HUDDERSFIELD TOWN stalwart Jonathan Hogg believes the key to bouncing back from relegation will be to get those players who want to leave out the door as quickly as possible this summer.
The Terriers head to Liverpool tonight as one of the least fancied teams in Premier League history to cause an upset.
One bookmaker is offering odds of 40-1 against Jan Siewert’s side triumphing at Anfield, a price that is not only an indication of the Reds’ pursuit of the title but also Huddersfield’s failings.
Twenty of the last 22 games have been lost by Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative and the end of the season really cannot come soon enough.
Only then can the rebuilding job required after such a desperate few months truly get under way.
“The key for a team that goes down is that anyone who does not want to be here is out the door,” said Hogg to The Yorkshire Post.
“You want to be bringing people in who want to be here, and quickly.
“We have done that in the last two or three windows, done our business pretty quick.
“That has been a big help, getting them in early doors and settled down. Then they can hit the ground running.
“Character is important. We will be one of the big dogs next year due to coming down. We need to take that and use it to our advantage.
“The John Smith’s Stadium is massive and our fans are top class. We need to start the season on a high. If not you are always chasing.”
Aaron Mooy and Philip Billing are expected to lead a summer exodus that is also likely to include Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen, Jonas Lossl and Laurent Depoitre.
Town have been linked with Sheffield Wednesday duo Keiren Westwood and Lucas Joao, but whoever does come in will be joining a squad stripped of belief and confidence by this term’s troubles.
“A lot of our players are confidence players,” added Hogg, now in his sixth season at the John Smith’s Stadium, when asked about the impending return to the Championship.
“If we can go into the first game and win it will bounce everyone. It will show that we can win a game.
“It is going to be important to bring the right people in and make sure everyone is at it, pulling in the right direction.”
Before attention can fully turn to the close-season rebuilding job, Town have a trio of top-flight fixtures to fulfil.
Tonight’s trip to Liverpool is a daunting one.
Not only have Jurgen Klopp’s men taken 34 points from their last 14 games, but victory over the Terriers would send the Reds back to the top of the table.
Huddersfield’s record against the top six is woeful. Ten meetings this term have yielded ten defeats, 30 goals having been conceded in the process.
One of Town’s better displays, however, came against Liverpool in October when even Klopp admitted his side had been fortunate to win 1-0.
“It has to give us belief,” said Hogg about a clash that saw him strike a post. “The lads had one-on-one battles that day and it gives you confidence. It allows you to think, ‘I have played against you before and you didn’t hurt me that much’.
“That game will give us confidence at the back of the mind. But, equally, we know we are at Anfield on a Friday night, live on Sky.
“They will not be thinking this is a doddle. They will be at it. We have to make sure we are at it more than them.”
Klopp is expected to make a few changes with next week’s Champions League semi-final first leg against Barcelona in mind.
Town, meanwhile, are without Ben Hamer, Depoitre and Danny Williams, while key man Aaron Mooy limped out of training yesterday.
Asked if there was even a slim chance of the Terriers pulling off a shock on Merseyside, Hogg replied: “It is a game of football, so why not? It is 11 versus 11 and who knows what can happen.
“I have never gone into a game believing I can’t get a result or a win. Stranger things have happened in football.
“We can’t go there expecting to get beat. That is not what I am all about. I have never ever felt that. I will be going there trying to get a result.
“We need to turn the crowd if we can. The longer it goes on at 0-0 or if we can keep it tight as long as we can, it can only play into our hands.”
Virgil van Dijk, fresh from being named the PFA Player of the Year, is expected to lead the home defence.
Hogg, who voted for the Dutch defender, added: “He is a wall, like playing against a machine.
“It is rare for a defender to win the award, I certainly cannot remember one. That is one of the reasons I voted for him.
“Sometimes those kind of players go under the radar and don’t get noticed as much as those scoring goals.”
Last six games: Liverpool WWWWWW Huddersfield Town LLLLLL. Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire). Last time: Liverpool 3 Huddersfield Town 0; October 28, 2017; Premier League.