‘LITTLE GERMANY’, located in the city centre of Bradford, may be one of the gems in Yorkshire’s architectural crown but it is 10 or so miles away where perhaps the true modern-day enclave of mainland Europe’s unofficial capital can be found.
Huddersfield is where this latest bout of Germanification can be found. However, where Bradford has the vision of its Victorian leaders and the money of German wool merchants to thank for the grand warehouses and imposing office buildings that can be found in the old trading heart of the city, it is German football that is firing minds across West Yorkshire.
The appointment of David Wagner as head coach by the Terriers started the process in November. His first act was import the gegenpressing system that had become so familiar to football fans in his home country when Borussia Dortmund were managed by Wagner’s good friend, Jurgen Klopp.
This new approach dove-tailed neatly with the supporter-led initiative of the previous summer that had seen an attempt at creating a European-style atmosphere – complete with giant flags, banners and even a drum – in the South Stand at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Now, with this on-field pressing system starting to pay dividends in terms of not only results but also performances, Huddersfield have once again looked to Germany for inspiration by adopting that country’s initiative of affordable football for all courtesy of a cut-price season ticket deal.
Adult supporters will be able to watch Town during 2016-17 for just £179, while kids will pay between £1 and £3 per game depending on their age. It is the brain-child of chairman – and lifelong fan – Dean Hoyle, who has opted to use the expected increased solidarity payment from the Premier League of around £2m per club to try and bolster attendances.
For Wagner, Town’s commitment to offering Championship football at a price fans of rivals clubs can only dream about is one to be applauded.
Having cut his coaching teeth on Klopp’s staff at Dortmund, he knows the vital role the ‘Yellow Wall’ – as the bank of fans at one end of the Westfalenstadion is famously known – has played in swaying vital games.
Wagner is hoping his side can similarly benefit next season if, as is hoped, supporters respond to the cut-price deal in such numbers that Town will be playing in front of a packed house most weeks.
“I am glad that our chairman had this plan to use the extra money from the new TV deal,” said the 44-year-old to The Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s home clash with Ipswich Town. “It means that money goes straight back to our supporters. That is right.
“Every player and manager loves to have a home crowd that is nearly full. The crowd is so important, especially at home. In key moments, they can influence the game in the right direction. Including some decisions that happen in a game.
“A big home crowd is very important and this is a positive sign. I hope everyone will sign up as soon as possible.”
The cut-price season tickets will be on sale from March 17. An initial limit of 10,000 being available at the new reduced prices has been set, after which club officials will decide whether to call a halt or extend the scheme. This season, Town have around 8,000 season ticket holders.
Judging by the response to yesterday’s announcement, however, it is likely that the five-figure target will be meet sooner rather than later. No wonder, with the ‘Price of Football’ survey that was released last October revealing that only Bradford City fans have this season benefited from a cheaper season ticket price than what it will cost to watch Huddersfield in 2016-17.
“I am very happy with our support,” added Wagner when asked about his memories of Dortmund’s famous South Stand. “But I would like it if all our supporters were behind one goal, everyone tight and close together.
“Hopefully, there will be a point in the future where we don’t have to think about how many away fans will be here. And that it (the John Smith’s South Stand) is a Huddersfield stand.
“Instead, the away fans have to find a place in our stadium. Sometimes, it can help away teams in they attack their supporters.
“In Dortmund, where we have the big wall behind the goal, it can change the game. A big part of that is the supporters. Hopefully, we can create something similar in Huddersfield.”
As welcome as any cuts in ticket prices are in the modern game, there can be no doubt that the enthusiasm shown by Town fans on social media yesterday was also fuelled by the on-field transformation that Wagner is performing at the Yorkshire club.
Town may have been poor in the first half of Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at Milton Keynes Dons but performances have been encouraging, even when results haven’t always gone their way.
Today will bring another test for Huddersfield as Ipswich Town head to the John Smith’s for a fixture that Wagner expects to be a physical tussle.
“I am expecting a very physical game against Ipswich,” said the German, who plans to bring Dean Whitehead in for the suspended Philip Billing.
“It will be a typical English style match so it will be good to have our two best fighters, our two real terriers, in the team. They are Dean and Jonathan Hogg.
“The key will be for us to be much more aggressive than Ipswich. With the ball, we are able to create chances but our first task is to be as aggressive as they are.”