WITH two games inside 48 hours and then another early in the New Year, the festive season is going to be another hectic time for Yorkshire’s clubs.
Spare a thought, therefore, for the players of Huddersfield Town, who thanks to the high intensity gegenpressing system implemented by head coach David Wagner will be covering more miles than most footballers this Christmas.
Not that the Terriers squad mind, having bought fully into the new methods of the German that include two double sessions a week in training along with another get-together on a Sunday.
“The gaffer has been with us five or six weeks now and gradually we are getting there,” midfielder Jonathan Hogg told The Yorkshire Post after playing a key role in Tuesday’s derby victory over Rotherham United.
“I’d say we have made a lot of progress, especially in terms of fitness. In training, the tempo and the pace has gone up dramatically – and the distances we cover. It is high-intensity stuff.
“The timings of training are a bit different and not what we are used to. The gaffer has changed everything from the times to the way we train. We have double sessions twice a week and are also in Sundays.
“That is his way and it is a way that we will get more used to the longer we go on. The lads are buying into it.”
The role Hogg fulfilled against Rotherham represented perhaps one of the biggest culture shifts brought about by Wagner.
With Dean Whitehead out until the New Year through injury, the 27-year-old was charged with the task of dropping deep from midfield to take the ball off centre-backs Mark Hudson and Joel Lynch.
At times, Hogg was so far back that Huddersfield appeared to be operating with a three-man defence rather than the 4-2-3-1 formation that Wagner has stuck rigidly to in his coaching career.
Once in possession, Hogg’s job is to begin the high-tempo approach play that the club’s head coach demands and he did it to good effect against the Millers.
This was particularly the case during a first half in which Huddersfield dominated and the midfielder, signed from Watford in 2013, admits to relishing a system that saw the West Yorkshire outfit dominate possession with a 57 per cent share on Tuesday night.
“The new approach is good because we get a lot of the ball,” he added. “And when we lose the ball up the field, we have to try and get it back within five or six seconds.
“It is totally different compared to what we were used to in the past. Certainly, what I have been used to. But the gaffer has put across his style and the way he wants to play.
“Beating Rotherham made it a good night, as it was nice to get that home win. We’d had four defeats on the spin at home and that is not like us.”
Town’s first win at home in almost two months banished any fears that Town could be about to emulate Steve Bruce’s side of 2000 in losing a mammoth eight games in a row – something that, if repeated, would have surely plunged the Terriers deep into relegation trouble.
As it is, Wagner’s men approach Saturday’s trip to Brentford plus the following festive period of three games in a week with renewed belief.
“Christmas is massive for us with all the games that we play,” said Hogg. “As fit as we are can only stand us in good stead. It is a busy time but we have some decent fixtures, including Bolton which isn’t far.”