SUCH has been the rate of change at Huddersfield Town over the past year that only four of the starting XI in Tuesday night’s win at Burnley were at the club last season.
The inference from all that chopping and changing is that the current side might not be quite as aware as the supporters as to just how much blood, sweat and tears went into getting the Terriers promoted.
Last May’s play-off final victory over Sheffield United was a case of third time lucky for Town after losing in the end-of-season promotion deciders in both 2010 and 2011.
Anyone at either the semi-final defeat to Millwall or the Old Trafford loss to Peterborough a year later knows just what heartache the Yorkshire club went through before finally hitting the jackpot by holding their nerve at Wembley in the penalty shoot-out triumph over the Blades.
That is why Town’s slide down the table over the last three months has caused so many furrowed brows around Huddersfield as the prospect of all that hard work going to waste courtesy of relegation after just one year in the second tier has grown and grown.
Any fears, however, that the current squad might not realise fully just how devastating a return to League One would be after all the anguish of the previous three years can be laid to rest with striker James Vaughan, the goalscorer at Turf Moor on Tuesday, insisting Town will fight “tooth and nail” to stay out of trouble.
“People forget how much the results mean to the players,” said the 24-year-old loanee from Norwich City. “Obviously, the fans are devastated if we lose, but, let’s be honest about this, it changes our lives if we don’t win games.
“No one wants to be dragged into a relegation battle. We all know just how much hard work went into getting Huddersfield Town promoted into the Championship.
“Even those who maybe weren’t here last season. I was at the play-off final two years ago that Huddersfield lost to Peterborough.
“I had a lot of friends in the team that day and I don’t want to see the hurt that people from Huddersfield felt that day ever happening again.
“Going back into that league is something no one wants to see. I will be fighting tooth and nail to make sure we don’t go down and I can say the same about every one of the lads in the dressing room.”
Town’s win at Turf Moor was only their second in 18 Championship games, but it lifted Mark Robins’s side six points clear of the bottom three.
With Saturday’s trip to Brighton & Hove Albion being followed by back-to-back home games against Middlesbrough and Charlton Athletic, Vaughan accepts the Terriers need to use the Turf Moor win as a springboard to climb back up the table.
He said: “The big feeling in the dressing room at the moment is one of frustration. We know what we are capable of, but we just haven’t been doing it.
“It is not down to anyone but ourselves. So, we know that we must work hard on the training pitch and take that into games.
“It wasn’t pretty at Burnley, but we got the three points we needed. When you are in a battle like this, you have to keep fighting for each other. Getting that win meant the world to us.
“It isn’t fair to look anywhere – up the table or over our shoulders. We just have to play as well as we can and get the points because then everything can take care of itself.
“When you are not winning games and not performing like you can, then it can prey on your mind a bit. Any player will tell you that.
“But I felt once we got into the game, we were okay against Burnley and got our reward in the end. It is something to build on, as we have now kept two clean sheets in a row.
“That has to be the base every week, as if the opposition don’t score then they don’t win the game.”
Vaughan’s strike on Tuesday – the striker pounced on the ball as it headed across the line after Clarets goalkeeper Lee Grant had only been able to parry Calum Woods’s shot – took his season’s tally in the Championship to seven.
It also took him further clear at the top of the Town scoring charts with Lee Novak and Adam Clayton in second place with four apiece.
Goal-scoring has been a problem for the Terriers all season with the 35 times they have found the net in 34 games being the second lowest in the division, Ipswich Town now the holders of that unwanted mantle with one less than Huddersfield.
Vaughan added: “We haven’t maybe got the goals, but I think it will click. Certain things haven’t been falling in the right place and we haven’t been taking all the chances. But I think it is only a matter of time before things fall into place. Hopefully, we can do that soon.”
Manager Robins added: “We’ve got a sort of progress – they’ve dug in, they’ve got two successive clean sheets and they’ve ground out four points and I’m delighted with that.”