When your player of the season departs for pastures new, there is bound to be a sense of dread towards what lies in wait.

You only have to look at Liverpool's continued struggles in the post-Luis Suarez era to understand the travails of clubs bereft of such a talismanic presence and having to adjust accordingly.

The same situation could equally have applied to Huddersfield Town this summer when last season's star man Adam Clayton finally secured a move after a summer's worth of yearning for suitors to firm up their interest.

Town weighed up interest from Brighton and Hove Albion but settled on the deal that suited them best, with Middlesbrough arriving with an offer which proved difficult to turn down.

As well as receiving a £1m+ fee for last season's goalscoring midfielder, Town also inherited a like-for-like replacement in Jacob Butterfield who arrived hoping to fulfil the promise he had only been able to show on a fleeting basis during the early stages of his career.

That owed to a serious knee injury sustained while at first club Barnsley when he was attracting a host of Premier League admirers, before seeing his career stall in unsuccessful stints at Norwich City and Boro, with loan spells at Bolton Wanderers and Crystal Palace wedged in between.

His time with Boro was perhaps the most profitable of the lot, with three goals scored in his solitary season on Teesside evidence of his quality at this level, but Aitor Karanka deemed him surplus to requirements in the summer.

And what has been the Spaniard's loss has certainly proven Town and manager Chris Powell's gain.

Goals scored

Jacob Butterfield

3

Adam Clayton

0

Numbers courtesy of Opta

 

He has matched his tally from 2013/2014 already having found the net in just his second game for the club in the Terriers' 2-1 win at Reading, before two goals in as many home matches recently against Blackpool and Brighton and Hove Albion.

When the swap deal took place this summer, Town fans must have held reservations over whether or not a 24-year-old who had arguably regressed since his Barnsley days would be able to replicate the seven league goals scored by Clayton last term.

And they would have been right in thinking that, with Butterfield coming in as a player who had hardly scored goals on a prolific basis, while Clayton was seemingly at the peak of his powers in the blue and white stripes in front of goal throughout 2013/2014.

Clayton's move is an upgrade from a collective sense, with Boro second behind new league leaders Bournemouth only on goal difference, but he has not flourished in the way many predicted when he swapped Yorkshire for the North East and has failed to score a single goal so far.

His replacement has outshone him and the idea that Clayton's spectre may hang over Town has proven a non-starter since Powell's arrival, with Butterfield becoming an increasingly influential figure under the new managerial regime.

Shooting accuracy

44.4%

Jacob Butterfield

18.2%

Adam Clayton

Numbers courtesy of Opta

Powell's first match in the Town hotseat was ironically against Boro and it pitted Butterfield and Clayton against one another, only for an anti-climax to ensue when Powell opted to field the playmaker in an unorthodox right-sided role.

It was a ploy which failed to have the desired impact, with Butterfield instead mirroring Clayton's tendency to sit on the borders of the action until he came inside and, naturally, played a key role in his side's equaliser.

Both were put in the shade that day by a masterful midfield performance from Boro skipper Grant Leadbitter, but Boro's 2-1 win at the John Smith's Stadium was indicative of the struggles Clayton has had in standing out from the crowd.

With attacking talent such as Yanic Wildschut, Jelle Vossen and Patrick Bamford - it's not difficult to see why Karanka's side are one of the current pacesetters - Clayton has had to play a more reserved role and it has impacted on what he did best for Town.

He has been deployed in a deeper-lying creative position by Karanka but the fact he has recorded just 11 shots this season in comparison to Butterfield's 27 illustrates his reduced involvement in attacking play.

Passes

Jacob Butterfield

699

Adam Clayton

626

Numbers courtesy of Opta

 

His average of shots per game works out at just 0.79 this season from 14 games, with Butterfield posting over double that at 1.8 and that has certainly applied to his game under Powell, with nearly half of his shots coming in his side's last five games (13).

With a desire to shoot from range and an ability to break into the box at the perfect time, Town have exacted the final-third product they required from Butterfield and help to offset the departure of Clayton.

The Boro man's only tally of any real note this season has been his yellow card count, which stands at three in all competitions and provides a statistic in which he does in fact trump his central midfield compeer, whose sole booking came against Boro.

Butterfield has formed a sturdy and dependable midfield relationship with both Conor Coady and Jonathan Hogg and has impressed in terms of his flexibility, with Powell's penchant for chopping and changing personnel often leading to a formation change in midfield.

As well as providing the goalscoring ability Town needed from deep, Butterfield has also provided them with craft in midfield areas and his corner-taking ability has helped yield one assist this season in the 4-2 reverse at Watford.

Chances created (including assists)

Numbers courtesy of Opta

 

His chances created total of 40 from 15 games works out at 2.67 per game and therefore more or less guarantees chances for in-form wingers Sean Scannell and Harry Bunn to get in behind opposition defences, as well as supplying the bullets for Nahki Wells and Grant Holt up front.

Clayton by contrast has registered no assists and has created exactly one chance per game on average and while his passing accuracy may read slightly more impressively at 86.9% to Butterfield's 79%, it is coming in areas where teams are happy for him to have the ball.

His passing accuracy drops to 80% in the attacking third while just 13% of his passes have been hit long, with Butterfield's 18% suggesting he is offering more enterprise with his distribution of the ball.

One of the most delightful aspects of Butterfield's play has been the tenacious side he has shown in tandem with his ball-playing abilities, marking him out as a rising star in this Town side and one of the players to have truly grown during the unbeaten run.

He did not experience his best game in a Town shirt at Derby on Tuesday but was arguably one of the better performers and though Clayton can boast top-two status at this present time, the case for Town receiving the better half of the deal is growing increasingly cogent.

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