HUDDERSFIELD TOWN’S one-time record signing Steve Mounie expects the Premier League to be even tougher this time around.
The Terriers yesterday beat the transfer deadline to bring winger Isaac Mbenza in on loan from Ligue 1 club Montpellier for the season with the Yorkshire club having the option to make the deal permanent next summer for around £10m.
Mbenza, a Belgium Under-21s international, is a former team-mate of Mounie. The pair built up a decent understanding with La Paillade, regulars at the French club vividly remembering a 3-0 victory over Nancy in February, 2017, that saw the duo score all three goals.
Head coach David Wagner will be hoping for more of the same during a season that Mounie believes will provide an even stiffer test for Yorkshire’s sole representative in the top flight.
“Achieving our goal of staying in the Premier League was very special,” said last season’s top scorer to The Yorkshire Post. “We did not care about the (league) position just that we did it. And we did.
“You saw the joy at the end of the Chelsea game. The feeling of survival was incredible. When you look at the size of the club and the budget compared to all the other clubs we did something very special.
“But this is now in the past. This season will be harder than the last one. There are some very good teams coming up like Wolverhampton (Wanderers) and Fulham. They are a big club.
“I watched Cardiff last season and they did well. Difficult team to play against. It will be harder.
“That means the target for Huddersfield is the same: to stay up. We cannot get carried away and plan higher. The goal has to be to stay up because nothing has changed compared to last season.
“We are still a team with a small budget who has to fight to the very end. That is what we are, fighters.”
Mbenza’s move apart, the final day of the permanent transfer window was a sedate affair in Yorkshire.
Michael Hefele did leave the John Smith’s Stadium for Nottingham Forest in a £500,000 deal, while Jason McCarthy joined Wycombe Wanderers from Barnsley as Ricky Holmes left Sheffield United on loan for Oxford United.
But otherwise all was quiet with the loan window remaining open until August 31 for all Football League clubs explaining why there was so little activity in the county before the 5pm cut-off to get permanent deals done.
Mbenza, meanwhile, arrives in Huddersfield on the back of netting eight times in Ligue 1 last term, meaning only Giovanni Sio, with ten, eclipsed the 22-year-old’s tally in Montpellier colours. Mounie had finished 2016-17 as the French club’s top scorer with 14 goals.
Town’s then record signing –Terence Kongolo assumed that mantle this summer following his £16m move from Monaco – found goals harder to come by in England with his 28 league appearances yielding seven.
But Mounie insists that first year with Huddersfield will stand him in good stead once the new season gets under way tomorrow with the visit of Chelsea.
“I had time over the summer to think about the season,” said the striker ahead of tomorrow’s opening-day clash.
“The main thing in my mind was that we had stayed up. That is all that mattered.
“But, of course, I took a lot of experience from my first year in England. I learned a lot. I will keep those in my mind and it can help me this season.
“I had to adapt to a new style of championship. I was from Ligue 1 and this was new, and a new country.
“Early on I learned how to live in England and play in this league. I had to adapt quickly, but now I can use those lessons to help me in the new season.”
Town analysis: Page 22.