IT was a summer when the harsh financial realities of life in the Championship were brought home to Huddersfield Town supporters.
Conor Coady was the first to leave for a decent sized profit as Wolverhampton paid £2m to sign a midfielder who had only moved to Town the previous year.
Had that been it in terms of high-profile departures, few eyebrows would have been raised. Then, though, came Alex Smithies’s £1.8m switch to QPR and, finally, the deadline day £4m bid from Derby County that finally broke Huddersfield’s resolve to keep hold of Jacob Butterfield.
Again, a serious profit had been made on a player who arrived a little over 12 months earlier – fitting in with a necessary ethos at a club that has to comply with Financial Fair Play rules while, unlike many of their Championship brethren, not benefitting from parachute payments.
Town, let us not forget, lost £6.8m in their most recent annual accounts and have been bankrolled to the tune of a staggering £37.2m by Dean Hoyle in his first six years at the helm.
That, of course, did little to appease many supporters who had looked on enviously through the summer months as rivals splashed unprecedented sums for the second tier. Butterfield’s capture, for instance, took Derby’s spending to £24m, while Middlesbrough, Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, Burnley, QPR, Reading and Brighton also made significant outlays.
All sums that Huddersfield can only dream of spending and an illustration of why the playing field in the Championship has never looked less level.
Anyone believing, however, that this financial imbalance means ambitions have been tempered at the Yorkshire club should have a word with Harry Bunn.
The 22-year-old has been at Town since early 2014 after leaving Manchester City and he believes the examples set by similar-sized clubs in recent years show that the second tier is not necessarily the preserve of just the big spenders.
“This is a tough league and there are a lot of teams with a lot of money,” said Bunn ahead of tonight’s televised league game.
“But, in previous seasons, we have seen the likes of Blackpool and Burnley go up. They are probably similar sized clubs to us.
“Money is a big thing but not every team goes straight back up after being relegated from the Premier League, far from it.
“You win a couple of games on the bounce in the Championship and that means you move five or six places up the table.
“Both Burnley and Blackpool managed to get promoted after building some momentum and, to me, there is no reason why we can’t be pushing for a top-half finish. Hopefully, we can do that.”
Town will host Forest in a mid-table position following a first win of the season at Charlton with a 4-1 hammering of Bolton.
Considering Chris Powell’s men were second bottom before heading to The Valley, it is a welcome turn of events.
“Our home matches are massive,” said Bunn, who scored his first goal of the season in the 2-1 victory over Charlton. “We have to take advantage of them. Before Bolton, we set ourselves the task of getting all six points and we really want to do that.
“Thursday games are a bit different. But, in terms of preparing, it isn’t too bad. The week is structured differently by the gaffer and the fitness coaches.
“As players, it is just another game and doesn’t matter what day it is. We just need to do our jobs and go out and perform well.”
A third straight victory tonight would take Town into the top 10 and help further banish the gloom that had descended in the wake of those final couple of exits.
“The transfer window brought a few changes and it takes time for things to settle down,” said Bunn. “You have to pull the squad together and that is why it was good to have some time as a squad when we stayed down between Cardiff and Charlton.
“We are quite a new squad, there have been a few ins and outs lately. So that time together definitely has paid off since then.
“Charlton was a big one for us. Getting that first win was always going to be a big thing. We weren’t panicking, we knew that win would come eventually.
“But it was still a good feeling to get that first win under our belt.”
As for the rest of the season, Bunn believes Town are well placed to continue the trend of the last three years in improving the club’s final league position.
“The club is making progress,” he said. “Look at our league positions. Although it is only maybe one or two places per season, we have been moving upwards.
“If we can keep the squad fit then there is no reason why we can’t make a massive improvement and move into the top half.”
Last six games: Huddersfield Town DDLLWW, Nottingham Forest DDLWWL.
Referee: G Salisbury (Lancashire).
Last time: Huddersfield Town 3 Nottingham Forest 0; November 1, 2014; Championship.