Huddersfield Town v Southampton '“ Positive approach can help Terriers see off rejuvenated Saints

FLORENT HADERGJONAJ'S arrival at FC Ingolstadt 04 during the summer of 2016 came a couple of months after Ralph Hasenhuttl had quit the German club to take charge of RB Leipzig.

KEEP BELIEVING: Florent Hadergjonaj celebrates with goalscorer Aaron Mooy, left, during the recent win against Wolves. Picture: Nick Potts/PA

It means the Huddersfield Town full-back has no personal experience of what makes the Southampton manager tick ahead of today’s meeting between two relegation rivals at the John Smith’s Stadium.

But, thanks to his year in the Bundesliga with Ingolstadt, Hadergjonaj does boast plenty of inside knowledge of how the Austrian works.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“Those of us who played in Germany know a little bit more about him and his teams than maybe the English guys,” the 24-year-old told The Yorkshire Post when asked about the recently-appointed Saints chief.

“He left just before I signed but I spoke about him to my new team-mates at Ingolstadt. All the players spoke about the same things. About how he was intense in training. About what a good manager he was for the club.

“He likes to play really offensive football. Press the opponents high. He did very well in Germany and everyone saw against Arsenal (last weekend when his new side won 3-2) that he has started very well at Southampton.”

Hasenhuttl’s coaching skills are perhaps best illustrated by how the season after his three-year reign at Ingolstadt had come to an end.

As his old side, featuring Hadergjonaj, was relegated, Leipzig marked becoming the first club from the old East Germany to compete in the Germany top flight for almost a decade by finishing as runners-up.

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl Picture: Adam Davy/PA

These contrasting fortunes continued a rise in the coaching stock of Hasenhuttl, who at Ingolstadt had followed the club’s maiden promotion to the top flight by ensuring safety was secured with three games to spare in what proved to be his final season in Bavaria.

This record is why Southampton turned to the 51-year-old, whose impact is already being felt on the south coast.

Ending Arsenal’s 22-game unbeaten run, winning their first game at St Mary’s since April in the process, means the Saints head to Yorkshire confident of adding to Huddersfield’s December woes.

The Terriers have lost all four games this month. Another reverse for David Wagner’s side today will mean Town matching their worst run of league results from last season.

Hadergjonaj played in the final three of those five straight defeats at the start of 2018 and he believes that experience will hold Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative in good stead today.

“What happened to us last season is a big help to us this season,” added the Swiss international. “Especially those of us who were here last season.

“The new players do not have that experience but we tell them. To stay positive and keep believing is the key, that is what last season taught us.

“There were periods, like now, when we were not winning games but we always kept believing. And we achieved what we wanted to achieve.

“That shows it is possible.

“You have to keep working hard and keep going.”

Town’s reward for failing to be beaten down, even when the losses piled up, was that glorious night at Stamford Bridge in May when safety was secured by Laurent Depoitre’s second-half strike.

It meant a contrasting end to a long campaign for Hadergjonaj, who had been relegated a year earlier with Ingolstadt.

“I had been in a relegation fight before in Germany so last season was not so new to me,” he added. “I had that experience. But, as a young player, it is not easy to always stay calm.

“At times, you want to be alone. Or if you have family, kids, you talk it through. You have to try and help each other as players. That is what we learned last season.

“We speak all the time and say, ‘Look, we know it is not so easy but we did it last year and that experience shows we can do it again this year if we stick together’.”

If Town are to defy the odds again this term then it seems the upcoming run of five games that features meetings with Southampton, Fulham, Burnley and Cardiff City will be crucial.

Having lost to one relegation rival in Newcastle United last weekend, Huddersfield simply cannot afford to do the same today. Victory would also set up a busy festive period that is exclusive to English football.

“Last year was my first time in England and I enjoyed it,” said Hadergjonaj about a schedule that will see Town play four times in 12 days. “Something very special to me because there were so many games in such a small period of time.

“At Christmas, I usually go on holiday with friends. Somewhere very, very hot. But that is not now possible. Last year I was here so I am used to it. Maybe the others will find it strange. It can be a hard period with so many games and you have to keep working.

“You wake up in the morning and it is not so easy. But we are professional footballers. The family comes over so that is good. You can spend time together and maybe not think too much about football.”

As for today, Hadergjonaj understands the importance of ending that run of defeats against a Southampton side sitting just above the relegation zone.

“We know their strengths and weaknesses,” said the full-back, who earned a recent recall to the Swiss national team. “We have to try and play our game.

“They have had just one game with their new manager so it is difficult to say what they do really well or not so well. We have to focus on ourselves and get some points from what will be a very important period.”