MIDDLESBROUGH look set to win the battle for highly-rated Swindon Town defender Harley Hunt.

Hunt is just 16 but broke into the first team at Swindon last season, playing three times in League Two, and turned heads as he helped the Railwaymen stun both Sunderland and Manchester United in their run to the last eight of the FA Youth Cup.

Aston Villa and Southampton were both keen on Hunt but Boro are closing in on the capture of the teenager.

We got the lowdown on Hunt from Joe Acklam, who covers Town for the Swindon Advertiser:

What sort of player is Hunt and tell us the story of his impressive emergence at Swindon?

Hunt is an incredibly impressive young defender. His rise has been pretty swift as last autumn he wasn't a starter for the under-18s but quickly made the step up and was a huge part of Swindon making the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals.

The most impressive part of his game is how composed he is for a 16-year-old. Having looked the most assured alongside much older players for the academy, his senior debut came two minutes into the second half at Walsall because of an injury and he was excellent.

He is six-foot-three and showed himself to be physically capable against League Two forwards and is also very good on the ball. He still needs to work on positioning, but at 16 he is scarily complete.


What's his best position?

The academy at Swindon play a back four and the senior team played a back three at the end of last season and he is comfortable in every centre-back role.

I was speaking to the under-18s manager Sean Wood about him last season and he told me that despite him being right-footed, they were playing him on the left so he would be able to play with both feet, so at this point, he is fairly ambidextrous.

I think he would be strongest as the right centre-back in a back four, but he is more than capable of playing any centre-back role.

He must have been hugely impressive to have caught the eye of Premier League clubs...were Swindon prepared for his exit this summer?

I think with Swindon you always have to be prepared for interest in promising players as the best rarely stay for long. After the FA Youth Cup run there was always going to be interest in those players, especially as a lot of the team were first-year scholars.

Speaking to people at the club, I think they knew clubs would be looking at those players and Hunt is the most notable now having made his senior debut.

I had a suspicion that he wasn't going to stay for long as he is so young and has the potential to play much higher than Town are right now.

What do you make of his imminent move to Middlesbrough?

It has the look of being really good business for Middlesbrough, who have beaten off Premier League interest, and you have to expect they needed a good plan for Hunt to have done that.

Harley is very mature and everyone always talks about how much he wants to improve so I don't think he would make the move just to be at a bigger club.

As long as Boro, who have also been linked with another Swindon defender Harrison Minturn, are a team that are willing to give young players a chance then I think it works for everyone, as much as I really wanted to see Hunt establish himself at Swindon before maybe moving on.