As we head into the international break Huddersfield find themselves in a respectable 12th place after an encouraging start to the season has seen them take 7 points from their first 5 matches. With the obvious exception of James Vaughan, the player who has stood out most in Town’s promising start to the season has undoubtedly been Adam Hammill. Hammill has been a revelation since making his move from Wolves permanent in June, notching up an impressive 4 assists and 2 goals already this season. To put into context how impressive Hammill’s start to the season has been, it is worth pointing out that no Town player provided more than 6 assists throughout the whole of the last campaign.
Hammill’s performances so far this season have been a far cry from those of his original loan spell at the club in the first half of the 2012-13 season. Hammill’s initial time on loan at the club was blighted by off-field issues which prevented him from gaining any real momentum or consistency. As a result there were a considerable number of Town fans who were skeptical of the decision to sign Hammill on a permanent basis. Despite Hammill’s obvious natural talent and ability – as emphasized by his brilliant solo goal against Birmingham in the final game of his loan spell – there was a belief among some fans that signing Hammill was too much of a risk given his off-field problems and the fact that his career had somewhat stagnated since leaving Barnsley in 2011. At the time of writing, however, there are very few Town fans who still question the decision to sign Hammill and this is evidence of the exceptional start Hammill has made to the season.
So what has been different this time around? Why is it that Hammill is so excelling? The decision by Mark Robins to switch to a 3-5-2 formation certainly seems to have helped get the best out of Hammill. Though Hammill has traditionally played as a winger, the switch to a 3-5-2 has meant that Hammill been deployed as a wing-back this season and he deserves immense credit for the way he has adapted to the role. Despite his lack of defensive experience, Hammill has rarely been exposed defensively and his performances at wing-back have been so impressive that the highly rated Jack Hunt had to settle for a place on the bench before his departure to Crystal Palace. Furthermore, despite the fact he has been deployed in a more defensive position than usual, Hammill has still – by some distance – looked Town’s most potent attacking threat. No other player at the club possesses the ability to cross a ball with the same precision as Hammill does. The cross for James Vaughan’s second goal against Bradford in the Capital One Cup, for instance, was a great example of Hammill’s crossing ability from deep. Hammill has also proved that he is capable of consistently taking a man on and beating them for skill and as a result there is a genuine sense of anticipation whenever Hammill gets on the ball. Hammill therefore deserves significant praise for the way he has managed to combine both his attacking and defensive duties so effectively during his fledgling career as a wing-back.
As well as benefitting from the change in formation, Hammill also seems to be thriving on the fact he has been reunited with Mark Robins. This is a point that was backed up recently when Hammill told the Huddersfield Examiner that Robins had given him ‘a newfound sense of confidence and the freedom to express himself’. It was under Robins that Hammill first rose to prominence at Barnsley and the early indications are that Robins is once again getting the best out of him. After going through a succession of different managers whilst at Wolves – none of whom gave him a prolonged run in the starting eleven – Hammill looked a player short of confidence and belief whilst on loan at the club last season. Consequently, Hammill was often TOO eager to impress last time around. For example he would often try to beat one defender too many or ignore the simple pass in favour of something more spectacular, and this had a negative impact on his performances. Having been shunned by a series of managers at Wolves, Hammill is finally playing for a manager who has faith in him and is aware of his capabilities. Subsequently, we are seeing a more settled Adam Hammill who has been allowed a greater license to express himself and as a result is much surer of his own ability and his position in the team. Though Robins may come across as dour in his interviews he is exactly the type of manager that Hammill needs at this stage of his career. He has given Hammill the freedom to express himself and a new sense of confidence, yet he will also ensure that Hammill’s feet stay firmly on the ground. After a couple of inconsistent years, this is exactly what Hammill needs if he is to be successful this season.
After a frustrating spell at Wolves and off-field problems last season, Adam Hammill unquestionably deserves praise for the way he has applied himself so far this season. Hammill has added much needed flair and creativity to a team that struggled to score goals or create chances last season. Furthermore, when Hammill has performed this season so has the rest of the team. In the games where Hammill has not started, i.e. against Nottingham Forest, or struggled to make an impact, i.e. Barnsley, the whole team has generally under-performed and this highlights just how important Hammill currently is to the side. What has been evident already this season is that, despite a disappointing time at Wolves, Hammill maintains a great desire and hunger for the game. What is more, Hammill genuinely seems to be enjoying his football at the club and the way he has taken to his new position of right wing-back illustrates that he is eager to be successful for the club. Though Hammill’s natural talent has never been in question, the fact he is playing in a settled side, with a manager who clearly rates him, means that there is no reason whatsoever that Hammill cannot continue to be successful for Huddersfield this season. At 25, Hammill is at the peak of his footballing career and although the season is still in its infancy, and it is easy to get carried away, as long as he continues to work hard and keeps his feet on the ground it is not too late for him to deliver on the potential he showed in such abundance as a youngster at Barnsley.