HUDDERSFIELD TOWN midfielder Juninho Bacuna has paid tribute to manager Danny Cowley for bringing the team together following a fraught 2019.
The former Lincoln City chief, whose side boast a five-match unbeaten run on home soil heading into tonight’s Championship game with Swansea City, has lifted performance levels, spirits and more importantly results after the ill-fated Jan Siewert tenure – helping to put Town back on an even keel after a grim first eight months of the year.
It was Bacuna’s strike in the landmark 1-0 victory at Stoke City on October 1 – Town’s first win in 20 league matches – which provided a catalyst for the club’s change in fortunes, with the 22-year-old forever grateful to the personal touch and family values shown by Cowley in allowing him to visit his young son back in his native Holland early in his reign.
Bacuna said: “He is a family man and he said that for me to be happy and fresh, it was good to see my son. Sometimes, when we have two days off, I will go back to Holland and see my son and come back refreshed and happy again.
“I do not think there are a lot of managers who think about the family, but only about football. If the family is good and the player is happy at home, he will be happy at the club and it is what I am now.
We have got the team more together and you can see everyone is working hard for each other and this club is a club who likes to be together and work together as a team.Juninho Bacuna
“We have got the team more together and you can see everyone is working hard for each other and this club is a club who likes to be together and work together as a team.
“I think in the last few months we have been together since the new manager has come and you do see that in the games.
“We are five games unbeaten at home and there is a good feeling among the team.”
Second from bottom with just one point from their opening six Championship games when Cowley was appointed in September, the Terriers are now up to 19th spot and have lost just once in their past nine league outings.
While being the first to admit that Town’s progress has been quicker than he envisaged since taking over, Cowley is fully aware of the need to further enhance the feel-good factor in the busy run to the turn of the year when fates can soon change.
A crippling run of form at the end of 2018 – the Terriers infamously lost all seven Premier League matches last December – proved the season-defining spell in their inauspicious 2018-19 campaign, underlining the importance for the club to stay ‘on message’ almost 12 months on.
Cowley, who was named as the Championship’s manager of the month for October after Town took 11 points from a possible 15, said: “In terms of where I thought we would be, we have maybe accumulated more points than I anticipated given the difficult run we had been on.
“We always strive to be perfect. We are a million miles away from that, but we are having a lot of fun trying.
“For us, the Christmas dinner tastes a lot better if you have had a good December and we are motivated to keep on the right side of the results.
“We are pleased with our form in losing only one in nine and being five unbeaten at home and we are pleased with the level of performances and quite a lot of aspects of Saturday, even though it was not perfect.
“There were some variables against us, in terms of injuries and I was proud of the players’ efforts.
“We now have another home game. As a kid, I used to love going to midweek games and it was something special playing under floodlights.
“We were disappointed with the performance on the last time we played at home in midweek against Middlesbrough in a 0-0 draw and we want to get to our levels (against Swansea).”
Tonight, Huddersfield face a Swansea side who possess the only remaining unbeaten away record in the entire English Football League this season, with the continuity and joined-up thinking of the Welsh outfit in terms of club ethos and playing style being a benchmark to follow, according to Cowley.
After consolidating last season in the wake of relegation in 2017-18, the Swans are now well-positioned towards the top end of the table in sixth spot and Cowley has been impressed by their realignment after dropping out of the top-flight.
Cowley, who has revealed that boosting the club’s options on the left-hand side of defence represents the priority in the forthcoming January transfer window, said: “I look at their squad and Graham Potter did a really good job last year with that group, having just got relegated.
“They have got a clear DNA and philosophy as a football club and they have got continuity and it can often be hard to find in terms of personnel as football changes so quickly.
“But if you have a clear philosophy and style of play and appoint managers that fit that criteria, you can actually make the transition that bit smoother.
“I think that is what they have done through appointing Steve Cooper.
“They are a possession based team with a purpose and you can see that Steve is adding to what was already built and created.”
Last six games: Huddersfield DDWWLD; Swansea DLWWDL.
Referee: J Gillett (Australia).
Last time: Huddersfield 0 Swansea 0, March 10, 2018; Premier League.