ALMOST a decade has elapsed since Joel Lynch made his professional debut but the Huddersfield Town defender can recall every detail.
Just 18 at the time and fresh from a loan spell with Bognor Regis Town in the Isthmian League, he was surprised to be included in the Brighton & Hove Albion squad for the trip along the south coast to Southampton.
That, though, was nothing compared to how Lynch felt when named in the starting line-up at St Mary’s against a Saints side only relegated from the Premier League seven months earlier.
“I was thrown in at the deep end,” admitted the 28-year-old to The Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s trip to Burnley that could see up to six Academy graduates included in the Terriers squad.
“Totally out of the blue, I just wasn’t expecting it. I had been out on loan at Bognor Regis, where I had gone just for a bit of experience.
“I was told I was travelling and then thrown in. That is how it used to be back then. Things are a bit different these days, with the Under-21s and whatever. There is more of a build-up.
“But, you have to deal with it (the step up) eventually so to be thrown in isn’t a bad thing. Not to me, anyway.”
The likes of Flo Bojaj, Philip Billing and William Boyle could find that being the case at Turf Moor. Chris Powell is without injured pair Sean Scannell and Jonathan Hogg, plus James Vaughan as the striker serves the last of a three-game ban.
A couple of other Town players – who Powell declined to name yesterday – are also major doubts for what is sure to be one of the club’s toughest assignments of the season.
For Lynch, it brings back memories of that January afternoon in 2006 when his debut ended in a 2-1 defeat. As disappointing as that result was, he clearly did something right as the loss to the Saints was the first of 16 appearances that the defender made that season.
“We are bringing in young players, who have not got much experience,” added the former Welsh international. “But, to me, it is good for them.
“In my case, I was thrown in at the deep end out of the blue. But it has to happen at some stage and the young lads who have come in for us have done well. Fair play to them.
“They all work really hard in training. Frank (Bunn) has a lot to do with that. He gets them going and they are always ready.”
Town fans have already had a brief look at Bojaj and Billing in a first-team shirt. Midfielder Billing played the second half of the 2-1 victory at Charlton in mid-September, while Bojaj has come off the bench in each of the last two games.
Under-21s captain Boyle, meanwhile, is also likely to be in the match-day 18 against the Clarets along with Duane Holmes, the 20-year-old who after making an initial impact in 2013-14 has fallen down the pecking order.
Lynch added: “I was only speaking to Flo on Thursday, saying, ‘I bet they don’t give you a new contract’. We were having a joke.
“He laughed it off, obviously knowing he had already signed one. Fair play. I was pleased for him.
“Flo is a young lad but he has worked hard. To me, he looks like a confident young lad who can really come in and do well. I have a lot of faith in him, as do the other lads and the gaffer.
“He has a lot of good attributes. His energy is great and I wouldn’t have any qualms about him coming in and playing. He deserves his chance.
“Phil is another who has come in. He hadn’t really been close but then he came in at Charlton. That is the way football is. They are young men who can handle it.
“It is not the same as being thrown in at Old Trafford in front of 70,000 or whatever. They have all done well and, hopefully, in the future a lot more young players will come through.
“Where our squad is so small, the gaffer has to look at the youth to see who he can push on. It is good for the club and, hopefully, there are a lot more to come.”
If any of the Huddersfield youngsters do get their chance today, it will come against one of the division’s better sides.
Burnley, after a slow start, have started to build some momentum and last weekend’s derby win at Blackburn Rovers left Sean Dyche’s men only outside the automatic promotion places on goal difference.
As with last weekend’s opponents Derby County, the Clarets were able to invest significantly in the summer transfer window with striker Andre Gray arriving from Brentford in a deal that could earn the Londoners £9m.
Lynch added: “Derby was tough. They are the best team we have played against this season and I can see them definitely getting promoted. Their centre midfield was probably ten or 11 times what our whole squad is worth.
“Derby have another gear in them, too. I do believe there is more to come from us as well. As for Burnley, they are really strong, too.
“They only lost a couple of players in the summer, such as Danny Ings. We know what it is going to be like and we will have to work hard.”
Burnley, of course, is a similar sized town to Huddersfield and Lynch believes the Clarets can serve as an inspiration to the Yorkshire club.
“What Burnley did is what a few at the club would like us to follow,” he added. “They didn’t invest that much money when they went up but have a good, strong squad.
“They want to get back in the Premier League. If there isn’t much investment in transfers, the only way to progress is to do what Burnley did. Or Blackpool a few years ago.”