Survival no more name of the game

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IT was more Bear Grylls than Brentford but David Wagner is adamant that the benefits of Huddersfield Town taking to the wilds at the start of pre-season will become apparent when the Championship gets under way.

The Terriers are heading into the new campaign amid a sense of excitement not seen around the John Smith’s Stadium for some time.

Bumper season-ticket sales in excess of 15,000 on the back of the overhaul that Wagner, the club’s first non-British head coach, began last term has transformed the outlook of a club that has spent the previous four years locked in the lower echelons of the Championship.

Optimism is high after a summer that has brought 12 new faces to Huddersfield and Wagner has been delighted with how quickly the signings have adapted to life at Town, something he puts down to that highly unusual start to preparations for 2016-17.

“Taking the squad away to a little island off Sweden was a big part of what we wanted to do,” said the 44-year-old about the four-day trip that saw the players denied any access to the outside world during what was effectively a survival camp.

“I had taken Dortmund to Sweden before, about six years ago. I was with the second team and we used it to bring the players together. But, after that trip, I said I would never do it again because it was a tough time. The weather was very bad.

“I did remember that when planning pre-season for Huddersfield but thought we should do the same trip as Dortmund. We had a lot of new players and I wanted them to join the group quickly.

“It is a very hard trip, especially from the mental side because you have to leave your comfort zone for three or four days, and be totally without your mobile phone, internet and also without a toilet.

“There is also not as much food as you would normally like to have. This helped the lads realise what a world we live in – and what it is like if you don’t have anything and have to live on an island that is no bigger than half a football pitch.

“You have to have conversations – and you have to be in constant contact with each other. This helped us to bond together.”

Asked how well the Town players, both new and old faces, adapted to living in the wild, Wagner added: “It was good, though after four days it was enough. Being away from all the luxuries we normally enjoy was good for everyone.

“Unlike my last visit, it was much more comfortable because the weather was a lot better. This makes the life much easier on an island. Some were better than others in that environment. But if there was one player who enjoyed it a little bit more than the others then it was Jonathan Hogg. He is a real hunter and survivor!”

The true value of Town’s preparations will become apparent when the season kicks off with Saturday’s visit of Brentford. But the signs are encouraging, with several of Wagner’s new signings having already caught the eye.

Record £1.8m signing Christopher Schindler has brought a steel to the backline that has been sorely lacking since Town’s return to the second tier in 2012, while Manchester City loanee Aaron Mooy looks to have the talent to prosper in midfield.

Jack Payne, Jan Goren Stankovic and Kasey Palmer also look set to bring much more creativity to the Terriers, leaving Wagner excited ahead of his first full season in English football.

“We are all together here and we realise the positive atmosphere that exists,” said the German.

“I think the players deserve that after what they did in a big part of last season.

“On the other side of that, we have to work as hard as we can to justify that. We know this Championship is a tough, tough league. We also know we have to be humble.

“We will not be the club that can buy success. We have to be the club that works for success unbelievably hard. That is the difference between us and a lot of Championship clubs.

“Yes, around the club our chairman made a lot of very good and brave decisions – rebuilding our facilities, getting a second pitch here, season card tickets, changing the backroom staff and now we have a player liaison officer.

“The chairman (Dean Hoyle)has made a lot of positive changes to turn Huddersfield Town into a high quality, professional football club. Now, we are on a journey and ready to take more steps forward as a club.”