The next player we are profiling is James Hill of Fleetwood, a highly-rated central defender who has recently been linked to the likes of Leicester City.
James Clayton Hill is a 19-year-old physical & technical, central defender who plays for League One side Fleetwood Town after moving up from their U18’s. He captained the youth side before moving up the ranks. He’s also the youngest Fleetwood Town player to make the first team, making his debut at 16 years old, off the bench against Leicester City in the Carabao Cup.
He’s made 39 senior appearances for Fleetwood including 90 minutes against Ancelotti’s very near full strength Everton side in September 2020, in the League Cup. 35 of those 39 apps came in the 20/21 season, 28 of which in the league, as Fleetwood finished 15th- winning 16, drawing 12, and losing 18, conceding 46 goals across 46 games.
Hill played mainly as part of a back 3 occupying the central role or RCB, and as part of a back 4 as LCB & RCB, looking comfortable & confident in both positions.
Hill is a strong CB who shows good tackling ability and excellent jumping ability in terms of both timing and height of the jump.
Standing at 6 foot tall, Hill shows good reading of the game with the ability to cut out passing lanes into the opposition ST/9, he also can provide a very long throw-in which is useful in moving the team up the pitch, or delivery directly into the box.
Hill provides versatility at the back with the ability and experience to play as part of a back 3 or back 4, and with his youthful pace and power he looks a promising talent at centre back.
As we can see, he is above the median in most of the key defensive metrics but shows good potential against his peers with the ball at his feet.
We like to compare the player in question to a player at a higher level that we like – so this time we are comparing Hill to Barnsley’s Toby Sibbick.
It comes as no surprise to see Hill excelling Sibbick in the number of aerial duels and aerial duels won as this is one of his main qualities in both phases, Hill’s also seen to block more shots and make more interceptions per 90. Hill has a higher xG as he also wins attacking duels when up for corners and set pieces. Hill also makes more passes and progressive passes per 90, his average pass length is also much higher than Sibbick. Sibbick scores higher than Hill in the number of duels per 90 and also duels won, but the pair possess similar data with Hill coming out on top for the major part.
Hill is strong defensively both physically and technically, possessing the desired qualities of a CB with good timing of the tackle, physical strength, aerial ability, and the ability to cover a lot of ground at the back.
His passing and ball control is also good although he doesn’t look to break lines when pressure is being applied and will often go back to the keeper or sideways, only breaking lines when given time to do so.
Hill shows good defensive anticipation and positioning and does exceptionally well winning the ball from behind in defensive 1v1’s, where the attacker is looking to hold up play or shield the ball.
Hill is quick to recognise danger & close down opponents, and as expected of a CB doesn’t get forward in the transitional phase of play. When he wins the ball back or is playing out during transition he gets out to the right-side touchline and as touched upon previously, goes long or backwards when being pressed, and looks to break lines and play short passes when given the time and space to do so.
His long throw is also useful in transition as he can very quickly push Fleetwood considerably higher up the pitch and does this on multiple occasions.
Hill as expected of a CB, sticks to his defensive position when Fleetwood are attacking but ventures forward for corners and set pieces, and utilises his aerial ability in the opposition box.
As mentioned, his long throw is good in the attacking third and his only career assist comes from a long throw into the box in a 2-0 win over Ipswich last season.
As touched upon, Hill is capable of breaking opposition lines when given time and space, and can carry the ball well but attacking runs are something rarely displayed from the centre half.
Hill is a physical presence at the back for Fleetwood and uses his physical strength well both when defending, competing in the air and protecting the ball in possession. In Fleetwood’s game with Everton, Hill was winning aerial battles up against Calvert-Lewin and Moise Kean.
Despite losing 5-2, the game provided an impressive showing against PL opponents from the young defender. According to InStat he had 2 air challenges winning 100%, 2 attacking challenges winning 100%, 10 defensive challenges winning 70% and made 6 interceptions.
Hill definitely possesses the physical capacity expected from a CB, and at only 19 he has the potential to become even stronger, although he already rarely comes out second best in physical battles.
In conclusion, Hill is a very promising young CB who has the individual qualities to play at the first division level in the future.
I believe that by the age of 22/23 should he maintain regular gametime & not be halted by injury, he could reach the current level of Ben Godfrey/Eric Konsa, with the pair both forging similar paths to the PL, coming through the various levels of the Football League.
He has all the elements to his game and is very close to being the finished product, and has huge room for development. Hill could also come in at a bargain price with his contract set to expire in June 2022.
There’s lots of time for his potential to be tapped into. Set to be a starter for Fleetwood this coming season, he will be well worth keeping an eye on.
Current tier: Tier 6
Future tier: Tier 1