Southern surprised by way Town continue to stay under the radar

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AFTER a decade and more than 350 appearances sporting Blackpool’s colours, Keith Southern was expecting something of a culture shock when joining Huddersfield Town.

The move, though, has been a seamless one with the 31-year-old having quickly established himself in the Terriers midfield to underline why Simon Grayson was so keen to get his man the moment promotion had been won at Wembley last May.

What has come as a surprise to Southern, however, is sixth-placed Huddersfield continually being tagged as Championship underdogs.

“I just don’t understand why people see us as underdogs,” explained the one-time Everton trainee when speaking to the Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s home game with Brighton & Hove Albion.

“It is a little bit what life was like at Blackpool, certainly before the club won promotion to the Premier League. Back then, we were never favourites going into a big game and maybe it is a little bit like that here. Though, personally, I don’t see why.

“We have the fan base, the stadium and this club is a big one. Yet, when I look through the Sunday ’papers after a big win then all we get is a small column or two.

“It’s not just me who is surprised, either. A lot of the lads feel the same. We don’t seem to get any credit outside Huddersfield, which, as I say, is something I don’t understand.

“But, at the same time, we can play on it and stay under the radar. We didn’t get the attention that other clubs got at Blackpool. We were always underdogs and that probably suited us.

“Things did change eventually at Blackpool and I sensed a big difference, including among our own fans, the better the team did.

“A lot of fans had come along solely to watch a Premier League team. My first game was played in front of 4,000 fans but by the year in the Premier League game there were times when the fans were booing us off at home. I remember thinking, ‘Do they not realise how far we have come?’

“But that is football fans, in general. It is just how things are. Southampton are experiencing a bit of that right now. Two promotions in a row and yet I’d imagine they are still getting stick at home after a bad result. People can have short memories.

“So, maybe it is better to be seen as the underdogs. But every team has a window of opportunity and the lads feel this could be ours.”

Southern’s decision to call time on his 10-year stay at Bloomfield Road was, as he is the first to admit, not an easy one. Not after all the happy times he had enjoyed with the Seasiders.

He had twice won promotion at Wembley, picking up the man-of-the-match award in the 2010 Championship play-off final as Blackpool ended a 39-year absence from the top-flight by beating Cardiff City.

Once fit from a knee injury that kept Southern out of Blackpool’s first month in the Premier League, he returned to make 22 appearances as Ian Holloway’s side battled bravely against relegation only to succumb on the final day.

Last season, a testicular cancer scare that led to a tumour being removed meant Southern missed two months but he still played 27 times as ’Pool reached the play-off final once again only to this time lose against West Ham United.

“It was a big decision,” he explains. “I’d loved my time there and they’d also given me my chance in the League. You never forget something like that.

“I also had some great memories but, from a selfish point of view, I wanted a new challenge in a new area of the country with new people.

“I am not getting any younger, either, so I felt this was the right time to move and, luckily for me, a fantastic club like Huddersfield Town wanted me.

“Everything about Huddersfield seemed right – the chairman, the manager, the size of the club and, above all, the ambition. I was sold straight away and couldn’t wait to join.

“The manager was a big part of coming here. We played together at Blackpool and then, of course, he managed me. He’s not changed much since the first time we met. He is still easy-going and calm under pressure, which as a manager can be vital.

“If we are losing, he is quick to take stock and sort things out. He doesn’t have to rant and rave to get that point across. That’s not to say he doesn’t dish out rollickings when he thinks we deserve them.

“But his calmness helps, especially when things are going against us. You can see how successful he is already with three promotions and I think everyone would agree he is doing a really good job here at Huddersfield.”

richard.sutcliffe@ypn.co.uk