Fulham v Huddersfield Town '“ Terence Kongolo embracing the challenge as Terriers look to recruit

WHEN the dust settled on last season for Huddersfield Town, few could argue that January's recruitment had not played a big part in the club's Premier League survival.

Huddersfield Town's Terence Kongolo: Up for the challenge.

The £10m spent on bringing Alex Pritchard north from Norwich City proved to be good business, solving at a stroke what had been a major problem in filling the No 10 position so crucial to how David Wagner wanted to play last term.

Huddersfield enjoyed similar success with the loan capture of Terence Kongolo. If anything, the Monaco defender settled even quicker than Pritchard to give Wagner some much-needed flexibility due to the Dutch international looking equally at home in a back three or at left-back.

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Safety may have taken a while to achieve, Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative going all the way to the penultimate fixture before being able to relax. But the arrival of Kongolo and Pritchard played a key role.

This time around Huddersfield are in need of even more of a lift with the club propping up the table with just one game of 2018 remaining.

Wagner was reluctant to talk about his transfer plans yesterday instead insisting that the trip to Fulham was so important that nothing else was worth discussing.

Nevertheless recruitment remains a burning issue with the need for goals – Town have found the net just 12 times in 19 league outings – glaringly obvious.

Ramadan Sobhi’s departure on loan to Egyptian club Al-Ahly yesterday was a clear indicator that Wagner is preparing the ground for the arrival of new faces with Rajiv van la Parra also expected to soon be heading out on loan to Middlesbrough.

Burnley's James Tarkowski (front) and Liverpool's Dominic Solanke battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Turf Moor, Burnley. (Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire)

Liverpool striker Dominic Solanke is believed to be a major target for the Terriers, but there have been no shortage of strikers linked with a possible move to the John Smith’s Stadium in recent weeks.

Regardless of who comes in, Kongolo offers a lead for any new faces to follow when attempting to settle in the West Riding.

“It was a little bit of a struggle when I first joined,” the 24-year-old defender told The Yorkshire Post. “But that is why I signed for Huddersfield, it was my sort of challenge. I like to fight.

“That is why Huddersfield was good for me. Same with the Premier League. It was very different (to what he had been used to).

“When I played at Feyenoord or Monaco every week was not like in the Premier League.

“Every team in the Premier League is good. That is not the same in Holland and France.

“In France you have only five clubs that are good. Same in Holland with only five clubs.

“Here in the Premier League even the last place is a good team. The games are really hard and it is why I like it.

“The weather is different that is true. But I like it here. This country loves football, it is number one – and that football is really intense. I like that.”

Kongolo did so well last season that a permanent move followed in the summer for a club record £16.7m.

Like last January’s loan move, this record outlay has proved a sound investment. Kongolo has again impressed, be it in the left-back role he filled at Manchester United on Boxing Day or when joining Christopher Schindler and Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen in a three-man defence.

Just what formation Wagner adopts today at Craven Cottage remains to be seen, but there can be little doubt that Town must start improving on that paltry return of goals in the first half of the season.

“I have a good feeling that we can get some points,” added Kongolo, who along with Jorgensen and Schindler accounts for almost half of Huddersfield’s goal tally this term.

“Every day we do extra work on the training pitch, shooting work. The midfielders, the defenders, the attackers. We all want to be better.”

Today’s trip brings the opportunity to claim a rare league double, Fulham having lost 1-0 at the John Smith’s Stadium on Bonfire Night.

Kongolo’s return from five weeks out with a hamstring injury came against the London club and the defender still believes that lay-off is having an impact on his performances.

“For me, I am not back (to his best),” he added.

“I know myself that I can do better. Defensively I can win more duels. Soon I will be at that level, but I am not there yet. There are things I can do, but I do not want to tell them to other clubs.

“I can bring more to the team. Sometimes I lose and that is not me. Every game I want to win. I want everything perfect and then I will be at the level.

“Maybe other players then go with me on the level and we play better. I cannot play a normal game, I have to play a really good game.”

The past year has been a new experience for Kongolo, who when sporting the colours of Feyenoord or Monaco was more used to chasing titles or Champions League football rather than battling against relegation.

He insists, however, that his time in Huddersfield is proving every bit as useful to his football development as those days in Holland or France.

He added: “Pressure is always there, whether you play for big teams or the small teams. But I can learn a lot from these kind of things.

“We do not win a lot at the moment, but you make small steps. Pressure is good and we have to use this to get more wins.”