Category Archives: Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town: Wagner Appointment Perfect Tonic to Reinvigorate Terriers

When Dean Hoyle first joined Huddersfield Town in 2008, he breathed new life into a club that was on its knees.

Drifting around in League One with virtually nothing in the way of saleable assets, stripped of their shares in the stadium, and consistently serving up some of the worst football in living memory. The club reeked of stagnation, apathy and decay, and I dread to think what would have happened to Town were it not for Hoyle’s intervention.

Hoyle’s tenure as Chairman has seen the club regain its shares in the stadium, promotion to the Championship, the construction of a new state-of-the-art training facility at Canalside, and in excess of £20 million generated in player sales.

And yet – despite all this – there was a real danger that much of this good work would be undone by the increasing sense of apathy and ambivalence felt among Town supporters over the past 12 months or so.

Despite consolidating their position in the Championship, Town’s results have been indifferent and their performances even more so. Even more alarmingly attendances are in decline and the much talked about ‘pathways’ scheme – seemingly crucial to the club’s future – has appeared to be struggling.

Although it would be harsh to say that outgoing manager, Chris Powell, is solely responsible for this, it is fair to say that  his reign as manager has undoubtedly been a contributory factor.

Don’t get me wrong, Powell is by no means the worst manager in Town’s history – in fact he’s not even close – however, the style of football his side has served up has been without doubt some of the most dour and frankly boring I have seen in my lifetime.

Sure, the performances of the team are incomparable to those of the Wadsworth or Ritchie eras, but never has the football been so frequently unentertaining as it was during Powell’s reign as manager.

You would often get the impression that Powell was setting his teams up for a draw, and this resulted in his teams adopting a negative style of football and a lack of genuine attacking intent. Simply put, Powell’s preferred style-of-play was centred around not losing, rather than going for the win. Understandably, this was a policy that allowed Town to be competitive in the majority of his games, but it was ultimately not one that was likely to attract supporters to the John Smith’s Stadium.

A string of turgid home performances against mediocre opposition last season really stick in the mind. Home defeats against Rotherham, Fulham, Leeds and Birmingham, as well as draws against Sheffield Wednesday, Wigan and Brighton, were all examples of Town failing to go for the jugular against winnable opposition, and this was in large part due to Powell’s poor tactics and inability to change games when things were not going Town’s way.

A prime example of this was Powell’s sheer reluctance to effect games through positive substitutions. It became something of a running joke that Powell wouldn’t make an attacking substitution until it was far, far too late. The most obvious example of this being Powell’s reticence to utilise Joe Lolley until the final 10 minutes of a match.

Indeed, the example of Lolley also spoke volumes about Powell’s attitude towards youth players at the club in general.

Dean Hoyle has repeatedly reiterated that the development of ‘young players with potential’ is vitally important if Huddersfield Town are to be successful at this level. Despite this, Powell failed to fully integrate any of Town’s up and coming prospects into the first-team fold – Kyle Dempsey, Philip Billing and Joe Lolley for example – and instead preferred to play it safe with older, more established players.

What is more, not only is the development of youth players important  to Town in a financial sense, it is also important as it gives fans something to get excited about and a real sense of optimism for the future.

This lack of youth development, coupled with Powell’s overwhelmingly negative tactics, were a direct factor in Town’s dwindling attendances, and ultimately the board’s decision to part company with Powell after 14 months in the job.

With attendances in decline and levels of apathy among supporters on the increase, it was vital that Town’s next managerial appointment was one which would reignite interest levels among supporters and give them a reason to be excited about the club’s future.

With this in mind, I think the appointment of David Wagner, Jurgen Klopp’s former assistant at Borussia Dortmund, is something of a masterstroke from Dean Hoyle and the board.

Not only is Wagner a disciple of Jurgen Klopp’s exhilarating, pressing-orientated Dortmund side, he also has vast experience working with youth players. Following his retirement as a player, Wagner worked with Hoffenheim’s U17 and U19 sides, before notably taking over at Borussia Dortmund U23’s.

This experience in working with, and developing young players, should hold Wagner in good stead for delivering on Hoyle’s mandate of developing young and exciting players.

Of course, it is not an appointment that is entirely risk free. Wagner is likely to have limited knowledge of the Championship, and there is no cast-iron guarantee that he will be able to deliver much more than Powell was able to in terms of results.

Nevertheless, it is a calculated risk on the board’s behalf, and it does genuinely feel like Wagner is a good fit for the Yorkshire Club.

Even if the results are not vastly different to those under Powell, I fully expect Town to be an altogether different proposition under Wagner.

I think that this is ultimately the crux of the issue. People can accept that Town are – generally speaking – a lower mid-table Championship side. What fans cannot accept, however, is the negative manner in which Town would approach games under Powell. Whereas it seemed Powell often sent his teams out to merely exist on the football field, I feel confident that Wagner will send his teams out to ‘have a go.’ In reality – regardless of results – as long as Town play in the right manner and ‘have a go’ Town fans will be happy.

Whether Wagner is a success or not remains to be seen. What is not in doubt, is that Wagner’s appointment has already sparked renewed interest and optimism among Town fans. For this, the board – much maligned for their track record with regards to managerial appointments in the past – deserves some praise for their ambition.

Whatever happens, I’m sure it won’t be dull.


Charted: The Championship Average Attendances

Eddie Howe led Bournemouth to the Premier League by finishing first in the Championship.

The Championship season has finished, with Bournemouth and Watford the two sides confirmed to have earned promotion to the Premier League.

Middlesbrough and Norwich City are going to face off at the national stadium, Wembley, on Monday, in the play-off final, with the winner being promoted to the top flight. Middlesbrough had their names misspelled on the tickets for the final.

However, how do the top sides rank when compared to other teams in the division in terms of attendance? The chart below shows which the best attended grounds in the second tier are.

The Chart

Average attendances in the Championship

A chart of The Championship’s average attendances

Surprisingly, Bournemouth, one of the two teams to have gained automatic promotion, actually had the second lowest average attendance this season, at 10,265. They were above only Rotherham United in the overall table.

Brentford, another of the division’s high fliers, who have been rejigging the structure of their club, were third from bottom, with an average attendance of 10,265.

The best attended team in the Championship, on average, were Derby County, who dropped out of the play-offs on the last day of the season in dramatic circumstances.

Leeds United, who finished 15th and recently replaced head coach Neil Redfearn with Uwe Rosler, were fourth in the average attendances table.

Photo credit: Stuart Bramley (creative commons)

Huddersfield Town: Frustrating Start to 2014 Provides Reality Check for Terriers

As Town brought the curtain down on 2013 with a thumping 5-1 victory over Yeovil, there was a real sense of optimism around the club and a definite feeling that the club was moving in the right direction. A series of impressive performances in November and December – including wins against Burnley and Bolton, as well as creditable draws with Brighton and Derby – saw Town sat in 11th place and just 4 points off the play-offs at the halfway stage of the season.

Although any talk of Town mounting a push for the play-offs this season was always likely to be wishful thinking, the way in which Town’s form has dipped as the season has gone on has been hugely disappointing. The forward momentum that Town seemed to be building towards the end of 2013 has all but evaporated and it is almost as if the team has regressed to the stage it was at when the season began. To put into context just how much Town’s form has dropped, it is worth pointing out that in the first 23 games of the season Town gained 31 points – the equivalent of 1.34 points per game. Since then, however, Town have picked up 14 points from 15 matches, or just 0.93 points per game. There are no two ways about it – Town’s form since the turn of the year has been borderline relegation form.

Games Played Points Gained Goals Scored Goals Against Goal Difference Points Per Game
23 31 31 26 +5 1.34
15 14 18 27 -9 0.93

Admittedly there have still been some good moments in the second-half of Town’s campaign. Town were excellent, for example, in victories against Birmingham and Barnsley; however, this has only served to prove the point that Town are capable of much better than that what they have been producing of late. At the minute it really does feel like the team is taking one step forward and two steps back, and if there is one word that aptly sums up Town’s performances since January it would be “inconsistent.” This is exemplified by the fact that between the Leeds match on the 1st of February and the Doncaster game on the 8th of March, Town’s record was lose, win, lose, win, lose, win, lose. Town’s failure to string together a positive sequence of results has prevented the team from building any momentum or a foundation to build from, and has led to a series of disjointed and patchy performances.

One of the major factors behind this inconsistency seems to be complacency. With a mid-table finish virtually guaranteed, the players seem to have accepted that their work for the season is done and that they can take it easy for the remainder of the season. This may not actually be the case but it is certainly the feeling among supporters. Sloppy individual errors have been increasingly apparent in Town’s play and it is galling that Town are not making their opposition work hard to get a result. Against Blackburn and Leeds, for example, poor decisions and performances by individual players saw Town throw away the opportunity to gain positive results against mediocre opposition. Furthermore, some of Town’s better performers from the beginning of the season, i.e. Jonathan Hogg, Adam Hammill and Oliver Norwood, have all failed to reproduce their early season form on a consistent basis – something that was clearly evinced by Mark Robins’s decision to drop Hammill and Norwood for the recent match against Charlton.

Even more disappointing has been the fact that Town have allowed themselves to be outfought by teams who simply wanted it more. It is fair to say that the current Town squad has a dearth of on-the-field leaders and although there are a number of players who are brilliant when things are going well, there are too many players who seemingly go missing when the chips are down and the team is struggling. Against Leeds, Doncaster and Sheffield Wednesday, for example, Town were not prepared to scrap and subsequently capitulated against distinctly average – but more motivated – opposition.


Although it may seem irrelevant whether Town finish 7th or 21st, the reality is that Town need to finish as high up the league table as possible in order to keep the momentum of the last couple of seasons going. Town will look a much more attractive proposition to potential new signings, and indeed to the more talented players currently at the club, if there is clear evidence that Town are a club that is on the up and constantly progressing. Although those who watch Town on a regular basis are quite rightly able to say that Town have come on leaps and bounds over the last 12 months, this is not something that is necessarily apparent to the majority of people outside Huddersfield. If Town were to finish in a similar position to last season, for example, there is a chance players will continue to see Town as capable of achieving little more than survival or lower mid-table at this level. On the other hand, the higher Town finish, the more players will be attracted to Town as a club that is on the up and developing all the time. As such, it is not good enough for Town to simply accept that the aim of achieving mid-table has been accomplished and that they can subsequently start their summer break early.

Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that Town are still very much a work in progress. Though it does not really excuse some of the performances Town have put in in recent weeks, it is easy to forget how far Town have come in the last 12 months – after all, Rome was not built in a day. What is more, the second-half of this season has been characterised by injuries to several key players, most notably the highly influential duo of James Vaughan and Joel Lynch, and this has seriously underlined Town’s lack of strength in depth.

Without wishing to single out individual players for criticism, it is evident that a high percentage of the current squad are no longer good enough for what the club is trying to achieve. Though Town have a relatively strong starting 11 when everyone is fit and available, a combination of poor recruitment in the summer – only James Vaughan, Adam Hammill and Jonathan Hogg can be deemed good signings – coupled with the fact Town are still burdened with players on big wages from the Simon Grayson and Lee Clark regimes, has meant that Town have not been able to build a squad full of players capable of competing in the Championship.

Don’t get me wrong. It is not as if 2014 has been a disaster for Town, it has merely been frustrating that Town have failed to play to their true potential on a more regular basis. If Town are able to learn from the mistakes they have already made, and ensure they do not repeat them in the future, then I remain convinced that Town will be able to push on again in 2014-15. Despite a questionable record in the transfer market so far, I remain utterly convinced that Mark Robins remains 100% the right man for the job and have faith that he will be able to operate more astutely in the upcoming summer transfer market. If the club is able to shift some of the considerable deadwood that is still at the club, and replace them with at least 4 or 5 quality players, then Town should be well in contention for a top-half finish next season. Furthermore, if some of Town’s talented young players can keep themselves fit and add consistency to their game, then there is no reason to suggest that Town can’t aim even higher than that. After all, the Championship is nothing if not incredibly open.

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