Swindon Town expert gives exciting transfer insight into new Middlesbrough signing Harley Hunt

New Middlesbrough signing Harley Hunt has pretty much everything you would look for in a young defender.

That is the view of Swindon Advertiser's Joe Acklam, who has watched the 16-year-old centre-back make a rapid rise from the Robins' academy to their first-team. Having helped Swindon reach the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup last season with the scalps of Manchester United and Sunderland, Hunt caught the attention of Boro scouts.

Initially joining as a youth prospect for the academy, there are high hopes for the centre-back's future prospects on Teesside. With Hunt too young to be contracted at Swindon, they were powerless to keep him. Amid interest from numerous Premier League clubs, Boro have agreed a compensation package with Swindon, which was reported to be an initial fee of £500k, potentially rising another £1 million based on performance-related add-ons.

READ MORE: Middlesbrough set to beat Premier League clubs to sign highly-rated teen defender Harley Hunt

With Boro well-stocked at centre-back as far as senior options are concerned, Hunt will for now spend the majority of his time in Boro's esteemed academy. But at 6ft 3in, he has already made three first-team appearances for Swindon and, as Joe explains, he handled it with comfort.

Offering insight into what Boro are getting in the teenage ball-playing defender, Joe told Teesside Live: "Harley Hunt is a very impressive young defender. At just 16, he made a strong impression during his three first-team appearances at the end of last season.

"He is already six-foot-three and very comfortable on the ball, he does not have a crazy long passing range, but he keeps it moving and is progressive with his passing. He came straight in and looked comfortable with the physicality of League Two, and he was especially impressive against Grimsby Town when he was practically impossible to get past and made some wonderful strong tackles.

"I jokingly compared him to [Barcelona defender] Pau Cubarsi during that game. But the way he played was genuinely more impressive than most of Swindon's defenders looked all season. There are obviously things to work on, but in a difficult situation at Swindon, he looked very assured."

On making the step-up to play senior football for the first time, Joe continued: "He handled the step up incredibly well considering the situation he was dropped into. Town were historically bad at the back last year and the atmosphere in the crowd was very low, plus he made his debut two minutes after halftime due to an injury to Tom Brewitt.

"He came into that game against Walsall and immediately looked very calm and comfortable. His calmness is one of the most impressive things about him as he has never looked out of place in any situation and that mentality is something the coaches at Swindon talk a lot about."

It's particularly his ball-playing abilities that have attracted Boro to the youngster, with his physical attributes and calmness shown in first-team games increasing optimism that, with some development from Teesside academy coaches, he can be a first-team star of the future.

Boro are said to be beating numerous Premier League clubs to land him, and such interest is no surprise to the Robins correspondent. He added: "I think any 16-year-old who starts playing senior football is going to attract interest, especially after being a core part of Swindon's run to the FA Youth Cup quarterf-inals.

"But I think he justifies it as he has pretty much everything you are looking for in a defender. He was even young playing for the Under-18s and he was a leader in that team and a calming presence at the back before being impressive after making his senior debut. You never know how someone will develop but there can't be too many more accomplished 16-year-old defenders about.

"The reported figures are significant to a club like Swindon, especially given the rules around EPPP making it difficult for them to hold on to a player like this when academies in higher categories are circling. You get to learn that quality players don't stick around at Swindon for too long and so after the success of the academy last season, it is not a major surprise that some of the stars would move on."