HEAD COACH David Wagner admits Huddersfield Town being potentially 180 minutes away from the Premier League has taken even him by surprise.
The Terriers head to a sold out Hillsborough tonight looking to book a place in the May 29 final at Wembley.
A goalless first leg means only the third all-Yorkshire semi-final in 30 years of the play-offs is finely balanced and Wagner is adamant his side can prevail.
Whatever happens in S6, however, the German will be proud of his players for the manner in which they emerged as the surprise package of this season’s promotion race in the Championship.
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He said: “When I started here at Huddersfield nearly 18 months ago, I did not have in my head that this was possible – that we would now be in the semi-finals of the play-offs with it being ‘game on’ in the second leg to reach the final.
We started at Hillsborough with a defeat, now finish the circle with a victory at Hillsborough. For sure, we will try everything to take that realistic chance we have. This is extraordinary for us as a football club.David Wagner
“I did not have that in mind. I didn’t even have it after pre-season. The first time when I really thought we had a chance was around Christmas.
“I thought, ‘Okay, I really trust in this dressing room’. That was when I first thought it was possible to get into the top six.
“Now, a new competition has started and we have had a draw against Sheffield Wednesday – something we hadn’t previously done. Now, we want the victory.”
Wagner will tonight return to the venue where it all began for him as Huddersfield manager in November, 2015.
His managerial bow in England ended in a 3-1 loss to the Owls, the first of four straight defeats to Carlos Carvalhal’s men that was only ended by Sunday’s goalless draw.
“If this is the case and we get to Wembley at the place where I had my first game, that is a nice story,” added the German. “We started at Hillsborough with a defeat, now finish the circle with a victory at Hillsborough.
“For sure, we will try everything to take that realistic chance we have. This is extraordinary for us as a football club.
“This is excitement enough for us. With the performance we showed in the first leg, we are pretty confident. We will search for our chance, we will not wait.”
Ahead of the first leg, Wagner had insisted all the pressure was on the Owls due to the considerable outlay on wages and transfers by Carvalhal.
Asked if this meant tonight’s tie was similar to a David versus Goliath clash, the Huddersfield chief quipped: “I like that story because David won this battle.”
Wagner may have been surprised by Town’s push for promotion but he was not caught on the hop by Wednesday’s approach in the first leg.
“I was not surprised by Sheffield Wednesday because they used the same gameplan against us twice already, both at home and away,” he added.
“That proved successful because we made more mistakes in those two games. We lost the ball too often.
“It was different on Sunday, and I was very happy with how we handled their counter-attacks. We can be very confident ahead of the rematch.”
The cautious approach adopted by Carvalhal’s men in Sunday’s first leg showed he was happy to take the tie back to his own patch on level terms.
Wagner, bidding to become only the third manager from outside the British Isles to win the second tier final, added: “Wednesday wanted to sit deep but I am sure they didn’t want to have as little possession or threat on the counter as was the case. We were strong, in that respect, and dominated the game.
“Our performance gives us every reason to be confident for the re-match. We can’t wait to play the second leg.”
Yorkshire Post - Football
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