ADAM HAMMILL is the first to admit that his career has not panned out as planned since leaving Barnsley at the start of last year.
When Wolverhampton Wanderers triggered the £500,000 release clause in his Oakwell contract, it seemed a marriage made in heaven.
Not only were Wolves in the Premier League, a level Hammill had been desperate to reach ever since leaving boyhood heroes Liverpool without making a first team appearance.
But, as a club their ambitions seemed to neatly chime with those of Hammill, who in the previous year or so had justified his billing as one of the Football League’s most prodigious talents.
For a time, the move did work out with the winger making an immediate impact in the old gold of Wolves and even earning a first call-up to the England Under-21s.
Almost two years on, however, and there can be little doubt that the switch has turned sour with Hammill firmly out in the cold at Molineux.
Today, though, will see the 24-year-old return to the scene of where his career really took off as Huddersfield Town, the club he joined on loan just before last summer’s transfer window closed, make the short journey to Barnsley. And Hammill, for one, is eagerly looking forward to the trip.
“I had some really good times at Barnsley,” admits the Town loanee to the Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s derby encounter.
“I suppose you could say my career took off at Barnsley, even though I was probably only there for a short time. I will always look back fondly on my time there as I have some great memories.
“On a personal level, I might have stayed a little longer. Things didn’t work out too well at Wolves so maybe I left too early and should have stuck around at a club where things were going well. But I can’t change that now.
“The first six months at Wolves were great for me because I broke into the England Under-21s and was playing week in and week out.
“But then suddenly, out of nowhere, I got dropped for one game and never got a reason why. I didn’t get back into the team and that was frustrating.
“I suppose these things happen in football but it was frustrating. What I will say, though, is I wouldn’t change anything from my actual time at Barnsley because I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“There were a lot of good lads at the club and a lot of them who are still there remain my good friends. I am looking forward to seeing them.”
Hammill arrived at Oakwell initially on loan in February, 2009. He was 21 and desperate to get his career back on track after coming through the ranks at Anfield.
An FA Youth Cup winner’s medal in 2006 had been the highpoint of his time on the books of his boyhood heroes, who, in the three years preceding Hammill’s loan move to Barnsley, had also arranged similar deals with Southampton, Dunfermline Athletic and Blackpool.
An impressive stay at Oakwell persuaded then manager Simon Davey to make a concerted attempt to sign Hammill on a permanent deal. Two bids were knocked back before the persistence paid off and the Reds got their man.
What followed was the rebirth of a career with Hammill, at one stage, scoring so many spectacular strikes that he seemed in danger of being referred to the Monopolies Commission such was his ability to dominate the goal of the month award.
In the 2009-10 season, his peach of a strike against Derby County was voted Barnsley’s best of the season. The following campaign then saw the one-time Liverpool trainee slalom through the Leeds defence in a 5-2 win for the Reds before scoring what he regards the best of the lot against Hull at Oakwell.
Collecting a crossfield pass from Nathan Doyle, Hammill showed great skill and agility to beat Tigers debutant Liam Rosenior before hitting an unstoppable 30-yard shot that crashed into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Hammill recalls: “I got a few good goals there, that’s right. But the Hull one was probably my favourite because it was live on television.
“I just want to start doing the same for Huddersfield now. From my time at Barnsley, I know I am capable of doing it so it would be great to get a few here.
“I haven’t played two consecutive full games for nearly six months due to injury and my time at Wolves. I just want to get games under my belt.
“Physically, it can be hard because playing demands a lot out of you. Against Blackburn, I wasn’t helped by being one of four or five of the lads who have been unwell.
“It made it a bit of a grind but, luckily enough, we all came through it and to get a point like we did was great.”
That draw against a Rovers side featuring £8m striker Jordan Rhodes and a host of former Premier League players means Town go into today’s derby just one place outside the play-offs.
Hammill said: “This is an exciting club to be at. You only have to look through the team to see how many talented players there are here.
“The bench is very, very strong with plenty of players who can come and slot straight into the team without any trouble at all. You need that in a league like the Championship.
“We have a real potential to push on as a club. Coming up from League One is never easy but we have already shown that the squad is capable of making the step up.
“The gaffer has got some good players in. He knows this level very well from Blackpool and Leeds. He believes in us and the key now is for us to believe in ourselves as much. If we do that, we can go a long way.
“Barnsley is similar to Huddersfield in that it is a family based club. The fans get right behind the players and there is no negativity towards us, which isn’t always the case at some clubs.”