It looked like the perfect environment to develop. Under the watchful eyes of a City legend. Vincent Kompany, now manager at his boyhood club, personally requested for Harwood-Bellis to be sent to the Belgian top division side on loan.
The 19-year-old was to provide squad depth and immediate cover for first choice centre-back Hannes Delcroix after the Belgium international suffered a serious knee injury and had to undergo surgery.
The City academy graduate was then expected to see sufficient game time in order to gain valuable experience necessary to compete at the highest level with City.
Things seemed to be going according to plan early on as the defender gradually settled into the squad. He made 19 appearances for the side in the first half of the campaign setting up two goals.
But the return of Delcroix reduced his chances significantly. That resulted in the side choosing to cut short his stay in Belgium. Championship side Stoke City have now secured his services on loan for the remainder of the season.
Meanwhile, Anderlecht CEO explained reason for his departure in a statement to the club’s website.
“Taylor has great potential and did well for us, but by letting him leave we’re creating more space for our academy-players like Delcroix, Kana and Debast,” Anderlecht CEO Peter Verbeke said.
Having returned to the Championship, Harwood-Bellis has also spoken about his time in Belgium and plans for the challenge ahead. He spoke to Stoke+.
“I’m not coming into the second half of the season without not having had game time. I obviously played a lot at Anderlecht and really enjoyed my time there and now I’m ready to kick on for the second half of the season,” said Harwood-Bellis.
“Playing for Anderlecht was really good for me personally. It was a new challenge with new people and a different language but I really enjoyed it.
“I think it made me grow as a person. On the pitch, you are doing your stuff every day so that doesn’t really change but it was really good for me.
He is upbeat about the challenge posed by Championship football, after featuring for Blackburn in the second half of last season.
The Potters are eyeing promotion to the Premier League as they are currently fighting for the play-offs. The team is sitting five points behind sixth-placed Huddersfield, but has two games in-hand.
“Going into Blackburn for the second half of last season was difficult because the Championship is a tough league and it was my first experience of it,” he added.
“But I feel that having played against most of the teams in the Championship will help me a lot over the course of the next few months with Stoke.
“It’s not as though it’s a new experience for me now – I’ve done it before and I’m just really excited about getting going.”
He is expected to feature regularly for the side as manager Michael O’Neill considers him an important acquisition. Although failing to further his development under Kompany’s mentorship is disappointing, regular game time should be considered more important.
So whether that goal is achieved in a foreign league or in the second tier of English football, he should embrace it with both hands and get down to work.