Hot contender Levi Colwill has something to prove to Chelsea – by firing Huddersfield Town for promotion to the Premier League.
The England Under-21 defender has been a revelation for the Terriers this season after being sent on by the Blues to play some much-needed games. And now the ambitious 19-year-old is on the verge of a memorable promotion to the top flight with the Yorkshire club.
Huddersfield meet Nottingham Forest in the Championship play-off final at Wembley (4.30pm) on Sunday. The game is widely believed to be worth over £200m for the winner and Colwill, a player with high ambitions, has not escaped the magnitude of the occasion and the tough test that lies ahead.
“It’s the biggest game of my career so far, 100 percent,” Colwill tells The Sportsman. “It’s a big game to play at Wembley and I’ve never played there. I’ve only been there once with my uncles and that was about eight years ago now.
“It would be good to follow in their footsteps in a way by playing there and hopefully achieving our goal.”
That was in 2014 when an 11-year-old Colwill was a mascot when his uncles played for Sholing in the FA Vase Final – and triumphed.
Remembers Colwill. “They won 1-0, so they’re not putting any pressure on me. My family are all Liverpool fans so I grew up in a supportive Liverpool household. I always looked up to Steven Gerrard, he was the man for me growing up. And he still is. I’ll go back to that [for inspiration]. My whole family is also very supportive.”
LEGENDARY LIVERPOOL CAPTAIN GERRARD WAS COLWILL’S IDOL WHEN HE GREW UP
Victory in Sunday’s final could see Colwill join other giants such as Manchester City and Manchester United against Liverpool next season. And after getting off to a promising start to his thriving career, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Colwill is keen to take the next step in stardom.
“We [the Chelsea Academy players] have all the points to prove to anyone who doubts us,” emphasizes Colwill. “For me at the moment, playing for Chelsea will always be the main goal because it’s my club. But if that doesn’t happen, I’ll have to find other ways to move forward and become the player I want to be.
“I think it’s hunger that Chelsea grows up with. Not losing and people will doubt you. Reece James and Mason Mount coming into the Championship people may have thought they were both wrapped up in cotton wool because coming from Chelsea and they won’t do well. Also that they will not survive living alone or playing in the championship where it is more physically demanding.
“But when I came here [to Huddersfield] it came in one ear and straight out the other. They say to themselves: “I have something to prove here” and “Who will tell me what I can and can’t do?” Give me the season and let me show what I can do. Huddersfield did that and I hope to show that again on Sunday.
“I think my desire is what drives me every day. When things aren’t going well, sometimes you have to pull your head down and sometimes think, ‘Why am I doing this?’ You must be asking yourself, “Where do I want to be?”
“It makes me think about where I want to be because where will that take my family? Family is my number one priority, so if I want to be the best player – and a great centre-back or wherever I’m going to play – then how I’m going to do that. “I think of my family to have a better life, which means I work hard to be where I want to be. That’s what it boils down to.”
Central defender Colwill and his Blues midfielder Jon Russell fit perfectly into Spanish coach Carlos Corberan’s promotion plan. And now the talented teenager is desperate to impress on the big stage, with Chelsea keeping a watchful eye.
“I’ve lost finals at Chelsea Academy before and the pain afterwards just to see the other team celebrate is so painful,” recalled Colwill. “It hurt in my heart, and that’s not a normal feeling. So when you go out there, you won’t have any regrets. You have to give everything and that’s what we’ve set ourselves.
“I walked in and felt so comfortable straight away and it’s stayed that way throughout the season. That’s probably why we did so well this season. Last year was a tough season for everyone but I think it prepared everyone to be in the position we are in now. They went through tough times and then had to stick together.”
Family is everything to Colwill, and with a ticket allocation of 50 to the finals, he understandably wants to repay those closest to him.
“My parents [Debra and Levi] sacrificed everything for me,” reveals Colwill. “Working hard, living in places we didn’t want and moving constantly just for me.
“My family moved with me to London for a couple of years and then back to Southampton. My family used to drive me to and from Cobham four times a week. And then we moved to London for a year but we didn’t really enjoy it because we weren’t with anyone in my family.
“Then I went to Chelsea full time because I was living in digs. And then when I came here [to Huddersfield] Mom and Dad came and watched every single game, Tuesday and Saturday.
“It’s a four-hour drive from London, so that says it all. Your devotion is as great as mine. I can repay them by working hard and hopefully being the best player I can and making them proud.”