New Huddersfield Town striker Rhys Healey on rejection, being a Nomad, his French adventure and Russell Martin

A SOFTLY-spoken individual he may be, but Rhys Healey has a tough, steely core within.

When it comes to his own football story, Huddersfield Town’s recent signing has been an attendee at the school of hard knocks on several occasions.

Like when he was rejected by Rochdale as a teenager for one, while also subsequently failing to earn a deal at clubs elsewhere after several trials as a youngster.

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More recently, Healey struggled to establish himself at last club Watford in his big chance back in England after proving a wow in French football at Toulouse.

Recent Huddersfield Town signing Rhys Healey. Picture courtesy of HTAFC.Recent Huddersfield Town signing Rhys Healey. Picture courtesy of HTAFC.
Recent Huddersfield Town signing Rhys Healey. Picture courtesy of HTAFC.

Now, he finds himself at Huddersfield and intent on making up for a bit of lost time.

Despite early disappointments, Healey’s teenage years were the making of him.

It forged a will to succeed despite initial rejection.

After playing junior football in Wales as a child, Manchester-born Healey, a boyhood Manchester City fan who moved to the Principality with his family after being let go by Rochdale, earned his chance in the Cymru Premier at Connah’s Quay Nomads.

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It was by no means the traditional academy route that many young players take, but it suited Healey. After a tidy haul of goals, Cardiff City swooped.

As for whether a few doors being slammed in his face early on made him think football might not be for him, Healey has a firm answer.

He told The Yorkshire Post: "No, never. I have always been a person where, if I want it, I’ll get it.

"I knew I had something from a young age and I just put it down to coaches - or whatever teams I was at - who would get it out of me. I got that and the move to Cardiff and from there, I kicked on.

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"At my time at Connah’s Quay, I wasn’t an adult and was playing before I was 16. I was playing against people who had played over 300 games in the (EFL) league and dropped down to there.

"It made me feel I was going into a professional environment. I got kicked every week and I didn’t like it, but it’s men’s football.

"I was at school and college and at the weekend, I’d come and play with them. I just enjoyed it and I knew something would come from it.

"I was playing with a smile on my face and luckily enough, I got the opportunity to go onto a professional environment.”

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In his time at Cardiff, Healey famously made his debut from the bench in the Premier League on the final day of the 2013-14 campaign when he replaced his boyhood hero Craig Bellamy in a game against Chelsea.

Rubbing shoulders alongside Bellamy and being managed for a time by another striking great in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had a positive impact on Healey, but after a succession of loans, he found a true footballing home at MK Dons under Russell Martin.

Healey - who made his Terriers debut in Saturday’s Championship draw at Blackburn Rovers - renews acquaintances with Martin next month when Town head to Southampton on February 10.

The pure footballing style that Martin is successfully cultivating on the south coast was in evidence in Buckinghamshire during Healey’s time there.

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After a productive loan spell, he secured a full-time move and finished the 2019-20 campaign as MK’s top-scorer with 12 goals in 20 appearances, which earned him the club’s players’ player of the year award.

Alongside scoring goals, Healey developed as a ‘footballing’ striker under Martin, with those qualities earning him a shock move to French outfit Toulouse.

Working with Martin put him in good stead for the technicalities of French football. So much so that he netted 34 league goals in his first two seasons in France to help Toulouse gain promotion to Ligue 1.

He was named in the Ligue 2 Team of the Year in 2022-23, having netted 20 league goals.

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While he has Martin to thank from a football sense, he is also quick to praise his biggest supporter.

Healey, 29, who has joined Town on a two-and-a-half year deal from Watford, continued: "The main person is my partner, she’s been there from the start. She has stuck by me through hard times.

"A lot of coaches have had my back through it all and it’s all been positive. It’s been a long journey, but everyone has played there.

"What Russell has done and the way he has played, he is probably the coach that brought stuff out of me that I didn’t realise I had and pushed me onto the next level. From going there to Toulouse, he asked me to go and knew how much I can develop out there.

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"All credit to him, he developed me to be the player I am today.

"It was a really good time in my career at Toulouse and one of my favourite times. My family were there and we had a baby there and the football was amazing. That’s past me now, but I’ll always have good memories from my time in France.”