Yesterday, Huddersfield Town completed their third signing of the January transfer window with the addition of goalkeeper Lee Nicholls on a free transfer from League One side MK Dons.
The 27-year-old shot-stopper, formerly of Wigan Athletic, arrives at the John Smith’s Stadium on a contract that will last until the end of the 2022-23 season, with the Terriers then holding an option for a further year.
So with the deal done, the question now begs, what sort of role will the keeper have in West Yorkshire? Below is a closer look.
Battle with Schofield for the number one spot
A challenge that would face any goalkeeper joining Huddersfield Town this summer would be the battle with hometown boy Ryan Schofield, which Nicholls now faces.
Schofield enjoyed a breakthrough campaign with the Terriers last season, with his 30 league appearances making him Carlos Corberan’s premium choice in the Huddersfield goals.
After the departure of previous number one Ben Hamer to play-off finalists Swansea City in January, Schofield became the undisputed first choice for the Terriers, with the other two senior goalkeepers in the second half of last season, Jayson Leutwiler and Joel Pereira, failing to displace the 21-year-old, or even coming close to doing so.
With that in mind, it’s an undoubtedly tough challenge that lies ahead of Nicholls in the coming season, but if he can hit the ground running in pre-season there’s no reason why he can’t earn himself an opportunity that his predecessors didn’t.
Lack of game time last season puts him on the back foot
Another challenge that Nicholls will have to face this season, is being on the back foot from the start in his bid for the number one shirt due to his lack of game time last season.
The goalkeeper made his intentions to leave MK Dons at the expiration of his contract clear and as a result, he was limited to just 11 appearances in all competitions last campaign, having been demoted to the backup role.
That is in comparison to the man who will be his rival for the first choice spot next season at Huddersfield, the aforementioned Schofield, who appeared nearly triple the number of times for the Terriers in the previous campaign.
While the move to Huddersfield offers a clean slate to Nicholls, it makes his chances of becoming the first choice considerably harder after a season spent predominantly on the sidelines.
So after the points made above, it’s a rather simple conclusion. Nicholls, like Hamer, Pereira and Leutwiler, faces a challenging task to displace Ryan Schofield in the Huddersfield Town town starting 11 and from the sounds of his interview with the club’s official YouTube channel, it would appear that he is well aware of this.
Nonetheless, the goalkeeper, who stands at six foot three inches tall, does still hold a chance of getting the nod over Ryan Schofield on a regular basis next season, if he can give a good account of himself in pre-season.
The goalkeeping dilemma that Huddersfield faced last season was a real Achilles heel, of the Championship side and the Terriers must ensure that they head into the beginning of the season with an undisputed number one for at least the first handful of games.
Whether it’s Schofield or Nicholls, we will only find out in the future, but the 28-year-old received plenty of acclaim during his spell with MK Dons and he holds a genuine chance of achieving the tough task of displacing Ryan Schofield for the coveted spot between the sticks.