Premier League worst starts revealed as Huddersfield Town aim to buck the trend

JONATHAN HOGG has a neat turn of phrase to describe Huddersfield Town.

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira.
Graphic: Graeme Bandeira.

“This is a small club with big ambitions,” is how the midfield player, now in his sixth season at the John Smith’s Stadium, sums up Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative.

Such an attitude is why the Terriers vehemently believe that survival is once again their destiny despite an eight-game winless start to the season.

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“We have been written off every year since I got here,” said Hogg. “But we have proved people wrong and I am eager to keep proving them wrong.”

Huddersfield Town's Jonathan Hogg (right) and Burnley's Jack Cork battle for the ball at Turf Moor. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA

History is still just about on the side of Town in their quest to avoid relegation, but there can be little doubt that the clock is ticking.

Eighteen clubs have endured a similarly poor opening couple of months as manager David Wagner’s men this time around since the advent of the Premier League in 1992 and seven went on to survive.

But once a club’s winless run reaches double figures then the chances of survival recede.

Just a trio of clubs – Derby County (2000-01), Blackburn Rovers (1996-97) and Everton (1994-95) – from the 11 to have endured such a rotten start have beaten the drop.

Burnley manager Sean Dyche (left) and Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner exchange pleasantries at Turf Moor on Saturday. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA

In the case of the Rams it took until the 14th game of the campaign before Jim Smith’s men rediscovered the winning habit by beating Bradford City 2-0 in mid-November. A shock victory at Manchester United in their penultimate game eventually sealed survival.

The other two recovery jobs were even more impressive, Blackburn finishing 13th and Everton’s revival being such that safety was assured along with the lifting of the FA Cup.

Town, of course, will be hoping not to have to wait as long as either of this trio, but it will not be easy.

Next up after the international break are Liverpool at the John Smith’s Stadium where Huddersfield are struggling horribly for goals.

In fact, should that October 20 game bring another blank then the Terriers will join West Bromwich Albion (1921-22) and Everton (1998-99) as the top-flight clubs unable to find the net in their first five home games.

“It is frustrating that the win hasn’t come yet,” added Hogg. “But we stay positive. This is a small club with big ambitions.

“We are underdogs most weeks, but it is all about what happens on the field. The longer it goes on the harder it will be to take.

“There are four or five teams around us who think it is the end of the world, but it isn’t. You get a win or two and you shoot up four or five places.

“We need to stay confident. There are still 30 games left so we are not out of it by any means. That is a long way to go.”

The unenviable record of the worst start to a Premier League season belongs to Queens Park Rangers.

Sixteen games came and went in 2012-13 before the barren run was broken with a 2-1 win over Fulham at Loftus Road 10 days before Christmas.

There was no way back from that and Rangers finished rock bottom. So, too, did Swindon Town, whose own winless start to their only top-flight season, in 1993-94, stretched to 15 games.

Others who found it impossible to recover from a double-figure run of games without a victory at the start of a season include Norwich City (2004-05), Manchester City (1995-96), Reading (2012-13), Sunderland (2016-17), Burnley (2014-15) and Watford (2006-07).

Sheffield Wednesday, meanwhile, went down in 2000 after taking just one point from the opening nine fixtures.

“We are always underdogs,” added Hogg, who along with Philip Billing and Tommy Smith, is the longest-serving player at Huddersfield.

“We take that on the chin. I am positive if we perform like we did at Burnley the results will come.

“It would have been even better to go into the break on the back of a win, but the performance was something we can’t knock.

“We dominated every position on the field. The lads can’t do any more than we did against Burnley (in a 1-1 draw). Work-rate, spirit, togetherness and the stuff we played was all fantastic.

“If we perform like that there aren’t many sides outside the top six we shouldn’t beat. We played Burnley off the park and got in their box 15 to 20 times.

“The frustrating thing is we dominated, but only came away with a point. That was hard to take, but the lads were still happy in the dressing room.”

Town’s survival hopes are helped by similarly slow starts elsewhere. Neither Cardiff City or Newcastle United have tasted victory yet, the first time a trio of clubs have gone this long without a win at the start of the same Premier League season.

Fulham and Southampton also have just one win apiece to their name and sit two points ahead of the Terriers in 18th.

Hogg added: “The international break is probably coming at a bad time, to be honest. But we still believe in ourselves.”