AHEAD of Sunday’s second anniversary as Huddersfield Town head coach, David Wagner says it is impossible to quantify how many years ahead of schedule the club are under his charge.
The Terriers host West Bromwich Albion tomorrow sitting 13th in the Premier League table – a far cry from the lower echelons of the second tier that Huddersfield occupied when the German succeeded Chris Powell on November 5, 2015.
“There is no number to describe how many years (ahead of schedule) we are as a club,” said the 46-year-old.
“I never expected when I signed my first contract for this football club that, just two years later, we would be in the Premier League with 12 points after ten games.
“Never in my head could I dream about this. It was totally unrealistic.
“But, as we have proved, the unrealistic can sometimes happen. We have worked on the impossible since I arrived, we always try to over-achieve and try to make the unrealistic realistic.”
Wagner arrived in English football as a relative unknown. Sure, he was Jurgen Klopp’s mate and his last job had been at the helm of Borussia Dortmund’s reserve team. But, other than those two titbits, little else was known.
Before long, however, the German-born former USA international had started to make his mark. Style of play, training regime, club identity, even the training ground floodlights – all were soon undergoing a transformation that would, eventually, lead to one of the more unlikely promotions of the Premier League era.
Now, Wagner has become one of the most highly-rated coaches in Europe with a succession of big clubs having been linked with the Terriers’ chief.
“I feel to have learned a lot in these two years,” he added. “This was my first job abroad, the first time I was in charge of a club where the language in the country wasn’t my own language.
“I had to adapt to a lot of things, but, if we have shown one thing at Huddersfield Town, it is that we are adaptable. That is very important in this business. You have to be able to adapt.
“I left my comfort zone to come here from Germany, but I am very happy I did that. And very happy where we are as a football club.
“We are still on our journey and we have to make sure this continues, that we can continue to over-achieve.”
There has been no shortage of potential suitors for Wagner following his success in Huddersfield. Asked if he envisaged still being at the John Smith’s Stadium in another two years, the affable Terriers chief replied: “No one knows. But at least I have a contract for another one and a half years. I am very happy where I am and happy with the work I have done so far.
“We have some unbelievable work in front of us and if I am here in another two years then, for sure, I will be a happy man.”
Little at Yorkshire’s sole representative in the top flight has remained untouched by Wagner’s hand, be it those training ground floodlights that he felt were not bright enough for the 3pm and 7.45pm sessions he introduced in the depths of winter to mirror kick-off times or a squad that is unrecognisable from the one he inherited two years ago.
Promotion and the huge riches that come with a place at the top table of English football helped in the latter respect, with last summer seeing an unprecedented amount spent on transfers.
Steve Mounie was the most expensive import at £11.5m from Montpellier, but the striker suffered a heel injury on only his fourth start, at West Ham United in September.
He missed the next five games, returning against Europa League champions Manchester United from the bench only to look way below the required fitness levels in the top flight.
It was a similar story during Mounie’s cameo from the bench at Liverpool last weekend, but Wagner believes the upcoming international break is just what his record buy needs to get back up to speed.
“Steve was out for a longer time than we expected,” said the Huddersfield chief, who has revealed winger Rajiv Van la Parra is fit to face West Brom despite coming off before half-time with a groin injury at Anfield on Saturday.
“We made some tests with him at the start of this week. Fitness-wise, he still is on a good level, but not the level where he was before the injury.
“At the start (of the season), he was one of the top two in the group fitness-wise. But he is not back at that level yet, even if he is still at a good level compared to the group.
“The international break will suit him. He will be away with Benin and have two further opportunities to get minutes in his legs for the national team (in friendlies against Tanzania and DR Congo).
“I think he needs this time. He has had a good week so far and we are happy to have him back, but he is not yet at the level he was before.”