COLLIN QUANER is about to take a step into the unknown.
Huddersfield Town can today book their place in the play-offs with a victory over Fulham.
It would be a remarkable achievement for a club whose resources and playing budget are dwarfed by the vast majority of their Championship peers, not least because David Wagner’s men will still have three games to play after the encounter with the Londoners.
Providing Town can deliver an ace in what their German head coach has described as “a match-point game”, Quaner and his team-mates will be a step closer to realising their Premier League dream.
For the 25-year-old striker, chasing promotion is already a new experience. But taking part in the play-offs would be something else for someone whose career has largely been spent fighting against relegation from Bundesliga 2 in his native Germany.
“The game against Fulham is very important,” Quaner, fresh from netting twice in the Terriers’ Easter double-header, told The Yorkshire Post. “We are focused on the game and willing to do everything to secure our play-off place.
“I have not been involved in a promotion race before. I was usually fighting against relegation so this has been new. I am really enjoying it.
“I have also never watched the play-offs, in Germany the games were, unfortunately, not shown on TV. The Premier League is shown but not a lot else.
“That meant I didn’t have the opportunity to watch the games. But I have heard a lot about the play-offs before I joined and know this is very big so it is exciting that we can qualify this weekend.”
Quaner joined Town’s push for the Premier League in January from Union Berlin. A fee of around £500,000 was paid to secure the capture of the 6ft 3in striker as Wagner looked to provide competition for Nahki Wells in the lone frontman role.
Settling in England has not been difficult for me. I like to experience different cultures and countries. I was excited about coming to Huddersfield from the first moment and was open to whatever I found.Colin Quaner
A debut goal in the FA Cup fourth-round win over Rochdale followed but it was not until the Easter games with Preston North End and Derby County that the striker again got on the scoresheet.
His strike against North End in Town’s last home game was particularly dramatic, the German swooping on the rebound to clinch a 3-2 win after Aaron Mooy’s ‘96th-minute’ penalty had been saved.
It was enough to seal not only three points but also a Football League record for victories by a single goal margin in one season, eclipsing the previous best of 20 that was shared by Walsall (1998-99), Derby (2006-07) and Northampton Town (2015-16).
More importantly, Quaner’s late, late strike kept Huddersfield firmly on track for a tilt at promotion in next month’s play-offs.
For the striker, this is a welcome change of fortune after all those years battling against the drop in Germany.
Twice, Quaner went down – with Arminia Bielefeld in 2011 and then again at VfR Aalen four years later. The second of those relegations brought the move to Union Berlin, where his eight goals and five assists in 16 appearances during the first half of this season were enough to persuade Wagner to once again raid the German market.
“Settling in England has not been difficult for me,” said the Dusseldorf-born striker whose family originate from Ghana. “I like to experience different cultures and countries. I was excited about coming to Huddersfield from the first moment and was open to whatever I found.
“I have enjoyed the move. I settled in very quickly. The team made it easy for me, every single player was a big help. I am happy.
“I hang out a lot with Elias Kachunga and Michael Hefele, they are the ones I have most contact with. I knew Kachunga already from Germany and he helped me a lot when I first arrived. I am thankful for that.
“Like me, he likes to have fun and a joke. But, as soon as we are on the pitch, he is deadly serious.”
Quaner’s recent double means he has three goals from eight starts and six appearances from the bench. It is a steady, if unspectacular, return but Wagner has been delighted with his January recruit.
“He has done fantastic,” said the Town chief. “Collin is a perfect team player for how we play football. We wanted competition for the No ‘9’ and he brings us that.
“He scored in the Cup (against Rochdale) and made an assist. He played very well against Leeds at home but, unfortunately, missed a couple of chances.
“After that, he always worked unbelievably hard for the team in what is one of the most important positions for me as an offensive player.
“He did not have opportunities in those other games but now we have seen how important confidence is for a striker – and how goals can change things.
“His last goal against Preston gave Collin an unbelievable lift. It led to one of his best performances at Derby, he was totally calm for the goal.
“We made a good decision when he came in during the winter.”
Quaner is equally happy with his decision to join Wagner’s Huddersfield. “I love the atmosphere and like playing at our stadium. The fans are absolutely great, always supporting us and they help us a lot. “I also like the Championship. At the beginning, I had to get used to this. I played physical in Germany, liked to run and use my body. That was useful here.
“The English game suits me and that helped me settle in. I am feeling good after the two goals over Easter. They were good games for me. Goals always give you confidence but I also get satisfaction from helping the team – and if the coach is happy, I am happy.”