Why Huddersfield Town are heading back-to-basics in bid to start looking forward again

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN chairman Phil Hodgkinson is candid enough to acknowledge that the first two years of his reign have been painful.

His honesty extends to an acceptance that some of the pain has been necessary as the club realigns following relegation from the Premier League in 2018-19 and some expensive mistakes.

He will also be smart enough to realise that the tide will have to start turning in 2021-22 after three fraught seasons for the club, who were the envy of their Yorkshire rivals when they were promoted to the top-flight as the county’s sole Premier League representative just four years ago.

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In the last three seasons, Town have played 130 league matches and lost 70 – incorporating one demotion and two ‘nearly’ relegation campaigns.

KEEP THE FAITH: Huddersfield Town manager Carlos Corberan. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA.

With the majority of the players who were signed during the two seasons in the big time having now departed, the Terriers can now truly move on and start afresh and start to build something positive again. They have to.

In that respect, Hodgkinson is aiming to go back to the future.

The Town squad of 2021-22 will have a wage bill comparable to the levels of 2016-17 when a team with a lower-mid table Championship budget stunned everyone by achieving promotion in a feted year under David Wagner.

No-one is foolish enough to suggest that a similar achievement will be secured, but Hodgkinson is confident that some of those characteristics which shone through back then will be in evidence once again.

FAMILIAR FACE: Striker Jordan Rhodes is back at Huddersfield Town for the 2021-22 season. Picture: Isaac Parkin/PA

The ‘Terrier Spirit’ which radiated during the Wagner years has long since dissipated. Many fans are waiting to see consistent evidence of its return to reconnect.

And after two tough years under his watch, Hodgkinson is likely to be conscious that the third season is likely to be definitive.

Speaking in a recent interview, he said: “We have gone through two years of pain and I knew that was going to happen.

“What I felt we needed to do was take the club right back to basics. We had to take the wage bill down and strip it right back to the bare bones so we could build something again.

HELLO: Luton Town's Matty Pearson, left, and Huddersfield Town's Lewis O'Brien battle will be team-mates at the John Smith's Stadium next season. Picture: Steven Paston/PA

“The season we got promoted, there was a real togetherness. When I took over, probably 70 per cent of the players we had in the first team were not what I would consider to be the right characters for different reasons.

“For us to go forward, you must have a team in the dressing room and it has taken us this long. I’d say in the first season that 70 per cent of the dressing room was not what we’d want to see.

“Last season, we got it down to about 25 per cent and hopefully by the time we complete our business in the window, we will be at zero per cent and will be together and have something to prove.”

The blue and white affiliations of Jordan Rhodes are well known. His return ‘home’ to familiar surroundings after a rough spell at Sheffield Wednesday is timely.

Huddersfiield Town chairman, Phil Hodgkinson.

The arrival of a solid, dependable Championship centre-half at a good age at 27 in ex-Luton defender Matty Pearson, also represents sound business allied to the signing of another keeper in ex-MK Dons custodian Lee Nicholls.

Other priorities cover in midfield and the full-back areas, while the odds remain on Premier League acquisitions in Juninho Bacuna and Isaac Mbenza – who had 12-month options recently triggered in their contracts recently to prevent them leaving for free – departing if the right deal can be brokered with clubs.

As for Carlos Corberan, embattled in a torrid second half of last season with his high-intensity, expansive football sacrificed in favour of safety-first results to prevent Town dropping down, there is admirable faith.

Equally, there is surely a realisation that results must arrive early next season if he is to maintain support from fans, who will hopefully be back at the John Smith’s Stadium.

The belief in the head coach, who only signed a new deal at Christmas, is ‘unwavering’ according to Hodgkinson, who has also spoken of Corberan’s own learning curve last term, his first as a ‘number one’ in England.

Talk is of his intensive daily demands in training being tailored to prevent overloading certain individuals given the lengthy amount of injuries picked up last season. The line is that the 38-year-old retains strong dressing-room support from senior players and is fully valued.

For everyone’s good, a transfusion of hope will be required in late summer and early autumn.

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