Beware of the Underdog

Huddersfield Town won football’s most lucrative game and became the Premier League’s newest addition on Monday.

It’s the first time they have reached the top tier in 45 years and not many people, not even Town fans, would have predicted the outcome at the beginning of the season. But after 120 nailbiting minutes and a tense penalty shoot-out, they have reached Premier League status.

At the start of the season pundits and bookmakers made Huddersfield favourites to be relegated. They finished 18th in the Championship last season and Ian Holloway now infamously said they would finish 2nd bottom of the table this season. David Wagner’s job was to avoid relegation when he was appointed as manager last November, and after doing that he has gone on to become a cult hero in Huddersfield.

The Terriers got off to a good start by beating Newcastle at St James’ Park on the opening day of the season and then drawing with Aston Villa. A string of wins followed and they were top of the table early on. Still many people would have predicted they would have fallen off by Christmas but Wagner kept on grinding out results with 23 of their 25 victories coming by a one-goal margin.

They were in a title race with Newcastle and Brighton for most of the season but just slipped off the pace towards the back end, which meant they had to settle for the playoffs. Everyone knows this can be a lottery and all of the hard work comes down to three vital games. It was very tight against Wednesday and it took another penalty shootout to get them to the final. Wagner brought in a lot of German players and that paid off in the end as everyone knows German’s know how to win a penalty shootout.

Next season will be a challenge for Wagner. The squad is made up of a lot of loanees so it will be interesting to see who he can keep at the club by extending their loans or signing permanently. They will also have to bring in more quality to compete. Now it’s time to ask questions of your squad, like: “Do I have enough players that can score the goals to win games? Does my midfield have the legs and intelligence to avoid getting run over by the teams with more experience in the Premier League? Is my defence strong so we can at least win most of our home games?”

If the above are problem areas then they need to be addressed as soon as possible so they can build a longer life in the luxury league.

The goal next season will be to survive, but they can look at the likes of Stoke, Bournemouth and Swansea for inspiration and hope they can build up a foundation to achieve longer term success in the top flight. It certainly won’t be easy and they will be the favourites for relegation. But we know what happened the last time everyone wrote them off.

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