BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, March 7, 2012
As Birmingham City bowed out of the FA Cup with a loss to Chelsea yesterday, the game was a milestone for American Will Packwood who made the matchday 18 for the first time in his career.
Packwood, 18, has been with Birmingham City since he was only 15 years old but just last summer signed his first professional contract with the club. Yesterday's selection to the first team bench was yet another indication that he is progressing steadily at the club.
"I was very happy to find out I'd be in the squad for the game," Packwood told YA. "I knew I had a chance as a number of players were injured and cup tied - but it was fantastic to actually have it happen."
Packwood has been a consistent contributor this year to Birmingham City's reserve team since he signed his contract that will run through June, 2013. Part of the reason why he was called up to the first team is because of the improvements he has made to his game this season.
"The season has been going well so far," Packwood stressed. "We've had a string of pretty good results lately against good teams. I definitely feel like I've been coming on strongly lately and improving as the season goes on."
This past season has also been important for Packwood as it has come at a time when he changing positions.
As a younger player Packwood developed as a defensive midfielder but during the past year Birmingham City have been playing him mostly as a centerback. His tall 6'3 frame and his strong passing play have been assets for him as he has made the adjustment.
"I've spent a lot of time lately playing at center back and spent a lot of energy getting used to that position and trying to understand it better," Packwood said. "I feel like this is going well and that I'm really improving as a centerback but also as a player in general."
As for the rest of the season, Packwood is reluctant to predict how often or frequently he will be used with the first team in the months ahead but if he continues to impress at the reserve team level it is a possibility.
Right now, Birmingham City are in the middle of a promotional battle as they currently sit in sixth place in the English Championship. Under the league's format, the top two teams are automatically promoted and the third through sixth place teams enter into a playoff for the final promotional spot to the Premier League.
"First team call ups depend greatly on who is available at what times from the first team squad and such," Packwood pointed out. "My goal is to get myself into a position where I am ready to step up should the opportunity arise and do my best to get myself into the manager's thoughts."
"In terms of how close I am it's very difficult to say," he added. "Things move quickly in football and again it depends on who is available and when I may be needed."
While he is aiming to break into Birmingham's first team, another option for Packwood could be a loan to a club that could offer him a strong shot a regular first team minutes. The Boston native admits that loan options are being considered.
"A loan move is certainly being considered," Packwood said. "At the same time it's important to find a good fit with my own skill set and situation so it's not something I'm trying to rush into."
On the international front, Packwood is also looking forward to participating with the US U-20 team regularly this cycle as it builds towards 2013 World Cup qualifying which begin in 12 months.
Packwood was born in the United States but holds a British passport through his English-born father.
While eligible for both the United States and England, Packwood has been a consistent contributor to the United States youth national teams in recent years. In 2009 he was on the US U-17 World Cup team and since then he has seen time with the US U-18 and US U-20 teams.
Last November he was part of the US U-20 camp in Germany and it was the first camp held by new head coach Tab Ramos who was hired last fall.
"Having been with Tab in Germany earlier this season, I think he's a great coach and I'm really hoping to be a part of the U20 set up in the run up to the next U20 World Cup," Packwood concluded. "Any time you get a chance to play for your country is a big deal and playing in the World Cup would be a massive honor."