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Huddersfield Town

Three reasons why Huddersfield are promotion candidates

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Since Huddersfield’s return to the second division back in 2012, life for the fans has not been comfortable viewing. There four seasons in the Championship have left them lingering in the bottom third of the table, with relegation battles becoming a worrying formality.

However, after the sacking of Chris Powell in November 2015, staff and fans alike, have seen the optimism grow at the Yorkshire club, as they look to make a real statement of intent in the Championship.

At the time of writing, Huddersfield have started the year in quite a remarkable form, sitting top of the league, with wins against the likes of Brentford, Newcastle, and Barnsley, and a little draw at Aston Villa in between, which shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Of course, it is early days, but just where did this start come from, and can they really maintain it for the rest of the season? Here’s three reasons why they just might;

The strength in depth

One of the big problems Huddersfield have had in the last few years is the sale of the club’s best players. The likes of Jordan Rhodes, Jacob Butterfield, Conor Coady and Alex Smithies have all left the club for seven-figure sums in the past, normally very late into the transfer window, leaving little time for the manager to find suitable replacements. This year, however, the only player of note to have left the club is Joel Lynch, whose transfer again broke the £1million mark, but he was quickly replaced by Christopher Schindler, who joined for a club record fee in a deal that was agreed on the very same day.

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Manager David Wagner also brought in 11 other players, eight of whom come from foreign leagues, which has led to a major change in identity in the team. Fans and pundits across the country have shown little faith that these acquisitions can help strengthen Town, as very few of them know the division, or English football altogether. So far, though, they couldn’t have been more wrong. Wagner has at least two players for every position and has used them effectively so far, with six of their first eight goals coming from the new recruits. Ten points from a possible 12 have been accumulated, showing the team have shown great chemistry and character to adapt to each other’s abilities, and the managers playing style. And while it’s easy to get excited by new faces, some players still at the club following last season, are still yet to have their chance to make their mark. Harry Bunn, Kyle Dempsey, and Phillip Billing are just three of the players inherited by Wagner, who have yet to start a game this season, but will surely make a big impact when injuries and suspensions inevitably hit the squad. However you look at it, the team look strong.

The manager

David Wagner came to the country best known as Jürgen Klopp’s number 2, the man that developed players in Borussia Dortmund’s second team before they were ready to make the step up to the first. After Klopp got his move to Liverpool, he wished to be joined by his colleague and best friend, only for Wagner to make the decision to start his own path.

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It was a big risk for him, and chairman Dean Hoyle who hired him following Powell’s departure last season. But it immediately paid off. His first two games came away to Sheffield Wednesday, and at home to Middlesbrough, teams who finished the season in the play-offs. In truth, he couldn’t have asked for a more difficult start to his managerial career. And despite losses in both games, Wagner has blessed his new team with a belief they hadn’t had for a very long time. This belief could be seen in just about every performance for the rest of the season, and although Huddersfield still lingered low down in the table, the performances had certainly improved. For the most part, the team would no longer be pushed around and embarrassed by sides in similar positions (and lower), and instead would ask questions of the big boys in the league. However, after 4-0 and 5-1 losses to Bristol City and Brentford respectively in the closing games of the season, it was clear Wagner still had much to do.

Now all of a sudden, in 2016/17, Huddersfield have become the pace setters for the rest of the league. The double training sessions every day, strict dieting and extreme attention to detail has seen a complete transformation into the team and the way it’s run. He has united the club in every respect and is adored by the Town faithful. There is a discipline that he has brought which has been missing for a long time, and it’s having its effect, not just on the pitch, but off it too…

The unity between club and fans

Lots of credit goes to the manager and his team when things go well, like at any club, but sometimes it’s easy to forget to praise the men and women at the top, who bravely make big calls. Chairman Dean Hoyle (who is also a life-long fan of the club) decided to take the club in a new direction when introducing Wagner to Huddersfield, and the fans bought into it from day one. It was a thoroughly wise decision, yet he was still not completely satisfied. There was something missing, though. The pride fans once held for being a Town fan was no longer there, and it needed to return if the club were to build for the future.

The club, therefore, initiated the promotion of the ‘WagnerRevolution’, in the hope of reigniting the feel good factor around Huddersfield. Seasons tickets for adults have been dramatically cut to just £179 for adults in all stands, along with constant promo deals running for every upcoming home fixture, in order to make football accessible to everyone. They’ve also shown that they’re willing to build a relationship with fans on a more personal level.

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The fan group, ‘North Stand Loyal’, formed in the hope of bringing back a home atmosphere, most notably in the south end of the stadium, primarily used for away fans. They have been given access to the 4000 seater stand, which they share with the segregated away travellers, normally when their expected sales are below 2000. In cases such as the Barnsley game and upcoming Wolves fixture, the club have risked losses in away ticket sales, in order to encourage fans to get involved in creating an enjoyable atmosphere, something they haven’t had since they left the old Leeds Road stadium back in the 90’s.

Everything seems to be falling into place at Huddersfield Town, and although it can be very easy to get carried away, fans should enjoy the ride they are currently embarking, and the rest of the footballing family should take serious note. Dean Hoyle and David Wagner, have set an incredible example for all to follow. This is how football should be done.


Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Ben Early.

Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United: Three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Manchester United overcame Huddersfield Town in their FA Cup 5th Round contest.

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

A brace from sharpshooter Romelu Lukaku fired Manchester United into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Huddersfield Town.

Lukaku opened his account in the third minute before netting his second of the evening shortly after the second-half resumption.

Victory was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested. However, as the Terriers produced a spirited display after the early setback.

There was also controversy involving the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

Juan Mata saw an effort ruled out for offside after a review, but confusion abounded about whether it had been the correct decision.

Here are three talking points from an eventful encounter, as United set up a last-eight tie with Brighton & Hove Albion…

Lukaku’s goals are a fillip for Jose Mourinho

The Belgian has come in for criticism from some quarters for his goal return since last summer’s big-money transfer from Everton.

While he may not have reached the levels of Harry Kane or Mohamed Salah, Lukaku has now scored 21 times in all competitions for United this season.

That tally was boosted by his double against Huddersfield, which showed off his best attributes.

Lukaku was too strong and clever for Huddersfield’s defence as he latched on to Mata’s through ball for the first, before putting the finishing touch to an Alexis Sanchez pass for his second.

The former Chelsea man’s performance will be the biggest plus for United boss Jose Mourinho, who is relying on him to spearhead the attack for the remainder of the campaign.

Lukaku is a confidence player, so this was a timely boost ahead of a crucial run of fixtures both domestically and in Europe.

VAR under the microscope yet again

The introduction of technology to any sport usually results in teething problems.

It is fair to say VAR has experienced more than its fair share in football this season.

Employed in some FA and League Cup matches, controversy has never been far away. This was again the case at Huddersfield.

Mata appeared to have doubled United’s lead just before half-time, but referee Kevin Friend waited for confirmation from VAR that he had been onside.

After about a minute, Friend disallowed the goal when it was judged that Mata had been fractionally offside as the ball was played.

Contention emerged when viewers saw the incident on TV, where the guidelines were clearly not straight.

In fact, they were embarrassingly wonky.

Further replays suggested – with parallel lines correctly in place – that Mata’s knee had indeed been offside, but it was a very close call and certainly not an obvious mistake by the referee’s assistant.

These technical hitches will need to be ironed out before VAR is brought in universally.

Huddersfield can be positive despite FA Cup exit

With their Premier League status hanging in the balance, it would have been understandable if Huddersfield manager David Wagner had seen this fixture as an unwanted distraction.

But there was absolutely no suggestion that they were trying not to win the match, or prepared to exit the competition without a fight.

The Terriers, who famously beat United at home in the Premier League last October, carried on from where they left off last weekend in the impressive 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.

Conceding so early to United had not been in the script, but the hosts regrouped quickly and caused their opponents plenty of problems.

Ultimately, the difference between the two sides was the quality of finishing.

Whereas the visitors scored with their only two shots on target, Huddersfield wasted numerous openings as they slipped to defeat.

Nevertheless, attention can be turned back to their bid for survival, without their confidence dented.

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Bournemouth

Huddersfield Town 4-1 Bournemouth: Alex Pritchard steals plaudits after running the show

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Huddersfield Town took a huge leap in the race for survival with a 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

Huddersfield Town produced a four-star performance to brush aside Bournemouth and move out of the Premier League relegation zone.

Junior Stanislas quickly cancelled out Alex Pritchard’s seventh-minute opener, but from that moment it was one-way traffic as the Terriers showed their bite on a freezing afternoon in Yorkshire.

A Steve Cook own goal made it 2-1 at half-time before Steve Mounie and a stoppage-time penalty from Rajiv van la Parra completed the drubbing.

Huddersfield climbed to 17th as a result of this much-needed victory, while Bournemouth’s excellent recent form came to an abrupt halt with their first defeat of 2018.

Here are three talking points…

Huddersfield breathe new life into survival bid

Boss David Wagner had highlighted his side’s upcoming run of fixtures as crucial to their ambitions of avoiding relegation back to the Championship.

On the back of five consecutive defeats, Huddersfield had free-fallen into the drop-zone.

Although the win over Manchester United will take some beating in the eyes of the fans, given their predicament this was arguably their most important three points of the campaign.

It was a crushing triumph and one that the Terriers fully deserved.

Yes, they caught the visitors on a bad day, but much of that was due to the nature of Huddersfield’s display.

They gave Bournemouth no time on the ball to play their natural passing game and took their chances when they came along.

Especially from set-pieces, Wagner’s men looked dangerous and exploited the Cherries’ weakness in the air.

The bottom half of the table remains incredibly congested, but this result gives Huddersfield genuine hope that survival is possible.

Bournemouth’s unbeaten run comes to a crashing end

Entering this match at the top of the form table, this was Bournemouth’s worst result of the season.

From the first whistle they were out-battled by a Huddersfield side that were fighting for their lives.

Perhaps an air of complacency had surfaced following the Cherries’ unbeaten sequence, which had stood at seven games and included victories over Chelsea and Arsenal.

Talk of qualifying for the Europa League can now be parked to one side.

Despite being in 10th position, Bournemouth are not assured of survival just yet.

Boss Eddie Howe will back his troops to get the three wins they need to reach the 40-point mark, but this was a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted in the Premier League.

He will be thoroughly bemused by this showing.

It was a day to forget for the Cherries and their dedicated supporters, who had left in the very early hours to embark on the long journey north for this lunch-time kick-off.

Pritchard brings ingenuity to the Terriers’ ranks

Although Huddersfield’s win was a by-product of a real team effort, one player that deserves special praise is new recruit Pritchard.

Signed from Norwich City in the January window, he ran the show in midfield, making the Terriers tick with crisp passing.

Pritchard opened the scoring in the early exchanges with a well-taken finish for his first ever Premier League goal, at the seventh attempt.

He had previously played in the top-flight with Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion.

There is always a risk attached to any new signing from a lower division, but Pritchard had demonstrated enough class for Norwich to indicate he would be able to make the step-up.

The 24-year-old will face tougher challenges in his midfield role, but he has brought a touch of guile and class to Huddersfield.

Pritchard’s teasing run that induced the foul for a penalty in added-time underlined his capability to make things happen.

Wagner will hope it is a positive sign for the run-in.

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Chelsea

Three talking points as Chelsea brushed aside Huddersfield Town

Rob Meech

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Chelsea bounced back from their surprise defeat to West Ham United with a comfortable victory over Huddersfield Town. The Blues totally dominated at the John Smith’s Stadium and the result never looked in doubt once Tiemoue Bakayoko had given them a 23rd-minute lead.

Willian doubled their advantage before Pedro added a third goal, five minutes into the second half. The Terriers grabbed a consolation through Laurent Depoitre with the last kick of the game, but the gulf in class was evident on a rain-soaked evening in Yorkshire.

Chelsea’s win brought them level on points with second-placed Manchester United, at least temporarily, while Huddersfield’s defeat was their fifth in their past six Premier League matches. Here are three talking points.

Antonio Conte’s players deliver the perfect riposte 

This was a fixture that had all the characteristics of an upset. The weather was dreadful, with rain falling heavily throughout. Given the way the Terriers had recently pushed Manchester City all the way, not to mention seeing off Manchester United on home turf earlier in the campaign, many tuned into BT Sport thinking the Blues would find things difficult.

It didn’t materialise. Chelsea were in command from the first whistle and the only surprise was that it took them until the 23rd minute to break the deadlock. After their defeat to West Ham, this was just the response boss Antonio Conte would have wanted from his players.

They dictated the tempo of the game and never allowed Huddersfield – or their supporters – an opportunity to stamp their authority on the contest. The fluid movement of Chelsea’s front three caused the Terriers plenty of problems and led to individual mistakes, with one such error leading to Bakayoko’s opener.

Alarm bells are ringing for Huddersfield

Anything other than defeat would have been a bonus for David Wagner’s side, who had set up to frustrate the visitors. By beating Brighton & Hove Albion three days earlier, they have given themselves breathing space in the battle to avoid relegation. But the Terriers cannot afford to be complacent.

Although their current position may look relatively safe, a run of five defeats in six games, as well as a vastly inferior goal difference, suggests there could be worrying times ahead. Against the two Manchester clubs, Huddersfield made life difficult for their opponents. But they were far too passive against Chelsea.

Perhaps it is understandable that Wagner wants his players to conserve their energy for fixtures against clubs with whom they are battling for survival. But the home fans surely would have expected a more positive approach.

Is Michy Batshuayi surplus to requirements?

With Alvaro Morata suffering from a back complaint and rested for this match, Michy Batshuayi must have thought he would be handed a rare opportunity to impress from the start. Tellingly though, Chelsea boss Conte opted for a front three of Willian, Eden Hazard and Pedro, with no out-and-out striker.

This would have been a huge kick in the teeth to the Belgian marksman, who has failed to establish himself since joining the west London outfit from Marseille in the summer of 2016. Last season, he was forced to play second fiddle to Diego Costa, while now he is behind Morata in the pecking order.

Batshuayi has enjoyed success from the bench; famously he netted the goal that confirmed Chelsea as title winners in the previous campaign. This latest snub must be further evidence that Conte does not see Batshuayi as part of his long-term plans and there is speculation the Italian might be willing to allow him to go out on loan in January.

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