Are these 19 facts about Ewood Park true or false?
What issues does he face?
In spite of his own promising start to life at Ewood Park, Blackburn’s own results have been disappointing of late, with Mowbray’s men winning just one of their last 12 games.
That is something that Harwood-Bellis will no doubt be looking to help put right, and doing so would only serve to add another feather to the teenager’s cap as he looks to impress during his time in the Championship.
While he looks to now be ahead of Branthwaite in the pecking order, Harwood-Bellis could soon find himself with more competition for his place as well, with the more experienced Daniel Ayala closing in on a return to action after several months out through injury, potentially leaving the teenager with another player to battle with for a place in the side.
In the short-term, Harwood-Bellis’ focus will be on ensuring that he and Rovers end the season strongly, with eight games of the campaign still to play.
Beyond that however, it seems as though Harwood-Bellis will have a big decision to make on his future, with Premier League duo Leeds and Brighton, Championship promotion chasers Brentford, and a number of Bundesliga clubs all said to be interested in a loan deal for the teenager in the summer transfer window.
Harwood-Bellis may therefore have to decide which of those might be best for him, as he looks to get the top-flight game time that could prove he is ready to compete for a place in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side in the not too distant future.