If you were to rank the current Huddersfield Town squad purely in terms of talent, there is little doubt that Adam Hammill would be near the top. Having first made his name as a talented youngster at Barnsley back in 2009, Hammill looked destined for a career in the Premier League.
Five years down the line, however, and rather than plying his trade in the upper echelons of English football, Hammill finds himself out-of-favour at a club with modest Championship ambitions.
Rewind 12 month’s, however, and Hammill's early season form was so good that much of the initial scepticism surrounding his signing had evaporated. 5 goals and 3 assists from his first 9 starts, coupled with the fact he was now reunited with the manager who had helped get the best out of him at Barnsley, meant Town fans were optimistic that Hammill may finally be about to deliver on the promise he had showed in such abundance at Barnsley.
When you look at the stats from the 2013-14 season, it is immediately obvious that Hammill was Town’s primary creative threat. In addition to leading the club’s assist charts with 10 assists from 44 appearances (0.26 per game), he also led the way in a number of other key areas. According to Squawka, Hammill also completed more key passes, and created more chances per 90 minutes, than any of his midfield colleagues last season.
These stats are symptomatic of Hammill’s undoubted quality in the final third of the pitch. Though not as quick as the likes of Sean Scannell and Danny Ward, Hammill more than made up for this with his superior technical attributes.
For example, Hammill’s ability to go past a man and consistently provide a cross into a dangerous area set him apart from his fellow midfielders last time around.
Although he could at times be infuriating with his decision making – for instance holding onto the ball for too long, or trying to beat one (or five) men too many – it is no coincidence that when Hammill did not perform, neither did the rest of the team.
To put this into context, it is worth pointing out that Town did not win any of the 4 games which Hammill did not start last season – losing three and drawing one – whilst scoring just two goals in the process.
What is more, although Hammill was unable to maintain this form throughout the course of the season, it is highly unlikely that Town would have been able to survive last season without his contribution.
So just why has Hammill found himself sidelined this time around? Hammill has not featured since a substitute appearance against Watford back in August - despite manager Chris Powell telling the Huddersfield Examiner back on the 19th September that Hammill "was really close" to being fit.
Over a month later, however, there is still no sign of Hammill pulling on a first-team shirt for at least a few weeks yet.
A lack of clear communication, and contradicting reports from the club, surrounding Hammill's absence has led to speculation that Hammill's absence is not solely down to footballing reasons, and it is worth bearing in mind that Hammill was linked with a move away from the club as recently as last summer amidst further rumours regarding Hammill's off-the-field issues.
It is perhaps telling that Hammill has not featured at all under new manager Chris Powell.
One of the main things Powell has tried to do since taking over as manager, is instil a sense of unity and togetherness among the squad, staff and fans.
The way the team celebrated Conor Coady’s strike against Wolves, for example, spoke volumes of the improved morale and rapport among the squad – something that had arguably been missing under Simon Grayson and Mark Robins.
With this in mind, it is reasonable to suggest that - given his history of off-the-field problems - Hammill must first prove to Chris Powell that he will not prove a disruptive influence on this fragile, newfound team spirit and unity, before he gets a chance in the first-team.
Ultimately, the early-season form of Sean Scannell and Harry Bunn has meant that Hammill’s absence has not been as keenly felt among the Town squad as it would have been 12 months ago.
Whilst Hammill remains a talented player, and he can still play a major part for the club, he will have to work hard and remain patient to dislodge the impressive Scannell and Bunn from the starting XI. On his day, Hammill is as good as most players in the entire division and, for his sake, and the sake of the club, I really hope he's able to prove it.