Arsenal loanee Emile Smith-Rowe was hauled off in the second half as Huddersfield Town suffered a humbling home defeat to Cardiff City on Wednesday, with Terriers boss Danny Cowley admitting to the Examiner that it was a 'horrible' decision he had no choice but to make.
The 19-year-old winger only moved to West Yorkshire in January but he has already established himself as a fan favourite at the John Smith’s Stadium.
And Smith-Rowe, who has already produced a goal and an assist in Huddersfield colours, was one of the few players to emerge out of a punishing loss against Cardiff with any credit.
He was a constant threat throughout so no wonder there was a look of bewilderment on the faces of many a home supporter when the teenager was hooked with 15 minutes to go.
Cowley, however, insists that it was a decision borne out of necessity rather than desire.
“He is a young boy in his first three-game week in the Championship. And he is precious to us. Don't think I want to bring him off, but I have to be disciplined and professional in that moment,” said the former Lincoln City boss, who is back in relegation danger after a superb start to life at Huddersfield disintegrated.
"It's a horrible sub to make because you know everybody is going to be critical of it, but he is a young boy and a very important player to us and we need to make sure we are very gradual and progressive with the way we manage his load.
"So that is, ultimately, why I made the decision."
Perhaps one day we could look back on Smith-Rowe’s spell at Huddersfield as a key point in his career, the moment when he progressed from a boy to a man – a la Jermaine Defoe at Bournemouth, David Beckham at Preston or Frank Lampard at Swansea.
With Mikel Arteta more than happy to give youth a chance, you can guarantee that Arsenal will be keeping a very close eye on Smith-Rowe’s progress up north.
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