IF a reminder is required for Alex Pritchard to savour every moment of Huddersfield Town’s Premier League adventure, he need look no further than the contrasting summers experienced by two of his former team-mates at Tottenham Hotspur.
As Harry Kane was picking up the Golden Boot at the World Cup as captain of semi-finalists England, Ryan Mason took further steps along the road to coming to terms with the cruel manner in which his career cut short by injury at Hull City.
Pritchard remains good friends with Kane and Mason, the trio having come through the Academy set-up at White Hart Lane together.
It meant he was able to share in both Kane’s joy at joining such an illustrious band of goal-scorers and the sorrow felt by Mason over his enforced retirement after suffering a horrific brain injury.
“A player’s career does come and go really fast,” said the Terriers playmaker when speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post ahead of the new top-flight season.
“I look at players I played with at the start of my career who are now coming up to the end. It shows you have to make the most of it, especially as anything can happen.
“I played with Harry Kane, as we were in the same age group, and look at the summer he has had.
“Then there is Ryan, who was in the year above but a good mate. We went on loan to Swindon together. What happened to Ryan was horrible and shows that you have to make the most of every minute.”
Pritchard, following his £10m move from Norwich City in January, has certainly made the most of his third bite at playing in the Premier League.
Before that move north he had just 69 minutes of top-flight football to his name, split between boyhood club Spurs and a loan spell at West Bromwich Albion.
What happened to Ryan was horrible and shows that you have to make the most of every minuteAlex Pritchard
It meant Pritchard arrived in Yorkshire as something of a Premier League rookie despite all those years with Tottenham. That, though, did not stop the former England Under-21s international from proving himself to be an inspired mid-season capture by filling what had been a problematic ‘No 10’ position for David Wagner since promotion.
A host of players had been given a chance in such a key role but none had taken it, the upshot being Town’s lone striker – either Steve Mounie or Laurent Depoitre – being left horribly isolated.
Pritchard’s arrival changed all that, albeit after a settling in period of a few weeks that saw Wagner leave his expensive acquisition on the bench for the league defeats to Liverpool and Manchester United.
“Sure, I had to wait a while at first,” said the midfielder about following his full debut against Stoke on January 20 with three weeks out of the side
“But that is only normal. A new player has to find his feet and the manager needs to suss him out.
“Against the big teams, he needed to know if I could defend behind the ball. He will have wanted to see that.
“Hopefully, by the end of the season, the manager felt he could trust me to do the job he wanted.”
Judging by how Pritchard started 11 of the last dozen league games in 2017-18, Wagner’s trust was, indeed, earned.
Now, of course, the challenge for both player and team is to push on. It will not be easy, with this season’s Premier League looking even tougher than last time out.
Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham have clearly not come up from the Championship looking to merely survive, while the likes of West Ham United and Everton, two teams who struggled last term for long periods, have strengthened considerably.
Predictably, Huddersfield have been written off in most quarters. Not that Pritchard and the Terriers will be losing any sleep over it.
“The Premier League will be tough again,” he added. “We all know that. The newly promoted teams have spent money, as have most teams, and a lot of world-class players have come in to the Premier League.
“Everyone strengthens but we are ready to go again as a team. What we have to do is hit the ground running. Take the attitude: ‘Why can’t we get the results we need?’ That is how we will approach it.”
Town’s opening two fixtures certainly fall into the ‘daunting’ category, Saturday’s home encounter with Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea being followed by a trip to reigning champions Manchester City.
“No games are easy but look how we did against those two teams last season,” said Pritchard about how Huddersfield took a point apiece off last Sunday’s combatants in the Community Shield.
“We all want a good start. And, speaking personally, I am the same as I was when joining Huddersfield in January – desperate not to be relegated.
“I had waited so long to get into the Premier League and play games. I didn’t want to just play 12 games and then go back down to the Championship. It meant hitting the ground running and it is the same now.”