Alex Smithies believes Huddersfield Town chairman Dean Hoyle deserves huge credit as the Terriers sit top of the Championship.
The Huddersfield-born goalkeeper made over 250 appearances for his hometown club, after rising through the Academy, before switching to QPR last year.
It looked a good move for Smithies, Rangers fancying their chances of a return to the Premier League, but the London club have made a poor start this term.
Smithies had a miserable homecoming on Saturday, losing 2-1 to Town, a defeat which came on the back of a humiliating 6-0 home loss to Newcastle United.
It left Rangers down in 16th place in the Championship, nine points adrift of leaders Huddersfield after just eight games.
Last season at this stage, Town had just nine points, and it took them until December 15 – a 2-0 win over Rotherham United – to surpass their current 19 points tally.
Smithies, like most people in English football, has been stunned by Huddersfield’s resurgence this season.
Town finished 16th when Smithies departed, and 19th last season, but the long-term strategy under Hoyle is starting to pay dividends.
The chairman appointed German coach David Wagner and Town have fully embraced his vision of the future.
Smithies believes Hoyle is the power behind the Terriers’ transformation.
“It’s been a steady improvement, year on year, since Dean Hoyle took over, so fair play to him for that,” said the 26-year-old.
“He has obviously looked long-term, and year-on-year they have improved. This season they have taken further steps and who knows where they can end up?”
Goals from Kasey Palmer and Elias Kachunga gave Town a deserved victory to spoil Smithies’s return home.
“Personally, it was nice to come back here, I was looking forward to it, and hoping to get a result – but it wasn’t to be,” he said.
“Huddersfield were the better team and deserved to win.
“I think a lot of people have been surprised Huddersfield have been able to keep the run going, but fair play to them.
“The way they played made it very difficult for us, they kept the ball well.
“They are well-drilled and everybody knows their role in the team.
“I was very impressed with Town, I had only seen highlights of them until now.
“I had spoken to a few people, and heard good things.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, meanwhile, has hailed the remarkable rise of Huddersfield under the leadership of his good friend Wagner.
The Town head coach and Klopp have a long-standing friendship dating back to their playing days back in their native Germany at Mainz, when they were room-mates.
Wagner was also best man at Klopp’s wedding and was tipped to join his friend’s coaching staff at Anfield before moving to Huddersfield last autumn.
On Town’s outstanding start to the season, Klopp, who sanctioned goalkeeper Danny Ward’s season-long loan to Huddersfield and whose side triumphed 2-1 in a prestigious pre-season friendly at the John Smith’s Stadium, said: “It is a wonderful story at Huddersfield.
“I watch a lot of Championship football. I’m interested in how Huddersfield are doing.
“We saw it in pre-season that they were in a good way. I love it and I celebrate with him.”
The pair also worked together while at Borussia Dortmund, where Klopp was first-team manager and Wagner served as Under-23s coach. Town are giving a trial to former Liverpool player and Republic of Ireland Under-21 international Alex O’Hanlon.
He can operate at left-back or in midfield.