BURNLEY being midway through their third season in four as a Premier League club is why Huddersfield Town head coach David Wagner, perhaps understandably, believes the Lancashire club are operating on a very different level to his side.
But scratch below the surface a little and the parallels between these two old Roses foes are striking.
Both won the League title in the Twenties, Burnley’s success in 1921 being followed by those three-in-a-row championships that are immortalised to this day on the Terriers’ club badge, and lifted the FA Cup once.
In their heyday both clubs were true innovators thanks to visionaries such as Herbert Chapman and Bob Lord, while even the old Leeds Road and pre-redeveloped Turf Moor could have been related thanks to the presence of the near identical giant covered terrace down one side of either ground.
Having experienced the good times together, Huddersfield and Burnley also suffered similar pain as the once booming mill towns of northern England endured a tough time.
Both sunk as far as the basement division, Town suffering such a fate twice before embarking on a revival that today will bring a first top-flight meeting between them in the West Riding since March, 1971.
A fitting way, therefore, for the Terriers to bring down the curtain on what has been a quite remarkable 12 months.
“It has been a very successful 2017 for all of us who support Huddersfield Town,” said Wagner. “For sure, the Wembley (play-off) final will always be part of this very successful year.
“But before and since this final, there have been so many exciting moments. It is tough to pick one out, but if I had to choose one then it has to be the Wembley final.”
Christopher Schindler netting the decisive penalty under the distinctive Wembley Arch on May 29, 2017, is why Huddersfield have been renewing rivalries with so many of the elite.
Absolutely. After Manchester City and Pep Guardiola, what Sean and Burnley have done this season is outstanding.Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner
Before this season neither Manchester United nor Tottenham Hotspur had met Town in league combat since the year Wagner was born.
Burnley, of course, have been a much more familiar opponent thanks to their tendency to go up and down the divisions in a similarly erratic manner to Huddersfield. Now, though, the Clarets are the very epitome of consistency and an inspiration to clubs everywhere who may have fallen on hard times.
Sean Dyche’s men sit seventh in the table after a quite stunning campaign that has seen points claimed at such imposing venues as Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford, Anfield and Wembley. Perhaps most satisfyingly of all for Clarets supporters, Ewood Park, home of Blackburn Rovers, was also successfully stormed in the Carabao Cup second round.
“I am surprised by how well Burnley have done,” said Wagner when asked about the final visitors of the year to the John Smith’s Stadium.
“Absolutely. After Manchester City and Pep Guardiola, what Sean and Burnley have done this season is outstanding.
“The results speak for themselves. They are very difficult to break down and have conceded the fourth lowest number of goals in the Premier League this season.
“It is an unbelievable achievement. Big credit to him, but that doesn’t change that we want to beat them in this match.”
Asked if he felt comparisons could be drawn between today’s Roses combatants, the 46-year-old German replied: “No, we are on a totally different road to Burnley.
“Maybe the size of the clubs are comparable and the size of the towns, even if Huddersfield is a little bit bigger.
“But Burnley are on a totally different level to us. I would love to have their wage bill. I don’t moan about it, but they have played in the Premier League in three of the last four years. They have to be totally different to us.
“We try to follow as much as we can, step by step. But, at the minute there is a big gap between Burnley and us.”
Huddersfield’s resources may not be able to match those of the Clarets, but their respective records in December are identical with eight points having been claimed from six outings.
For Town, this welcome return has kept the relegation zone at arm’s length with six points separating Wagner’s men in 11th from third-bottom Bournemouth.
Asked if the recent upturn in form had led to a re-evaluation of what points tally will be needed to survive, the Town chief, who had previously told The Yorkshire Post a dozen wins is the target, replied: “I don’t have a points total in mind. This was the case in November, October and September. This does not change.
“We know we have to develop to get further points on the board and this is what we will do,” he added.
“Even if we know we have collected 23 points and deserved every single one of them, there are 18 games to go and we are excited about the next one against Burnley.
“We will have to be at our very best. We played Burnley in the Championship in the season I arrived and then we played them earlier this season (in a goalless draw). We know everything we need to know about Burnley.
“The only area where we are stronger than Burnley is in our home support.
“When we drew in the first leg at Burnley I noticed our home support is the one that makes more noise. We will need that in this game.”