The ghosts buried deep under Leeds Road were awoken at roughly 4.45pm in this October’s Saturday evening. In what was a mismatch of talent, resources and experience, David Wagner’s Huddersfield took had some of the older fans reminiscing, where beating the biggest teams in the land was as regular as Mourinho’s anger shown towards Anthony Martial.
Of course, Huddersfield’s first stadium has long since been redeveloped into a retail park and only a sign outside of the local B&Q points towards the glory days of years past. It’s been a long and hard road for the West Yorkshire club to return to the top division, after spending 45 years battling their way back through the leagues and overcoming the threat of liquidation along the way.
A giant of the past
Formed in 1908, it took Huddersfield less than twenty years to produce their first silverware. A name that Arsenal fans will recognise, Herbert Chapman, won the FA Cup in his first season. Winning back-to-back league titles between 1923 and 1925 brought Chapman to the attention of the North London club, but the strong foundations he left behind enabled new manager, Cecil Potter, to continue the winning streak in 1926, making them the first ever club to win three Division One league titles in a row.They were also runners up for the following two seasons, maintaining their position as one of the best clubs in England.
Although they remained a strong team heading into the next couple of decades, the 1926 league title was their last trophy of real note. The intervening years haven’t been too kind to the Terriers, only managing to return to the top flight in two of the last 61 years. The mid-90s finally marked a time of change for the club. They moved to the modern Kirlees Stadium in 1995, under the branded sponsorship of McAlpine, before The John Smith stadium became the new name in 2012.
Preparing for the future
Local support for the club is passionate and those who live nearby exclusively make-up the home crowds on any given match day. And who could forget the joy on Sir Patrick Stewart’s face at Wembley last May? Perhaps most pleasingly of all, in an age where billionaire – and even country – owners are becoming the norm, owner and Chairman Dean Hoyle is a local businessman who was a fan decades before he took over in 2009.
In manager David Wagner, aside from gaining his tactical insight and experience from his time spent as Borussia Dortmund reserve team coach, he brings an understanding of what’s required to succeed at the highest level. Knowledge of the German clubs’ cutting-edge nutritional and training regimes have also helped to transform game preparation, installing an entirely new level of professionalism in and around the squad. After the club earned £11.3m in revenue in 2015/16, and with projected earnings for this season due to be in the region of £170m, the revamp continues on and off the pitch.
In full control
A haul of twelve points from the first ten games this season put Huddersfield in a strong position to retain their place in the Premiership. One look across at clubs like Swansea and Bournemouth will tell them that this does not have to be a brief glimpse of heaven before falling back down to Championship or worse.
The club is carefully run under the stewardship of Dean Hoyle and by following the Bournemouth model, in particular, should they stay up, they can begin to reinvest in structural facilities to further strengthen the club. They might never return to the heady days of winning three league titles in a row, but the feeling is they are back where they belong with every intention to make the most of this unexpected opportunity.