HUDDERSFIELD TOWN manager David Wagner insists lessons learned during last season’s successful survival scrap mean there will be no lasting damage to morale from the opening-day defeat to Chelsea.
The Terriers crashed to a 3-0 loss as Maurizio Sarri marked his Premier League introduction by claiming all three points.
With a trip to champions Manchester City next up for Huddersfield there is every chance Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative will soon be playing catch-up in the fight to beat the drop.
This is in stark contrast to a year ago when a much kinder schedule saw Wagner’s men sit third with seven points going into the first international break.
“My first thought when I saw the first two fixtures was that we start this season like we finished the last one,” Wagner told The Yorkshire Post.
“The only one missing was Arsenal (who Town faced on the final day of 2017-18). But we have nothing to fear.
“All the points you earn against the top teams – and we know how difficult that can be – are points you can’t say you have to earn. You want to earn them, but you can’t say you will because these are quality teams.
“Against Chelsea we worked and fought hard. But we were unlucky in the key moments. Chelsea were able to show their quality in those moments, they had four or five chances and scored three goals.
“Everyone has to play each opponent twice; if you have to play Chelsea at the beginning or end of the season it doesn’t matter. Our finish is also pretty exciting, too.
“But if we have one advantage from last season it is our experience. This means we don’t get carried away. It does not mean anything if you lose five games in a row, just win the sixth one.
“It doesn’t mean anything if you beat Manchester United (as Town did last term at home), you have to collect further points.
“It doesn’t mean anything if you are without a win for seven, eight, nine games. Just focus on the next one.
“That is what we learned last season. We take that experience and we were successful. I saw enough against Chelsea to know the spirit is back, along with the commitment. This is also in the stadium, in the stands.
“I saw enough to say I am confident we can be successful. We have a chance.”
Goals from N’Golo Kante and Pedro either side of a Jorginho penalty on debut meant Chelsea’s impressive recent record in Yorkshire continued.
The Blues have not lost in the White Rose county since a teenage James Milner netted in a 2-0 triumph for Leeds United in December, 2002.
New manager Sarri, however, was the first to admit his side did not have it all their own way at the John Smith’s Stadium.
“If you look at the result you think it was an easy game,” he said.
“But in the first half we were in trouble against a very physical team.
“The best part was we showed our capacity to suffer. Then in the second half the opponents were a bit tired and it was easier.”
Wagner opted for the same 3-5-1-1 formation that had helped Huddersfield claim those crucial draws at Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium during the final week of last season.
He also largely stuck with the same personnel who had kept Town up, only goalkeeper Ben Hamer of the half-dozen new faces making the starting XI against Chelsea.
Hamer’s selection following his free transfer move from Leicester City meant Jonas Lossl, one of just two ever-presents in the league last term for the Terriers, had to be content with a place on the bench.
“It was not a big decision to play Ben (Hamer),” said Wagner. “What happened last season does not count. It is all about the present, the past is history.
“Hamer played a very good pre-season. Jonas didn’t come back in the best shape, he knows that. He also wasn’t in the best form.
“This was not a surprise to me (after the World Cup), but he is on the right way.
“He has trained better and has tried to catch up his form. We will give him every support. There is competition for us and that is good.”
Match report: Page 3