DAVID WAGNER’S insatiable appetite for hard work has been the driving force behind Huddersfield Town’s burgeoning promotion challenge, according to first-team coach Andy Hughes.
Since winning promotion to the Championship in 2012, the Terriers have finished no higher than 16th place but victory tonight at Norwich City would be enough to send the Yorkshire club up to third.
Considering Town started the campaign with the bookmakers forecasting a fight against relegation, such a lofty standing is testament to the impact made by Wagner since moving to England a little over 13 months ago.
“David’s appointment made people sit up and take notice,” said Hughes, who joined the German’s coaching staff last May. “People thought: ‘Okay, Huddersfield Town are going in a new direction and this is going to be sink or swim’.
“Sometimes, you have to go for a totally fresh and new idea. They took a chance, as did the owner (Dean Hoyle), and that is paying off at the minute. Long may that continue.
“What strikes you the most about David is that he works really, really hard. I always say the harder you work, the luckier you get. David and Christoph (Buehler, assistant manager) work so hard. To move to a new country, pick up the language and move their families here, you can see what it means to them.
Maybe in two or three years we can genuinely talk about promotion.Huddersfield coach Andy Hughes
“That hard work rubs off on the players. It definitely does with the staff. If my boss is not working hard, it makes me lazy. It is the same on the pitch, if there is a leader who is working hard it rubs off on his team-mates. That is the most important thing.”
Huddersfield make the long trip to Carrow Road buoyed by back-to-back wins.
Wagner could again rotate his squad after making four changes for the midweek trip to Burton Albion in an attempt to keep his side fresh.
His preparations were not helped on Tuesday night by the team coach suffering a burst tyre on the journey home, something that led to a fleet of taxis having to be called to ferry the players back to Huddersfield.
The players were back on the road yesterday afternoon after training. Another light session was then held in Norfolk last night as Wagner employed various recovery strategies with tonight’s game in mind. It was typical of the ‘leave no stone unturned’ thinking that has so impressed Hughes since his arrival from Crystal Palace.
“David does things differently,” said the 38-year-old. “There are always things that are similar but there can be different ways of describing and presenting them. When David does it, it does make you think: ‘I like that, I’ve not seen it done that way before’.
“You also know where you are with David. As a player, I just wanted to know where I stood and everyone has that here. David could not be more clear. Everyone from the chairman down knows their responsibilities and roles. ”
In common with his boss, Hughes is keen to play down any talk of promotion despite Huddersfield having won more than half of their 21 league games this season and spent all but seven days occupying a place in the top six.
“I wouldn’t say we are promotion contenders but we are a team that is progressing,” he added. “We finished in the bottom half last season and there was a remit that we spoke about between the staff and the players (in the summer) as to where we want to go.
“I was fortunate enough to be at Reading (as a player) when we were going through that process. New training ground, pitch improvements and, slowly, things got better. They were fortunate to be promoted and had some good times in the Premier League.
“Reading came back down but then went back up. If Huddersfield can follow that journey and become a top-10 club on a regular basis – and possibly top six – then maybe in two or three years we can genuinely talk about promotion.”
Such caution, at least in public, is understandable. The Championship is top heavy with clubs who boast far more resources than Huddersfield, including Norwich, who will receive around £42m in parachute payments this term.
Nevertheless, Town’s hopes of claiming a play-off place are growing with each passing week and tonight’s game offers an opportunity to showcase their talents to a broader audience.
“It is all about taking the club to the next level,” added Hughes. “Not by giants steps but small steps. Top-class recruitment and trying to bring the young ones through as well. It is important that the Academy keeps doing well after some successful years.
“The key to three games in seven days is all about recovery and regeneration, getting everything into them food-wise.”
Last six games: Norwich City LLLWLW, Huddersfield Town DLLDWW.
Referee: J Linington (Isle of Wight).
Last time: Norwich City 5 Huddersfield Town 0; December 13, 2014; Championship.