WHEN promoted Huddersfield Town broke their transfer record to sign Steve Mounie earlier this summer, more than a few eyebrows were raised.
Not only was the £11.5m fee more or less equivalent to the club’s entire turnover when winning promotion to the Premier League against all the odds but the 22-year-old had just one year of scoring goals in top-flight football to his name.
Fast forward to the opening day of the season, however, and that outlay to secure Mounie’s services from Ligue 1 side Montpellier looks a bargain.
Who says so? None other than Terriers captain Tommy Smith after watching the striker net twice on debut to nudge the White Rose county’s sole representative among the elite to the very top of the fledgling table
“It raised a few eyebrows when we spent that sort of money,” the 25-year-old defender told The Yorkshire Post. “It always does when it is Huddersfield paying money for people.
“Everyone knows that is not something we normally do, pay £11m or so for a player. But we paid it and he has started to deliver the goods. We are all delighted for him.
“He has announced himself on the Premier League stage with two great goals – and none of us were surprised because he has shown in training that he can do the lot.
“Steve has all the attributes you need in a striker but is also a very relaxed character. He was only telling me on Friday what he wanted to do against Palace.”
Asked if this eve of season chat included a pledge to net twice against a club embarking on their fifth consecutive season in the Premier League, Smith laughed before replying: “No, but he did say, ‘It is my job to score goals’. That is a great approach. He is very single-minded, which is great because that is exactly what you want from your striker.
“We had another quick chat after the game and I said: ‘This Premier League is easy, isn’t it?’ He replied: ‘Maybe a hat-trick next week’. So maybe that is what we can get from him.
“Either way, Steve looks like a total snip now for the price we got him for.”
Mounie’s two goals were the crowning glory of an opening day that, for Huddersfield, continued the fairytale that David Wagner has been writing since arriving in Yorkshire 21 months ago.
The bookmakers and pundits may have been queueing up to sound the death knell for Town’s survival chances ever since that never-to-be-forgotten day at Wembley in May. But, as proved to be the case last season when Ian Holloway and a string of experts were left red-faced after tipping Wagner’s men to be relegated before a ball had been kicked in anger, the Terriers look more than capable of upsetting the odds once again.
Frank De Boer’s side will surely echo that suggestion after the manner in which the upstarts from Yorkshire set about one of the top flight’s more established teams.
The Eagles were not given a second to themselves, particularly at the back where De Boer’s switch from trying to hit teams on the break, as advocated by predecessor Sam Allardyce, to a more possession-based approachplayed straight into Huddersfield’s hands as Mounie, backed up the attacking trio of Tom Ince, Kasey Palmer and Elias Kachunga, hassled and harried the hosts into mistake after mistake.
Two goals in four minutes around the midway point of the first half were the deserved reward for this industry and enterprise. The opener – and Huddersfield’s first goal in the top flight since Ipswich Town defender Allan Hunter put through his own net in a 3-1 loss for the soon to be relegated Yorkshire side in early April, 1972 – went in via the boot of Joel Ward.
Christopher Schindler and Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen, though, deserve the credit after displaying great awareness to keep the ball alive from Aaron Mooy’s corner.
Mooy was again heavily involved in the Terriers’ second on 26 minutes, his beautifully flighted cross from the left wing allowing Mounie to power an unstoppable header beyond Wayne Hennessey.
Palace, finally stung into action, had chances either side of half-time but Town and goalkeeper Jonas Lossl stood firm as the lively Wilfried Zaha, Christian Benteke and Scott Dann were all thwarted in their quest to drag the Londoners back into the contest.
It meant, when Mounie pounced on a pass from Collin Quaner to score his second 11 minutes from time, there was to be no denying the Premier League new boys a deserved three points.
“A result like that is great because a lot of people have written us off already,” said captain Smith. “That sort of thing does just go over our heads. We just focus on ourselves and do what we are good at. We know what we are and we enjoy it. That is all you can ask for. Everyone saw against Palace how well we can play when we want to but we won’t be getting carried away.”