CONFIDENCE makes such a big difference in sport. Middlesbrough are badly missing it and for much of 2019 so were Huddersfield Town until a new manager and four matches unbeaten changed the mood in West Yorkshire.
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Danny Cowley’s Terriers are top of October’s Championship form table and Boro bottom, struggling to adapt to a new way of playing under Jonathan Woodgate. They meet at the John Smith’s Stadium tonight.
To hear Cowley talking about working on Jaden Brown’s throw-ins shows the former Lincoln City chief’s attention to detail but there is no doubting the effect his sheer positivity has had on a side which meekly slid out of last season’s Premier League.
“I just believe in seeing the best in people and in situations,” he explained. “I’d certainly much rather live my life that way. It’s a much more enjoyable way.
“We’ve just seen it as a brilliant challenge.
“We felt the temperature when we first arrived and we tried to help people and help the situation and as a consequence of that everyone’s helping each other. We’ve got a brilliant staff that work incredibly hard to serve the players and give them the best chance of being successful. I remind myself and everybody around me how lucky we are to be doing something we love every single day and people are crazy enough to pay us to do it, which is very nice. There will be a lot of people who would love to be in our position.
“I’ve got two young children and when my wife goes out, that’s work!
“We’re loving getting to know the players and the staff. We know how tough this journey is that we’re on but the very best things in life normally come from tough journeys. We’re certainly enjoying the process.”
Last month Cowley inherited a team which had only won once since November, but the mood has changed entirely. Having only won twice under Woodgate this season, Boro can take heart from the Terriers’ turnaround and unlike their hosts tonight they sit the right side of the relegation zone.
“We found a group of people who were climbing the mountain each week, nearly got to the top and then fell down,” said Cowley. “There’s only so many times you can do that without getting frustrated.
“The period the club has endured had definitely taken its toll, there’s no hiding place, but you learn a lot about yourself in adversity and if you can come through them you can be much stronger individually and much tougher collectively. We’re not through it yet, we’ve still got a lot of work to do to get through it but we can see a bit of light and we’re hanging onto it. We’re going to keep fighting every day to hopefully see a bit more of it.”
Like Cowley, Woodgate sees hard work as the route out of Boro’s malaise. He was encouraged by the performance at home to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, even if the Championship leaders prevailed 1-0.
“We were in (training on) Sunday and all the boys trained hard and if we perform and play like that (Saturday), we will win games in this league,” the former Leeds United centre-back asserted.
“I want the games to come as quick as possible and Huddersfield are in a similar position to us. It is a big game, like every other game. We want to win the game.
“Since the new manager has come in, he has done really well with them. They are four unbeaten and play some good football. I watched them against Blackburn at the weekend and they played good and he is doing well for them.
“They play out from the back and are expansive and have got three quick front players. It will be a good test for us.
“We always fill our away allocation and their place is rocking. I also watched them live against Sheffield Wednesday in Danny Cowley’s first home game and it was rammed.
“We are trying to get that next win and it is important we get that as quick as possible.”
Last six matches: Huddersfield LLDWWD, Middlesbrough WLLDLL
Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland)
Last meeting: Huddersfield 0 Leeds United 2, November 28, 2015