THE Glorious Twelfth may not be something with which David Wagner is too familiar, but the opening of the new Premier League season offers Huddersfield Town the opportunity to turn today into just that.
Forty-five years’ exile from the top flight will finally come to an end at 3pm as the Terriers take on Crystal Palace in what is the most watched league in the world.
Selhurst Park was, coincidentally, where Huddersfield signed off as a member of the old First Division in 1972 with a goalless draw that would, if repeated against Frank De Boer’s men, surely represent a satisfactory start to life back among the elite.
Head coach Wagner, though, will – in line with the ‘no limits’ mantra that helped Town to one of the Championship’s more unlikely promotions – be setting no such target for his side’s bow with the 45-year-old German, instead, believing anything is possible for Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative.
“If we perform to our maximum, we will be very happy,” said Wagner. “Don’t give yourself a limit.
“It may sound boring, but nothing has changed.
“It was Brentford (on the opening day) last season, this time it is Crystal Palace.”
Wagner’s message to his players may be ‘business as usual’ but so much has changed at a club whose training ground entrance has been emblazoned with a sign reading ‘The Yorkshire Club’ since the complex’s redevelopment three years ago.
That same slogan can also be found on the front of the table that Wagner sits behind to speak to the media, but, everywhere else, clues as to how Huddersfield’s name now stretches far beyond the Broad Acres are clearly visible.
Camera crews from all manner of countries have followed Town’s every move during pre-season, while this season’s shirt features Chinese writing under the logo of main sponsor, OPE Sports.
Needless to say, the deal is the biggest in the club’s history and an indication of just how far the Terriers’ name now reaches across the globe.
Wagner’s job amid this increased interest and hype is to keep his players focused on the job of staying in the Premier League, a task the bookmakers clearly feel is way beyond the German judging by their odds.
“There has been a change over the pre-season,” he said, when asked if the Town squad’s excitement had needed to be reined in at any stage.
“When we first arrived back, everyone was very excited about getting prepared for the Premier League. But then we came back to the usual routine, and pre-season is never usually enjoyable for a player because they have to suffer in the pre-season more often than in the season.
“The players, of course, are very used to social media and they are getting information from all over the world.
“They know now that this is the Premier League and they are excited. But they are totally aware of where they are now and what stakes they are playing for.”
Wagner, as was the case a year ago, got most of his transfer business done early this summer.
Andy Yiadom, though, is expected to join from Barnsley in the next 24 hours and the Town chief says only how his side fare in the opening games of the season will dictate whether the full-back is the last of the arrivals.
“The chairman is aware about my thoughts,” added Wagner.
“I said to him, ‘Let’s be focused on the first games and then let’s sit together after those games and make decisions’.
“This will always be a discussion with Dean (Hoyle, chariman) because he knows the game. He will see all the games, and will have an opinion as well. Then we bring our ideas to the table and make our decision.”
Today’s trip to Palace on what also marks the start of the 121-day grouse shooting season will offer that first indication as to whether Huddersfield need to strengthen further or not.
Competing in the Premier League will also be just reward for last season’s promotion – something Wagner famously compared last May to Leicester City’s 5,000-1 title triumph a year earlier.
Asked if staying up would be on a par with those successes, he replied: “For us as a football club to stay up will be absolutely comparable success – even if we will not have a trophy and a parade at the end.
“We know the task, but we are ambitious enough to say we have a chance. You always ask for a chance in your life and we have a chance. Everything is possible.”
Big-match preview: Page 3