The Aussie young gun making waves at Huddersfield

Getty Images

WATCH Bilokapic in the EFL Championship LIVE on beIN SPORTS | Foxtel, Kayo, Fetch & CONNECT

The record holder for the most promotions in the Football League, with eight, it’s the veteran’s survival skills the Terriers are looking to leverage as they bid to avoid dropping from the Championship to League One.

Warnock, 74, hasn’t been in charge of a team relegated to the third tier since 1999, and 20 year-old Olyroo Bilokapic was his first choice on his arrival last weekend at the John Smith’s Stadium, the ex-Sydney United junior pulling off five crucial saves as well as providing the assist for Jaheim Headley’s clincher in a priceless 2-1 victory.

Bilokapic was picked ahead of January signing Tomáš Vaclík - for his fourth league appearance of the season.

And while the Czech was arguably still shrugging off the effects of a mild groin injury, Bilokopic may well have done enough to remain in situ for Sunday's (AEDT) visit to runaway league leader Burnley.

Never afraid to make the big calls or to promote youth, Warnock clearly already sees something in Bilokapic, who has emerged alongside Charlton Athletic’s Ashley Maynard-Brewer as a possible long-term successor to Socceroos No.1 Mat Ryan.

It’s the grizzled escapologist’s second time in charge of the Terriers, stepping out of retirement to become the club’s fourth manager in nine months, as they seek to bridge a four-point gap between themselves and safety at the foot of the Championship.

And all that after reaching last season’s playoff final - where Huddersfield was pipped for a place in the Premier League by Nottingham Forest.

“Neil has done a lot in his career and literally came off a plane from New York to take charge three days before the Birmingham game,” said Bilokapic.

“He’s a brought a bit of new energy with him - he’s been here before and he’s somebody who players want to play for and win for.

“He made seven changes to the line-up against Birmingham, and it paid off so he looks like a genius.

“He’s known as a bit of a relegation king and I think we’ve had the quality all season but things just haven’t clicked so far.

“Last season we’d go behind but come back and win but this season it’s been more a case of going behind, and then dropping our heads a bit and not coming back.”

Famed for his one-liners, and an old school approach seemingly at odds with the modern game, Warnock has already got the dressing room bouncing.

“From what I’ve seen of Neil, he’s also big on player management,” added Bilokapic.

“It’s not just about what he does in the dressing room. He tells you if you need anything to come and see him - he’s very considerate of his players.

“Really, everything you can think of him - he’s the same in real life. He’s a huge character and he gets you smiling with the things he says.”

Bilokapic got a personal glimpse into the mind of the man when Warnock played a clip of him on loan last season at Hartlepool during the team meeting ahead of the visit of Birmingham. 

“There’s vision of me in that game up on the board, where there are two strikers pressing me - and I reverse the ball  between them to our number six,” said Bilokapic.

“After playing the clip the boss (Warnock) turned to me and said ‘Nick, if you do this on the weekend I’ll come on the pitch and lynch you myself’!

“Finding that footage just shows how thorough he is and the trouble he takes to understand his players - you have to respect that.

“There have been (other) team meetings where they’ve said ‘maybe you were a bit too calm on the ball here’.

“I think with Neil Warnock there now I’ll be playing a bit more direct!”

Bilokapic, who joined the Terriers in 2019, first embraced the goalkeeping arts at the relatively late age of 15, after being switched around various outfield positions during his formative years at NSW NPL side Sydney United.

“Growing up football was all I ever wanted to play - even if didn’t necessarily plan on being a keeper,” he said.

“I volunteered to go in goal one day and didn’t realise what was happening till later on down the line. I got some strange looks when I came to training that first next day carrying a pair of gloves.

“As far as develop goes I couldn’t have joined a better club than Huddersfield, and I had a few offers from elsewhere.

“They’ve done so much for me and I’ve really never looked back. Our keeper coach (Paul Clements) is probably the best in England.

“I’m pretty comfortable on the ground - and that’s what they’re looking for these days, so it gives me a bit of an advantage in terms of distribution and calmness on the ball.”

Uncle Paul Bilokapic, a midfielder, picked up two Socceroos caps and dad Jerry coaches Western Sydney Wanderers’ U-16s.

But what of Nicholas’ international aspirations? 

“A goal of mine is to play for the (senior) national team but I can only do what I can control,” he declared.

“If Arnie (Graham Arnold) wants to call me up I’m never going to say no. I’ve got to keep doing what I’ve been doing and keep performing well and it could happen. Anything can happen.

“I need to wait my time, and if it comes it comes.”