HEAD COACH David Wagner believes Huddersfield Town are ready to capitalise fully on preserving their Premier League status.
The Terriers brought the curtain down on their season with a 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal in what was Arsene Wenger’s final game in English football.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted the only goal, but Town held on to 16th place in the final table thanks to Manchester City’s last-gasp victory at Southampton.
Gabriel Jesus’s 94th-minute strike saw the Blues rack up 100 points for the season and, in the process, earn Huddersfield an extra £2m in prize money due to finishing fifth bottom.
This windfall together with the £100m plus that accompanies another year in the Premier League will, Wagner believes, enable the Yorkshire club to build on the foundations that he has helped construct over the past two or so years.
“I think there is no doubt this second season in the Premier League is a very important step for this club and its future,” said the German.
“It is an unbelievable achievement. We cannot describe how impossible this challenge looked, but the players delivered. They did that consistently.
“We were only in the bottom three once and, for me, it is the special thing when I think about the future that we were consistently out of the bottom three.”
Wagner will sit down with chairman Dean Hoyle later this week to start planning for that second year in the top flight.
“The plan doesn’t change,” he added. “We have had this plan since January; it doesn’t change. I just hope we will be fresh enough after the celebrations.”
Last night’s party was well deserved, Town having defied the odds to stay in the Premier League.
Also fully deserved yesterday was the respect that Wenger was afforded on his 1,235th and final game as Arsenal manager.
Widely credited with changing English football forever following his arrival in the autumn of 1996, the 68-year-old was lauded by a capacity crowd.
Given a guard of honour on to the field by both teams, Wenger was also presented with a framed shirt – half in Town colours, half in those of Arsenal – by Wagner.
We were only in the bottom three once and, for me, it is the special thing when I think about the future that we were consistently out of the bottom three.David Wagner
“It has been a really special day,” he added. “Maybe I should have announced it every week that I will retire, because people have been so nice since I said that.
“I would like to thank both the people here at Huddersfield and our fans. The Huddersfield people showed a lot of class. It was a great day, a happy day in which they were celebrating staying in the Premier League and the fact it was my last game after 1,235 games.
“I came to Huddersfield in pre-season many, many years ago to play a game in pre-season (to celebrate Town’s centenary). They had financial problems.
“So, I knew this place already and, at the time, I was happy to come for that pre-season game. Since then they have come up to the Premier League.
”Huddersfield gave me a nice present. Herbert Chapman came from Huddersfield (to Arsenal in 1925). So, for me to come here on my last day was a special meaning when you know the history of our club.
“Also, Chapman smiled at me (before the game), as he was on the photo just outside the dressing room.”
Wagner was pleased by the reception afforded his Arsenal counterpart. “It was special for him and it was an honour for us to be the club which was part of his last Premier League game after 22 years,” added the German.
“We are very happy to be part of it. He is a living legend of football. As a manager what he has done speaks for itself.”
As for the final-day defeat that came after his players had enjoyed plenty of celebrations during the week in the wake of Premier League safety being assured, Wagner added: “Performance-wise we played well.
“We showed everything the Terriers identity is all about. We created chances, but were not clinical, that is why we lost.
“To be honest, if I am ever able to accept a defeat then it is in these circumstances. The job was done on Wednesday, but we weren’t on the beach. The players tried and we played decent football.”
Yesterday also saw Dean Whitehead end his playing career with a late cameo from the bench.
“I was very happy to give Dean some Premier League minutes,” added Wagner, who welcomes the veteran midfielder on to his coaching staff next season. “A good British pro, who leaves everything on the grass.”