Huddersfield Town v Birmingham City - Carlos Corberan welcomes pressure as he targets survival

ON recent evidence, the words of Birmingham City’s club anthem ‘Keep Right On to the End of the Road’ resonate just as strongly with Huddersfield Town as they do with tonight’s visitors.

Huddersfield Town manager Carlos Corberan. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

Harry Lauder’s song speaks about life being ‘a long, long road filled with joys and sorrows’ and the importance of journeying on.

Those sentiments carry a certain significance in the footballing sphere for the two embattled Spaniards in charge of their respective sides this evening.

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In that respect, the experiences of Blues manager Aitor Karanka might just provide a touch of inspiration to his Iberian counterpart Carlos Corberan

Prior to Birmingham’s game at Hillsborough on February 20, Karanka’s side had won just once in 13 league matches stretching back to mid-December.

Despite all manner of social media unrest from angry Blues supporters, the St Andrew’s hierarchy steadfastly stuck with their man, while Karanka battened down the hatches and his inner circle closed ranks.

Those in the corridors of power at Town are also displaying stoic support in the direction of Corberan, who only signed a new contract on Christmas Eve.

Like at Birmingham, they will be hoping that the long game pays off and that Town can survive and make it through to the end of the season with their Championship status intact.

Birmingham City manager Aitor Karanka. Picture: John Walton/PA

With a number of high-earning players out of contract in the summer, Huddersfield can realign and start to move forward. But retaining their second-tier status is colossally important.

For Birmingham, the mood is brighter than it has been.

Two wins in their past three matches constitutes the beginnings of a recovery as the Midlands outfit aim to steer clear of choppy waters at the wrong end of the Championship.

Like Karanka, Corberan is digging in. It looked like a corner may have been turned after Town’s stunning recent win over Swansea City but subsequent defeats at Derby County and Preston have darkened the mood again.

Huddersfield have collected just one win in their past 11 matches and their awful away form – they are without a victory since October 31 – has heightened the pressure ahead of back-to-back home games with Birmingham and Cardiff City.

Just as Karanka has not folded under serious amounts of pressure, so Corberan is endeavouring to do the same and engineer a fightback.

He said: “For a player and all of us, there is pressure. That is why we are in professional football.

“If you do not want this, you would be at academy level. When you are at this level, it is because you enjoy having this pressure because it means the results have an impact on the people at the club.

“The impact of the coach is not just tactical, but having an important impact in the emotions of the players and to have players with a strong mind and have players with the character to face any type of difficulty and the personality to dominate the game.

“You need a certain type of personality when the results are not what you would like them to be. Trying to manage the emotions of the players is one of the parts of not only me, but every coach. Every coach must take control of that and the team and players must have the right mindset.”

When experienced players – including several of your leaders – are absent, it only adds to the degree of difficulty.

Once again, Town will be without senior men such as Jonathan Hogg and Christopher Schindler this evening and it makes the challenge that bit harder against a Blues side who, by contrast aren’t lacking in experience.

Corberan added: “This game, like every game in the Championship, is going to be very tough and complicated, but with the special connotation that both teams are playing for the same target as they are in a similar position.

“In the last three games, Birmingham have won two, so it means they are in a good moment and shape.

“I think they are stronger after the transfer market and have strengthened the squad and they have a lot of senior players with a lot of experience and they are a more complete team.”

While Birmingham added late in the window, Town drew a frustrating blank on deadline day, with recent free agent arrival Yaya Sanago needing time to get up to speed before being unleashed from games from the off.

When you are in a hole towards the relegation positions, time is a commodity that is not in infinite supply.

On Sanago, who made his debut late on from the bench on Saturday, Corberan said: “I cannot change the situation. Unfortunately, he has had one year without any club and playing football. We are going to need some time with him to make him feel ready as he is not happy now (at the moment) to play many minutes.”

Last six games: Huddersfield DLLWLL; Birmingham LLLWLW.

Referee: M Donohue (Greater Manchester).

Last time: Huddersfield 1 Birmingham 1, November 23, 2019; Championship.

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