AFTER a week that has seen the ‘Beast from the East’ wreak havoc across the country, Huddersfield Town must today try to weather the intense storm that can be Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men, as the Terriers know only to well having been blown away inside the first quarter of September’s meeting at the John Smith’s Stadium, are one of the most potentially devastating sides in Europe right now.
The manager has played a big part in giving me beliefFlorent Hadergjonaj
Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal have all been swept aside under the Arch this season by Harry Kane, Dele Alli and co in a manner that has thrilled neutrals everywhere.
Huddersfield, judging by the bookmakers pricing an away win as high as 20-1, are expected to suffer a similar fate to much of the UK in recent days when battered by a weather front that originated from the frozen plains of Siberia.
But, just as this week’s snow and ice has not been a problem for someone brought up amid sub-zero temperatures in Switzerland, Town right-back Florent Hadergjonaj is equally unfazed by tackling arguably the second most exciting side in the Premier League behind Manchester City.
“This is a big game against a big opponent,” said the 23-year-old, on loan from German second tier outfit FC Ingolstadt 04, ahead of the Terriers’ first return to the national stadium since winning promotion in last May’s Championship play-offs final.
“A lot of the players here have a very good feeling about Wembley. They got promoted the last time they played there. They have a good, good feeling and a reason to feel confident. They have good vibes from Wembley.
“For me, this is a new experience, a new stadium, a big stadium, and I am really looking forward to this game. It excites me, for sure.
“Also, we are playing against Tottenham, who are a strong team. They have very good offensive players but other teams also have very good offensive players.
“We have to work as a team. We have our game-plan from the manager. We try to follow this plan and then we will see after the game how it looks.
“There is a belief we can take points (from the top six). We have shown against Manchester United that we can get something out of these games. Against other big teams, we have played well but we got nothing.
“But now we have had a very good period. We are confident. We played very well in the past three games, and we will give our best.”
Haregjonaj arrived in England late last August as something of an unkown quantity. David Wagner had moved for the Swiss international only after long-time target Andy Yiadom, the Barnsley right-back, had failed a medical to scupper hopes of a £2.5m switch.
As with all new signings, Hadergjonaj was then put through a fitness programme designed to cope with the intense demands that Wagner makes of his players. It meant he had to be patient, the loanee’s first league start not coming until mid-November.
Town’s 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth against 10 men was not then the best way to make a big impression but, more than three months on, Haregjonaj has gone a long way to establishing himself as the club’s first choice right-back ahead of club captain Tommy Smith.
His forays down the right flank have become a feature of Huddersfield’s play, while his defending has come on leaps and bounds in recent weeks.
“The manager has played a big part in giving me belief,” added Hadergjonaj. “He has helped me to go a step forward to do things better.
“Two months ago, maybe my defensive work had to be better. Now it works a little bit more, because I speak a lot with the manager and he helps me.”
Hadergjonaj’s performances in the Premier League may yet book him a ticket to this summer’s World Cup. The defender, who was also eligible for Kosovo through his parents, has one cap for Switzerland to his name, from a friendly against Belarus last June.
“It is too early to speak about this,” he replies when asked about the chances of, first, forcing his way into the 23-man squad and then facing Brazil in the group opener on June 17.
“I am focused on my games with Huddersfield, and then the coach of the Swiss national team has his own ideas. For me, it is important that I play my games here, that I feel confident, and then what comes, we will see.”
Hadergjonaj was born in Langnau, which sits 16 miles east of the Swiss capital Bern. He readily admits the town’s sporting love is ice hockey and not football, which provides a clue as to why the loanee was left slightly bemused by the chaos caused by this week’s Arctic blast.
“For me, the snow is not something new,” he added. “For me, it is not a big problem. I have seen it every year in Germany or in Switzerland, and this is nothing new for me.
“I am used to this weather. Maybe I brought it here with me from Switzerland. I live in Leeds, and I heard that in the past two years it has not snowed in Leeds at all. So, maybe it is my fault.
“I like to see a snowy England. In Switzerland, it is maybe the same. Or it is even colder than here. I hear from my parents that it is maybe minus 15 degrees at the moment.
“Here it is not like this. It is not easy to train but we try our best. And, to me, this is normal. We are football players. This is our job, to train to prepare for our games.
“It doesn’t matter what the weather, whether it is 30 degrees or minus 10 degrees, we have to play. I think it is not a big problem for us.”
With such a hardy attitude, tackling Kane, Alli et al under the Wembley Arch should not be a problem.