David Brockett casts his eye over Hearts’ summer Jahmal Howlett-Mundle in his latest scouting report from the SPFL Development League clash with leaders Celtic.
The London-born centre-back made the switch to Tynecastle, having spent nine seasons at Crystal Palace. Following his release from Selhurst Park, where he was a prominent player for the U18 side, Howlett-Mundle impressed on trial for the Jam Tarts and signed in June.
The commanding central defender played a part in Hearts’ pre-season preparations in Ireland and may be the next to challenge for a first-team jersey.
Despite not having the captain’s armband in the U20 side, he possesses significant leadership qualities. Playing as a right-sided central defender in a flat back four, Howlett-Mundle effectively communicates to organise the defence. Despite Celtic’s constant pressing, he continued to command a high defensive line.
At just 18 years old, and one of the younger members of the Development League squad, his ability to read the game is of particular note. With largely impressive positioning, Howlett-Mundle steps out well and successively achieved four standing tackles to dispossess both Aidan Nesbitt and Scott Allan.
Howlett-Mundle’s strength and aggressiveness is another undoubted benefit. Tough in the tackle and strong on the ball, he nullified the pace of Celtic’s Calvin Miller for much of the first half. Despite conceding three free kicks and receiving a caution, his strength thwarted several promising Celtic counter attacks.
Standing at six feet tall, he is fairly dominant in the air. With Celtic keen to utilise their wingers and get balls into the box, Howlett-Mundle dealt comfortably with the presence of towering striker Luke Donnelly. His aerial presence is also a threat going forward, twice narrowly heading over as Hearts attempted to get back into a game they lost 2-0.
His composure, intelligence on the ball and array of passing suggests he could also play as a defensive midfielder if required. Comfortable with the ball at his feet, he is keen to build from the back and regularly attempts crossfield diagonals – although not all successful. It is this versatility and experience that could see him elevated to the first team as early as this season.
Under the watchful eye of Robbie Neilson and Craig Levein, Howlett-Mundle will be looking to make the breakthrough at Tynecastle in the months ahead.
Key strengths: Leadership, aerial ability, positioning, aggressiveness, strength