Steps Up: Levi Colwill on learning new tricks, why Huddersfield was right for him and his special goal in Sheffield

In the latest edition of our feature where we speak to Chelsea players out on loan, we catch up with Levi Colwill, the teenage defender currently cutting his teeth with a first taste of senior football in the Championship.

Colwill has enjoyed an impressive breakthrough season in Yorkshire, working under Huddersfield's bright young Spanish coach Carlos Corberan and helping the Terriers launch a push for promotion.

Playing mostly on the left of a back three, the Southampton-born youngster has caught the eye with his confident ball-playing style from the back and smart defending that belies his youthfulness and inexperience. 

He has featured 21 times in all competitions and received his first England Under-21 call-up earlier in the season, another indication of his promise and potential, so we felt it was a perfect time to check in and catch up...

So Levi, as we enter the final months of your first season in senior football, how are things going in the Championship, which can be such an unforgiving and relentless league?

‘At the start it was very tough, adjusting to a new league. It’s a lot different to Under-23s football in terms of everything so it’s a big shock. The Championship even technically is very demanding, especially with our manager and how we want to play.

‘Everyone goes on about it being more physical but the technicality is also so high and it’s hard to adjust at the start. Now I’m getting into the rhythm of playing a lot games and I’ve adapted to it so I just need to keep going in this way.’

A year ago, you had played just a handful of EFL Trophy games but that was your only experience of senior men’s football. As an 18-year-old centre-back going into the Championship, how much of a step up was it for you?

‘You quickly realise when you’re in the changing room that this is people’s jobs and that was the first big difference I noticed. When you’re in the Academy, you’re still playing football for enjoyment but when you come here you have to win. You have to put your body on the line for the team and they’ll do the same for you.

‘Back in the day, coaches used to say you’re feeding their family and it’s so true now. I want to win because I want to do better with the team and achieve more so I can help out my family too. We’ve all got to work together so we can help each other out.

‘We have to keep working hard and trying to reach our goals because we are a good team and we need to keep getting points on the table and climbing.'

Huddersfield are currently seventh, a point and a place outside the play-offs, but there have been sticky patches of form along the way so how have you coped in those tougher moments?

‘We’ve had a lot of games where things just didn’t go our way and we’ve dropped stupid points, particularly just before Christmas. We actually started the season really well and then we hit a bit of bad form but we’ve not lost for a while now.

‘The one win we did get in that difficult run was against West Brom, who were third at the time and a very good team. That showed we have the character to beat good teams and we need to carry that on whoever we’re playing.’

We know a lot of time and thought goes into matching our young players with the right club for a loan so what made Huddersfield right for you?

‘It was probably the people around me and the dedication that Huddersfield put into me that decide it. I was doing Zoom meetings with them and they were telling me how they play, doing the small details like showing clips of me playing in an Under-23s game and then what they do in training to help things.

‘For example, they highlighted how I turn my body during games and now when I’m playing, I do notice it now because I’m trying to change my ways to help myself become a better player. It’s just simple things like that that make a big difference, and that can be the difference of me blocking a shot or the opposition scoring. It’s just the small margins that help so that really sucked me in.

‘It was also about the way the manager and the team plays football. I don’t want to be a normal centre-half. I want to be exciting on the ball and play football so the way this team play, taking time on the ball, it helps me express how I play more and I thought I’d really enjoy it, which I have.

‘I came here and it’s put a spotlight on me, which has helped me a lot in the Championship so I just need to keep playing well. They’ve put a lot of work and time into me and I can feel myself as a player learning things every day which I respect highly.’

You don’t turn 19 until next month so did you ever wonder if it was too early for a Championship loan?

‘I was a little nervous. I thought the Championship was going to be really hard as a centre-half especially, with loads of big strikers trying to bully me and all those things, but my family around me gave me that belief and speaking to people that also believe in me made me think why can’t I do it.

‘I played with the Under-23s for a year so I felt that time was coming to an end and I needed something new. The Championship was the perfect fit because it’s such a tough league, especially for an 18-year-old coming in. I got into the team through injuries or whatever but I’ve had to work really hard to stay in it and that’s what I’ll keep doing.’

You’ve mentioned the manager Carlos Corberan and his attractive style of football. How important has he been for you so far?

‘He’s very demanding of every player and he puts time into you, which is a big thing to get from a manager. He takes time to improve us individually and to improve the team which really helps a lot.

‘He’s a good manager and he wants the best for you and the best for his team so no matter how it is, he’ll tell you because he just wants to improve. I respect that a lot.’

You’ve only scored the one goal so far but it was quite a memorable one, a last-minute winner away at your Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United…

‘It’s personally probably my best moment so far because that feeling was so special. I’m not sure whether I can match it ever again in my life, scoring my first goal as a last-minute winner against Sheffield United.

‘I had my team-mates with me, the fans were jumping everywhere. I get goosebumps still now talking about it because it was just unbelievable and I was so happy to help the team get the three points we needed in that game. I’ve missed a few big chances since then though so I need to start putting a few more in the back of the net!’

Down the other end, you’ve helped the team keep nine clean sheets in the Championship this term and come up against some pretty tough strikers along the way…

‘They’re all so experienced and they know little tricks that I’ve never faced before in my career. When it first happens it’s a bit confusing but it’s good because I learn and if I play against that striker again then I’ll expect it and it will help me out for the future.

‘Playing against strikers in the Championship, they’re all different. None of them play like each other so you’ve always got to be ready. You can never expect something because then they’ll pull out something new and you’ll get done so it’s tough. You’ve always got to be on guard.’

You’ve played mostly on the left of a back three with the Terriers but we’ve also seen you in a back four and at wing-back during your time in Academy football. How important has that versatility been as you’ve stepped up?

‘Growing up I was a left-back so I’ve always had that attacking side, driving forward with the ball and then that experience as a centre-half has helped my defensive side. No matter what age you are, playing in different positions helps a lot.

‘When I was younger and I played in a new position, I didn’t really like it because I didn’t understand it, but now I can see how it can help me get into a team. If our left-back is injured then I can fill in if needed so it brings a lot and it gives you a chance that you might not get if you only played one position.

‘I’m happy I experienced that and I’m happy Chelsea did that for me when I was younger because it’s helped a lot now.’

Going back to last season, you ended the campaign training with Thomas Tuchel prior to our amazing Champions League triumph. How did you find that experience?

It was really good and helped me a lot for what I’m experiencing now, to be in the first team bubble and around so many professionals and getting to know the level I need to be at to achieve everything that you need to be a Chelsea player.

‘I was with these players who I look up to, training with them and they’re talking to me so I found it a bit unbelievable at the start. You can see why they’re world-class players with the way they pass the ball, one and two touches, the speed of the game.

‘It’s a lot different and at first I found it a lot to get used to but then coming on loan I expected that and it helped me a lot to settle in quicker on the pitch here.’

Finally, what are you hoping to achieve for the rest of season at Huddersfield?

‘Firstly as a team, we just want to keep pushing, keep picking up points and end the season strongly. When we’re playing good football, it brings everyone’s confidence up, we start scoring more, defending better, getting clean sheets and then we’ll keep winning games, which we need to do.

‘Personally, I want to keep playing as many games as possible because then it shows I can play this big number of games. I’ve played 21 games in all competitions whereas in Premier League 2 I don’t think there’s many more than that in the whole season so already I’ve played a lot of football.

‘I just need to keep racking up those numbers and game time, which will prepare me for the future.’

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