Huddersfield preview and pubs: High-flying Terriers to provide tough test
Huddersfield are having an amazing season and have confounded the critics to keep their early form going throughout the entire campaign.
After four successive lowly finishes in the Championship, the last thing that most people outside the club expected was a promotion challenge.
But manager David Wagner made sweeping changes to his squad last summer and so far it has paid off.
Apart from a brief blip in October, the Terriers have been in the top five, and mostly the top three, all season.
They are currently six points behind second-placed Brighton, with a game in hand, and – on paper at least – have a favourable run-in with no games remaining against any of the other sides in the top six.
They have got home fixtures with Fulham, Preston and Norwich – the sides currently in seventh to ninth positions – and travel to 10th-placed Derby, but their other six matches, after this Saturday, are all against teams in the bottom half of the table.
Huddersfield’s season has been based around tight victories.
Of their 21 league wins, only two – the recent back-to-back home victories over Ipswich (2-0) and Brighton (3-1) – have been by more than one goal. They are the second lowest scorers in the top half of the table, ahead of Derby, but only five sides, including Newcastle and Brighton, have conceded fewer goals than them.
They arrive at Griffin Park bang in form with only two defeats in their last 17 league games since the start of December and only one in their last eight matches – at home to Newcastle last Saturday.
If Huddersfield were to go up, next season would be their first in the top flight since 1971/72.
They were a fixture in the old First Division before World War Two and in the mid-1920s became the first club to win the title three seasons in a row.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
David Wagner is now into his second year as Huddersfield manager, having been appointed to replace Chris Powell in November 2015.
He has just been named the Championship manager of the month for February – the second time this season he has picked up the monthly award after also winning it in August.
Wagner worked with Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund where he took charge of Dortmund’s second team in the summer of 2011, having met when they were team-mates at Mainz.
Wagner, a striker, also played for Eintracht Frankfurt and Schalke, where he won the Uefa Cup in 1997, and spent the whole of his playing career in Germany.
He represented the country at Under-18 and Under-21 level but then became a full international for the USA, which he could do because of his American father, winning eight caps.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Huddersfield were our first opponents this season and on a sunny opening day beat us 2-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Elias Kachunga headed the Terriers into an early second half lead but substitute Nico Yennaris equalised before another sub Kasey Palmer hit the winner with his first touch.
Huddersfield’s mid-December visit to Griffin Park last season provided the perfect Christmas present for Bees fans as we romped to a 4-2 win.
Three goals in the opening half hour from Sergi Canos, Lasse Vibe and Alan Judge set up the victory. Joe Lolley pulled one back straight after half-time but Judge hit his second from the penalty spot before Kyle Dempsey hit an injury-time consolation for the visitors.
We went even more goal crazy in the return match on the final day of the season as we cruised to a 5-1 win.
Sergi Canos gave us the lead after only 21 seconds but that was the only goal in the first half. Jamie Paterson equalised for Town in the 50th minute, but Scott Hogan scored twice in 11 minutes and Lasse Vibe and John Swift were also on target to complete our biggest win of the season.
BBC Radio Leeds’ Huddersfield Town commentator Paul Ogden tells us the secrets behind Huddersfield’s success so far this season, how much the club’s fans have played their part and recalls watching a famous Bees’ FA Cup win from the Griffin Park terraces.
Q – Huddersfield’s season has been amazing so far. What were the expectations at the start of the season – especially as some pundits tipped both Town, and the Bees, to finish the campaign in the bottom three?
A – The only pundits who “tipped” Huddersfield Town to be relegated were ones who don’t have much credibility in the first place around Huddersfield – those pre-season “predictions” have since been the subject of much scorn and sarcasm on social media.
As a matter of fact, pre-season expectations amongst Town’s fans were ramped up considerably (though not, realistically, to serious top two ambitions) by the breadth of summer recruitment, including club record signing Christopher Schindler as part of a mini-squad from Bundesliga 2, plus three Premier League loanees in time for August alone.
Typically, club sources were clever to create an impression around fans that they had decided to “go for it” this season (ie: do much more than just survive), without ever making such statements officially. Huddersfield being the kind of club and town it is, most fans had thus been miraculously furnished with at least some information about new summer recruits long before they arrived.
Incongruous though it appeared to the rest of the Championship to see Huddersfield Town with so many German and overseas players in the team, most fans had already learned how to pronounce the names of Hefele and Loewe long before our meeting with Brentford on the opening day.
Q – What do you put the change in fortunes down to, given that they have finished in the bottom third of the table in each of the past four seasons?
A – After taking an initial half-season to bed in before the summer, head coach David Wagner and his coaching staff now seem continually able to outfox the opposition with original ideas to win matches – Newcastle away, Brighton at home, and even this week a set-piece rehearsed on the morning of our win over Aston Villa appears to have been the difference between one point, and the three Town actually got!
Quality of new players for this season has broadly been decisive (see above), led by Head of Football Stuart Webber (ex Wolves, Liverpool) and financed yet again by owner Dean Hoyle.
Aaron Mooy, Christopher Schindler and more recently Izzy Brown have lifted talent and intensity levels in the squad and have inspired others to follow suit.
Previous squad players have in turn upped their games – Tommy Smith is now transformed into a leader after a difficult start to his Town career under previous management.
Q – What would it take for them to break into the top two and would there be any disappointment if they only finished in the play-off positions?
A – Top two is very reachable for Huddersfield Town with 11 matches left; in my opinion six more wins in the final two months by any of those in the play-off zone will put too much pressure on Brighton, who are brilliant but sometimes fragile.
The only question is whether any team behind can maintain their intensity to that extent at this stage. I am convinced that whichever team follows Newcastle to the Premier League in second place will only end up with a comfort margin of one or two points from third place on the final day. Should Huddersfield finish outside the top two, there will be some short-lived disappointment, but fans have this season developed a useful knack of “moving on” and rallying quickly around the team for the next match.
Q – How much of a factor in the season’s success have the increased crowds, partly down to the cheap season tickets, played?
A – I’ve never really been convinced of the effect a crowd has on the players….until this season! Taking the Chairman’s lead, complete with free clacker-cards waiting on seats for fans as they arrive in the stadium, the relentless noise levels and spontaneous chanting to inspire the team this season is unprecedented. To match the demands on the staff made by Dean Hoyle, (himself a long-serving fan), the match day effect is that the Town players never really get a minute’s peace from their fans, home or away! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the season’s results are littered with late winners and last-ditch defending!
Q – Do you have any good or bad memories, or have you been involved in any unusual incidents, of previous trips to Griffin Park, or in home games against Brentford, either for work or as a fan?
A – On a professional level, no Huddersfield Town fan can think about the word “Brentford” without immediately triggering the memory of the 1995 play-off semi final penalty shoot-out win and Darren Bullock’s famous decisive spot-kick. (Ed – the memory still gives me nightmares….)
Interestingly, since then, Huddersfield have paid Brentford another, rarely-mentioned play-off semi visit, when Lloyd Owusu and co were slightly too powerful over the two legs for the team that Andy Booth starred in (2001 League One). His then partner, brilliant maverick striker Leon Knight, was suspended from both semi-final legs and, despite the efforts of then manager Lou Macari, his players and a toiling board, that version of Huddersfield Town and how near they came to a play-off final was grossly underappreciated, certainly under-marketed by today’s standards. In fact that whole era shortly before Huddersfield went into administration appears to have been airbrushed from fans’ memories.
Recent commentary visits have involved heavy defeats for Town but I personally have a real affection for Griffin Park as it was one of the grounds I went to most on my nights off when living in Ealing in the late 80s/early 90s – including the Steve Perryman era! The Bees’ FA Cup win against Man City was quite something.
Brentford’s “local Londoners’ club” feel and the closeness to the pitch from the terraces remains a real asset and was especially seductive for me as an exiled Northerner in London at the time.
I’ll be upset if and when Brentford leave Griffin Park !
Q – If the club was to go up, do you think the squad would need much alteration to compete in the Premier League?
A – Yes – the board would need to use the rewards of promotion to significantly strengthen the squad again, despite its many current Championship qualities.
More selection options in all departments of the team would be essential to even hope to compete with the power and pace of the Premier League– our recent brush with Man City in the FA Cup was a convenient reminder of that.
Q – Which Bees players will you be wary of?
A – (Now that we don’t have to face Scott Hogan!)…..still we have bad memories of the finishing qualities of Lasse Vibe and Sergi Canos from recent clashes; now equipped with their own players from similar sources, Huddersfield Town will at last put up a fight again at Griffin Park !!
Huddersfield goalkeeper Danny Ward and striker Kasey Palmer both missed Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa because of injury, so may not be fit enough to return at Griffin Park.
The Terriers played a 4-2-3-1 formation in that game.
Joel Coleman (ex-Oldham) replaced Ward in goal behind a defence featuring captain and former trainee Tommy Smith at right-back, Chris Loewe (ex-Kaiserslautern) at left-back and Christopher Schindler (ex-1860 Munich) and Michael Hefele (ex-Dynamo Dresden) in the middle.
Jonathan Hogg (ex-Watford) replaced former trainee Philip Billing, who was among the substitutes, in midfield alongside Australian international and on loan Manchester City player Aaron Mooy, while further forward Rajiv van La Parra (ex-Wolves) was on the left, top scorer and only League ever-present Elias Kachunga, on loan from German side Ingolstadt, on the right and on loan Chelsea player Izzy Brown was in the centre.
January signing Colin Quaner (ex-Union Berlin) came in up front in place of Nahki Wells (ex-Bradford), who dropped to the bench.
The other substitutes were goalkeeper Luke Coddington (ex-Middlesbrough), defenders Martin Cranie (ex-Barnsley) and Jon Gorenc-Stankovic (ex-Borussia Dortmund) and striker Jack Payne (ex-Southend).
Midfielder Sean Scannell (ex-Crystal Palace) is on the comeback trail after an injury lay-off.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD
For Huddersfield fans coming down, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming.
There are now only three pubs around the ground, following the closure of the Royal Oak.
The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal is the other option.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other .. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields (it’s a much better pub crawl route getting off at Northfields than South Ealing) before making your way down to the ground (normally stopping off at The Globe and Lord Nelson en route).
There is also a pub right by Brentford station always referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit the brand new boozer One Over the Ait right on the river – beside the bridge. There are loads more too.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.
Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Road (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.
You can check out details of any weekend engineering work on the tube on Transport for London’s website here.