`

Weekend Interview: Laurent Depoitre aims to be the ‘heartbeat’ of Huddersfield Town

Fighting for his place: Huddersfield Town's Laurent Depoitre, right, challenged by Lyon's Lucas Tousart.
Fighting for his place: Huddersfield Town's Laurent Depoitre, right, challenged by Lyon's Lucas Tousart.
0
Have your say

LAURENT DEPOITRE is yet to watch ‘Heartbeat’, the TV show set in the fictional Yorkshire village of Aidensfield.

But the Belgian striker admits maybe that should change in recognition of how Huddersfield Town supporters have reworked the catchy theme tune to a series that ran for 18 years in his honour.

“It is great to have my own song,” the 29-year-old told The Yorkshire Post with a big smile on his face.

“I love hearing it on the pitch and I believe it helps us all. For me, hearing my song in a match always gives me extra motivation. I love it.

“I have been told the song is from a TV programme but I do not know what kind of show. Someone said the police but I don’t know. Maybe, though, I should find time to watch it.”

For those who did not attend any of Town’s fixtures in the Premier League last season, this particular West Riding update to a tune first sung by Buddy Holly 60 years ago is a simple affair.

Crucial strike: Huddersfield Town's Laurent Depoitre celebrates scoring in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Crucial strike: Huddersfield Town's Laurent Depoitre celebrates scoring in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

‘Laurent, Laurent Depoitre, will score a goal for me,’ sing the Town fans before descending into a series of hearty ‘du-du-du-du-du’ that seems born for the football terraces.

This ditty reached a crescendo in May, as his goal at Chelsea in a 1-1 draw proved to be the one that kept Huddersfield in the Premier League.

Following on from netting the winner against Manchester United in October and strikes that earned precious points in tussles with Leicester City, Watford and Southampton, Depoitre’s role in helping keep Town up against all the odds cannot be in doubt.

For the man himself, this telling contribution and the popularity it has brought him in Huddersfield proved a welcome fillip after what had been comfortably the most difficult season of his career in 2016-17.

The Premier League is the most attractive league in the world – and probably one of the most difficult. But we stayed up, just as I always felt we would – even when losing games.

Laurent Depoitre

Depoitre was at Porto, having joined for around £5m following a hugely impressive couple of years with Gent in his native Belgium.

He had won the Pro League title with the Flanders club, the first in their long history, and then scored the goal that had clinched Champions League qualification the following August. Confidence, therefore, was sky-high on arrival in Portugal.

Little, though, went right for Depoitre, who netted just twice in 13 appearances for Porto before being frozen out by the club’s manager, Nuno Espirito Santo, now in charge of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

“The coach did not trust me,” is the striker’s matter-of-fact verdict on a campaign that brought to a shuddering halt a career trajectory that had seen him rise from home-town amateur club RFC Tournai to the national team via winners’ medals in each of Belgium’s top three divisions.

Happily for Depoitre, David Wagner most certainly does trust him. Arriving as Town’s then record signing in a £3.5m deal – a mantle he retained for just a week before Aaron Mooy joined from Manchester City for £8m – Depoitre quickly found his feet.

His first Premier League goal came via a delightful turn that left Harry Maguire, destined to be England’s best defender at the World Cup, trailing and Kasper Schmeichel, another who impressed in Russia, grasping at thin air as the ball arrowed into the Leicester net.

Other aspects of the move to England took a little more time to adapt to, not least the concentration required when driving on the opposite side of the road. Depoitre eventually mastered this unfamiliar art, though perhaps too well with one early return visit home to Belgium seeing the striker set off into oncoming traffic on the left-hand side before quickly realising his error and switching back in the nick of time.

“I love it in England,” says the striker, who made a point of exploring the county in his first year at Huddersfield via visits to places such as York and Harrogate. “And I was very happy with my first season, which was a big thing.

“For me, the Premier League is the most attractive league in the world – and probably one of the most difficult. But we stayed up, just as I always felt we would – even when losing games.

“A big challenge, for sure, but I enjoyed my first year. The team did well and that is always good. It was a big year for me after what happened at Porto.

“That was a really bad year for me. I had never had a year like it in my career. I was really disappointed and when I came to England I wanted to prove I was better than what the people of Porto thought about me.”

The re-worked ‘Heartbeat’ tune that rings out at every Huddersfield game suggests this target has been achieved.

Town’s objective, meanwhile, is the same as this time a year ago. Survival. It will not be easy with the Premier League, if anything, looking stronger this term.

A start that sees today’s game with Chelsea followed by a trip to Manchester City is also daunting, even for a side who famously took a point off both during the final week of 2017-18. Depoitre, however, is relishing these early challenges.

“I am happy with the fixtures,” he said. “Playing the big teams at the start of the season can be a good thing.

“Maybe some players have been at the World Cup. Maybe some are not playing as well as they will after 10 games.

“It can take time for a team. That is why playing a big team at the start of a season can be better than at the end.

“Chelsea is a great fixture. I scored against them at home as well as the away game. So, I would love to play against Chelsea again. But that is the manager’s decision.”

Wagner admitted in Austria last week that who gets the nod up front is one of his biggest headaches. Steve Mounie scored in each of Town’s last two friendly victories against FC Bologna and RB Leipzig, while Depoitre staked his own claim the previous week with a double in the 3-1 win over Champions League qualifiers Lyon at the John Smith’s Stadium.

If the Belgian does pip Mounie to a place in today’s starting XI, Chelsea will be wary after the impressive manner in which he netted both goals against the Londoners last season.

“I was happy to score the two goals but the second one at Chelsea has to be my favourite,” says Depoitre. “I can remember every detail and probably will be able to for a long time.

“It was a very important goal for me and a very important goal for the club. I still have – how do you say in English? – ‘goose bumps’ at the memory of that night.

“Everyone has been talking about it to me this summer. My friends back home, plus all the Huddersfield fans on Instagram. It was a goal people enjoyed. One of the best memories of my career.”