IN terms of league position, little has changed for Huddersfield Town since Sean Scannell first walked through the door almost four years ago.
The Terriers head to Leeds United today sitting 18th in the Championship table, just one place higher than where the club finished at the end of Scannell’s first season at the John Smith’s Stadium in 2012-13.
Throw in the 17th and 16th place finishes in the two intervening seasons and Town have been a model of lower mid-table consistency despite getting through managers at such a rate that Scannell, the club’s longest serving first-team player by a couple of days over Joel Lynch, is currently working under his fourth in as many years.
Such a record hardly smacks of excitement laying just around the corner but ask the 25-year-old about Town’s prospects and he positively beams.
“Every year since I signed, we have taken small steps forward and that is important for a club,” Scannell told The Yorkshire Post at the club’s Canalside training complex ahead of today’s derby encounter with Leeds United.
“But now I really think things are moving. Everything feels different now. We have the new manager (David Wagner), our style of play has been transformed and the fans are really getting on board.
“No-one expected Huddersfield Town to get a manager like this and to be playing like we do. It is great.
“There is a buzz around the place, even though our league position is similar to what it has been since I came to the club.
“To me, it feels like we are really pushing on – and going somewhere. I don’t think people thought that before. Instead, they would see us as a team that just wanted to stay in the Championship.
“Now, though, this manager is not here to just stay in the division and be happy with that. He wants us to push on and be like Sheffield Wednesday, a team that have really come on this year.
“Or like a Bournemouth, who came up but then just kept going. It is possible to do that but you need the right manager and players. As times goes on, that is what we are going to have.”
Scannell’s optimism for the future is shared by the club’s supporters, certainly if the past week is anything to go by.
Dean Hoyle’s decision to slash season ticket prices to £179 has sparked such a clamour that the first fan started to queue at the John Smith’s Stadium on Thursday at 4.15am. Thousands have since been sold to underline how the town is getting behind what club officials have dubbed the ‘Wagner Revolution’.
“The way the manager has got us playing is great,” said Scannell about how things have changed since Wagner succeeded Chris Powell in early November and imported the gegenpressing system from Germany to West Yorkshire.
“I had eight weeks out injured recently so watched a lot of the team from the stand,” said the Londoner, who joined Town from Crystal Palace just a month or so after Simon Grayson had steered the club to promotion from League One.
“It was like being a fan again and I really enjoyed it. At times, we were a joy to watch because of the way we play.
“Speaking as a fan for those few weeks, I really got to like this team! We have players who can come on and make something happen. Exciting times for everyone.”
Town’s transformation under Wagner has brought much praise, not least from opposition players and management. Just a fortnight ago, for instance, Derby County manager Darren Wassall hailed Huddersfield’s approach.
What is needed now, however, to go with those plaudits are points. The Terriers, who have won eight of 21 league games under Wagner, still have work to do to keep the rejuvenated relegation pack at bay.
Ending a four-game losing run against Leeds today would be a good start in that respect and Scannell admits to eagerly looking forward to the all-Yorkshire encounter.
“We probably owe Leeds,” said the 2014-15 ‘Player of the Season’ at Huddersfield. “I didn’t play in the home game (that Leeds won 3-0) this season. But losing twice last season was disappointing.
“The home game was when Tommy (Smith) got helicoptered out of the stadium. That was a bad day. Thankfully, he was okay. But we were all gutted to lose that one, especially as it was so late (when Billy Sharp netted the winner).
“This time, Leeds will see a completely different team than the previous times. I know Leeds have done well in their last couple of games but we can go there and win.
“Everyone loves derby games. I grew up a Palace fan and the big derby was Brighton. I was never quite sure why, as the two places are miles apart. Millwall was always a big one, too.
“What makes derby games special for fans is just how much they mean. I have been a Palace fan but not one totally wrapped up in the club, like a lot of fans are. I envy them a bit because it all means so much.
“Derby day turns them into a completely different person. I think that is brilliant. It is nuts to see them go mental when we score or win a derby. I always remember the 3-2 win against Leeds when I set up Jon Stead to score the winner. That was a mental day.
“The fans went crazy when that goal went in, right down to the little kids on the side. It meant so much. I have scored against Leeds in my career for Palace but never Huddersfield. It would be great to put that right and give the fans another win.”