Mark Carrick says...
I was encouraged by Johnson’s reminder that we are getting players up to fitness and managing players accordingly. Clearly, Cirkin has been a ‘needs must’ fast track case due to the whole Denver Hume contract saga, but there is no need to push Huggins, Pritchard or Evans too fast, too quick.
Winchester has proved himself more than capable at right-back and has earned his place in the side on merit. Johnson can be patient with Huggins, as Luke O’Nien has proved adaptable in both central midfield roles. His presence has covered for Evans’ injury and given Neil the platform to establish himself.
Similarly, in resting Neil and bringing Evans back in, O’Nien can play the box-to-box role. So while there is no urgency to either relocate Winchester to a central defensive midfield role, Huggins will benefit from being eased in and settle at the club. There will come a time when a tough decision will be needed, but Johnson, by his own admission, recognises the embarrassment of riches he has to call upon.
Joseph Tulip says...
Niall Huggins looks a real prospect hopefully he is our right back for many years to come.
For now, I’d stick with Carl Winchester in that position. It’s a formula that has contributed to our good start to the season and I think it would be unwise to change things at this stage.
Huggins was excellent against Wigan, but it was far from their strongest XI. I’m sure he’s highly capable, but he will get other cup opportunities to impress and is just an injury or suspension away from a start in the league.
Huggins will have to be patient but his chance will come. As for Winchester, if he keeps performing he will get his chance in midfield if he can bide his time.
We have options but let’s not force anything, stick with what works and let things evolve as the season progresses.
Malc Dugdale says...
I’d like to see Huggins recognised for his input with a spot on the bench, but Winch deserves to keep his berth.
Carl has had a couple of challenging moments but he has been a revelation in the squad and the team, with goals and man of the match outings, and truth is Huggins was cracking but still needs to build fitness and his understanding with the team around him.
The best option for all is Huggins coming on for the final 30, gaining match sharpness and fitness and absolutely battering the opponents with fresh legs and attacking intent, and from the back. Johnson is proving to be a master of building rather than forcing players into the team, I say we let him do his job and Huggins will be a great asset to us for the season.
The biggest concern for me is the fact that others are excelling in midfield and hence when Winch does get pushed out, I’m not sure he will get a role in the middle. He is clearly a player with utility qualities, hence Winch has as much of a future in the squad as Huggins, and the competition for the position will always be a good thing for us as a club.
It’s a tricky one this. Winchester has been really good at right back and moving him forward means somebody else has to drop out. That seems a bit harsh as we’ve had a great start to the season, and tinkering might do more harm than good.
Having said that, Huggins was excellent on Tuesday and perhaps deserves some more first-team opportunities. Having him able to contribute to attacks and Winchester in a more familiar role could take us up another level, although personally I would favour sticking with the current set-up for now as we know how well it is doing. Huggins has a long term deal and his chance will come – the League Cup run has been good for giving players time on the pitch and if he continues to perform in that it only strengthens Lee Johnson’s options.
Michael Dunne says...
It certainly is a predicament that is going to raise its head over the next few weeks especially after Niall Huggins continues to sparkle when he gets his opportunity.
For now, it would be a very brave move by Lee Johnson to change Winchester’s position based on his performances.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece suggesting that his start to his season was player of the season form and I continue to believe this. It would seem incredibly silly of Lee Johnson to take a man out of a position where he is performing to such a high standard.
I also do not think he is naive enough to do it.
Johnson will clearly have seen more than anyone what the Belfast man has brought to that position. In simple terms, unless there is an injury crisis in midfield, Carl Winchester should be left to continue what he has done thus far.