MIDFIELDER Philip Billing admits Huddersfield Town’s Premier League struggles have proved to be such a drain mentally that he may be forced to miss this summer’s UEFA European Under-21 Championships.
Billing has been involved in all but four of the club’s 29 league games this season, making him joint third in the list of appearances behind ever-present Christopher Schindler and goalkeeper Jonas Lossl.
It means Billing has endured plenty of tough times amid the travails suffered by Yorkshire’s sole representative in the top flight.
“This has been a long, long season with a lot of downs,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “We are hurting. This is our job and we want to get the points and the wins.
“But we are human beings. We make mistakes and we have bad weeks or months or days. That is football.”
Billing’s domestic duties have been combined with helping Denmark’s Under-21s qualify for this summer’s finals in Italy and San Marino.
He played in seven of the 10 group games and scored the all-important goal last October as the Danes drew 1-1 at home to runners-up Poland.
Asked about the upcoming Championships that will bring group games against holders Germany, Serbia and Austria in mid to late June, Billing replied: “I have played a lot of games this season. Personally I am not a big fan of going away in the summer to play if I know my own body.
“This has been my first long season. Mentally it is hard. Every weekend you lose. Then you come to the summer and just want to get away from football.
“I will feel it at the time and see, mentally, if I am there or if I need a break.”
Billing’s mental fatigue is understandable. This has been a breakthrough season for the midfielder, who made just eight league starts last term and 13 when Town won promotion to the Premier League in 2016-17.
Throw in the rotten time Huddersfield are enduring – they have lost 21 times already and scored just 15 goals – and any player would surely feel flattened by the experience.
Today, though, offers the chance of respite at home to Bournemouth.
The 2-1 loss at Dean Court in early December was typical of many suffered by Huddersfield this term in that they played well for long periods, but could not capitalise on promising approach play against a home side who were mightily relieved to hear the final whistle.
Town’s tally of goals speaks for itself. It is the lowest of any club in Europe’s top five leagues, both FC Nuremberg in the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 outfit Guingamp having netted 18 apiece from 24 and 27 games respectively.
This has led to many critics decrying the efforts of Steve Mounie and Laurent Depoitre, the two strikers who have just two goals between them all season.
Billing, however, has leapt to the defence of his team-mates and insisted any blame has to be shared around.
“I have seen a lot about how our strikers have not scored enough,” said the 22-year-old, who has netted twice this term in the Premier League.
“But it is not the easiest to be a striker in our team. We have not always had the pace up there. It has been hard for them and they have not had the best service, which makes it hard in this league.
“It is not only the strikers who have to score the goals. Look at Manchester City. They obviously have Sergio Aguero, but everyone in that team, even the defenders, score goals.
“That is what you have to be like. You can’t just put it all on the strikers to score the goals. You all have to bring something to the table and that is what we have not done enough.”
Asked if that meant everyone at the John Smith’s Stadium had failed this term Billing replied: “Yes, I would say so. Everyone has failed.
“I have scored two and have been unlucky not to score quite a few more as I have hit the bar and the post.
“But I need to get into those areas where I can score goals and help the team. So it is not only me and the strikers, it is the whole team.
“We can’t just put it all on the strikers and say it is their job. That is not fair. We have to be a team, defend as a team and score as a team.”
A few weeks ago within these pages Jonathan Hogg likened suffering Town’s run of defeats since the start of December to being a boxer who “gets battered every time”. Billing appreciates his team-mate’s sentiments.
“When you are in this kind of situation,” he added, “and a team scores against us it feels like everyone gives up and that we are going to lose the game.
“It is like ‘Hoggy’ said where you are taking punches. You concede a goal because you make a little mistake and then you are chasing the game.
“But you are not really being creative and then suddenly you hear the final whistle and you have lost another game. It is hard. It is the same every weekend.”
Town sit 13 points adrift of safety with nine games to play. It seems a hopeless situation, even at the end of a week that brought two remarkable comebacks in the Champions League as Ajax and Manchester United reached the quarter-finals.
“There is always hope,” added Billing when asked about those dramatic exits for Real Madrid and Paris St German respectively. “We have seen miracles happen before. We saw it last season with us when we stayed up.
“What we have to do, as a team, is enjoy the last nine games. Who knows? This might be the last nine Premier League games. We have to try and end on a high with a few wins whatever happens.”