Forty-five years of hurt immediately wiped out by Huddersfield Town

On top of his game: Huddersfield Town's Philip Billing and Crystal Palace's Christian Benteke.
On top of his game: Huddersfield Town's Philip Billing and Crystal Palace's Christian Benteke.
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AS the Terriers began life in the Premier League at Selhurst Park, across the capital Usain Bolt was preparing for the final act of a glittering career.

The 100m relay final at the World Championships was set up for the eight-time Olympic champion to go out in style only for injury and age to finally catch up with the Jamaican as Great Britain claimed gold.

Even allowing for such a sad ending, that Bolt’s swansong should come just a few hours after the Terriers had exploded out of the blocks in their own race for top flight survival was perhaps apt.

A football season may well, as we are regularly told, be a marathon and not a sprint. But, in the unforgiving world of the Premier League, newly-promoted sides are invariably not afforded the luxury of a slow start.

Lose a few games early on and not only is a team playing catch-up but the confidence engendered by reaching the top flight in the first place can quickly disappear.

It is why Saturday’s resounding victory could prove to be Town’s most important result all season.

Certainly, the manner of the performance from David Wagner’s men bodes well for the potential pitfalls that lay ahead. Huddersfield, despite only Tom Ince of the starting XI having previously played in the English top flight, looked every bit at home on the big stage.

When on top, Town were simply sensational. Then, when under the cosh, the Terriers were, if anything, even more impressive in how they stuck to the task.

Steve Mounie, thanks to those two debut goals, understandably took most of the plaudits. But there were a host of heroes in navy and pink who played their part.

Aaron Mooy and Phil Billing were calmness personified as the defensive midfield pairing in Wagner’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, while the attacking trio of Ince, Kasey Palmer and Elias Kachunga brought ‘gegenpressing’ to life.

At the back, Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen enjoyed a fine debut alongside the ever dependable Christopher Schindler as Jonas Lossl also proved a safe and reliable pair of hands.

Tommy Smith, handed the toughest task of the afternoon in trying to keep track of the ever-dangerous Wilfried Zaha, also stuck at it admirably before being replaced by Danny Williams to ensure his first-half booking did not turn into a red card.

Williams, Wagner revealed afterwards, had not played at full-back for six years but no-one in the 25,448 crowd would surely have guessed on the evidence of that final half-hour.

All in all, a memorable afternoon for Town as Mounie’s second strike together with Chelsea pulling two late goals back in defeat to Burnley at Stamford Bridge meant chants of ‘we are top of the league’ reverberated around Selhurst Park at the final whistle.

Cynics may mock and point out that a league table is meaningless until at least five and probably 10 games have been played. But that is missing the point.

Not so long ago, Town’s relegation to the basement division was followed by a spell in administration. For a time, there was a genuine fear the first club to win three successive league titles might disappear altogether.

Thankfully, a saviour was found but those dark days are why the 2,805 Town fans fortunate enough to have a ticket for the Terriers’ return to the big time were quite right to bask in their side looking down on the rest of English football for the first time since the opening week of the 1970-71 season and back-to-back victories over Blackpool and Southampton.

Those same fans know it will not last and that survival remains the sole target this season. But, boy, were they determined to drink in the moment as Wagner brought his players over for the now familiar post-match victory celebrations.

A repeat at the end of Town’s next away assignment against West Ham United – at, of course, the very same London Stadium where Bolt bid farewell on Saturday night – then the outlook really will be positive for a Town side determined to avoid having to say their own goodbyes come May.