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‘He’s been superb’ – The Bristol City defender exceeding expectations as part of promotion push

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Grimsby Town manager Paul Hurst admits Ryley Towler’s adaptation to the National League has surprised him with the on-loan Bristol City defender quickly becoming an integral figure in their promotion push.

Towler has become a fixture of the Mariners defence as they’ve risen to the top of the National League, four points ahead of second place Chesterfield, and the 19-year-old has suffered just one defeat in a black and white shirt from nine appearances.

Lining up as the left-sided centre-back in Hurst’s preferred 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 system alongside the more old-style Luke Waterfall, Towler’s command of the ball in possession has stood out but also the way he’s physically put himself about in the fifth tier.

Hurst accepts that when taking the former Mangotsfield School pupil to Cleethorpes there were concerns over how he’d cope in the demands of the National League, a far cry from the relative comforts of Failand and Under-23s football.

“At the start of the game (Yeovil), I thought he had a few testing moments and could have picked up better positions to deal with those situations,” Hurst told Grimsby Live following his side’s 2-0 win over the Glovers on Saturday.

“Overall, he’s been superb for us. He’s a young lad, just because he’s come in from higher up doesn’t mean that he will be a success, there is no guarantee that they will be ready or can take to it.

“Sometimes styles, that was one of, not a concern because we brought him in, but one of the things we thought would be interesting. Can he adapt to National League football? It’s so different to Championship or 23s football.

“He has done extremely well and he’s getting better with each game. He says he is loving it and it is working for everyone concerned because he’s gaining valuable experience.”

Towler was one of only 11 City youngsters sent out on loan by Nigel Pearson this summer, a notable departure from previous seasons when the Robins regularly had in excess of 20 players on hire around the EFL and non-league.



Ryley Towler fights for the ball against Eastleigh (Picture: Jon Corken)

Pearson’s rationale was that the development of certain individuals, such as Sam Bell, Saikou Janneh and Alex Scott – who is now a fixture in the first-team squad, would be better served at the Robins High Performance Centre.

Towler is obviously a different case and what’s interesting from his loan is the focus on the teenager playing at centre-back.

It’s always been marked out as his natural eventual position, and where he operated for the U23s last season, but in his four appearances for the first-team under Dean Holden and then Pearson he was played at left wing-back.

That was to help protect the youngster to a degree from the physical demands of matching up against tough Championship defenders, but clearly the long-term plan is for him to return to Ashton Gate as a bona fide and match-ready centre-back.

Not only that but it’s an experience that will help shape his character having spent his life predominantly in Bristol.

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