Huddersfield: Putting development at the heart of every department

Josh Marsh (left) is Head of Recruitment; Levi Colwill has arrived on loan from Chelsea

Josh Marsh (left) is Head of Recruitment; Levi Colwill has arrived on loan from Chelsea

WHEN Huddersfield's Director of Football Operations, Leigh Bromby, presented at our Individual Development Coaching Webinar in June, he brought along six of his colleagues.

First-team coach Danny Schofield, Head of Analysis Craig Nosworthy (now at Manchester City), Head of Performance Paul Bower, Under-17s lead George Danaher, Head of Goalkeeping Paul Clements and Head of Recruitment Josh Marsh each delivered a short segment on the work that their department did to develop players.

The message was clear: Huddersfield are a development club and everyone is involved.

This focus on development has been evident in recent staff and player recruitment at the club. Bromby was Academy Manager with the Terriers before being promoted to Director of Football in February 2020, while Head Coach Carlos Corberan was U23s coach at Leeds United ahead of his arrival in July 2020.

Veterans Tom Lees and Jordan Rhodes may have been signed from Sheffield Wednesday on frees during the summer transfer window, but otherwise recruitment has been focused on youth and promise.

Chelsea defender Levi Colwill and West Ham forward Mipo Odubeko came in on loan in the summer; winger Sorba Thomas arrived from National League outfit Boreham Wood in January; and Scott High has progressed from the B team to make an impact at first-team level this season.

“We’re a development club and aren’t just looking for plug-in-and-play players,” Head of Recruitment Josh Marsh tells TGG. “We’ve got a clear vision that runs from the top right through the departments. It informs everything we do.”

At the heart of the vision are Individual Development Plans (IDPs), which all the departments have an input into, with Bromby having ultimate responsibility for them.

“At Huddersfield the IDPs are a simple way of us goal-setting with the players," he told the Individual Development Webinar. “We wrap around a lot of support for the players and these are probably the main focus of the whole programme.”

Before Bromby’s appointment, IDPs were regarded as something for Huddersfield’s Academy rather than their first team, which is probably a view held by a lot of other clubs. However, the former Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday player decided IDPs were fundamental for senior players as well and now every member of the first-team squad has one.

The IDP is a “digital keynote document” formulated by staff as well as the player himself. They are a way of setting goals, planning improvement and keeping a record of development.

They constantly evolve, depending on how a particular player is progressing and what their needs are, and act as a focal point when Bromby has meetings with them throughout the course of a season.

Marsh says the players have enthusiastically embraced the IDPs and that they act as a powerful recruitment tool.

“When we’re talking to a prospective player about joining the club, we show them examples of the IDPs, because they’re fundamental to what we’re doing here,” Marsh explains.

“They show the players that the staff believe in them and want to improve them. Ultimately, that’s what any player wants to do too, improve. The IDPs are a collaborative piece of work, between the player and the staff, and they’re about what goes on both on and off the pitch.

"It might be that the player wants to learn to cook, or to drive, as these are the type of things that can have an impact on wellbeing and performance too. If that's the case, we'll work with player care and work out how to help them achieve these targets.

“I think the IDPs are a useful recruitment tool as well, because clubs like Chelsea or West Ham - who we’ve recently loaned players from - can see that we’re serious and structured about developing players while they’re with us.”

What’s particularly innovative is that Huddersfield are including Marsh and his recruitment team in the IDPs even after a player has signed. Historically, a player signing a contract would have marked the end of the recruitment team's work with the player, but not any more.

“What often happened is that you signed the player, we (recruitment) do everything in terms of the process building up to the signing, and then it’s almost like the player moves on from us,” Marsh says.

“We’re going to try now, going forwards, to make sure that there’s someone there that has that relationship with the player on an ongoing basis and is part of the IDP throughout the player's time with the club.”

After all, the recruitment team gather a significant amount of information and intelligence before signing a player. This includes:

  1. Player pack: A report on the player, a “culmination of all our work on them”, which is sent to the Head Coach, Head of Analysis, Head of Sport Science, Director of Football and Chairman.
  2. Personal summary: Information on the player’s background, including social media activity, video links to interviews they have done, what they like doing away from football.
  3. SWOT analysis: 'Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.' This is a snapshot of analysis of the player, including a video showcasing them around Huddersfield’s Position Specific Characteristics (PSCs).
  4. Psychological summary.
  5. Statistical summary: Using the PSCs and comparing them to existing players at the club in that particular position.
  6. Financial summary.
  7. Presentation meeting: This is with the player and their parent club. “We present how we work from an analysis point of view, performance, coaching, so there are no uncertain terms in terms of the demands and how we work and what the environment is,” Marsh says.

After a difficult end to last season - just three wins in the second half of the campaign left them finishing six points off relegation - Huddersfield have made an impressive start to the campaign.

The Terriers have won four of their first eight Championship games and sit seventh in the Championship. Marsh says a clear vision based on development has helped to inform the work of all departments, including his own.

“We’ve got more depth to the squad this season and I think we can deliver the consistency we’ve been looking for."

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