HUDDERSFIELD TOWN’S quest to become Championship pass-masters was never going to be a successful overnight conversion as Ollie Norwood acknowledges.
But a little bit more patience and understanding from some Town supporters would go a long way in that mission, according to the ball-playing midfielder.
Town’s blueprint, as opposed to last season’s which was pretty much tailored to survival in their first season back in the second tier in 12 years, has three aspects this time around.
Firstly, to stay up, secondly, to consolidate around the middle echelons, and lastly to cultivate a pleasing-on-the-eye passing brand of football which, it is hoped, will permeate all the way down from first-team to academy age groups.
Town have made headway in all of the above areas, but still remain a work in progress, with evolution on the style front particularly taking time.
One or two grumbles have emanated from Terriers supporters of late, mindful of the fact Town head into today’s game with Bolton on the back of a six-match winless sequence.
It should not imperil the short-term aim of survival, but the longer-term one is more to do with artistic merit as Town seek to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Swansea City and Blackpool and show you do not need to compromise footballing principles in the pursuit of Championship success.
Norwood said: “We have changed the way we play and want to play a good brand of football and be exciting to watch.
“Some fans might moan and groan, but at times, we are going to get it wrong. But the majority of times I think we have got it right.
“As a group of players, we are going to make mistakes. That’s why we are playing in the Championship.
“Sometimes the fans’ expectations are a lot higher than they might be for one reason or another, I’m not sure why.
“Next year we will see the same passing style because that’s what the manager and the club wants. At times, it might be frustrating for fans, but they are going to have to get used to the fact that’s the way the club is going.
“Through the divisions, it might have been lump it up to a big targetman and play from there. But the manager here doesn’t want that and we haven’t the players to do that.
“You can count on one hand the games when we haven’t been good enough. Overall, it’s been a good season.
“Personally, I have enjoyed it a lot more this season. We’ve played a lot more rather than lumping it up in the air and it’s been enjoyable.”
Points-wise, Norwood is the first to admit that Town expected to be a little more in credit at this stage of the season, with manager Mark Robins’s side actually heading into today’s game with one point fewer than they did after 39 matches last term when they were in the relegation zone on goal difference.
But this time around, Town lie in 16th spot with seven games to go, with the smart money being that four more points and reaching the half-century barrier for the season should ensure Championship football for another year.
Twelve months on from being firmly ensconced in a relegation battle, Town have breathing space with an 11-point buffer over third-from-bottom Barnsley heading into today’s programme – although the Reds do have a game in hand
Norwood said: “Obviously, we are not going to need as many points to stay up as last year, which was a freak year.
“But it would be nice to get past the 50-point mark. It’s below where we expected to be, but we’ll take that now looking at it.
“For something like 75 minutes last season, we were down on the final day. It doesn’t feel like we are going to be in that situation this year, but we’ve got to make sure we get the amount of points so we are not.
“People might say one win, but we said that last year and everyone else kept winning.
“The run we went on was unbelievable and we lost something like two in the last 10. We kept thinking, ‘We’ve got to pull safe’ and everyone stayed with us. This year, with no disrespect to the bottom, there’s a lot less quality than there was last year and it’s a good thing for us as we can cement our place in the division.
“It would have to be a drastic turn of form to go down. With the group of players we’ve got and the way we play, I can’t see it happening this year, to be honest.”
While it has been a season of consolidation for Norwood’s employers, the club which tugged on his heartstrings as a young boy – a comparable outfit in every way to Town – are providing him with daily reminders of what Huddersfield may be able to achieve a few years down the line.
That club is just a short hop over the hills in Burnley, who boast roughly the same level of support as Huddersfield.
It is also the area where Norwood still resides.
The Burnley lad admits he has copped a bit of banter from his family and friends who are all avid Clarets fans and he is likely to suffer more if they achieve promotion, especially when he visits Burnley Cricket Club, immediately behind the David Fishwick Stand at Turf Moor, this summer.
Norwood, who scored against Burnley in Town’s 2-1 win at the John Smith’s Stadium and who scored the winner against today’s opponents Bolton at the Reebok Stadium said: “I’m not envious at all.
“You can see there’s a big togetherness there. If you had looked at their squad at the start of the season, I think most people had them down as one of the favourites to go down.
“But they have stuck to a certain brand of football and their strikers have scored 50 goals between them.
“Fair play to them on the budget they have got, you have got to hold your hands up. If you compare the budgets, ours is probably bigger.
“But we have to look at those teams and strive to be similar and be as good as them.”