By David Foy
Arrived: 9th November 2015 from Borussia Dortmund II.
Departed: 14th January 2019 (by ‘mutual consent’).
“There is definitely an element of risk to this, but that can be managed, and I firmly believe this is the right direction for the Club to go in.” – Dean Hoyle (Former Terriers Owner speaking on the appointment of Wagner).
An element of risk that certainly led the club in the right direction. Is a Terriers Manager more revered than Wagner in the town of Huddersfield? Whilst Herbert Chapman and his team of the 1920s remain immortalised; the team that Wagner built although not three-in-a-row champions caused quite a stir in the top flight that first Premier League season.
The foundation for this most unexpected of rises for the club was built in the first month of the 2016/17 season. Newly relegated to The Championship were Premier League stalwarts Aston Villa and Newcastle United bringing with them a wealth of supporters and finances. In fact, most clubs could boast recent Premier League credentials.
Many who observed the fixture list would straight away have spotted the very early away double-header of The Magpies and Villa – a tough prospect on paper. Wagner’s Terriers came away with four points, a much unexpected victory at St. James Park and a draw at Villa Park were the catalyst of what was to follow that season. The West Yorkshire spoils were Huddersfield’s with a 1-0 win at Elland Road with the club doing the double over The Whites with a 2-1 win in February 2017. The club also beat Runners-up Brighton and Hove Albion 3-1 and Villa 1-0 both on home soil.
Two 4-0 wins versus Port Vale and Rochdale in the 3rd and 4th Round of the FA Cup saw the club draw Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at home. A remarkable 0-0 draw against a full-strength City setting up a replay at The Etihad Stadium. As a side-note this was Philip Billing’s finest hour in the blue and white stripes. Despite taking a 7th minute lead through Harry Bunn they were defeated 5-1.
The Terriers made those end of season Championship Playoffs and despite the astounding season they had just had were arguably once more ‘the least likely’ to be promoted of the four clubs. Finishing 5th they faced up against 4th placed Sheffield Wednesday. The fellow Yorkshire club had been, and continue to be playoff regulars. Alongside The Owls came free-spending Fulham and a Jaap Stam managed Reading.
0-0 after the first leg at The John Smiths Stadium, the second was 1-1 after extra-time at Hillsborough, Sheffield. Won 4-3 on penalties; this setup Reading at Wembley Stadium for a place in The Premier League. 0-0 once more after extra time Christopher Schindler wrote himself into Huddersfield Town history by scoring the decisive 5th penalty to win the shoot-out 4-3 once more.
Huddersfield Town started their Premier League campaign being top of the Premier League! A 3-0 away win at Crystal Palace, a Joel Ward own goal and two from debutant Steve Mounie saw them hit the summit. The Terriers also won once more at St. James Park next and as the season developed picked up points at a steady pace albeit they began to slide down the table.
Crucial Result of The Season 1 – 21st October 2017 Huddersfield Town 2-1 Manchester United.
Line-up: 1. Jonas Lossl, 2. Tommy Smith, 15. Chris Lowe, 25. Mathias Jorgensen, 26. Christopher Schindler, 6. Jonathan Hogg, 10. Aaron Mooy, 19. Daniel Williams, 22. Tom Ince, 9. Elias Kachunga, 20. Laurent Depoitre.
Subs: 17. Rajiv van La Parra (for Elias Kachunga – 39), 24. Steve Mounie (for Laurent Depoitre – 70) & 3. Scott Malone (Tom Ince – 89).
Goals: Aaron Mooy (28), Laurent Depoitre (33) & Marcus Rashford (78).
“Everyone at the stadium could feel in the first couple of minutes that one team was ready to give everything and the other was not ready for it. Maybe only my players realised at half-time.
It’s a shock and I am surprised. I have to analyse. I have some ideas, but this is not the moment for that. We say congratulations to the winners because they wanted it more than us.” – Jose Mourinho speaking to BBC Sport 21st October 2017.
West Bromwich Albion and the bottom five
In order to survive at whatever level, it is essential to beat those in and around you in the league table and Wagner’s men on the whole did this; no club in the bottom six did the double over The Terriers. Two draws kept Southampton below Huddersfield, a win and a draw versus Brighton was important, and although Swansea and Stoke City managed to defeat and draw they were relegated due to their results elsewhere.
Most crucially however in the end was the two victories gained versus the club that would end the campaign bottom of the Premier League West Bromwich Albion. Whilst there are many twists and turns throughout a season The Terriers finished those six points above WBA and four above relegation.
How it actually played out live – Manchester City & Chelsea away (with Arsenal at home)
A terrifying prospect once more on paper. A mirror image of the start of the previous season this time to close a season! Although already assured of the title weeks previous Manchester City were still closing in on breaking the record points total for a season (they in the end did so with 100) they were not resting on their championship laurels. Not only did Huddersfield not lose, they did so by keeping a clean sheet. The second time in two seasons they had also prevented The Citizens from scoring in a match.
Chelsea at Stamford Bridge came three days later. The Blues were chasing European football and Huddersfield needing a point to guarantee safety. Heroics once more from Wagner’s men saw The Terriers get that vital point they needed. Any doubts about Chelsea settling for anything other than a win re-enforced by their double substitution to introduce Olivier Giroud and Eden Hazard just before the hour mark.
Arsenal at home and Arsene Wenger’s final game was a celebration for both clubs which The Gunners won 1-0, but David Wagner’s men had survived despite being written off and expected to be down by Christmas.
2 wins in his opening 22 Premier League matches saw Wagner leave the club by mutual consent replaced by German compatriot Jan Siewert (and essentially be down by Christmas in the process). The club once more giving the reigns to a former Dortmund II Head Coach unfortunately not with to the same effect that Wagner brought. The club were relegated and continued to struggle in the league below.
In spite of this terrible run for The Terriers Wagner and the club should always be remembered in a positive manner for the previous two seasons which brought unprecedented success on and off the field for Huddersfield Town.