Crystal Palace v Huddersfield Town: New Terriers captain Smith aiming to prove doubters wrong again

New captain Tommy Smith is pictured with Dean Whitehead as  Huddersfield Town celebrated winning promotion.
New captain Tommy Smith is pictured with Dean Whitehead as Huddersfield Town celebrated winning promotion.
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PREMIER League training grounds can invariably be found at the end of a long and winding driveway complete with checkpoint barrier designed to keepout the general public. Or, in Manchester United’s case, a pair of barriers almost half a mile apart.

Huddersfield Town, though, do things rather differently with the top-flight’s newest arrival sharing Canalside with a host of local sports clubs and gym-goers.

It means members, many of them Terriers supporters, can often find themselves rubbing shoulders with the likes of Michael Hefele and Aaron Mooy when tucking into their lunch or enjoying a quiet drink.

For head coach David Wagner, this close proximity means gauging the mood of fans can be a quick and easy task.

“If I want to get a little bit of feeling for what the community is feeling then I just have to walk through the door (to the communal areas) and get in touch with them,” he said before adding with a smile: “If you don’t play well, you don’t walk through the door. It is very easy. But last season I walked through that door very often.”

Tommy Smith, confirmed this week as Town’s new permanent captain following Mark Hudson’s retirement, also enjoys this near cheek-by-jowl existence as it confirms Yorkshire’s sole Premier League representative as a genuine club of the people.

“We are a real community club and I don’t think we will lose that,” the 25-year-old told The Yorkshire Post. “We are who we are and everyone knows that.

“Huddersfield are not the biggest club in the Premier League and we haven’t got the biggest fanbase. But we know who we are – we are the underdogs and are quite happy to be so.

“There is a really good feeling around the club and it really does help. Some people might turn up and refer to the facilities, but everyone is heading in the same direction and we are a very close club.

“As players, we are more than happy to interact with the fans. They are always here making a fuss, which is absolutely fine.

“We are more than happy to be interacting with them because we know it makes their day if they come here and have a few words with us.”

This interaction can sometimes stretch to a game of snooker – with the new arrivals among the converts, according to Smith.

“Some of the lads try to play, including some of the foreigners believe it or not, but I don’t think they really understand it,” he added. “I don’t think anyone is the best, if I am honest.”

The Town squad may not excel on the green baize with cue in hand, but, as last season proved, they are a dab hand at proving the doubters wrong.

Written off in many quarters even after the scintillating start that had Huddersfield sitting atop the Championship going into the second international break, Wagner’s men continued to prove the critics wrong all the way to the Championship play-off final. Now, the challenge is to do it all over again.

Smith said: “If pundits want to write us off, that is absolutely fine. We just go about our business. If anything, it is a big spur for us to prove people wrong, such as those who wrote us off last season.

“The pundits are there to voice their opinion, that is fine. But we are a club who all want the same thing, we all stick together through thick and thin and all head in the right direction. We want to prove them wrong.”

Smith, as the man sporting the armband every week, will have a key role to play if Huddersfield are to once again prove the doubters wrong. It is a task he is relishing.

“Being captain of this club is a huge honour,” said the full-back, who fractured a bone in his foot during May’s Wembley triumph over Reading.

“I learned a lot from Mark (Hudson), who is someone I get on with and also travel in with. He was certainly captain material and I would like to think that I can now follow in his footsteps.

“Mark is always keen to give me advice on things to do so I can fit into that mould quite quickly. He has shown me how you need to be there for the other players when needed, but also be a captain on the pitch.”

If Smith wants any pointers about life in the top flight he could do a lot worse than look towards his other daily travelling companion.

“Dean Whitehead is someone I quiz every day,” he added.

“I am always talking to Dean about the Premier League, certain grounds and things like that.

“I won’t bore you with how much he comes out with, but he has that experience, as has Mark. We lean on them for anything we need as a squad.”

Huddersfield’s rise from League One to the Premier League has come on the back of huge improvements to their training facilities, most notably when spending around £3.5m on Canalside shortly after moving in four years ago.

Works are ongoing, with Wagner estimating it will be another “eight to 12 months” until Town “are at the level of a proper Premier League facility”.

Even then, though, retaining a presence in the community will be important.

“This is a real family club,” said Smith. “The fans are respectful and excited. I am sure if you had asked them a couple of years ago about playing in the Premier League, they would have laughed.

“But we are here and the fans are anticipating what is to come. The fans deserve it, they really do, because they have followed us in their numbers for years.

“They were there last year supporting us in every game and they deserve to be here just as much as we do. This is just a great story and almost a fairytale, one which we are all relishing being a part of.”