Huddersfield Town boss Michael Duff on learning from his 'mistakes' and a Barnsley admission, Kevin Nagle's 'hunger' and Mark Cartwright on why Terriers are in a 'better place' than last year

AT MICHAEL Duff’s introductory managerial press conference at his last Yorkshire club in Barnsley back in June 2022, he spoke about being ‘all in’ and in it for the long haul.

After 27 years at his previous two professional football clubs, as a player and then manager at Cheltenham Town and as a player at Burnley, his history pointed towards someone who was passionate about projects and the incremental growth of clubs and also loyalty and longevity.

Duff would spend just a season at Oakwell before leaving for Swansea City just under 12 months ago and found himself out of work after being sacked by the Welsh club before Christmas. Less than six months in.

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He is wise enough to now accept that he made a mistake leaving Barnsley.

New Huddersfield Town head coach Michael Duff. Photo: Robbie Stephenson/PA Wire.New Huddersfield Town head coach Michael Duff. Photo: Robbie Stephenson/PA Wire.
New Huddersfield Town head coach Michael Duff. Photo: Robbie Stephenson/PA Wire.

His move to Swansea, whose footballing ethos was based on possession-based pure principles under the likes of Russell Martin, Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez, did not look particularly a good fit at the outset and so it proved.

The 46-year-old now finds himself at a more natural looking home in Huddersfield, who have had success in the past under the high-pressing, intense style of play which he espouses.

The strong infrastructure behind the scenes at Town - something he did not truly have at Barnsley and which would have been a reason for his decision to leave - is also there.

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All things being equal, he can look forward to building something again and sticking around for a good while. Fingers crossed.

Duff, who has signed a three-year deal, said: "Ultimately, it didn’t work for Swansea and me. I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to work that out. It wasn’t a great fit.

"In hindsight, should I have left Barnsley? Probably not. But we are all a lot wiser with hindsight and that’s the excitement of this opportunity. I feel refreshed and you learn more from failure.

"It’s the first time I jumped early (at Barnsley) and it was a mistake.”

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Duff will be working alongside someone who he knows well in sporting director Mark Cartwright, while the ‘hunger’ of owner Kevin Nagle to usher in a new positive and successful chapter in Town’s history is something that has made an instant impression upon him.

In the wake of the Terriers’ grim relegation, Nagle fronted up in an open letter to supporters while promising that things would change and that the culture would be transformed among the playing staff.

Bringing in a leader in Duff to do that - and quite possibly following the template of Barnsley - has been a key early part in that. Deeds to back up words.

Duff added: “The excitement of this opportunity is that I think it is a chance to reset. It’s an opportunity to build something and a football club with the help of the owners and Jake (Edwards) and Mark. The infrastructure is already here.

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"There’s the appetite of the owner. A lot of owners walk away at this moment (and think) ‘I’ve spent a few quid, we’ve been relegated - I live in California - I’ll go away and spend my money elsewhere. He hasn’t done that. The conversations I have had show he is hungrier than ever. He’s obviously a successful bloke.

"That’s part of the attraction and excitement of getting going. The players need a rest, I don’t, I’m ready to go.”

Behind the scenes, Town are in a better place, in terms of the overall structure of the club, then they were 12 months ago, insists Cartwright.

Equally, he will know that supporters will ultimately judge things when players cross the white line. And last season was nowhere near good enough.

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In order for Duff to build a winning culture again, he will be given as much resources as is possible to help achieve that.

Alongside investment in the squad, the club have scheduled a pre-season trip to Austria. ‘Fitness, intent and togetherness’ will be areas which won’t be questioned according to Nagle.

Cartwright said: “As I sit here right now, I can, hand on heart, say that the club is actually in a much better place than we were last year. That sounds completely moronic given we have just got relegated.

"This has come by making changes in the background which no-one has really seen. We believe now that we have a lot of the right people in the right places. Michael is the lead in that.

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"We’ve got a lot of (pre-season) games in and a pre-season trip that we’re spending a lot of money on to make sure that everything possible for this season is going to be in the right place for Michael.

"I was upset, angry and everything everyone else felt (last season), but excited we have the opportunity to make it right, rebuild and reset and get this club back into a winning culture and have this training ground as a proper high-performance environment.“The only way we do that is by winning games of football. Bringing Michael in so quickly is a sign of intent. Kevin has always shown he’s willing to invest above and beyond."