Huddersfield Town's Yuta Nakayama on how he used time out to deal better with Championship's biggest challenge

Yuta Nakayama says he feels more physically able to cope with the demands of Championship football after 10 months out of it.

The Huddersfield Town defender suffered an Achilles tendon just after being named in Japan's squad for last year's winter World Cup. As well as missing the Qatar tournament, he did not play again all season.

But the 26-year-old is nothing if not positive-minded, and resolved to use his time off to make him better equipped for the challenges he came across in his first season of English football.

Now Nakayama says he can feel his work paying off.

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"That period I got the injury gave me a chance to be stronger," he reflected. "I worked on everything but the big thing was physicality. The injury gave me a chance to think about how important it was that I was used to the intensity of this league.

"That's the most important thing so I spent good time on that and my body is really getting stronger and I can feel that at this time."

After starting his career with J-League side Kashiwa Reysol, Nakayam joined Dutch outfit Zwolle in January 2019. The Eredivisie is highly technical and nowhere near as helter-skelter as the English professional game.

"The intensity was totally different so I needed to get used to that (Championship) intensity," said Nakayama of the lessons he learnt as he reflected on his aborted maiden season in West Yorkshire.

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LET'S GET PHYSICAL:  Huddersfield Town defender Yuta Nakayama has worked on his strengthLET'S GET PHYSICAL:  Huddersfield Town defender Yuta Nakayama has worked on his strength
LET'S GET PHYSICAL: Huddersfield Town defender Yuta Nakayama has worked on his strength

"It's got me in much better shape. That's why I think I can say the period when I was injured was a great time."

Now Nakayama is experiencing another English idiosyncracy – Christmas football.

He was part of the Terriers side which beat Blackburn Rovers 3-0 at home on Boxing Day and is due back at the John Smith's Stadium for Friday's visit of Middlesbrough before a New Year's Day game at leaders Leicester City.

"It's really different but I like both Christmases, Japanese and English-style," said Nakayama, diplomatically. "Playing on Boxing Day created a really nice atmosphere and that also affects our chances of winning."

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But if the atmospheres are better, the relentlessness of Festive fixtures can be punishing – not that he is complaining.

"The opponents are very different so it makes it difficult but we need to keep our performance every single game," he said. "That's the most important thing for me, to maintain good performance.

"There are a lot of games at Christmas so you need good recovery and be in a good way mentally but the physicality is really important.

"I've been enjoying every single game and moment because the last year was really sad for me."

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Nakayama will get a shot at redemption of sorts at the Asian Cup which, like the World Cup he missed, is due to be played in Qatar.

Nakayama will miss the FA Cup third round trip to Manchester City and the final is not until February 10, six Terriers games later.

"It's a big tournament and we need to get back to being champions," said the centre-back.

Four-times winners Japan lost the 2019 final to Qatar.

Nakayama’s absence could open the door to others, with 20-year-old Congolese-born defender Loick Ayina making his debut on Boxing Day.

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"I like Loick, he's a defender who wants to defend and he's been chomping at the bit around the first team," said manager Darren Moore. "He's another youngster who was injured when I first came here.

"We've got Loick and REG (Rarmani Edmonds-Green) that can step in there so we don't see any reason we can't deputise for Yuta.".

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