Huddersfield Town v Stoke City - Danny Cowley seeks characters to ‘achieve wonderful things’

SHORT days, miserable weather and post-Christmas blues.

Hudersfield Town's Juninho Bacuna: Scored against Stoke City.

By common consent, January can be the harshest month.

Yet for Huddersfield Town manager Danny Cowley, the scenario could not be further from the truth.

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A challenging, intense, workaholic time? Of that, there is no doubt. But it is a month laden with opportunity in his eyes.

It is a month that you sense he has been ticking off the days to arrive since hurtling through the doors at the John Smith’s Stadium like a whirlwind of energy in September.

It is a time when he can finally start to formulate a squad in his own image, even if he faces a fair bit of competition in his attempts to convince his targets to sign up to his Terriers revolution.

One thing Cowley does not lack in his sales pitch is conviction.

The Town chief said: “Like when Nicky and I walked through the door, we want people who get really excited about this football club and what it can achieve.

“We want people who share those beliefs and if we find them, we know straight away we will have connection and alignment.

“If you have that with people, you can normally achieve some wonderful things.

“We are working every single minute of every day to convince people that this is a really good place to play your football

“We need a little bit of experience and energy and enthusiasm, but above all, we need people who care and who really want to play for this football club.

“We know exactly what we need in terms of positions and playing characteristics and personalties.

“What is the biggest challenge for us at Huddersfield Town is we are a team who are fighting near the bottom end of the division and with a lot of loan players, there are queues.

“We are working very hard to build relationships behind the scenes with clubs, players and agents to try and convince them that we are working towards something here.”

Like at most Championship clubs grappling with financial realities, budgetary issues will have to be adhered to.

Alongside new arrivals, players will leave this month. Isaac Mbenza, Reece Brown and Herbert Bockhorn have already been told that they can go, with the club also likely to make renewed moves to offload the likes of Terence Kongolo and Adama Diakhaby, among others.

It will take some adept work from Cowley to get his squad to where he wants it to be by the end of the month, but it is a challenge he will embrace and meet head-on.

His pursuit of success on this count will be relentless.

He said: “The budget is bigger than what we would like it to be, so there is some work to be done.

“We want sustained success here. While we would all like to be frivolous and spend, it is about having a long-term plan. The short-term plan is to get 50 points and try and sustain our position in this division and then it’s about being a top-10 club.

“Once we can achieve that, we can think bigger.”

Alongside the work behind the scenes, there are some significant football games to play, starting with this afternoon’s encounter with fourth-from-bottom Stoke, seven points and two places below Town.

It was back in the Potteries on October 1 where Cowley had lift-off after Huddersfield secured a cherished first success in 20 league matches since February 26, thanks to Juninho Bacuna’s late goal.

The game was ugly, but the outcome was a beautiful one for Town. With the stakes again high today at the start of a new month, new year and new decade, Cowley would probably take a re-run.

Cowley, who watched Town come from behind to win a match for the first time in 989 days in Sunday’s victory over Blackburn, commented: “I like it because we won 1-0, three points and a clean sheet. But it was scrappy.

“But sometimes, games are like that and it was our first win of the season and we had not won for a long time.

“Sometimes, you have to find a way. It was not for the faint-hearted or the football connoisseur.

Cowley is hopeful that midfielder Jonathan Hogg, who he regularly describes as his ‘warrior’, will return for today’s game against a Stoke side who remain the envy of many in the division.

It is nothing to do with their league status, but everything to do with the squad strength at the disposal of Michael O’Neill.

Cowley said: “They have a playing squad with an unbelievable depth and quality and I am not quite sure why they are where they are. But I suppose this is why we all love football.

“Nicky and I went to watch them against Middlesbrough and I thought they were much better organised without the ball and Michael has stripped it back.”

Last six games: Huddersfield LWDWLW; Stoke LWDLWL.

Referee: J Linington (Isle of Wight).

Last time: Huddersfield 1 Stoke 1, December 26, 2017; Premier League.