Manager Chris Powell is calling on his young guns to step up to the plate this season. Leon Wobschall reports.
IF one phrase dominated the press conference at Chris Powell’s unveiling as Huddersfield Town manager 11 months ago, it was this one: over-achieve.
His exploits at Charlton during Town’s maiden season back at Championship level in 2012-13 were particularly cited by Dean Hoyle as a factor in the decision to plump for the Londoner, who led the Addicks to a ninth-placed finish while Huddersfield narrowly avoided relegation.
This despite a playing budget that was around £4m higher than Charlton, according to the Town chairman.
It is no trade secret to say that while a number of Championship sides have elected to roll the dice and invest heavily on big-money transfers in their pursuit of success this summer, Huddersfield’s modus operandi is now different.
Paying heed to Financial Fair Play regulations and building an organic and self-sustainable club from the bottom up with strategic investment on players is now Town’s way, with their financial accounts earlier this year revealing that Hoyle had put over £37m into the club in the space of six years.
Pragmatic Powell is never one to bemoan his lot and is also secure in the knowledge that the situation is nothing new, given his experiences at Charlton.
Powell said: “We are now seeing teams with real spending power that want to really push on and get themselves back into the Premier League.
“That kind of changes that transfer market as well and we are seeing players move for a lot of money. Maybe in years gone by, they wouldn’t have moved for that much.
“It’s not really a level playing field. But it’s a playing field we are in. We have to compete and find ways of competing.
“If it is not financial, then we have to do it with the players we have and put them in positions and areas they can handle.
“We are in this division and excited about things and our fans are and we have to make sure we fight for every point and have that desire, not just in the first few games, but throughout the season.”
Pre-season certainly could have been better, with Town showing a soft underbelly at times in disappointing losses at Grimsby, Rochdale and Barnsley.
For Powell, being forewarned is forearmed, with the Town chief at least grateful that the defeats have not cost his side points, with many a team having soon vanquished memories of a lacklustre pre-season by stepping up when it matters.
Equally, Powell is the first to accept that his side need to start shaping up in some respects, with his players not having to be told twice that some aspects of pre-season performances have not been up to scratch.
Powell said: “You want to win games and you like it to be as positive a pre-season as you can.
“When you lose games, it’s not great and gives you food for thought.
“But it can also highlight things that you would rather were highlighted now than during the course of the season.
“So, in that respect, you use it to your advantage. Pre-season doesn’t last forever and when the real thing comes along, you have got to be right for it.
“There’s been some good aspects, but one or two things we need to improve on.
“But I feel we have some good players who have come in and, hopefully now, we will be better off for it in the long season that lies ahead.
“The players care and want to win games and we haven’t done that enough. Similarly, they have shown they want to be better and I feel that’s good for the group.
“We now look at what has gone well and impress upon the players that we keep doing that. But also we must eliminate certain areas that have disappointed me and my staff. If we do that, we will, no doubt, win more games than we don’t and be competitive.”
With plenty of Championship managerial experience in the bank, Powell’s frequently-made observation that every point at this level is a good one is a sage observation.
For the most part during his reign, his charges have been organised and obdurate, with testament to this being a run of just one defeat in their final 10 league games of 2014-15.
It is a non-negotiable that must continue in what Powell admits will be a testing campaign for Town, who showed their mettle in the early months of his watch to get their season back on track after a wretched start to 2014-15.
He said: “It is a season that will test us, no doubt.
“But if you are hard to beat, you give yourself a base.
“We need to do that and it is an area we need to improve on from pre-season and maybe draw back on the good results and times we did that really well last year.
“Because there’s no doubt that helped us as we do have quality going forward.
“We must make sure we have that discipline when we are out of possession, so that teams do not cut us open.
“Then, we know we can provide the ammunition for our quality front players.
“We have a nice balance. But you can’t always rely on your senior players, you want your younger players with a year or two of experience to come to the fore now in the Championship.
“It is almost them saying: ‘I am going to become a senior player in the Championship now’.”