Huddersfield Town v Birmingham City: Steve Mounie aims to toughen up for survival fight

THE Coupe de France does not hold too many fond memories for Steve Mounie.

Double aim: Huddersfield Town's Steve Mounie.

At Montpellier last season, the striker’s only appearance came in a 5-0 drubbing at Lyon as the Ligue 1 side fell at the first hurdle.

A year earlier, Nimes, where Mounie was on loan for the campaign, had been knocked out at the same stage by Moulins – after only getting past amateur club AS Frontignan in the previous round on penalties.

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Even that victory, however, was tainted by coach Jose Pasqualetti resigning within minutes of Ligue 2 Nimes edging past the sixth-tier club.

Now in England after becoming Huddersfield Town’s record signing last summer in an £11.5m transfer, the 23-year-old is hoping for a change of fortunes in knockout football as he eyes a possible trip to Wembley.

“The Cup in France is not so important,” said Mounie when speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s fourth-round tie at home to Championship side Birmingham City.

“But, here in England, everyone loves the FA Cup. That is what I am always told. It is why we want to win in the next round.

“I feel the Cup can help a team, everyone likes to win games. Of course, it can also be the opposite if a team has too many games.

“That is why in France the main players do not play. It is a very different team in the Cup to the league. But I have learned that is not what happens here in England.

“The Cup is a big competition and every team has to be competitive. No one is allowed to be weak or they are criticised.

“Plus a chance to play at Wembley is part of the Cup. That would be nice. It is a famous stadium, one of the very best.”

Mounie’s switch to England is still very much a work in progress. The Benin international has four goals to his name, including a double on debut as Huddersfield announced their return to the big time in style via August’s 3-0 triumph at Crystal Palace.

He also netted both goals in December’s 2-0 victory at home to Brighton & Hove Albion.

Despite this welcome contribution and only Laurent Depoitre having scored more times in a Town shirt this term, there is a feeling that the Premier League is yet to see the best of Mounie.

Of course, a striker’s lot is not helped when he has to survive on scraps as was undoubtedly the case last weekend as the Terriers lost 2-0 at Stoke City.

Many in the away seats at the Bet365 Stadium were critical of Mounie, but even Alexis Sanchez or Sergio Aguero would have failed to make much impact when playing as a lone striker in front of a midfield as poor as Huddersfield’s in the Potteries.

Mounie, for his part, admits there is room for improvement as he continues to adapt to what has been a sometimes very foreign style of football.

“I knew some things about English football before I arrived,” added the striker.

“That the referee does not whistle a lot. That happened at Stoke, they are a very physical side.

“They had two defenders who were strong – and Ryan Shawcross is very, very strong. They kick you and there is a lot of experience on the pitch, they know what has to be done.

“I know I have to adapt myself. I am trying to do that. It is only my first season in England, I have to remember this.

“Even if I score four goals, I need to improve each day to make myself better in England.”

Pressed further on what in particular he feels needs to improve, Mounie replied: “The physical side is something I need to get better. I have to be able to be the equal of all these hard oppositions.

“If I can find a solution for this, it will be good for me and good for Huddersfield Town.”

This much is certainly true, with Town’s tally of 19 goals in 24 games being the third lowest in the Premier League. Just Swansea City (15) and Brighton (17) have found the net fewer times than David Wagner’s side.

It is something that has to change if Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative are not to be dragged further into trouble at the wrong end of the table.

Victory, and a few goals, today against Steve Cotterill’s Blues would certainly not go amiss in terms of boosting confidence.

“We are in the FA Cup next and that is good for us,” added Mounie, who finished last season in the top 10 of the Ligue 1 scoring chart with 14 goals from 35 outings. “We can put away the Premier League for a few days and focus on something else.

“Every player in the team wants to win against Birmingham. It helps confidence, but also takes us to another round in the Cup.”

The return to league action next week is a tough one, Tuesday’s home game with Liverpool being followed by a trip to Manchester United.

Tackling two of Europe’s big guns is daunting at any time, but both will be smarting against Huddersfield, Jurgen Klopp’s men being desperate to bounce back from losing to rock-bottom Swansea City and United keen to avenge their 2-1 defeat to Town at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Town, though, have their own motivation with the recent six-game winless run having left Wagner’s men in grave danger of dropping into the bottom three for the first time this season.

“A win against Birmingham will give us confidence for when we go back to the league,” said Mounie. “We have two very big games coming up after this weekend.

“Liverpool and Manchester United are two big teams. But we have to go into these games to enjoy them.

“We are playing Liverpool, who beat Manchester City (a couple of weeks ago). They were the first team to do that. People said it would not happen, but City did lose.

“If we can then beat them that will be a big thing.

“We have to believe we can win, just like we did against Manchester United at home.”