Luton v Huddersfield Town: Made in Chelsea, Jon Russell now enjoying Town life

JON RUSSELL’S journey with Huddersfield Town in 2021-22 has been a special one.

It’s final destination could yet be the Premier League at the end of this month.

The beauty of football is when it conjures such stories. It is a far cry from this time last year when Russell was unsure about his next destination, let alone even contemplating a journey.

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It was a worrying time in the career of the young midfielder as he is the first to acknowledge.

Jon Russell of Huddersfield Town. (Photo by John Early/Getty Images)

After finishing his loan commitments at League One side Accrington Stanley in 2020-21, the Londoner was bracing himself for his departure from his parent club Chelsea.

If things go well, the 21-year-old, a revelation after being promoted to the Town first team in January, might be returning to Stamford Bridge a lot sooner than he envisaged.

Looking back 12 months, Russell, speaking ahead of the first leg of Town’s play-off semi-final with Luton, said: “I didn’t know what I was going to do. It was a difficult time.

“Being in this position now, I really do pinch myself. It is a massive jump from where I was before. It is a good position right now for me.

Terriers head coach Carlos Corberan. Picture: Tony Johnson

“I knew I was leaving Chelsea, but I didn’t know where I was going to go after. Coming here and being in this position now is incredible.

“My agent knew one of the staff here and said to me that Huddersfield liked me and had a good set-up. I came to see the club and have a meeting and they said I’d start with the B team and try to progress to the first team.

“They showed examples of players who have done it before. So I signed to take that journey.

“The whole time at Huddersfield has stood out for me in my career; playing for the B team and first team and helping the team get to the position it is in now is a massive highlight for me.”

Huddersfield Town's Jon Russell is enjoying life in Yorkshire. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Whatever happens in the play-offs, the star of Russell, who signed a deal last summer with Town until the summer of 2023 – with the club having the option of a year’s extension – is firmly in its ascendancy.

His contemporaries at Chelsea included Callum Hudson-Odoi, Tariq Lamptey and Billy Gilmour. The player he looked up to and gleaned advice from was Ruben Loftus-Cheek, a similarly powerfully-built and athletic player who is blessed with touches of finesse like Russell.

Granted, Huddersfield still have a lot of work to do before they can plan for a return to Stamford Bridge, where the Terriers secured their Premier League safety at the end of 2017-18 amid scenes that no-one of a Town persuasion will ever forget in a moment for the ages.

But striving for something does no harm at all.

Russell, who netted in the home win against Luton just 32 days ago, commented: “Because I’d been there since I was six, I pretty much supported them (Chelsea) as a fan, but when I left I suppose that stopped, so I don’t really support anyone now.

“It will be massive to go back to play Chelsea as a Premier League player. That’s the target for me, to get into the Premier League.

“I know I can do it, so hopefully I can get there through the play-offs.”

The fixtures and fittings of Stamford Bridge and the John Smith’s Stadium are a world away from Accrington’s rather more compact Wham Stadium.

But for Russell, it was where he grew up in a football sense. Just as Town have punched above their weight, so did Stanley last season, turning over the likes of Hull, Wigan and Portsmouth and flirting with the League One play-offs.

The esprit de corps and team unity at Accrington was a clear strength as was the leadership and tactical acumen of the figure at the helm of the first team in John Coleman.

It was a team who also played intelligent football and earned the fulsome respect of rivals despite being devoid of super-stars.

All of the above characteristics apply to Huddersfield this season – and also tonight’s opponents.

Whoever gets through to Wembley on May 29 will be one game away from producing one of the stories of the EFL season, quite possibly the best.

Russell said: “John and Carlos aren’t far from each other, you know. John didn’t talk when we were playing, he lets the other coaches do it. But they can both be loud and encourage you. John’s just got a different accent!

“It was completely different to Chelsea. It was very different... At Accy, we didn’t really have a gym and it was Covid-19 lockdown, so I couldn’t really go to the gym.

“It was tough for me, I had to do a lot of home stuff, but my confidence comes from the gym as well, so not being able to do much of that was quite difficult.”

Russell is certainly not short of confidence these days.

Last six games: Luton LWWDLW; Huddersfield WDWWWW.

Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).

Last time: Luton 0 Huddersfield 0, October 2, 2021; Championship.