Huddersfield Town could have line-up to hit all the right notes again

Huddersfield Town, under head coach David Wagner, defied expectations that they would slip quietly back into the Championship last season (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire).
Huddersfield Town, under head coach David Wagner, defied expectations that they would slip quietly back into the Championship last season (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire).
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HUDDERSFIELD TOWN are about to tackle a conundrum that music bands have been tussling with for decades.

Namely how do you follow a hugely impressive debut with another stellar offering that will not only justify all the hype, but also keep you at the very top.

The ‘curse of the second album’, as it is known in musical circles has struck many bands down the years. For every Nevermind by Nirvana, surely as good a follow-up to a decent first offering as you’ll find, there is the Second Comin’ by The Stone Roses.

Far from the worst LP to sit on a turntable, admittedly, but still a huge letdown considering the majesty of what had gone before on the Manchester band’s eponymous debut.

As the Roses proved, and no doubt countless football clubs will testify, the hardest part is not necessarily reaching the top, it is staying there.

Head coach David Wagner’s task, therefore, is to ensure Huddersfield do not go the way of Hull City, who twice in the past decade have been relegated at the end of a second year in the Premier League.

The German has certainly been busy. Isaac Mbenza, a Belgium Under-21s international, yesterday became the ninth arrival of the summer just a few minutes before the transfer window slammed shut.

For the second consecutive close season Huddersfield have spent around £40m.

Not so long ago such a sum was not far short of four times the club’s entire annual turnover. But promotion – and the riches that come with a place at the top table of English football – have transformed the landscape at the John Smith’s Stadium to such an extent that snapping up a World Cup winner with Erik Durm’s pedigree is no longer front-page news.

Nor is splashing £16m on Terence Kongolo, who in the process of making last season’s loan stay permanent became the club’s fourth record signing inside 12 months.

Kongolo followed the example of Jonas Lossl and Florent Hadergjonaj, who had earlier committed their futures to Town after impressing on loan in 2017-18.

All three, as it stands, warrant a place in Town’s first-choice XI, though the form in pre-season of Ben Hamer, a free transfer arrival from Leicester City, suggests Lossl may yet have a big battle on his hands to remain first-choice goalkeeper.

Wagner was understandably delighted to retain the trio, not least because they arrived back for pre-season already fully up to speed with the methods of the German head coach.

“Having only a few new faces is very different to our last two pre-seasons,” said the Terriers’ chief to The Yorkshire Post.

“Then we had 12, 13, 14 new players each time. But now it is easier to bring things together because many of the squad were already used to what we think and what we have to do.”

The flipside to all this spending on new faces, of course, is that others have had to leave.

Michael Hefele, a hugely popular figure at the John Smith’s Stadium, yesterday became the latest high-profile departure when joining Nottingham Forest in a £500,000 deal.

His loss will be keenly felt by supporters and team-mates alike. Those of us in the media were also sad to see the affable defender go.

Hefele could always be guaranteed to be a fun interviewee. He also had a lovely turn of phrase, a personal favourite being the explanation as to why he had mimed firing a bow and arrow after successfully dispatching a penalty in the play-off semi-final shoot-out victory over Sheffield Wednesday.

“Robin Hood takes from the rich and gives to the poor,” he said with his trademark beaming smile.

“When you see Sheffield (Wednesday) they are a huge club. Compared to them, we are small.”

Others to leave included Scott Malone and Tom Ince, the latter in a club record £10m deal. Both played their part last season not least Ince with a winner against Watford that surely means he will not have to buy a drink on any future visits to Kirklees.

But if Huddersfield’s amazing progress of the past two years was to be maintained in the upcoming season then Wagner simply had to upgrade.

Durm, if he can stay fit, certainly fulfils that requirement at left-back, while Ramadan Sobhi, Adama Diakhaby and Mbenza all arrive with bags of potential.

Of those Ramadan has looked the most threatening in pre-season and Stoke City’s loss could prove to be very much Huddersfield’s gain as the Yorkshire club look to improve on last season’s goals tally of just 28.

Of course the proof as to whether Wagner has got it right on the recruitment front will be revealed in the coming weeks and months.

But, judging by how quickly the new faces have settled in and the increased attacking threat that Town possessed the longer pre-season wore on, this so-called difficult second season for the Terriers may well prove to be nothing of the sort.