ELIAS KACHUNGA has been here before.
A slump in form that has seen Huddersfield Town take just four points from the last seven games has led to the club’s chances of staying the course in the promotion race being written off by many pundits.
Rivals’ fans have not been too shy in having their say on the Terriers’ apparent demise, either, with social media in the wake of last Monday’s home defeat to Wigan Athletic being filled with images of various vehicles from which the wheels were coming off.
For Kachunga, such a reaction brought on a sharp sense of deja vu. Three years ago, the German striker was part of the SC Paderborn 07 side who won promotion to the Bundesliga against all the odds.
“People can say what they want,” said the 24-year-old when asked about those predicting a further nosedive down the table for Town. “I have had this from my time in Germany.
“I was with a small team and everyone said, ‘They are small and will be going down the table after a good start’. It was Paderborn. We were like Huddersfield, a small team that started really good, but then had some periods that were not so good.
“People would say, ‘It is over for Paderborn, they go down now’. But we didn’t. Instead, we stayed there and ended up going up to the top league.”
Paderborn’s promotion challenge came, if anything, as even more of a surprise than the stunning start by Huddersfield this time around that saw head coach David Wagner’s side lead the table for almost two months.
The club had only been formed in 1985 as the product of a merger between FC Paderborn and TuS Schloß Neuhaus. It took another two decades for the new outfit to make it out of the regional leagues and into the second tier of German football.
All but one of the next eight years were then spent in Bundesliga 2 – 2008-09 being the exception, relegation having dumped Paderborn into the third division – before Kachunga and company defied all the naysayers to win a place in the top flight.
Clearly, Huddersfield’s history is far more illustrious, but there is no getting away from Wagner’s men having been the surprise package of this season’s Championship. Kachunga, though, believes Town have spent the entire campaign in the top six on merit and that the Yorkshire club can go on to emulate Paderborn’s unlikely success.
“We stayed together at Paderborn and proved we were a good team,” added the former Under-21 international. “At the end of the season, people could see what was possible, even with a small team.
“It (being written off) made promotion even more satisfying. Personally, I enjoyed that we could say to everyone, ‘We took a great step’. We want to do the same here. We want to keep going and win games to show everyone we are a good team.”
If Huddersfield are to still be in the promotion reckoning come the final few weeks of the season then they must snap out of this damaging run of results sooner rather than later.
Cutting out basic defensive errors is a must, a tendency to concede from set-pieces having been a major problem for Town. Last Monday, an inability to deal with pace was their undoing as Yanic Wildschut wreaked havoc to inspire Wigan to a shock 2-1 victory at the John Smith’s.
“The last few games have not had the right results,” added Kachunga. “We have had problems with the set-pieces and the counter-attacks.
“Mistakes have been happening, all of us have done them. But it is not down to being tired. We are in good condition. We have tests all the time and the results are good.
“It is just a period where things are not going good, but if we stick together we will be okay. We will win games again.”
Blackburn, victorious at Newcastle United last weekend, stand between Town and a much-needed three points and Kachunga is expecting a tough game.
“No game in this league is easy,” said the German. “We have seen this in the last week. But we are ready for what will be a physical game.
“Blackburn did not have a good start to the season, but now they are better.
“We want to stay in the play-off places, of course we do. We have lost a lot of games in recent weeks, but we are still high up in the table. That is good.
“But now this is a chance to take the next three points and stay up there.”