If Will Packwood eventually makes it to the Premier League, he'll look at the last year as the formative period of his young career. Over the last 12 months the American-born Birmingham FC product has made a gradual shift from the holding midfield position he manned throughout his developmental years, to a spot in central defense which seems more tailored to his vision and size.
The progress has been rapid. The 18-year-old found himself on the bench for an FA Cup clash earlier this year with Chelsea, suggesting he may be very close to making a first team debut for the Championship club that still has aspirations of Premier League football next year.
"It was a fantastic experience," Packwood said of the first team inclusion. "In terms of progress, I feel like I've come a long way this season in terms of my play, but also in terms of playing both center midfield and center back. I've been playing a lot more central defense this season than in previous seasons."
Despite his relative youth, Packwood has been on the fringe of the Blues' first team plans this season. He was issued a squad number for Europa League play, and the appearance on the bench against Chelsea came as injuries brought the young American tantalizingly close to a debut.
When he's not on the field with the first team, Packwood's reserve role means he gets game time against some excellent players, clashing with reserves from England's top clubs on a weekly basis as he perfects the new role at center back. That's made it a trial by fire on defense for the Boston native, son of an Englishman from the Birmingham area, who had been a central midfielder since joining Birmingham's youth academy at the age of 13 (he'd been training with the Blues since the age of 10).