12 months ago Huddersfield Town had just finished fifth in the Championship table with a minus two goal difference their highest league position in 45 years when they were last relegated from the top flight of English football.
Their playoff success eventually topping a miraculous season for Manager David Wagner who pretty much got the job in 2015 (at a time when going German seemed to be all the rage) based on him being friends of Jurgen Klopp.
But unlike his former colleague and Nummer Eins at Borussia Dortmund Wagner is not about ‘free-flowing attacking football’ but quite the opposite in fact? Which is why they probably worked together so well whilst Coaching BvB.
During 2015/16 Huddersfield finished the Championship season in 19th place. Wagner a likeable guy who’s modest playing career earned him 8 USA caps with spells at Mainz & Schalke amongst others took charge for most of it following the sacking of Chris Powell. The following campaign was expected to be an improved one. Mid table at best? But Wagner & Huddersfield exceeded expectation and went on to a top six finish before beating first Sheffield Wednesday, then Reading in the playoffs to secure promotion.
Despite their success, the Terriers didn’t win a game in the playoffs, scraping through both ties including the dull Wembley final on penalties. The last two months of their season saw them win five league games draw one and lose seven. Not exactly inspiring, so what chance in the Premier League?
Well it seemed like nobody gave them any? After gambling in the summer transfer market Town got their first season in the top flight since 1972 off to a great start, topping the table with an opening day 3-0 win at Crystal Palace. They beat Newcastle and drew with Southampton to earn seven points from three games… But still people questioned them.
After a couple of draws and three defeats they faced Manchester United at the John Smiths Stadium in October in what would be their most memorable match as player for player Town put in an exceptional performance to secure a famous 2-1 win. Wagner and his team were taking credit for their ‘gutsy’ workmanlike outings based very much on keeping in the game and not conceding. Not always attractive to watch, it was intriguing at times, boring many others.
Sitting on 24 points in December Huddersfield might have been considered ‘safe’ from the relegation pack below them but many still doubted their credentials to stay in the Premier League due largely to their tough looking final three fixtures against Manchester City, Chelsea & Arsenal. But whilst destiny has been very much in their own hands thanks to a season where they have again over-achieved, a scoreless point at title winners Manchester City and a heroic 1-1 draw at last years champions Chelsea ensured little old Huddersfield Town live to fight another Premier League campaign.
Saved from the grace of having to get a result against Arsenal (who incidentally haven’t secured an away point in 2018) on the last day of the season, Wagner and his men can celebrate a miraculous campaign where they have achieved what to many thought was impossible.
How they kick on from here is the next question? Next year will be tough but with guaranteed income from another top flight season and a ethos and workmanlike approach to every match they play many will approach with caution as Huddersfield won’t be the easiest opposition to face.
Could they be the old Stoke? The new Burnley? Who knows? But what David Wagner and his team have achieved this year alone can go down in history as one of the best in the Premier League from an odds on relegation banker.
Certainly substance over style as it’s not always been pretty, but proves to us all no matter how good you (or those who you are against) are if you work hard you reap the rewards.