Huddersfield Town v Leeds United: It’s great being up north at last for Scannell

Mirco Antenucci celebrates Leeds second goal against Huddersfield Town.
Mirco Antenucci celebrates Leeds second goal against Huddersfield Town.
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Pennine snow storms may have been pounding in on a bleak and freezing winter’s afternoon scene in Huddersfield on Thursday, but for Sean Scannell, it was very much home.

That has not always been the case for the Town winger, as he is the first to admit.

The 24-year-old has never been happier ‘up north’, with it perhaps no surprise that his illuminating performances on the pitch under the guidance of another London boy in manager Chris Powell have arrived with being settled off it.

So much so that he signed a contract extension in November, a development which would have been unthinkable, as recently as the start of the season.

A return to the capital to Millwall, who had lined up a move, beckoned just before the end of the summer transfer window, with Scannell ready to pack his bags and head south.

But behind the scenes, unexpected things were happening. Powell was in the final stages of agreeing to become Town manager and when talk turned to Scannell with the club hierarchy, the message was simple: Keep him.

Scannell, signed by Simon Grayson in the summer of 2012, has proved somewhat of a renaissance man since.

On and off the pitch, happiness now abounds, thanks in no small part to some tender loving care from Powell, with Scannell’s own rise emblematic of the positive influence the Town chief has had in West Yorkshire – his own first professional job in the north.

Just do not expect Croydon-born Scannell to wear a flat cap, just like his gaffer, yet.

Scannell, aiming to help Town ensure derby bragging rights at the expense of Leeds United this lunchtime, said: “This is the happiest I have been in my career, I’d say so, definitely. When I was at Palace, it was different and if I wasn’t playing, I was at home.

“At the start, it was hard for me (at Huddersfield) as I was quite young.

“But I am quite settled now and have got a lot of people here and everyone has welcomed me.

“Before, I was going home after every single game. But now, I feel sometimes I can’t be bothered to go back go to London. If people want to see me, come to me.

“I actually do like it a lot because when I go down south, everything is crazy.”

On his footballing sense of well-being, Scannell added: “This is not just the happiest, but I feel like I am definitely playing the best football that I have played.

“I was really close to leaving, to be fair. For the gaffer to come in and stop it gave me a little bit of confidence to say that maybe he does like me and I am wanted.

“It gave me the confidence to go out on the pitch and perform.

“I hardly played anything last season and I thought my time here was done really. But when the gaffer came in, it gave me another chance to prove myself to everyone.

“This was big for me and I was so happy he came as I knew he would give me my chance and it was for me to take it or not.

“Last season, if I started and didn’t play well, I’d be straight out. But now if I don’t play as well, he will give me a chance straight after and that gives me that belief in myself.”

The way that Powell has harnessed Scannell’s footballing gifts with a ferocious work ethic has proved one of the true success stories of a campaign in which Town have provided a sound riposte after a bitter start to 2014-15 when all was not well.

The personal touch has clearly paid off with Scannell, but looking further afield around the first-team squad, there are others who have clearly been energised by Powell’s arrival.

Although in terms of work-rate, with his perceived lack of it something thrown at his door before Powell came in, Scannell is of the belief that appearances can prove deceptive in his case.

On the Powell factor, Scannell added: “He just knows me as a player off and on the pitch.

“He knows everything about me and it’s weird as it feels like I have known him for longer than he’s been here because of the way he seems to know me.

“He is just telling me to keep doing what I am doing and give everyone a threat.”

Specifically on the work-rate issue, he said: “Even at Palace, everyone questioned my work-rate. But I think it’s because I am a laid-back person.

“I love working for my team. But because I am just that little bit laid back, some people might see it as not working hard for the team, but I do work really hard.”

Town may not have quite downed tools in their miserable 3-0 loss at Elland Road on September 20, but it was an afternoon when they were a pale shadow of the side who have now evolved under Powell.

The smart money is on a different Town, not necessarily anything to do with personnel, taking the field today and if home fans believe the hosts have a score to settle, Scannell concurs.

Scannell, part of a Town line-up who have been beaten just once on home soil in the Championship since mid-September, added: “You could say it’s payback time now. We just want to perform as best as we can.

“If we perform as we have been doing lately, I can’t see why not. We can definitely get the three points.

“I think it is a lot different now and, as a team, we are much better and the gaffer has been in a little bit longer and we are starting to gel.

“If we perform as we should, I think we should win. We have got a good enough team to be in the play-offs, I think. If we gel properly, we can beat anyone in this division.”