FOUR YEARS ago today, Nahki Wells was preparing for the biggest game of his life.
Bradford City were due to travel to Aston Villa the following night for a League Cup semi-final second leg that offered the very real possibility of the Bermuda international and his team-mates making history.
No team from the basement division had played at Wembley in a major Cup final but the Bantams were already 3-1 ahead and the belief among Phil Parkinson’s side such that it seemed the club’s destiny.
Bradford duly delivered, James Hanson’s second-half goal being enough to book that Wembley date and spark wild celebrations in the away seats at Villa Park.
That euphoria carried on for days but, amid the smiles and back-slapping, there was a nagging suspicion that the season’s main target of promotion, may suffer.
Due to the rigours of that stirring Cup run, City had already slipped to 10th place, By the time the final had seen Swansea City triumph 5-0 under the Wembley Arch a month later, further ground had been surrendered. Bradford’s hopes of escaping the basement at the sixth attempt seemed to be slipping away.
Fast forward to May, however, and not only was Wells back at Wembley for the play-off final but he netted one of Bradford’s three goals as promotion was clinched in emphatic fashion against Northampton Town.
The stakes this season are much higher for the Bermuda international and Huddersfield Town, not least because a place in the Premier League is worth more than £100m to the club. But Wells has a similar feeling about his Terriers team-mates as he had four years ago at Valley Parade.
“There are similar characteristics in this squad to the one that won promotion at Bradford,” said Wells ahead of today’s home clash with Ipswich Town. “This is a very tight-knit squad, there are no clashes of personality or any bad eggs in there.
“It was very similar at Bradford, not the biggest squad but one with a real collective spirit. In the year Bradford won promotion, there was a slight distraction with the Cup run to Wembley.
“But, once we lost in that final, we came together and went on a run that took us all the way to the play-offs. Then, once there, the momentum we had built up got us over the line. This is a period where momentum is everything.
“If we can keep the run going along with the positivity in our play, the points will continue to go on the board.”
Huddersfield’s league standing is certainly much more promising than that of neighbours Bradford four years ago.
David Wagner’s men have spent all but one week of the season in the top six of the Championship and are six points clear of Derby County in seventh place.
Last weekend brought a derby defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, who sit just one place below the Terriers.
But the manner of the performance, certainly in the first half, suggested Town deserved more than making the short trip home empty-handed.
Had Huddersfield been able to take just one of their chances then things could have been very different. Defenders Mark Hudson and Michael Hefele, both utilised as makeshift strikers in the closing stages due to their height, missed excellent chances.
Town’s search for an additional option up front came to an end yesterday when Wagner sealed the capture of 6ft 3ins German striker Collin Quaner, who arrived from Union Berlin on a three-and-a-half-year contract for an undisclosed fee.
“The opportunity to bring a player like him into your squad in the January window is rare – the top scorer for a team pushing for promotion – but Collin made it very clear that he wanted to come to Huddersfield Town,” said Wagner.
“We wanted to use this transfer window, if possible, to find a No 9 with different qualities to the players we already have in the squad and Collin is ideal for this.”
Town’s next three league outings are all at home, today’s visit by Ipswich being followed by huge clashes against Brighton & Hove Albion and Leeds United inside four days early next month, a situation Quaner’s potential new strike partner is happy with.
“It can be a good thing to have all three at home if we keep performing as we have done,” added Wells. “I am pretty sure we are capable of turning over any side at home at the moment.
“But we have to take it one fixture at a time. Facing Ipswich will be just as hard as facing teams in the top six. What is good is we enjoy playing at home. For a big spell of my time here, I enjoyed more playing away from home than being at home.
“That has definitely changed over the last 12-14 months. The crowds have got behind us, there has been a big increase in numbers and sometimes those fans have sucked the ball into the back of the net.
“It has been a big benefit for us this season and now I feel teams don’t want to come to Huddersfield.”