JUST one stop along the train line from Huddersfield Town’s training base in Austria can be found the imposing Hahnenkamm mountain.
Here arguably the most famous and feared race in men’s World Cup alpine skiing takes place every year with those who tame the ‘Streif’ and its jaw-dropping 85 per cent gradient assured legendary status in the sport.
The Terriers, of course, know all about negotiating a potentially brutal course after manager David Wagner magnificently steered his men to safety in last season’s Premier League.
As with those who triumph each winter amid the rarefied air of the mountain that towers over the town of Kitzbuhel, the German head coach and his players deserved all the plaudits thrown their way last May. That, though, was then.
Football, and particularly the English top flight, is an unforgiving place and last season’s success in finishing above the drop zone will count for little.
Town may start the new campaign slightly more fancied by the bookies than a year ago, but this is far from a ringing endorsement from the odds-makers, who are tipping Yorkshire’s sole representative to finish 19th this time around as opposed to 20th.
Not that Huddersfield care much about being written off. Upsetting the odds is what the club do and this time of year is all about getting in the sort of shape that allows a bloody nose or two to be inflicted on the Premier League big boys.
As with his previous two summers at the helm, Wagner insisted pre-season this year should culminate in a week-long trip to the picturesque Tyrol region of Austria and a couple of friendlies.
The first of those came last night against Bologna, a last-gasp winner from Steve Mounie edging an enjoyable contest 2-1.
Around 200 fans followed their side from Yorkshire and were treated to something of a home from home.
Upsetting the odds is what the club do and this time of year is all about getting in the sort of shape that allows a bloody nose or two to be inflicted on the Premier League big boys.Richard Sutcliffe
Not only was the beer on tap in the clubhouse and pre-match bratwurst plentiful, but the home ground of Austrian fifth tier side SV Brixen im Thale was decked out in Town’s colours.
The six feet boards that covered three sides of the stadium also bore plenty of Wagner’s buzzwords, including his famed ‘No Limits’.
‘Part of the Huddersfield Town DNA is to try it’ was another and Florent Hadergjonaj, on his 24th birthday, took the message to heart with a lovely turn inside the Bologna area that brought an inevitable foul and penalty. Aaron Mooy did the honours from the spot to give Town a half-time lead that was thoroughly deserved.
Diego Falcinelli levelled during an opening 15 minutes to the second half that saw the Terriers struggle.
The baking sunshine that had seen the funeral of a popular local in Brixen the previous day shifted to the evening for the benefit of around 200 mourners made life difficult for the players.
Kick-off had come with the temperature gauge still showing 31 degrees celsius, but Town stuck to their task admirably and the winner duly came in stoppage-time when Mounie headed in a Chris Lowe free-kick.
Such resolve will be vital in the challenges that lay ahead. Unlike those alpine skiers who think nothing of throwing themselves down Hahnenkamm at amazing speeds, Town taking a tumble does not necessarily kill off any chances of being successful.
How they respond, however, to those slips will decide their Premier League fate. On the evidence of a pre-season that also includes last week’s victory over Champions Leaguer qualifiers Lyon it promises to be another thrilling ride.