Dream start for Town but Wagner stays calm
Last Saturday’s stunning victory at title favourites Newcastle United, coming on the back of the opening day triumph over Brentford, means the Terriers are one of only four teams in the second tier with a 100 per cent winning record.
Third place on alphabetical order is Town’s reward, hence why supporters have been sporting grins from ear to ear since Jack Payne’s late goal was enough to clinch a first win at St James’ Park in almost 63 years.
Head coach David Wagner is well aware of Huddersfield’s lofty standing but the German has made clear that he won’t be paying serious attention to the league table until much later in the season.
“The league table only means something, for me, after we have played every opponent once,” said the 44-year-old to The Yorkshire Post ahead of tonight’s trip to another newly-relegated club, Aston Villa.
“Then, it is a serious league table and says how strong everyone else is. Playing every team once tells us that. Before that, teams can have played against this opponent and not that opponent. Only after you have played everyone once is it serious.”
Wagner’s words may well be wise but they are doing little to douse the excitement levels in Huddersfield.
After selling a hugely impressive 15,000 season tickets, Town took 3,200 fans to St James’ Park on Saturday. Tonight’s allocation of 2,700 is also expected to be snapped up for what is the Yorkshire club’s first visit to Villa Park since Christmas, 1987.
That campaign ended with Huddersfield being relegated from the old Second Division, while Villa headed in the opposite direction to the top flight and what proved to be a 28-year stay among the elite.
Judging by the betting markets for the Championship before a ball had been kicked, the bookmakers clearly fancied a similar end result this time around.
Town’s start may have started to change a few minds, even if Wagner is refusing to get carried away.
Asked if another positive result tonight would mean his side could no longer be considered as underdogs in the second tier, the Terriers chief replied: “No-one who is not crazy can have such thoughts in his head. Or someone who is a dreamer. We are not dreamers, we are workers.
“This not a dreaming club, this is a working club. We work and we started to work on Sunday to be ready for Villa.
“We need to see character in every game, whether it is Newcastle away, Villa away or Barnsley at home. Fighting attitude and togetherness has to be part of our DNA.
“We have no problem keeping the players’ feet on the ground. These wins were not flukes or easy. They were hard work. And if we are to get something at Aston Villa then the players have to work very hard, maybe even more than last Saturday.”
Considering last season ended with Brentford romping to a 5-1 victory at the John Smith’s Stadium, a fixture list that began with a return visit from the Bees plus two of the newly-relegated clubs could have been considered a tough assignment. Wagner, however, was happy to take on Newcastle and Villa so early.
“I said eight weeks ago when the fixtures came out that to play the big names early at the beginning of the season is, in my opinion, often easier than later,” he added.
“They are not able to have their highest harmony and their biggest togetherness. The window is still open and they have players that maybe don’t want to be there.
“Maybe the manager doesn’t want to have some players. Until the window closes, it is not easy to have such an environment.
“Especially if you don’t score early in a game or have the right results.
“Villa had a good result (against Rotherham) last Saturday so it is up to us to handle them. We must stay humble. We know where we are, where we have come from and what we are.
“We do have ambitions, though, and this being humble with those ambitions is a good thing. This group has that.
“There is confidence among ourselves after winning at Newcastle. We deserved that result. It showed we can be a competitor in every game.”
Dean Whitehead returns to the squad after a three-game ban, meaning Wagner is close to a clean bill of health with Philip Billing and Harry Bunn having returned to training on Sunday after a couple of weeks out, leaving only Joe Murphy (shoulder) still out.
Last six games: Aston Villa LDLLLW, Huddersfield Town DLLWLW.
Referee: S Duncan (Northumberland)
Last time: Aston Villa 1 Huddersfield Town 1; December 28, 1987; Division Two.