“We’re not just here to say hello!”
A Huddersfield Town fan perspective on the new Premier League season
It’s sometimes all too easy to write off the newly promoted sides to the Premier League. So with that in mind, we invited Huddersfield Town fan Freddie to write for the site to provide a genuine fan perspective on new boys to the Premier League. There could be some shrewd Fantasy options for your consideration if they manage to hit the ground running! If you’d like to submit a contribution for the site simply email me at Ryan@FantasyYIRMA.com for details.
After the euphoria, tears and emotion (and that was just from me) that followed Huddersfield Town’s dramatic play-off final win over Reading on penalties, inevitably attention would turn to just how well or badly my team would do in our dream premier league season. Newly installed Head of Football Operations David Moss, Head Coach David Wagner and owner Dean Hoyle duly went into overdrive putting together transfer target lists, assessing characters and agreeing transfer fees, knowing that their fellow Championship promotion winners Brighton and Newcastle had a 3 week head start.
Thankfully, Town fans knew this operation was in good hands. Of the few criticisms that were thrown at the squad over the course of our dream promotion season, one was a marked inability to kill teams off and score more than two goals in a game. This was abated by our monumentally good defence and protective shield of Jonathan Hogg. Combined with a defensive organisation Wagner had instilled throughout the whole team that included our ‘gegenpressen’ reactive pressure as well as the defensive ‘block’ that was triggered when we didn’t have the ball, we won many of our games by a single goal margin.
However, Wagner knew he had to address this lack of goals in the Premier League. As an utterly ruthless competition, he acknowledged that teams, especially newly promoted ones will get significantly fewer chances to score goals. As a result, Wagner firstly brought in £7.75m winger Tom Ince from Derby whose track record of goals and assists over the course of his Derby career is second to none. Next he brought in firepower up front, with Porto striker Laurent Depoitre purchased for £3m and more importantly, Montpellier striker Steven Mounie for a club record £11m.
Whilst 99% of town fans are humble and recognise that we could well get relegated at the first attempt of staying up, as our head coach brilliantly put in his first pre-season press conference “we are not just here to say hello and then go back down”. Despite what some premier league fans might ignorantly assume, in the Premier League we will stick to our identity of gegnepressen, full-throttle football and will not under any circumstances, ‘park the bus’ like some teams have notoriously done (looking at you Middlesborough).
I believe Huddersfield have the players to hurt teams now and our transfer strategy should prove dividends come the start of the season. This strategy of bringing in young and hungry talent like Tom Ince whilst allying this with experience and top-class quality like Champions League captain and Copenhagen centre-back Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen should prove shrewd and efficient business in a hyper-inflated league where Kyle Walker can be bought for £50m. In our current squad, along with current club captain Mark Hudson and on-field captain Tommy Smith, we have 10 players who could take the armband and do the role admirably with 4 players; Chris Lowe, Martin Crainie, Christopher Schindler and Michael Hefele all club captains of their former respective clubs. This shows a depth of leadership and dressing room solidity that not many clubs have and was one of the key reasons why we achieved promotion.
It’s incredibly tough to predict what we will do this season with objective-tinted glasses on but I will give it a go. My head says that we might struggle against the bigger teams and could take the last relegation spot. However, my heart has a different perspective. The scattergun recruitment strategy of many Premier League clubs fills me with optimism about the way my club has conducted its business. The increasing quality divide between the top 7 clubs (Everton included) and the rest of the league downwards also gives me hope for what we can achieve. Are we any worse than teams like Bournemouth, West Brom or Watford? We have more leaders in our team, better quality in some areas and a manager that I believe will go on to manage the German national squad and one of the so-called ‘Top 4’. His tactics, his exuberant personality and his ability to extract the very best from his squad whilst improving players exponentially like Tommy Smith means I have complete and total faith in our ability to, at the very least, pull off a few upsets this season. Most Premier League fans have little to no clue about our squad which bodes well for us. I am confident in the next few months some of these same people will start asking about how much midfield lynchpin Jonathan Hogg might cost, or our superstar German centre-back Christopher Schindler. If we can get off to a good start and hit the ground running, as David Wagner’s favourite motto attests to “we have no limits!”
I have kept my Fantasy Football predictions fairly close to my chest but my three recommendations for those who want to get ahead of the curve are Tommy Smith, Tom Ince and Steven Mounie. Last season Tommy Smith’s transformation from being on the verge of being released to club captain and right-back extraordinaire was truly remarkable. He was in most media outlets Championship Team of the Year and produced 10 assists and 5 goals from his position, a spectacular return. If he can take this form into the Premier League, at £5m, he could be a real bargain.
Second is Tom Ince. As previously mentioned, his goals and assist record for Derby speaks for itself and if he can replicate this form in the top division, he could be another bargain at £6m.
Finally, we come to Steven Mounie. At 22 years old, this French powerhouse looks like the real deal up front. Pace, strength and an eye for a finish, he looks like he has all the attributes to thrive in the Premier League and has already scored in every pre-season friendly he has played in for us so far. He is also a threat at set-pieces with an under-rated aerial ability and for a cheeky comparison; he only scored one less goal last season in Ligue 1 than world football’s new wonderkid, AS Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe.
With a gluttony of top-class strikers now populating the division, if you’re looking for a cheaper option to chuck in alongside your Lukaku’s, Kane’s, Aguero’s or Morata’s, at £6m Mounie is a steal. If he hits the ground running, he could be the name on every run-of-the-mill Premier League pundit’s lips in the next few months, with some wondering how other teams didn’t pick him up whilst others might complain their scouting systems aren’t good enough.
Although most of, if not all Huddersfield Town’s squad aren’t household names, if we show our ‘terrier’ identity, play to the best of our ability and use the dismissal of our chances as a motivational tool like we did last season (there’s only one Ian Holloway), then the sky is the limit for us. We may not be the biggest dog but we can certainly bite and you underestimate us at your peril.
Freddie Cocker is Editor of Talk of the Town and Communications Assistant for Future Cities Catapult. You can find both of them on Twitter @TOTT_htafc and @futurecitiescat.