TOWN smashed the British transfer record for a goalkeeper when they sold David Lawson to Everton for £80,000 back in the summer of 1972.
And while the current high of £9m reportedly paid by Manchester City for Shay Given and Sunderland for Craig Gordon is unlikely to be bettered if he goes, it’s generally agreed the Galpharm club have a current-day gem on their hands in Alex Smithies.
But if Phil Gilchrist is to be believed, Town also have another star of the future in the shape of Simon Eastwood.
The man battling to keep Woking in the Blue Square Premier (previously known as the Conference) was more than disappointed to lose the services of the 19-year-old this week.
Eastwood – like Smithies an England junior international – had been on loan at the Surrey club since November 27, and Gilchrist, the former Oxford and West Brom defender, would have loved to have kept him for the remainder of the season.
Town, however, insisted on a 24-hour recall clause, and it was used on Monday, when Matt Glennon, the experienced stopper being kept out by Smithies, underwent knee surgery.
“It was a big disappointment for me,” said Gilchrist, who also had teenage striker Tom Denton on loan from Town earlier this season.
“Simon has got better and better in his time here, and I’d like to think Woking Football Club have done their bit in helping his development.
“I wanted to keep him, but Huddersfield wanted to have the recall option, which is understandable, and now their circumstances have changed, so they need Simon back.”
Eastwood, born in Luton but raised in Halifax, had a rough time on his debut in the 1-1 home draw with Rushden and Diamonds, particularly because he had replaced fans favourite Nick Gindre.
But Gilchrist was convinced of his abilities, with his faith rewarded by the six-footer’s form over 13 more games, culminating in last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Altrincham, whose goal came from former Town striker Chris Senior.
“Simon has all the attributes to be a top professional,” said the 35-year-old, who was appointed to his first managerial post in September.
“It’s not just in physical terms, but mental too, because while he’s a touch on the quiet side, he certainly doesn’t lack self-confidence.
“He always conducted himself in a very professional manner, and like Tom Denton, he was a credit to himself and Huddersfield Town.
“If I had one criticism of Simon, it was that he could have been a bit more vocal during matches, but to be fair, that could be said of many young players these days.
“There’s not as much talk out on the pitch as there used to be, but it’s something that he can work on improving.
“You have to remember that Simon is only 19, so in goalkeeping terms, he’s a baby. He could play until his mid-thirties, and in my view, he can go on to have a great career.
“He certainly leaves here with some new friends and the best wishes of everyone he’s come into contact with.”
While the original loan, along with that of Denton, was agreed with then-caretaker manager Gerry Murphy, Gilchrist has enjoyed dealing with Clark, and would like the relationship between the clubs to be ongoing.
“I had some great battles with Lee as a player, and I like the way he does business as a manager,” said fellow North-Easterner Gilchrist, who began his own career at Nottingham Forest and also played for Hartlepool, Leicester and Rotherham.
“I was pleased with Tom, who scored three goals for me in his time here, but our situation regarding strikers was different to goalkeepers, so we only kept him for the one month.
“Both lads did a great job for us and I think we have helped them because they have gained valuable experience of competitive football.
“I know from talking to Lee that Huddersfield don’t have that many reserve matches, and with a decent-sized squad, it’s hard to give everyone enough game time.
“By coming out on loan they get that, and also benefit from living away from home and seeing how another club operates, and hopefully, Woking and Huddersfield can work together in the future.”
Eastwood, who was set to take his place on the bench at Stockport today, is eager to push his claims back at Town, with whom he is in discussions about a new contract.
But he would also love to see Woking avoid the drop to the Blue Square South.
“It was good for me personally to go to Woking and great to get some first-team games under my belt,” he said.
“As a goalkeeper, it isn’t always the easiest thing to go to a club who are fighting relegation and where confidence isn’t the highest.
“But they are a great set of lads and I really enjoyed my time there, and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed they can escape relegation.
“Meanwhile I’ll be doing my best to keep Alex on his toes back up here!”