Three reasons why Huddersfield are promotion candidates
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.