“THE season starts now,” was the mantra coming out of Huddersfield Town in the immediate aftermath of last Sunday’s humbling at Manchester City.
Head coach David Wagner led the way by suggesting there would be no lasting damage from losing to the champions and Chelsea, the opening-day clash at the John Smith’s Stadium having gone the way of the London club by a three-goal margin.
Alex Pritchard, however, has a different take on things with the playmaker, instead, believing the Terriers have to take the lessons learned from those opening two losses into today’s clash with Cardiff City.
“Some might look at it in that way and say the season starts now for us,” the 25-year-old told The Yorkshire Post.
“But we have had two games before that and we have to learn from those two games and take that into Cardiff.
“Every professional gets beat in their career. To me it doesn’t matter if you lose 1-0 in the last minute or get beat heavily. You are not happy either way after the game.
“You learn from it and move on by picking yourself up. Manchester City will do that to a lot of teams, both home and away. They are a very, very good team.
“But there are ways you can stop them. Like we did last year (when drawing 0-0). That is what I mean when I say we have to learn from those first two games.
“Chelsea was the same. Against them at home it was a tough game. But we should have got a better result.”
Pritchard is no stranger to adversity in a career that has seen the midfielder suffer two lengthy absences through injury.
You learn from it and move on by picking yourself up. Manchester City will do that to a lot of teams, both home and away. They are a very, very good team.Alex Pritchard
It is also fewer than two years since he was turning out in front of a paltry 457 crowd for Norwich City’s Under-23s in the Checkatrade Trophy as the new signing from Tottenham Hotspur took time to settle at Carrow Road.
Last weekend’s trip to the Etihad Stadium is also far from the only time he has been on the end of a bad result, the Canaries and Pritchard having conceded five times at both Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday during the 2016-17 season.
Both times he bounced back stronger for the experience and the midfielder insists the same will happen to Huddersfield in the wake of that drubbing from Pep Guardiola’s men.
“That defeat is in the past and we have a big game coming up now,” he added. “We need to get the crowd up and get the three points.
“It has been hard to get points on the board especially because of who we played in our first two games. If you get them early, like Bournemouth and Palace, then that is great.
“But we just have to stay collectively strong. We did it last season, we can do it again.”
Pritchard made his debut in 2013 when on loan at Peterborough United from Tottenham and he has since gone on to make more than 150 appearances for a variety of clubs.
His only meeting with a Neil Warnock team, however, came last season and was restricted to eight minutes from the bench as Norwich lost 3-1 in south Wales.
Despite that he knows what to expect today when the Bluebirds manager returns to the club where he was in charge for two years until 1995.
“Their manager is someone I have heard on the pitch,” said Pritchard. “He is a great character.
“Cardiff are strong, direct and in your face, but they are in the Premier League for a reason and have quality players.
“Don’t let this make you think, ‘We should be beating a team like Cardiff’. No way.
“We watched their game against Newcastle (last Saturday) when the ball was on the floor and they have quality.
“I played with Josh Murphy at Norwich and you have got to be careful because he is so quick.
“Joe Ralls, Junior Hoilett and Kenneth Zohore up front also have quality.
“They are not going to just roll over, so we need to pull our socks up and work hard.
“They are difficult to break down and are not going to give you any time on the ball, so we just need to keep possession.
“What we have to do is match their aggression. As soon as the game kicks off that has to be the case or otherwise it is going to be a long afternoon.”
With Chelsea and City out of the way, Wagner is expected to unleash the attacking reinforcements he brought in during the summer.
Adama Diakhaby and Ramadan Sobhi are both pushing for a first start after Town stuck largely with last season’s personnel in those first two fixtures.
Pritchard made the No 10 role his own after joining from Norwich City last January and there were signs during pre-season that Diakhaby, Sobhi and Isaac Mbenza could bring a much-needed extra dimension to an attack that managed just 28 league goals in 2017-18, the joint lowest tally in the Premier League along with relegated Swansea City.
“I hope we can give a good account of ourselves and play our football,” he added. “There is pace and creativity in this team.
“But Cardiff don’t want to play like that, so we will have to see how it goes. Set-pieces could be key against Cardiff – not conceding them and then, when we get one, making sure it counts.
“It is going to be difficult. It is really hard getting beaten 3-0 and then losing 6-1 to City.
“But you have to learn from it and you can’t be down.”