WHEN the fixtures computer last summer handed Huddersfield Town an opening day assignment at home to Brentford, memories of the final day humbling by the London club were still fresh in the mind.
A 5-1 thrashing in front of their own fans, following on from a 4-0 loss at Bristol City a week earlier, was a pretty miserable way to sign off a season that had brought the appointment of the club’s first non-British manager.
As the final whistle blew on May 7 last year, few could imagine the huge transformation that lay ahead at the John Smith’s Stadium as David Wagner quickly got to work on rebuilding his squad.
A dozen new signings, most crucially arriving early in the summer to allow them to bed in during pre-season, duly arrived and a 2-1 victory over Brentford in front of Town’s highest opening day crowd since 1970 represented an encouraging start.
What surely no-one in that 18,479 crowd realised, however, was that Huddersfield, come the return fixture at Griffin Park in March, would be firmly in the hunt for promotion to the Premier League.
“We never step back, we always get in their face and try things,” said Wagner, when attempting to explain the ethos behind the Terriers becoming the surprise package of this season’s Championship.
“These players are not only good footballers but good workers as well. They have the right attitude.”
Such has been Wagner’s impact in England that he must already be in the running for the manager of the year award come May.
Certainly, if Town do go up then his achievement in turning around a club seemingly locked in an annual fight for survival in the second tier would be off the scale.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the job done by Wagner is how his side are capable of both playing scintillating football and grinding out victories, as they did in Tuesday night’s narrow 1-0 triumph over an Aston Villa side who created the better chances.
My players are able to play both styles, as they have proved all season. On Tuesday night, we had the right fighting attitude and went direct.Huddersfield Town manager, David Wagner.
It is a trait that makes Wenger very happy.
“My players are able to play both styles, as they have proved all season,” he added. “On Tuesday night, we had the right fighting attitude and went direct.
“We used a set-piece in a very tight game and that was pleasing, especially against a top team with top players. They were three massive points, it was a statement after losing three days earlier against Newcastle.”