Lessons to learn from Huddersfield's 2-year Premier League stay
Background photo: Events Yorkshire, CC BY-SA 3.0
Huddersfield Town's high road came to an abrupt halt on Saturday. After two years, their Premier League journey ended. The Terriers must take a Uturn to the Championship.
Their fate became inevitable too early in this campaign. The energy and fight in the side that defied relegation in 2017/18 vanished. This year, they just went through the motions.
The thing about failure, however, is it's a great teacher. There are lessons to be learned from Huddersfield's demise.
Despite the broadcasting revenue coming their way as a sophomore Premier League side, Town largely stood pat, spending just over £43 million [Transfermarkt]. Meanwhile, promoted Championship clubs Fulham and Wolves each spent roughly £96 million. Cardiff's spending only exceeded Huddersfield by a million or so but the Bluebirds were always built to defend. David Wagner's squad was attack-minded. Quality in the final third comes at a premium the club weren't prepared to pay.
Ramadan Sobhi, Adama Diakhaby and Isaac Mbenza all joined the club for a combined £16.3 million, three young wingers without a proven scoring record unprepared for the Premier League. You get what you pay for and Huddersfield shopped in the Championship aisle.
Wolves spent more than the Terriers' entire attacking budget on both Jonny Castro and Adama Traore. Add Diogo Jota, Benik Afobe, Joao Moutinho, Leo Bonatini and Raul Jiminez [on loan] to the cart and the attacking bill comes to £67.25 million. Several of Wolves investments didn't come good but those who did more than compensated for the busts. Because Huddersfield didn't play the odds, the odds played them.
Build a fortress
Huddersfield supporters are two things every club desires, loud and proud. All that was needed to turn the John Smith Stadium into another Turf Moore or Britannia was a squad bursting with industry and determination. Fans respond to those qualities with enthusiasm. The noise would have been intimidating for visiting squads.
Rather than forcing opponents to break through a resilient defence or cope with the pressure of a relentless press to earn victories, Huddersfield was a pie cooling on the windowsill. Trespassers helped themselves. Woeful away, unconvincing at home, there was nothing to keep supporters excited. Three league wins says it all.
A steady hand
David Wagner commanded respect throughout the city after the Terriers gained Premier League promotion. He deserved an opportunity to prove himself at the top level. While the club survived in spectacular fashion, securing improbable results against Chelsea and Manchester City, the narrow escape offered an unheeded warning. An underfunded, undermanned, under-experienced boss was never going to pull off the same trick twice. The signs were on the wall from the start of the 2018/19 campaign.
Regardless, the Town board stuck with their man until it was too late. By the time Wagner stepped down and Jan Siewert took over, a rescue could not be mounted. The new German boss is marking time at the moment. His project begins next season.
Had the club moved sooner for a more experienced hand who would shore up the leaky defence and instil a siege mentality, Huddersfield's story might be a happier one. Even though experienced managers such as Sam Allardyce, David Moyes and Slaven Bilic were available, the club didn't pick up the phone.
Now, the Championship beckons.