It may seem like it has been a difficult season for Kamil Grabara at Huddersfield, but the Liverpool loanee has done “unbelievably” well according to his coach.
Grabara has not played for the Terriers since suffering a serious head injury in their 2-1 win at Hull on January 28, having sat out the last eight games in the Championship.
Prior to that he was a near ever-present for a side relegated from the Premier League last season, missing just one game of the first 29 in the league due to illness.
Now, it is possible he has lost his place in the starting lineup for when football resumes, with Jonas Lossl having returned on loan to ensure the Pole may have played his last game for the club.
It will be a disappointing for Liverpool if he has, but 28 appearances in the second tier will be considered vital experience despite conceding 45 goals in that period, keeping just five clean sheets and losing 13 games.
Of those 13 defeats, seven came in the first eight games of the season, but speaking to HTAFC.com, Huddersfield’s head of goalkeeping Paul Clements used that stretch as an example of why Grabara may be harshly judged.
“Kamil came in under difficult circumstances and people forget how young he is—he was 20 when he started playing for our club,” Clements explained.
“It’s not easy in those circumstances, coming into a dressing room with relegation hanging over a few people and people hurt from the season before.
“I think in the early part of the season, I think in every game he kept us in it, he made an unbelievable save just before half-time [in August’s 2-1 loss] at Derby for example.
“We just couldn’t get on the right side of the results for him and we had a really bad period for the club at the start of the season.
“In light of that I think he did OK and he’s out the team at the minute after his injury, but for me he’s done unbelievably.”
Grabara’s experience at Huddersfield could steel him for the challenge of becoming a first-team fixture at Liverpool, likely competing with Caoimhin Kelleher for a crucial backup role.
Time away on loan can be as much about the mental strength built up as it is playing games, and Clements went on to explain how Grabara has been faced with fatigue and scrutiny over mistakes during his time in West Yorkshire.
“Towards Christmas time he was getting tired and I know people speak about tiredness in football, but I think as a 20-year-old lad he’d played 51 games in a calendar year,” he continued.
“And that’s a lot of football and a lot of pressure, and that’s games for his country, for us, for his previous loan club.
“I’ve been more than happy with his performances. Of course, he’s a young ‘keeper and there’s been a couple of mistakes in there.
“I look at the league as a whole and there’s some big names that have all made mistakes and Kamil’s made a few, but he hasn’t made as many as maybe we thought he would have, so fair play to him.”
The notion that Grabara has made fewer mistakes than Huddersfield expected on sanctioning his move to the John Smith’s Stadium back in July may seem like a backhanded compliment, but they are part and parcel of life as a young stopper.
And though the 21-year-old may be seen as something of an afterthought at this stage, it could be that his time at Huddersfield—including his injury layoff—can prime him to be a useful option for Liverpool next season.