After the dust settled from Town’s triple announcement on Tuesday, it was confirmed last night that Scott Malone would be Town’s eighth signing of the transfer window as he made the switch from Fulham to Town for an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of £3 million.
The tried and tested method
Whilst some of you (myself including) will be bracing yourself for another evening of arguments on social media with Premier League armchair supporters claiming that Malone is Town’s latest mediocre signing and relegation is already inevitable, I would point them in the direction of this piece.
The immediate reaction by most casual football fans is simply that Malone is another Championship signing and the memes will emerge that we’re preparing for the 2018-19 Championship season, these “football fans” are failing to understand the basic principles of a successful newly promoted side.
From Bournemouth to Burnley, a commonality which can be seen between these two clubs who are of similar stature to Town is that they have bought hungry high-end Championship players who have a point to prove, rather than ‘Premier League quality’ journeymen who move from one relegation-stricken Premier League team to the other.
The arrival of Tom Ince, Danny Williams and now Scott Malone are all examples of this tried and tested method which has proven to be so successful for newly-promoted sides.
Whilst the former pair are acknowledged as some of the very best in the Championship, Malone has emerged as a revelation this season.
A testament to a revelationary season
Only last summer, Cardiff City were more than willing to offer a straight swap of Malone for Welsh full-back (and former Town player), Jazz Richards.
At the time, the vast majority of pundits predicted that Cardiff City was getting the better end of the deal. However, under the management of Slavisa Jokanovic as a part of a fluid attacking Fulham side, Malone was unrecognisable.
Malone was transformed from a player that was acknowledged as an average run of the mill Championship player into one of the best full-backs in the entire division.
With six goals and three assists in thirty-six Championship appearances, Scott Malone’s forward contributions were some of the best for any defender in the entirety of the Football League, only to be surpassed by our very own Tommy Smith.
The performances and consistency of Malone did not go unrecognised as the Fulham full-back was named in the Skybet Championship Team of the Season, alongside now teammates, Aaron Mooy and Tommy Smith.
Malone’s impressive feats for Fulham clearly caught the eye of David Wagner and the move to Town is a true testament to what has been a revelationary season for the forward-thinking full-back.
The Modern day Full-back
Following the arrival of Malone, while some Fulham fans were appreciative of his efforts last season, there has been a number of fans that gleefully claim that Malone’s defensive vulnerabilities will be exposed next season.
However, the evolution of football has seen the definition of a full-back change drastically. Whilst an old school full-back’s only duty was simply to defend, the modern day full-back is expected to be as proficient going forward as they are at defending.
Like Tommy Smith, Malone is very much in the mould of the latter as he is the very definition of the modern day full-back.
Specifically, in Wagner’s system, the full-back position is one of utmost importance. Many times last season, it was Chris Löwe and Tommy Smith who were at the heart of Town’s attacks.
The two adventurous full-backs broke up the play with swift interceptions before pushing forward and mounting attacks from deep.
As well as the full-backs having the responsibility as creative outlets, the positioning of both full-backs high up the pitch allowed Town’s dynamic midfield to pin the opposition in areas of the pitch where intense pressing led to Town pouncing on mistakes high up the pitch.
Considering Scott Malone spent the vast majority of last season playing in the advanced full-back position as well as having played further forward as a left midfielder, it seems that he is the perfect fit for Town’s full-back role.
A statement of intent
Whilst many of Town’s signings, from Aaron Mooy to Steve Mounié have been statements of intent, Malone himself is a statement of intent.
Not because of the grandiose nature of the move or the fee paid but the symbolic significance of this signing is clear to see.
Considering how big the gap is between the Championship and the Premier League, for a newly promoted side, it appears that the formula for success is to be difficult to beat and strong at home.
Very few newly promoted sides get promoted playing open attractive expansive football and continue to do so once they’ve reached the promised land, Bournemouth being the exception to rule.
The arrival of Malone suggests that Town are taking the Bournemouth route to success in the Premier League, as Wagner’s unwavering whole-hearted belief in his philosophy means that Town will continue to implement it in the Premier League.
Whilst some may expect Town to be more conservative and reserved in the Premier League, like Middlesbrough last season, this signing suggests the opposite. As David Wagner so succinctly put, “we are not in the Premier League only to say hello”.
Driven by competition
In a refreshingly open and honest interview, Malone spoke of his ambition to play in the Premier League. Like Williams and Ince, Malone is another player, hungry for success with a point to prove, a theme which is recurring amongst Town’s signings so far this summer.
When asked about why he emerged as a revelation in an excellent Fulham side, the level-headed full-back spoke about the integral importance of competition for places.
Last season, following the emergence of Ryan Sessegnon and the hype surrounding one of the biggest talents outside of the Premier League, Malone faced an extremely difficult challenge from the then 16-year-old full-back.
Driven by competition and the risk of losing his place in the starting eleven, Malone found a new level and showed how competition to places can see players thrive under the right kind of pressure.
Despite arriving at Huddersfield Town as a well-admired and highly-rated full-back, Malone has equally tough competition at Town for a place in the starting line-up due to the consistently brilliant form of Chris Löwe.
The battle between Malone and Löwe will be an entertaining one, with both players driven by competition for a place in the starting line-up, it is likely that the healthy competition will see both players benefit from it greatly.
Even though, I expect Chris Löwe will remain as Town’s first choice left-back for Town’s debut season in the Premier League, to have a player of Scott Malone’s calibre simply as cover, shows how far we have come in just a matter of weeks.