Huddersfield Town v Blackburn: David Wagner plans to make best of ‘crazy’ schedule

Huddersfield Town midfield player Philip Billing.
Huddersfield Town midfield player Philip Billing.
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STANDING in the freezing cold on the touchline of a sporting arena in northern England or soaking up some winter rays with the family in the Canary Islands?

It is surely not a hard choice, is it?

Huddersfield Town head coach David Wagner.

Huddersfield Town head coach David Wagner.

Chances are that most sensible people would plump for the latter option, but football management has its own irresistible gravitational pull.

Just ask Huddersfield Town head coach David Wagner.

His nearest and dearest may be on a beach in the Canarian island of Fuerteventura – a popular winter destination for Germans wishing to swap the chilly temperatures of northern Europe for sun, sea and sand – but he is not.

Among that holidaying flock will be many from the German club football fraternity of which Wagner was a part not so long back – with scores of players and staff enjoying some rest and relaxation during the game’s winter break.

Instead, Wagner will be attempting to deliver some new year sunshine for Town.

When your side are ensconced in the Championship play-off positions after a warm front in the opening half of the Championship season, it does not half help keep the cold at bay.

That is even accounting for what Wagner believes to be a “crazy” schedule of two games in three days, starting off with today’s lunch-time encounter with Blackburn Rovers ahead of a Roses trip to Wigan Athletic on Bank Holiday Monday.

Wagner said: “To have two games in three days is unusual for us and it is only the second time for me. It is strange, to be fair. Crazy.

“But as a manager and group, you have to find solutions and what makes sense. This is the game in England. It is different here.

“My family have gone to Fuerteventura for our usual Christmas and New Year holidays, which we have done for nine or 10 years, but they are without me this season.

“Most of the players in Germany also go on holidays for a week and most of the German clubs start on the second or third of January with a small pre-season of two and a half weeks and then the first game is the 18th or 19th of January after they stop at the 22nd of December.

“It is four weeks break and you have one week off and two and a half weeks of pre-season.”

Given that Huddersfield are chasing their fifth successive second-tier win, at home to Blackburn, this afternoon – something that they last achieved at this level in November, 1999 – talk of breaks are likely to receive short shrift from Town supporters.

Wagner himself is smart enough to realise the benefits of the games coming thick and fast when your side is on a rich vein of form, but, equally, he is pragmatic about Town’s situation, too.

More especially given the way in which Huddersfield have strained every sinew and used every ounce of physical and mental strength to get over the line in countless games this year.

It has not been easy and can take its toll if you are not careful.

Now that anyone should really doubt Town, given the innumerable hurdles that they have overcome already this season.

On the hot potato of potential benefits of winter breaks in England – or otherwise – Wagner acknowledged: “It is like with an international break. If it a positive run, you like to play on. If it is negative, you are happy to have a break.

“But part of it from the physical and mental side makes sense and it would benefit things here, especially at the end of the season.

“To be fair, I didn’t have to study sports science to understand that if you have to work 10 months in a row, the performances at the end are probably not as high as if you work four months and have a break and then have another five months. This is only logical.

“At the end, maybe you have more injuries as the body is unable to relax for a few weeks. This is why it (a break) makes sense.

“But it is a different culture here and I like the idea of Boxing Day and being together on the football ground and New Year’s Eve is something special as well.

“If you want to keep this culture and like to have a break, maybe you have to have it at the beginning of January for three weeks or whatever.

“It does not have to be at Christmas or New Year, there is no rule. Physiologically, it does make sense to give people this break for their bodies.”

In the final analysis, conjecture regarding winter breaks remains merely that.

Town and Wagner, for their part, are a side happy to deal with the cards that they have been dealt in the here and now – and are pressing on regardless.

Why would they not, given the sizeable strides that their redoubtable group have made in such a short space of time?

Wagner added: “At the minute, it seems to be that everyone trusts and believes in what they are doing and in the group.

“The dressing room has the experience and the character to bounce back – after defeats, a longer unsuccessful period or during a game if something happens against you.

“We have worked a lot on this in the past month in being totally focused on ourselves and not the opponents or result or if it is a home or away game.

“You have to be focused on yourself and have self-belief in what you are doing and that is what the players are doing at the minute.”

Holding midfield player Jonathan Hogg misses today’s encounter against Blackburn after damaging a thigh late in the victory over Nottingham Forest and is doubtful for Monday’s trip to Wigan.

Experienced former Boro player Dean Whitehead and Philip Billing are fighting for his place.