Taylor Gardner-Hickman: scouting report by Rickylee Griffiths
Taylor Gardner-Hickman seems to be the jewel in West Bromwich Albion’s academy crown and has, at times, offered hope in an otherwise bleak period for the club.
Date of birth: 30/12/2001 (21 years old)
Place of birth: Telford (England)
Height: 188cm (6ft 2 in)
Youth career: West Bromwich Albion
Current club: West Bromwich Albion
Squad number: 29
Current national team: England U-20
Position: Central midfielder, Right back, Left back
Market value(Transfermarkt): £1.2million
Contract until: 30/06/2026
- technique – very strong
- passing – very strong
- versatility – very strong
- timing of tackles – strong
- 1v1 defending – strong
- crossing from deep – strong
- receiving in the build-up phase – strong
- corner taking – strong
- defensive awareness
- spatial awareness
- poor aerially (despite his height)
- desire to win the ball back after a turnover
- awareness when in possession of the ball in midfield areas
- feet in tight spaces
- long passing under pressure
- pass selection in the build-up phase
Style of play:
Looks to progress the ball immediately after winning it back which could make him an interesting option for a direct and high-pressing team.
Better from deeper areas. He prefers to have players and space ahead of him which can limit his effectiveness when playing further forward.
Willing to take responsibility in the build-up phase.
Can play passes on the outside of his boot which opens up interesting passing angles for him.
Tenacious off the ball.
Comfortable inverting from full-back positions. This could potentially help him fit in at a more possession-based team. With that being said, for him to be a fullback in a possession-based side he would need to improve his resistance to pressure and pass selection. When playing as a right back he very rarely plays the ball into midfield, instead opting to play the simpler pass to the winger ahead of him.
If given time on the ball he can hurt the opposition with his range of passing and excellent final ball.
When he is under pressure he keeps things simple and prioritizes keeping the ball instead of playing a riskier pass and potentially losing it.
His athleticism is one of the weaker parts of his game. He lacks pace and agility which could be one of the barriers between him and the Premier League. However, his height and longer strides do mean that if he were to become a bit stronger, which you would expect him to do with age, he would be difficult to dispossess when driving with the ball.
Links up well with his teammates on the right side of the pitch which can help him get out of tough situations in the build-up phase.
Prefers for play to be ahead of him and looks awkward when in more advanced positions.
Gardner Hickman spots the run of Brandon Thomas Asante and plays a lofted ball towards the six-yard box allowing him to score.
Gardner Hickman showing maturity beyond his years by dropping from midfield into a deeper left-back position to aid West Brom’s build-up.
Heatmap by Sofascore:
His best position is right of a midfield three.
Gardner-Hickman is better in a midfield three as he benefits from the freedom in possession. He also doesn’t have the defensive ability to play well consistently in a double pivot and has struggled when asked to do so in the past. To work around this he has been allowed to step into the forward line and help create a 4-4-2 shape off the ball. This is only possible in a midfield three.
He is more suited to the right side of the pitch as it is where he links up with his teammates best. He also prefers the passing angles on this side of the pitch and is much less positive in his play from the left. A role that could suit him well is one similar to Kevin De Bruynes at Manchester City a few years ago where he is allowed to roam the right side of the pitch in possession looking for space and crossing opportunities.
League summary (as of the 16th March 2023):
EFL Championship 2021/22: 19 games/ 0 goals
EFL Championship 2022/23: 22 games/ 1 goal
Gardner-Hickman began his career by joining West Bromwich Albion aged 7. He progressed through the youth ranks as a forward but it was a shift to right-wing back which saw him make his first professional league appearance aged 19. He had a decent game against Hull City in what turned out to be a 1-0 win for West Brom. However, it was in a match vs Coventry City he really began to impress. Against the Sky Blues Gardner Hickman won the man of the match award whilst playing his first-ever match in central midfield. This match showcased both his ability and versatility and forced fans of England’s 2nd tier to take notice of his talent. Since then e has struggled for game time which has led to him making much less of an impact. With that being said West Brom are going through something of an injury crisis lately which may lead to a re-introduction to the first team. His form last season led to him being capped by England at U-20 level where he made his debut in a 2-0 loss vs Poland.
Gardner Hickman has played less than 50 games in his professional career and in this limited game time has shown that he is more than a capable player at Championship level. He is by no means the finished product but with time there’s no reason he can’t blossom into a Premier League player. His ability with the ball at his feet is already to a good standard and if he could grow to be more aware of what is happening around him off the ball he wouldn’t look out of place at a bottom-half Premier League side. His ceiling is probably between the mid-table and top half of England’s top flight and it would be a massive surprise to see him play for a team with European ambitions.