Steps Up: Kasey Palmer

The latest subject of our feature focusing on players developing out on loan is a midfielder making moves in the Championship.

Kasey Palmer has been an important presence in a Huddersfield Town team that is excelling in England’s second tier. There has been plenty to admire about the 20-year-old’s game this season, defensively and offensively, and as he explains to the official Chelsea website, it’s been a fantastic learning curve so far.

Palmer’s season has been temporarily halted by a hamstring injury, but his manager David Wagner reported last weekend he has a chance of returning to action for the Terriers’ FA Cup fourth round tie at Rochdale on Saturday.

We start our chat with Palmer by taking him back to the opening day of the season, and his sensational introduction to the professional game…
 

You scored a minute into your debut with your second touch of the ball. You must have thought this professional football lark was easy?!

It was the dream debut, everything I had dreamt of as a kid growing up. There is no better feeling. My family were all in the crowd, it was the first time I had my name on the back of my shirt going on the pitch in front of 20,000 fans. It was a surreal moment I will never forget.

One of the other players took a shot, I followed it up, the keeper parried it and I took a touch round him, and then with my second touch put it in the net for what proved to be the winning goal. It couldn’t have gone any better. It was destined to be. It was the perfect day, the perfect moment, and I am not sure if anything I can do in the future will top that moment.

How does the Championship compare to playing youth football at Chelsea?

I don't think there is any comparison. There is a lot of talent in the Academy set-up at Chelsea. Academy football is good but playing men’s football is so different. You’re getting hard challenges all the time, the body contact, the fans. It’s so different. Going out on loan is the best thing you can do. 

What aspects of your game do you think have improved since you’ve been at Huddersfield?

The manager is keen on the high press, so as soon as we lose the ball we react and try to win the ball back as soon as possible. For him it’s more important what I do off the ball than what I do on the ball.

Of course when I have the ball I want to be positive and try and create opportunities and score goals, but he knows if we don’t concede a goal we are not going to lose the game. If you work your socks off you will get time on the ball because we are a possession-based team. We keep the ball very well, and there’s not been many games this season where we have had less possession than the opposition.

Wagner has spoken about you improving your fitness and physicality since you arrived…

At the start of the season I was struggling to get into the team. I knew once I was fit I would have more of a chance of staying in the team. The fitness in the Championship is incredible. People play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, 90 minutes, and the intensity is so high. It’s non-stop running until the final whistle.

Dealing with the physicality of it has been a massive thing. I struggled at the start of the season but I’ve done a lot with the physios and the sport scientists off the pitch, working on my fitness, and as the season has gone on I’ve started to get more games and feel fitter and stronger.

I have got a few 90s in as well now and the fitness side of things has been crucial to that.

Wagner seems like quite a character from afar. What has he been like to play under?

The manager is a good guy to work with because of the passion he has. He kicks every ball from the sideline. If you’re not doing well he is the first to tell you, and he motivates you to keep going. He is like a 12th player on the pitch because of his passion. If you score a last-minute goal he is the first to celebrate, I remember that from my debut! He loves it.

The work ethic he demands off the team is why we are doing so well this season. There are not many teams fitter than us, we run until the 90th minute and we can do it week in, week out. 

At Chelsea we are used to you scoring a lot of spectacular goals, but at Huddersfield you’ve scored a few poacher’s goals, and a few headers, too…

I don’t know how that has happened! I guess it’s about being in the right place at the right time and just getting my head on it. Hopefully as the season goes on I’ll be able to get a few spectacular goals, ones in the top corner with my feet, but as long as they go into the net I’ll be happy. I’ve got five goals at the minute and I’m just trying to get as many goals and assists as I can to help the team.

Another Chelsea youngster, Izzy Brown, joined Huddersfield on loan earlier this month…

Me and Izzy played together a couple of years ago so to have him up with me is great. We know how each other play. We played one game together before my injury, against Port Vale, and we linked up well with one-twos and things like that. 

 Brown (left) and Palmer (2nd right) with the FA Youth Cup in 2015

We’ve got the same wavelength on the pitch and it can only be a positive thing for the club to have him around. It’s a big step for him coming to us because we are doing so well in the league so it’ll do him no harm.

And how have things been going off the pitch? It’s the first time in your career you have left London…

It’s been a big challenge. I would say I was a boy before the loan and the more the loan is going on I’m becoming more of a man, more independent. I’ve got a baby on the way now too, and everything’s made me mature very quickly. I have to be able to cook, to tidy up the house, stuff like that which I never really did when I was living at home with my Mum! It’s been a bit step moving away from home.

And finally Kasey, what are your targets for the remainder of the campaign, on both an individual and collective level?

My personal target is to try and get as many games under my belt as possible, as many starts, as many goals, as many assists, and to never be satisfied with what I have done. People have told me I have done well this season but I don’t want it to just be for the first six months or so. I want to maintain that level and have the best season I can possibly have and see what happens next season.

As a team, we really have no limits. Nobody expected us to be where we are now, but as a group we know we have the ability and the work ethic to outdo most of the teams in this league. Hopefully we can win as many games as possible, and getting in the play-offs would be an unbelievable achievement.