If Premier League is considered to be the most compelling contest in Europe, Championship is not far behind in terms of excitement and competitiveness. The second tier of English football is now crowded with once Premier League regulars – Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Fulham, Leeds United etc. who are fighting for promotion along with several other worthy outfits.
But the story of Huddersfield Town has been a fascinating one which have shown massive improvement compared to their previous campaigns and now eyeing for a promotion instead of a mid-table finish.
The influence of the Terriers’ newly appointed boss David Wagner is significant in this backdrop as the former Borussia Dortmund reserves manager has upturned their fortune in his first full season in charge. Wagner, an adherent of Jurgen Klopp’s philosophy, was expected to join Liverpool to reunite with his former colleague when Klopp was appointed as new Reds boss replacing Brendan Rodgers.
Assistants Zeljko Buvac and Peter Krawietz, dubbed ‘the brain’ and ‘the eyes’ joined Klopp at Melwood, but Wagner opted for the Huddersfield job who were going through turmoil and a disastrous campaign. Despite initial stumbles, the German-American stood up to the challenge and managed to avoid a relegation scare banking on some stellar performances against the likes of Reading, Wolves, Leeds United and Blackburn Rovers.
But the former American international forward had a squad overhaul during summer as he signed 15 players altogether. He used his contacts and brought in several resources from Bundesliga. Also, he loaned in a few youngsters who have shown great potential for Premier League giants – custodian Danny Ward from Liverpool and Chelsea midfielder Kasey Palmer are the most notable ones who performed relentlessly with reserves.
Wagner not only brought them in but also arranged a bizarre trip to Sweden where they had no option but to survive with only basic equipment for a number of days. The whole idea was to form team bonding that has reflected in Huddersfield’s high-spirited on-field performances despite the lack of big names in their squad. Wagner injected his philosophy and improvised their technical aspects during pre-season which helped them to strengthen their defence and made them a counter-pressing outfit with great passing ability.
Huddersfield had an outstanding inception of 2016-17 campaign and Wagner was honoured with Football League Championship Manager of the Month: August 2016 award. The Terriers are now fifth in the league table after completion of first half of the season with very much in contention for a playoff spot.
Although it might turn out to be difficult for a low-budget side like Huddersfield Town to remain in that race till the very end, David Wagner is not going to give up this early. They are having a period of transition but Wagner is determined to transform them into title favourites in coming days and pledged to get them playing the Dortmund way. His commitment is indubitable as he rejected an opportunity to return to familiar surroundings in spite of offers from several Bundesliga outfits and focused on his objectives:
“There have been a lot of rumours around my future in the media and although I don’t believe I should be the story, I cannot stay silent on this matter.
It is correct that there has been interesting from a few Bundesliga clubs. They have obviously seen the way we are going to Huddersfield Town and the journey we have been on together over the last 12 months.
It’s important for me to clarify that my focus is on moving forward at Huddersfield Town. We want to develop what has been a good season so far into a great one, with the staff, players and fans together as one!”
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