‘LAST Christmas’ does not, on first listen, seem to be the most natural fit for the football terraces.
Wham’s wistful tale of lost love is, however, already the song of choice for Huddersfield Town supporters this festive season, albeit with one key tweak to the original.
Namely, head coach David Wagner being the “someone special” that George Michael promises his heart to in the Eighties hit.
With good cause, too, as the heights that the 46-year-old keeps pushing the Yorkshire club towards are quite remarkable.
No one expected Town to even challenge for promotion last season, never mind reach the Premier League. But Wagner delivered.
Once among the elite, few expected Huddersfield to hang around for more than a season, but, again, Wagner is well on his way to delivering.
A sixth victory of the season and a points tally already more than halfway to the fabled 40 that invariably guarantees survival suggests Wagner, against all the odds, will keep the West Riding club in the top flight.
No wonder almost 2,300 Yorkshire voices so publicly pledged their love to Wagner at the end of a pulsating clash that saw both captains dismissed and Town banish their away-day woes in the most spectacular of fashions.
The man himself was initially unaware of the tribute afforded him by those adoring supporters. “My English is not so good that I can always understand the songs,” explained Wagner post match.
But after having rather mischievously asked The Yorkshire Post to sing the re-worked chorus of Last Christmas in an interview room deep in the bowels of Vicarage Road and then falling about laughing at the rather tuneless result, Huddersfield’s favourite German admitted to being touched by the sentiment.
Typically he then moved to share the praise with his players and backroom staff – just as he had done at the final whistle by insisting everyone, from kit man to two-goal hero Aaron Mooy, join in the by now familiar victory celebrations with the fans and bask in the adulation.
We do believe in ourselves. Why not? We are on 21 points and that is probably more than you need when halfway through. Get to 38 or 40 points and you won’t be far off.”Huddersfield Town’s Jonathan Hogg
It was a fitting end to a heartening afternoon in which Town’s team ethic and willingness to fight for each other had proved far too much for Watford.
Be it Mooy’s tireless efforts in midfield, Laurent Depoitre’s selfless running up front or the masterful control of Christopher Schindler at the back, the visitors’ dominance was such that the winning margin could easily have been greater.
Collin Quaner, whose performance was on a par with his game-changing introduction from the bench at Sheffield Wednesday in last season’s play-offs, had one effort cleared off the line and then headed wide when it seemed easier to score
Tom Ince also wasted a glorious opportunity to break his own scoring duck late on, and a fine save by Heurelho Gomes in first-half stoppage-time denied Mooy from close range.
It meant Huddersfield had to settle for finding the net ‘just’ four times to shatter what had been a record-equalling seven-game wait for a goal on the road.
The famine ended in rather fortuitous fashion, Quaner being offside during a messy build-up that saw the German and Depoitre have a scuffed touch apiece inside the six-yard box before Elias Kachunga fired in.
But after that slice of luck, Town, so burdened in recent weeks by the barren away run, were reborn.
A second goal followed in the 23rd minute, Quaner again involved with a dart down the right flank and cross that Mooy bundled in at the back post via his thigh.
Watford’s frustration at having become the fall guys for Huddersfield’s away-day revival exploded just after the half hour via an ugly tackle from Troy Deeney that left Quaner in a crumpled heap on the touchline
Reduced to ten men following their captain’s second dismissal of the season, the Hornets fell further behind five minutes into the second half.
Again, the combined harrying and hassling of Mooy and Jonathan Hogg in midfield saw possession claimed.
A couple of passes later and Jose Holebas was able to halt Quaner only for an inexplicably poor attempt at clearing to allow Depoitre to swoop and the Terriers were three goals ahead.
Abdoulaye Doucoure did then give Watford brief hope with a searing shot that followed Hogg’s dismissal for a foul on Richarlison that brought his second yellow card of the afternoon.
But Town would not be denied the final word, Mooy firing in an 89th-minute penalty after Depoitre had tumbled under a challenge from Doucoure.
For Hogg, back on his old stomping ground, the three points far outweighed the negative of his own dismissal.
“The performance was spot on,” said the midfielder, whose last act in a Hornets shirt at Vicarage Road had been the assist for Deeney to score against Leicester City in what was surely the most dramatic ending to a play-off semi-final in history.
“Getting sent off wasn’t ideal. I felt both yellow cards were a bit soft. The same with Troy Deeney’s red card.
“The referee made a mistake and tried to even it up, in my opinion. But getting the three points was what mattered.
“We do believe in ourselves. Why not? We are on 21 points and that is probably more than you need when halfway through. Get to 38 or 40 points and you won’t be far off.”