Hot prospect Levi Colwill has a point to prove to Chelsea – by firing Huddersfield Town to Premier League promotion.
The England Under-21 defender has been a revelation for the Terriers this season having been sent out by the Blues to get some much-needed games under his belt. And now the ambitious 19-year-old is on the cusp of a memorable promotion to the top flight with the Yorkshire club.
Huddersfield face Nottingham Forest on Sunday in the Championship Play-off final at Wembley (4.30pm). The fixture is widely regarded to be worth in excess of £200 million to the winner, and the magnitude of the occasion and tough test ahead is not lost on Colwill, a player with lofty ambitions.
“It’s the biggest game of my career so far, 100 per cent,” Colwill tells The Sportsman. “It’s a big game playing at Wembley and I haven’t played there before. I have only stepped out there once with my uncles and that was about eight years ago now.
“It would be good to follow in their footsteps in a way by playing there and hopefully achieving our goal.”
That was back in 2014 when an 11-year-old Colwill was a mascot when his uncles played – and triumphed – for Sholing in the FA Vase final.
Recalls Colwill. “They won 1-0, so there’s no pressure on me from them. My family are all Liverpool supporters, so I grew up in a household supporting Liverpool. I always used to look up to Steven Gerrard, he was the man for me growing up. And he still is. That’s who I go back to [for inspiration]. All my family are big supporters of him too.”
Victory in Sunday’s final could see Colwill playing against Liverpool next season, along with other giants such as Manchester City and Manchester United. And having made a promising start to his blossoming career, it’s perhaps little surprise that Colwill wants to take the next step to stardom.
“We [the Chelsea Academy players] have all got points to prove to all those people who doubt us,” stresses Colwill. “For me, playing for Chelsea will always be the main aim right now because it’s my club. But if that doesn’t happen, well then I have to find other ways to progress and become the player I want to be.
“I think it’s the hunger Chelsea grow you up with. Not losing and people doubting you. Reece James and Mason Mount coming into the Championship, people might have thought they were both wrapped up in cotton wool because they’ve from Chelsea and they’re not going to do well. Also that they’re not going to survive living alone or playing in the Championship where it’s more physically demanding.
“However, when I came here [to Huddersfield] that came in one ear and straight out of the other. You say to yourself ‘I’ve got a point to prove here’ and ‘who are they to tell me what I can and can’t do?’ Give me the season and let me show what I can do. Huddersfield have done that and I’m also hoping to show that on Sunday.
“I think my desire is the thing that drives me every day. If things aren’t going well, then you sometimes have to get your head down and think sometimes ‘why am I doing this?’ You have to ask yourself ‘where do I want to be?’
“It gets me thinking about where I want to be, because where will that put my family? Family comes first for me, so if I’m going to be the best player – and be a great centre-half or wherever I’m going to play – then how I’m going to do this.“I think about my family living better lives, which is about me working hard to be where I want to be. That’s what it boils down to.”
Centre-back Colwill and fellow Blues midfielder Jon Russell have fitted perfectly into Spanish manager Carlos Corberan’s blueprint for promotion. And now the talented teenager is desperate to impress on the big stage with Chelsea keeping a close eye.
“I’ve lost finals in the Chelsea Academy before and the pain after, just seeing the other team celebrate, hurts so much,” reflects Colwill. “It hurt in my heart, and that’s not a normal feeling. So going out there you can’t leave with any regrets. You’ve got to give it your all and that’s what we’re planning to do.
“I came in and felt so comfortable straight away and it stayed that way throughout the whole season. That’s probably why we’ve done well so this season. Last year was a tough season for everyone, but I think it’s prepared everyone to be in the position we are now. They have been through the tough times and had to stick together then.”
Family is everything to Colwill, and, with a ticket allocation of 50 for the final, he is understandably gunning to repay those closest to him.
“My parents [Debra and Levi] have sacrificed everything for me,” reveals Colwill. “Working hard, living in places we didn’t want to and moving all the time, just for me.
“My family moved to London for a few years with me and then moved back to Southampton. My family used to drive me up four times a week to Cobham and back. And then we moved up to London for a year, but we didn’t really enjoy it because we weren’t around anyone from my family.
“Then I went full-time at Chelsea because I lived in digs. And then when I came up here [to Huddersfield] by mum and dad would come and watch every single game, Tuesday and Saturday.
“It’s a four-hour drive from London, so that says it all. Their dedication is there just as much as mine. I can repay them by working hard and hopefully being the best player I can and making them proud.”