FORMER Borussia Dortmund Under-23 coach David Wagner is the surprise name in line to become Chris Powell’s successor at Huddersfield Town – and he could be appointed before the weekend.
The 44-year-old, part of Jurgen Klopp’s backroom staff during his time at Westfalenstadion, had widely been expected to link up with the recently appointed Liverpool boss after leaving his role in Germany this week.
But in a shock move, Wagner – with a proven track record in developing young talent at Dortmund and Hoffenheim – is now expected to rebuff interest from Anfield to take over at Town.
Caretaker-boss Mark Lillis will lead preparations and take charge of this weekend’s home derby with Leeds United, with German-born ex US international striker Wagner likely to watch the game from the stands if, as expected, his appointment is confirmed.
Powell was sacked yesterday morning, bringing an abrupt end to his 14-month reign – with the club residing in 18th place in the Championship after three league wins from 15 matches this season.
Town insist that the decision was not down to results, but due to fundamental differences in footballing and recruitment philosophy, with the club keen for a more dynamic style of play and for the increased involvement of their academy players.
That said, the move to axe Powell represented a major surprise to many in the football world, with the Londoner having steadied the ship after Mark Robins left the club at the start of last term.
This season, Powell was also operating with a reduced playing budget, while seeing key players Jacob Butterfield, Conor Coady and Alex Smithies all leave for big-money fees without significant reinvestment.
But chief executive Nigel Clibbens has defended the surprise development to part company with Powell – stressing that Town came to the decision in order to reinvigorate the club and reconnect with many supporters.
Clibbens admitted low crowds and negative feedback from supporters regarding ‘low-risk’ performances on the pitch also played a part in reaching a conclusion that a change was needed.
He said: “It has been a really tough decision to take; one we have thought long and hard about.
“It is not driven by an immediate quest for improved results on the back of recent performances. it’s about the long-term direction of the club.
“Survival in this division is not the object. We need to strive to do much more and that means maybe taking a few more risks to reinvigorate and re-energise the club and get the fans excited about Huddersfield Town again.
“We need to recruit a successor who can reinvigorate and re-excite the fans and thrive in the environment we have and live and breathe what we are about at this club.
“Rather than just surviving in this league and operating in the bottom echelons, we believe that the fans deserve a lot better than that and it is what the club is about.”
Admitting that a perceived lack of on-pitch style in performances so far this year was something Town were also mindful of in making their decision amid disinterest from many stay-away supporters, Clibbens added: “I think we have had a lot of feedback from fans saying that they have been a bit unhappy about what the fare has been put in front of them. We understand that and have to do what is right for the club.
“We won’t go for gimmicks and short-term fixes. We have got to understand what the club is about and we need fans to want to come and watch us.
“We are in the entertainment business and need to recognise that and do what is right for the club – to develop players to buy and sell and progress.
“We have a lot going for us at this club and I think we need to embrace that a bit more and use it to our advantage.”
Powell was informed of the club’s decision to dispense with his services by phone yesterday morning and despite being ‘very disappointed’ at the news, he accepted the decision with good grace, according to Clibbens.
The Town chief executive acknowledges that the former Charlton Athletic boss had justifiable reason to be dismayed at the decision, but equally he insists that the need to plot a new dynamic course was something the club hierarchy felt compelled to do.
He added: “We want to take a different path and feel we need someone else to take us along that path.
“That is no disrespect to Chris and the job he’s done. It’s just we want a different way forward.
“Chris came in at a difficult time and stabilised the club and managed us through the transition of a lot of players in and out last season and got us up the league, which is all we could have asked.”