Tag Archives: Dean Hoyle

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.


Huddersfield Town Half Term Report – Sky’s The Limit For Maturing Terriers

James Thornton (@JThorn26)

Town’s 5-1 thrashing of Yeovil last Sunday marked the halfway stage of the current season and with 24 games played Town find themselves sitting pretty in mid-table. As 2013 fades into 2014 there is an abundance of optimism around the club and there has even been talk of a push for the play-offs in the second half of the season. With this in mind we take the opportunity to look at where it has all gone right for Town so far this season.

After avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth last time around, it was evident that Mark Robins had a huge pre-season ahead of him to ensure that Town would not once again find themselves embroiled in a relegation dogfight. Despite a series of underwhelming results in pre-season, some excellent business over the summer has helped ensure that the chances of this happening again in 2014 are remote at best. The signings of James Vaughan, Jonathan Hogg and Adam Hammill, for a combined total of just over 1 million pounds, – the same fee that Town allegedly received for full-back Jack Hunt – have added real quality and have each played their part in helping Town to progress to the next level.

vaughan hogg hammill
(Left to right) James Vaughan, Adam Hammill and Jonathan Hogg have added real quality to the team

With regards to the signings themselves, leading scorer James Vaughan has rightly taken the plaudits for his terrific form in the early part of the season. With 9 goals in the opening 11 league games it is fair to say that Vaughan’s form at the beginning of the season has been a major reason for Town’s current comfortable league position and at 600k has been arguably the signing of the season by any team in the division. With Vaughan in the side Town have picked up 24 points from 17 games (1.41 points per game) whereas in the games Vaughan has missed Town have picked up just 7 points from 7 matches (1 point per game) and this is a real indicator of how much better Town are with Vaughan in the team.

If Vaughan has almost single handedly carried the burden of scoring Town’s goals at times this season, the same can be said of fellow summer recruit Adam Hammill with regards to the team’s chance creation and assists. A disappointing spell on loan last season meant that many Town fans were skeptical when his permanent signing was announced in June. However, Hammill has answered his doubters in emphatic style, racking up 8 assists already this season and adding much needed flair and creativity to the team. To put Hammill’s impact into context it is worth pointing out that no Town player provided more than 7 assists throughout the entirety of the last campaign. Though Hammill can still be a highly frustrating player to watch, for instance he will often try do to one trick too many and is occasionally let down by his final ball, he has been one of Town’s most consistent players since making his move permanent and is almost certainly Town’s most exciting player to watch.

If Vaughan and Hammill have provided the bulk of Town’s attacking threat, Jonathan Hogg has been equally important in tighteneing up a defence that shipped goals for fun last season. Hogg has added much needed steel to the Town midfield and his incredible workrate and stamina has added protection to a defence that was overrun and exposed far too often last season.  Despite the fact Town’s defence this season has been pretty much the same as in the 2012-13 season, Town’s defensive record this time around has vastly improved and this is indicative of the impact Hogg has had. To emphasize how important Hogg’s contribution  to the team has been, it is worth pointing out that Town have only conceded more than two goals on two occasions so far this season, one of which was in a game where Hogg was out injured. This is a far cry from last season when Town had the third worst goals against record in the entire league and suffered drubbings at the hands of Leicester, Nottingham Forest and Watford.

As well as bringing in quality new additions, Mark Robins deserves immense credit for the way he has improved the talent already available to him at the club. At the end of the day, only three of the players who started in Town’s final game of 2013 against Yeovil – Martin Paterson, Adam Hammill and Jonathan Hogg – were actually signed by Robins. The other eight starters, and six of the seven substitutes, were either already on the books or part of the club’s youth setup when Robins took over. The improvement in players like Paul Dixon, Oliver Norwood, Danny Ward and Adam Clayton this season has been clear for all to see and is testament to Robins’ excellent man-management skills. Despite the fact the squad he is working with is largely made up of signings from the previous two regimes, Robins has been able to mould the team into his own image as the team has gradually adapted to his footballing principles and philosophies.

As Mark Robins himself has often said, the talent of the current squad has never been in question, it has simply been lacking the belief and confidence necessary to achieve its potential. Unlike the Simon Grayson and Lee Clark regimes, the players are playing to a clearly defined system – whether it be 3-5-2, 4-2-3-1 or whatever – and there is a much greater logic to team selection than the seemingly random selections that characterised the Grayson and Clark eras. This has led to a much more settled and consistent team and Town are now reaping the benefits as the squad grows in belief and ability. Though most of the players in Town’s starting eleven were not signed by Robins, make no mistake that he is largely responsible for their progress and development.


Town have come a long way already this season and at the minute seem to be getting better with each passing week. At the beginning of the season Town were often solid rather than spectacular and made hard work of games they should really have been winning, for instance: Doncaster, Barnsley, Blackpool, and Birmingham. In many ways the debacle against Birmingham marked something of a watershed moment in the season so far. Following the 3-1 defeat Town headed into the international break with just one win in eight matches and there were growing worries that Town might be slipping into a relegation fight after all.

Victory over Sheffield Wednesday in the next match, however, sparked a run of three straight victories and Town haven’t looked back since. Since the Birmingham game Town have played 9, won 4, drawn 2 and lost 3 – a stark contrast to the 1 win in 8 in the preceding set of games. What is more, in the four home games following the Birmingham match, Town have registered no fewer than 99 shots on goal – more than they managed in their previous eight home league games combined. In the process they have outperformed, or at least matched, some of the best teams in the division, most notably in the home matches against Burnley and Derby.

Furthermore, as the season has progressed, Town have gone some way towards dispelling the myth that they are overly reliant on one or two key players such as James Vaughan and Adam Hammill. Of Town’s first 18 goals this season, Vaughan or Hammill played a significant part, either by scoring or providing an assist, in 14 of them. In other words, 77 percent of the goals Town scored between the season’s start and the Watford match in October relied on the contributions of just two players.

In recent weeks, however, other players within the squad have increasingly come to the fore. Adam Clayton, for instance, has been superb since his return to the side and it is little coincidence that Town’s performances have improved dramatically since his return to the side. Comfortable on the ball and capable of picking a pass, Clayton is finally consistently performing to the standard he showed in glimpses last season. Equally, Clayton’s midfield partner, Oliver Norwood, has been impressive recently and has chipped in with some superb goals against Burnley, Bolton and Grimsby. With the aforementioned Jonathan Hogg working tirelessly behind them, Clayton and Norwood have been able to flourish as part of a central midfield three and for the first time in years Town have a midfield capable of dictating play in the centre of the park. Furthermore, Mark Robins finally seems to be getting the best out of the often infuriatingly inconsistent Danny Ward. Two goals and two assists in the match against Yeovil mean many fans are praying that they are finally starting to see ‘the real Danny Ward’.

Adam Clayton - Shocking beard, talented footballer
Adam Clayton – Shocking beard, talented footballer

What is particularly exciting, as we begin 2014, is that many Town fans feel that the current team can only get better, a point that has been constantly reiterated by Mark Robins himself. The average age of Town’s starting eleven for the game against Yeovil was just 23.8 and at 27 Paul Dixon was the side’s most senior player. The likes of Murray Wallace, Tommy Smith and Duane Holmes have all responded magnificently to the pressures of first-team football whilst the likes of Adam Clayton, Oliver Norwood and Alex Smithies are all still a few years away from reaching their peak. The progress being made with regards to youth recruitment and development also means that Town should be able to call on an increasingly talented pool of players emerging from the club’s academy. Players like Jake Charles and Philip Billing, for example, continue to earn rave reviews as part of an under 18’s side that has taken all before it so far this season. With the spectre of Financial Fair Play lurking increasingly large on the horizon, it is a massive boost that the club has such exciting players within its own academy.

Admittedly Town are not quite the finished article. They still lack a killer instinct in front of goal, which has cost them dear on a number of occasions already this season, and despite the emergence of other players they are still a bit over-reliant on James Vaughan. Additionally, perhaps due to inexperience or naivety, Town are still being hampered by costly individual errors, without which Town may already be sitting in the play-off places. What is more, despite the fact Town have significantly closed the gap on the top sides in this division, they have still only recorded 2 wins against teams in the top half of the division and are yet to beat any top-half side away from home. The result and performance against Burnley on New Year’s Day was a stark reminder that there is still work to be done if Town wish to challenge for anything other than a mid-table finish in the coming seasons. A push for the play-offs will almost certainly be a step too far for Town this year, especially as injuries and suspension will invariably take their toll on what is not a particularly large squad, and a finishing position somewhere in mid-table is by far the most likely outcome for this season.

Nevertheless, this should not distract from the fact Town are making serious progress under Mark Robins. Make no mistake, this is a truly exciting time to be a Town fan. With a Chairman who loves the club and has worked wonders with the off-field aspects of the club, and a manager who has already proved himself as highly capable, the club really is going places. A young Town team has already matured a lot this season and if the club can maintain the core of their current squad then they are only going to get better. As it stands I feel that with one or two quality additions, similar to this season, and the further development of exciting academy prospects such as Duane Holmes, Jake Charles and Philip Billing, then there is no reason to suggest that Town are not capable of challenging for a top-6 place in the next couple of years. I’m not suggesting for a minute that Town will definitely make the play-offs – Town fans have seen enough false dawns over the years to know better than that – but if the likes of Blackpool and Burnley can then why can’t Huddersfield Town?

For more ramblings about Huddersfield Town follow me on twitter (@JThorn26)

Huddersfield Town Must Do Everything Possible to Secure Signature of on-Loan Norwich City Man James Vaughan

Huddersfield Town training at Storthes Hall - new signing James Vaughan.

When James Vaughan signed on a season-long loan deal for Huddersfield Town back in August, few people realised just how important he would become to Town’s season. Question marks over his long-term fitness and his modest goalscoring record (17 goals in 93 league appearances before joining Town) meant some fans were skeptical as to how much of a contribution he could make this season. However, a relative absence of injuries and a goalscoring average of better than 1 in 3 at the time of writing have left few Town fans in any doubt that Vaughan is a player of real quality and that every effort must be made to try and secure his permanent signing.

Vaughan is Town’s leading scorer this season with 9 goals but Vaughan should not be judged on his goalscoring record alone. Despite the fact he is only on loan, he has displayed genuine passion, determination and character – attributes which have endeared him to the Town faithful during his brief spell at the club so far. Heavy defeats, such as the thrashings Town received against Leicester and Nottingham Forest, clearly hit Vaughan hard and it is refreshing to see a loan player show such genuine commitment to the cause. Vaughan’s phenomenal work rate and determination are valuable assets to the team in terms of both chance creation and defending from the front. If anything it could be said that Vaughan works too hard. At times he arguably pushes himself too far and this has occasionally resulted in injuries and needless bookings – 11 bookings in 29 games is staggering for a centre-forward. Nevertheless, as Vaughan’s game is based around robust hard work, shirking challenges or holding back in any way to avoid bookings or injuries would take away a large part of what makes Vaughan such an effective player.

To demonstrate just how important Vaughan has been to Town this season, it is worth looking at Town’s win ratio with and without Vaughan in the league this season. This season, Vaughan has started 23 games. In these games Town have accumulated 34 points – 9 wins, 7 draws and 7 defeats. This means Town have gained 1.48 points for each game Vaughan has started. To put this into context, if this points to game ratio was maintained over a season then it would give Town 68 points. In contrast, in the 15 games Vaughan has not started, Town have picked up just 13 points – 3 wins, 4 draws and 8 defeats. This is a points to game ratio of just 0.87 points per game and this would give Town only 40 points over the course of a season. Obviously it is not as simple as this – even if Vaughan had started every game this year it is highly unlikely Town would have acquired 68 points – but it does go some way towards proving just how vital Vaughan has been to Town’s season.


As Vaughan has clearly proved himself in terms of ability, and as his injury record has been generally good, Huddersfield should be doing everything in their power to try and secure a permanent deal for Vaughan. But can a deal realistically be done? The first thing that has to be considered is whether Norwich would be willing to sell. With Norwich’s Premier League survival all but guaranteed, it seems that Vaughan will find himself surplus to requirements at Carrow Road next season. As well as already having Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson on the books, Norwich have brought in Luciano Becchio and Kei Kamara since Vaughan joined Town in August. With the impending arrival of Dutch international Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Vaughan appears to be well down the pecking order in a team that often plays with just one out and out striker. In this regard it seems that Norwich will probably be willing to listen to offers if a reasonable bid comes in.

The second thing, therefore, that must be contemplated is whether Huddersfield can afford to sign Vaughan. Vaughan would likely command a fee in the region of 1 to 1.5 million pounds, which is a significant fee for a lower end Championship side. However, the sale of Jordan Rhodes last summer means that Town should be able to spend some money (within reason) in the transfer market this summer. Though Chairman Dean Hoyle has spoken of the need to make Town self-sufficient and to further reduce the club’s wage bill, the fact is Town simply cannot afford to pass up on the chance to sign Vaughan. When the loan deals of Vaughan, Theo Robinson and Jermaine Beckford expire in the summer, Town could have only one striker – the untested Jimmy Spencer – on their books. Alan Lee’s contract almost certainly won’t be renewed whilst Lee Novak’s future at the club is seemingly undecided. Given the need to bolster Town’s attacking options, therefore, and the potential availability of Vaughan, Town would be mad to pass up the opportunity to sign Vaughan permanently if he was available at a reasonable price.

The only problem that leaves is whether Vaughan himself would be interested in signing permanently. Vaughan is not the type of player who will just be happy to sit on the bench or fester in the reserves at Norwich, and in the aftermath of the Leeds game Vaughan admitted he would be happy to discuss terms if a fee could be agreed. Vaughan would likely become one of the clubs highest earners if he were to join but given the fact that a number of the existing high-earners, such as Alan Lee, are out of contract in the summer, Town should be able to offer Vaughan a decent contract and still have money left over to bring in some more reinforcements. However, although Vaughan is clearly enjoying his loan spell at the club immensely, it remains to be seen whether Vaughan would be prepared to take what would probably be a sizable wage cut in exchange for regular first team football. Also, as Vaughan has proved himself a highly capable Championship striker whilst playing for a struggling team, there is a chance that Town could be gazumped to his signing if a bigger club comes in with an offer over the summer. For periods this season Vaughan has simply looked too good for a Huddersfield team that has, at times, struggled to adapt to the demands of the Championship and at points he has almost single handedly carried the responsibility of scoring Town’s goals this season. With this in mind it would be hard to begrudge Vaughan if he decided to take up the opportunity to play for a team with greater aspirations and more financial clout if the offer was forthcoming.

Nevertheless if Huddersfield do maintain Championship status, they must do everything in their power to attempt to bring Vaughan in permanently. Though Vaughan would not be cheap, he has proved himself a player of real quality and few players have made as much of an impact during a loan spell for Town as Vaughan has. The emphasis must be on quality rather than quantity this summer and Town would be much better off signing a player of Vaughan’s caliber than signing 2 or 3 ‘squad players.’ Some of the money from the Jordan Rhodes sale must be used over the summer if Town are to be at all competitive next season and if a deal could be done for £1-1.5 million then that would surely be money well spent by Town. If Town are to have any realistic chance of making Vaughan’s loan move permanent, then staying in the Championship is vital. Town’s Championship status next season is far from certain and any chances of signing Vaughan hinge on survival. Vaughan would not want to sign for a team in League One, nor would a League One side be able to afford his transfer fee or wages. A deal for Vaughan, therefore, is by no means guaranteed and it would be foolish to think that Vaughan will certainly sign for Town – even if Championship status is secured – but the powers that be must do everything they can to try and sign him. If a team comes in with a better offer or if Norwich are unwilling to do business then that is fair enough. However, it would be criminal if Town made no attempt to permanently sign a player with such high workrate, determination, passion and, most of all, quality.

For more HTFC based ramblings follow me on twitter: (JThorn26)