HUDDERSFIELD TOWN’S debt to Jurgen Klopp is well known.
David Wagner, the man who has so transformed the Terriers’ fortunes over the past three or so years, cut his coaching teeth working under the Liverpool manager when the German duo were together at Borussia Dortmund.
What is perhaps less common knowledge is the key role Klopp played in the career development of Erik Durm, who is without doubt the success story of Town’s summer recruitment.
The 26-year-old has brought poise, intelligence and no little quality to the Huddersfield back-line. Durm has also looked equally comfortable on either flank, while such is the German’s determination to get forward in attack that he spent almost as much time in the Bournemouth half during Tuesday night’s defeat as he did his own.
No wonder Town fans are so delighted to have on board someone who is the first to admit that he owes Klopp everything.
“Jurgen Klopp turned me from a striker to a defender,” said the one-time German international when speaking to The Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s trip to Arsenal.
“I had always been a striker as a youngster. I signed from Mainz as a striker (shortly before his 20th birthday). I continued as a striker at Dortmund.
“Sometimes, I was asked to train with the first team. After training, Klopp said to me, ‘There are a lot of strikers here so maybe it is a little difficult at this club’.
“I was not sure what he meant but then Klopp said he wanted to help me become a defender, a wing-back. He felt I could play there in the Bundesliga.
“Once he said that, I did not really have to think about that, I wanted to play in the highest league.
Now, I am looking forward. I am not injured and I feel very good. My body is good again and I do not want to think too much about the past.Erik Durm.
“It did not happen straight away. I was in the Dortmund second team at the time and we had more games when trying to stay in the league. So I stayed as a striker.
“But, after that season ended, it went very fast. I trained with the first team in pre-season as a wing-back for three or four weeks.
“Then, I made 23 or 24 appearances for the first team. A good decision. An unbelievable season for me.”
As Durm suggests, Klopp’s belief that his future lay in defence rather than up front was more than justified by a spectacular 2013-14 season.
Not only did Durm become an integral part of the Dortmund side that finished as runners-up to Bayern Munich but his international debut came in June against Cameroon.
Twenty-four hours later, he had been named in Germany’s 23-man squad for the World Cup finals.
He did not get beyond the bench in Brazil but Joachim Low’s side becoming the first from Europe to triumph in South America meant the full-back returned home with a winner’s medal.
It should have been the prelude to Durm making the full-back role his own at Dortmund only for injuries to intervene and turn the next few years into a hellish experience.
Two knee operations, surgery on his hip and, most recently a little under a year ago, torn ankle ligaments led eventually to a parting of the ways and last summer’s surprise move to England.
Wagner promised to be patient with Durm, who had signed a one-year contract. He did not feature in pre-season until the final friendly against RB Leipzig in Austria, while the September 1 visit to Everton was the first glance the Premier League had of the defender.
Since then, however, Durm has been a model of consistency in a Town shirt to fully justify Wagner’s faith when other clubs were not prepared to take a risk on someone with such a poor injury record.
“I remember going home to Germany after the Everton game to see everyone,” added Durm. “My mum and dad were happy I had played, my friends were the same.
“They were able to see me smile again. They know football is what I love. So, of course, they were so happy for me.
“It is always tough for parents and friends when they see you having to go through rehab. My parents have been there through it all. They were always the first I called after an injury. It was hard for me to do that because it was a call with bad news for them.
“I knew the reaction the news of another injury would cause and I did not want to make them sad. But I had to tell them.
“Now, I am looking forward. I am not injured and I feel very good. My body is good again and I do not want to think too much about the past.
“My parents are also happy. They see me back on the pitch again so know everything has been worth it.”
Today’s trip to the Emirates is the third of seven December fixtures. Despite this busy period, Wagner and the club must have one eye on the opening of the transfer window in January.
It is to be hoped any additions can prove as inspired as last summer’s capture of Durm, who admits battling relegation is not what he was used to doing during his time at Dortmund – even if Klopp’s final season did see the German giants struggle until a surge up the table in the New Year.
“We are in a different part of the table to where we used to be at Dortmund,” he added.
“The mentality is the same but the pressure is different.
“We need the supporters in every second of every game. We can feel that support on the pitch, when you fight and make tackles.”