THE contrast between this time last year and now is marked, and one Sean Scannell could barely have dreamed possible.
Huddersfield Town’s London-born winger, in his third season at the club, has been a revelation this term with his form so impressive that he is likely to leave the upcoming Player of the Year awards night clutching at least one trophy.
Scannell, even allowing for a recent dip in form, has added consistency and resolve to his undoubted talent to become a key figure at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Rewind 12 months, however, and the picture was very different. Scannell was on the periphery, mainly used as a substitute by then manager Mark Robins and totally bereft of confidence.
“It couldn’t be much different,” admits the 24-year-old when speaking to The Yorkshire Post at Town’s Canalside training complex. “I have been pleased with how the season has gone, not just for me but the team.
“The results lately have been great. Everyone knows how good we can be. There was a spell when we weren’t really winning, but now we are back up and running, and the results have come.
“There is a buzz in the changing room and, as one of those who have been at the club the longest, I do feel we have come so far. This is a really good squad when you go through it player by player.
“We also have the right manager and I would say there is a belief around the entire club.”
Scannell is, indeed, in a good position to assess the progress Town are making. He joined on a free transfer from Crystal Palace in the summer of 2012, just a few weeks after Huddersfield’s dramatic League One play-off final victory over Sheffield United.
Over the intervening three years, the Terriers have established themselves as a solid Championship outfit.
Manager Chris Powell’s challenge now, after doing an impressive job in steadying the club following Robins’s dramatic resignation on the opening day, is to nudge Town up from lower mid-table to the higher echelons of the second tier.
It will not be easy, not in a division where clubs arrive from the Premier League with pockets full of parachute payments.
But, if the club is to keep progressing, Scannell will surely have a big part to play after such an impressive campaign.
“A year ago, I felt terrible,” admits the winger as the smile disappears from his face for the first time in our interview. “It wasn’t happening for me. I’d made maybe eights starts (in 2013-14) and didn’t feel good about myself.
“I felt really low as I went away for the summer. All I could think was would I be coming back to not playing again? I was thinking, ‘What is that going to be like?’
“As I said, I felt low. But I am lucky that I have good friends and a good missus down in London.
“No matter how flat I was, they lifted me up. They put a smile on my face and, without that support, I might have struggled to come back.”
As Scannell told this newspaper in December, a spell at an intensive summer training camp run by former Bradford City winger Jamie Lawrence worked wonders in ensuring he returned to pre-season in West Yorkshire feeling as fit as he had ever done.
It soon started to show in his performances, while the change of manager also instilled a renewed sense of belief in the Londoner.
“I feel so much better going into the summer this year,” he said. “I am looking forward to my holidays, as it has been a long season. But I am also already looking forward to coming back.
“That wasn’t the case last season, not at all. Back then, people were saying I was going to Millwall or whatever. I didn’t know what was going on.
“Now, though, I just want to step things up for Huddersfield Town. I’ve had a dip in form recently but I feel good again now. The season has been good on a personal level, with a few goals and a few assists. I feel to have really contributed to the team.”
Scannell’s focus right now is on the final three games, a run-in that begins today with the visit of promotion-chasing Derby County.
After that lies a well-deserved holiday with his girlfriend. Even while away, however, the wideman’s thoughts will not stray very far from next season – which is why he is already pencilled in for another gruelling couple of weeks with Lawrence, recently appointed as Ghana’s fitness coach after the success he enjoyed at the African Cup of Nations, at the former winger’s summer training camp.
A host of professional footballers take part in the daily sessions, which largely run from 11am to 4pm in the capital.
“The summer will first see me have a break with my girlfriend,” said Scannell. “But then I’ll go straight to join in with Jamie Lawrence. It made such a big difference to me last summer.
“At the start in pre-season, I felt better. But I think the big worth of all the work I did with Jamie truly came in January when I was able to play three times in a week. If I’d tried that last season, I would have been struggling.
“Some of that was down to me not playing very much. But I do feel Jamie, and all the work he did with me, helped me massively this time. And then the more games I played, the fitter I became.
“I will do my own bits in May, but then probably go to see Jamie two or three weeks before we are back in for pre-season.
“It is hard and I don’t want to go to Jamie’s feeling unfit. They are hard sessions. So, I will work hard on my own before getting there.
“I want to go to Jamie’s feeling fit-ish. But after a couple of weeks with Jamie, I know I will be fit and raring to go for pre-season back at Huddersfield.”