A REMARKABLE year in the history of Huddersfield Town was this summer capped by no less than four of the club’s players competing at the World Cup.
Considering only three Terriers had previously played at a finals, the most recent being the late Ray Wilson in 1962, it is a feat that has rightly become a great source of pride in the Yorkshire town.
David Wagner, the man who along with chairman Dean Hoyle has done so much to put Huddersfield back on the footballing map, is among those who took a huge sense of satisfaction from Aaron Mooy, Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen, Jonas Lossl and new signing Ramadan Sobhi all flying the flag for the club in Russia.
“I have not watched all the World Cup matches but I saw all our players,” said the 46-year-old to The Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s friendly at League One Accrington Stanley, a fixture that the quartet will sit out due to being given an extended break.
“All of them did fantastic jobs. Nice stories for the players, first and foremost. And then for the football club. They represented their country in a wonderful manner and now it is important to have a rest and come back with recharged batteries.
“The first ones will come back next week and the Danish guys the week after.
All of them did fantastic jobs. Nice stories for the players, first and foremost. And then for the football club. They represented their country in a wonderful manner and now it is important to have a rest and come back with recharged batteries.David Wagner
“They deserve that break. Then, they will come back for the (fitness) testings that the other players have already completed. Then, we will know exactly where we are in terms of everyone in the squad.”
Wilson leads the list of former Town players to have appeared in a World Cup, even if his part in England’s 1966 success came follwing his transfer to Everton.
Bill McGarry and Ron Staniforth complete the Leeds Road trio to have sported the Three Lions at a finals, both having played in the 1954 tournament that ended with a 4-2 defeat to Uruguay.
Sobhi, a £5.7m signing from Stoke City earlier this summer, became the first Terrier to play at a World Cup since Wilson when he came off the bench in Egypt’s opening group game against Uruguay. The wideman followed that cameo in a 1-0 defeat by also featuring in the losses to Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Mooy spent the most time on the pitch in Russia, playing the full 90 minutes in all three Australia group games.
In contrast, Jonas Lossl had to be content with a place on the bench as back-up to Kasper Schmeichel as Denmark bowed out on penalties to Croatia in the Round of 16.
Jorgensen was a key figure that night in Nizhny Novgorod, putting the Danes in front after just 61 seconds and then being booked for a cynical trip on Ante Rabic at the death that earned the Croatians a penalty Luka Modric was unable to convert.
Denmark’s subsequent exit in a shoot-out came as a huge blow, though Jorgensen did leave Russia with the consolation of being the only Town player to score at a World Cup.
Wagner felt the defender, one of only two ever-presents for the Terriers in the Premier League last season, deserved all the praise that came his way. He was less sure, however, about Jorgensen’s rather striking change of hair colour to blonde during the tournament.
“I texted ‘Zanka’ and asked what had he done,” laughed the German. “He said it was boring in the camp and there was nothing to do. This is why he changed his colours. I hope when he is back that he is back to the normal colour.”
Mooy and Sobhi are due at Town’s Canalside training HQ early next week and will be part of the squad that jets to Germany for a four-game mini-tour.
In their absence, Huddersfield will travel to Accrington today looking to build on the midweek 4-0 win at Bury.
As with that Gigg Lane outing, Wagner is expected to field two different XIs in each half. Danny Williams and Elias Kachunga could get their first outing of pre-season after recovering from the injuries that brought an early end to last season.
Both missed Tuesday’s friendly as a precaution and, instead, trained in Huddersfield. Juninho Bacuna, a £2m summer arrival from Groningen, is a doubt after twisting his knee against Bury but club-record signing Terence Kongolo is expected to be fit despite requiring lengthy treatment following a collision with Chris Dagnall.
Elsewhere, Michael Hefele and Jon Gorenc Stankovic should again get 45 minutes on the pitch as the defensive duo look to continue their comeback from the injuries that effectively wrecked last season. Hefele was troubled by an Achilles problem that eventually required surgery, while Stankovic dislocated his kneecap in March, 2017.
Wagner added: “For them, it is so important to have a proper pre-season so they can show what they are capable of. Unfortunately, last season they were not able to do that. They came back in fantastic shape after the off season. This is their time to shine.”
None of Huddersfield’s World Cup quartet will be in action today but one youngster who did feature on the international stage this summer will be involved.
Matty Daly, part of the England Under-17s side that reached the European Championship semi-finals in May, marked his senior debut with a goal against Bury to earn plenty of praise from his manager.
Wagner added: “First of all, credit to our Academy for what they have done with him so far. He is now with us for a week.
“You were able to see in some moments against Bury his talent. You were also able to see some moments his youth, both in the positive way and – if we like to say this – the negative way.
“Mind, we should not see the negative in him. Just the positive. He is a talent and we try to support him. Give him the help to make him better.
“He will stay with us for more days in pre-season. Maybe (he will join us in) Germany or Austria, this is a discussion I will have later on. But this is very nice for him and our club that he was involved for the first time. Him scoring made it even better.”
Mooy proves indispensible for Socceroos
AARON MOOY, recently voted Australia’s player of the year by supporters for a third time, spent 270 minutes on the field at the World Cup, the highest tally of the Town quartet on duty in Russia.
The 27-year-old started all three group games as the Socceroos lost to finalists France and Peru either side of a 1-1 draw with Denmark.
Neither Jonas Lossl nor Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen featured for the Danes in that stalemate but the latter was named in the starting XI for the final group game against France. A draw was enough to take Denmark through to the Round of 16, where they faced Croatia.
Jorgensen became the first Huddersfield player to score in a World Cup when he broke the deadlock after just 61 seconds. Mario Mandzukic levelled within three minutes and that was how it remained until the end of extra-time, even though Jorgensen cynically tripped Ante Rabic to hand Croatia a late penalty. Luka Modric missed but the former Yugoslav state held their nerve in the shoot-out to go through.
Completing the quartet of Terriers in Russia was Ramadan Sobhi, who joined from Stoke City just two days before the tournament kicked off. He spent 55 minutes on the field after coming off the bench in Egypt’s three group games.