Rovers have made a sixth signing of the summer as they have announced that Bournemouth defender, James Hill, has signed a season-long loan.
The central defender, who is also capable of filling in at right-back, has made over 50 senior appearances over many different competitions, despite only 21 and arrives at Rovers to supplement the defensive ranks, particularly following the departures of Ashley Phillips and Daniel Ayala over the summer.
Hill, despite being born in Bristol in 2002 to ex-Bristol City defender Matt Hill, is no stranger to Lancashire, having emerged from the academy of Fleetwood Town in 2018, making his senior debut in the EFL Cup at just 16, becoming the Cod Army’s youngest ever player.
After tasting first-team football in the cup, Hill was offered his senior league debut by then-boss Joey Barton, as he appeared in a 16-minute cameo in a 1-1 draw versus Peterborough United in League One, before playing the full 90 minutes in a 2-1 Seaside Rivalry against Blackpool. Whilst Hill gained valuable experience playing senior football, he would go onto spent 2019-20 in and around the first-team squad at Highbury, featuring on the bench multiple times, despite not playing a minute.
The 2020-21 season saw Hill’s fortunes change, as he played sporadically for Town in the EFL Cup, the EFL Trophy and in the league, until January 2021, when Simon Grayson took charge. Following the appointment of the former Rovers defender as boss, Hill became a mainstay in the Town team as he featured in 18 consecutive games – playing 90 minutes in all of them – to end the season. His fine performances saw him earn a new contract, as Grayson looked to tie down one of his star assets for the long term.
Hill kept his place going into 2021-22 as he played another 15 games to start the campaign where he netted his first career goal in a 2-2 draw with Cambridge United, before an injury ruled him out of most of November and December’s fixtures which saw Grayson lose his job and be replaced by Stephen Crainey. Yet, by early January, Hill was holding the red of another club, in Bournemouth – who Rovers were battling against towards the top of the division. The Cherries picked the defender up for a reported £1m fee, which tied Fleetwood’s record sale, alongside Jamie Vardy, as the-then 19-year-old put pen-to-paper on a four-year contract in Dorset.
Despite Bournemouth jumping the long queue for the defender, Hill was only able to notch two appearances for the Cherries during the rest of 2021-22 – one in the FA Cup, another in the league – as they fought their way towards automatic promotion.
2022-23 saw Hill afforded the opportunity to go out and ply his trade in a first-team, playing senior football. The defender moved up north to join Heart of Midlothian F.C. in the Scottish Premiership, where he was able to force his way into the side and play 17 games across the season as he added to his portfolio of competitive senior football.
After helping the Jam Tarts to 4th in the Premiership, which qualified them for Europa Conference League Football, Hill has since returned to England and featured for Bournemouth throughout their pre-season, after they stayed up in the Premier League last season, defying the media prediction of a return to the Championship. He has made his Premier League debut this season, having come off the bench to help the Cherries see out a 1-1 draw with West Ham United at the Vitality Stadium on the opening day, but new boss, Andoni Iraola, clearly feels Hill should be playing more regularly, hence why he has made the move back to the Blue and White side of Lancashire.
Hill’s international exploits have proven his worth, as he has thus far played four games for England’s Under-20s, scoring a goal against Czech Republic in a 5-0 win, but quickly found himself fast-tracked to Lee Carsley’s Under-21s last summer, as he debuted in another 5-0 win, this time over Kosovo. Despite his emergence into the Under-21s, Hill was not selected as part of the squad for the Three Lions’ Euro 2023 winning side.