Birmingham City v Huddersfield Town: 'Happy' Lee Nicholls on blanking out the noise after early-season speculation over his future

OCTOBER; the time in the sporting calendar when the cricket stumps are finally put away in the UK, the nights draw in and football league tables start to take shape and the transfer window is closed and some way in the distance.

In short, it’s a time when things settle down at most sensible clubs. Huddersfield Town goalkeeper Lee Nicholls can vouch for that.

The start of the new campaign was sticky for the Liverpudlian, who turns 31 later this week, in a 2023 which has had its issues for the keeper, who was sidelined for much of the second half of last season following shoulder surgery.

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A couple of uncharacteristic mistakes blotted his pretty immaculate copybook during a time when the window was open and there was some speculation over his future.

Huddersfield Town keeper Lee Nicholls. Picture: Getty.Huddersfield Town keeper Lee Nicholls. Picture: Getty.
Huddersfield Town keeper Lee Nicholls. Picture: Getty.

Nicholls, voted player of the year for Town in 2021-22 and named in both the EFL Championship Team of the Season and Professional Footballers' Association Team of the Year, did what all good professionals do.

He dug in and the noise blew over and he is in good order again. Form is temporary, but class is permanent.

A blinding save to somehow deny Freddie Ladapo in Saturday’s engrossing draw with a high-flying and strong Ipswich Town side further showcased that.

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It came after his wonder stop near the end of the Terriers’ previous game at Coventry City.

Small wonder that recently-appointed manager Darren Moore has already referenced Nicholls as being one of the best operators in his position in the Championship and expressed gratitude that he is still very much in West Yorkshire.

Nicholls, speaking ahead of Huddersfield’s trip to Birmingham City – which they head into on the back of a five-match unbeaten sequence in September - said: “I am happy, playing, fit and healthy and couldn’t be happier.

“It (speculation) just noise at the end of the day. I know there was a bit of news around it and stuff, but it was nothing.

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“It was all kept in house and all done behind closed doors. It is what it is, you move on and I am just happy I am back in the fold and playing well and helping the team take points.”

Town’s total of ten points from nine matches thus far is steady as opposed to spectacular.

Evidence has shown that it provides a platform for Moore to build upon at the very least.

Town have competed very well against the top two of Ipswich and Leicester City and can count themselves pretty unfortunate to claim just a solitary point.

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Aside from a disappointing opening day at Plymouth Argyle and heavy home defeat to Norwich City, it’s been a decent start in terms of performance levels and there is genuine grounds for optimism.

Certainly when you cast your minds to a pretty awful first half of last season. Town appear on firmer ground this time around among a tight group who came together under the canny tutelage of Neil Warnock in a memorable final third of last season.

Nicholls continued: “It does feel like you come into training and are with your mates. The whole club is a lively, bubbly place and everyone is close together. It’s a nice place to be, especially now that the results are coming.

“We seem to be heading in the right direction.

“The past few weeks has really solidified the fact that we can be a good team and hurt people. I feel like we are building something and it is quite exciting in and around the club at the minute."

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Nicholls finds himself working under his fourth different goalkeeping coach since moving to the club in Adriano Basso, who recently arrived at the club following the appointment of Moore.

Variety has certainly been the spice of life in that regard for the former MK Dons custodian.

He continued: “If you can go in with an open mind, you can come out a better goalkeeper.

“I have been quite lucky in that every one (coach) I have had has been top-drawer and ultimately a top person as well and I have learnt a lot from everyone.

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“If I had to use one word to describe Adriano, it’s passionate. He always wants the best and is very demanding."

Moore is hopeful that captain Jonathan Hogg and defender Yuta Nakayama will be fit enough to feature at St Andrew's after coming off at the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Town chief has confirmed that he will only make a decision on Jordan Rhodes's loan situation in January, with a break clause inserted in the deal which saw him move to Blackpool ahead of the summer deadline.

Rhodes has netted five goals in his first five appearances for the Seasiders.

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Moore said: "It is something that happened before I arrived. I believe there is a break clause (in the deal) so we will have a look at that.

"In the meantime, there's nothing we can do about that. What we will do is concentrate on what is in the building here at the moment."