Lee Clarke discusses Huddersfield Town’s impressive campaign as they defied the odds to secure Premier League football for the first time.
Very few leagues in world football capture the imagination quite like that of the EFL Championship. A league that consists of 24 teams with each club capable of beating one and other on any given afternoon – a rarity in a league of such size.
The 2016/17 campaign failed to break tradition. If anything, it reaffirmed the second tier’s unpredictable nature and what a joy it was to watch it unfold.
The standout story was undoubtedly that of Huddersfield Town, who secured promotion to the Premier League for the first time.
“Little old” Huddersfield – as they had patronisingly been touted throughout the campaign – roared into the top flight thanks to a penalty shoot-out victory over Reading in the play-off final. In the process, the Terriers offered hope to every single team that will compete in next season’s Championship.
David Wagner’s men were tipped by some – most notably Ian Holloway – to be relegated during the campaign and in winning promotion – when the league included the likes of big-spending Leeds United, Aston Villa and Derby County – Huddersfield’s achievement was a real thing of beauty.
While certain followers of champions Newcastle United put the mockers on the Terriers’ achievement saying that they too had spent their way to promotion, neutrals and fans of other Championship clubs rejoiced at just what achieving the impossible could do for their club in the future.
Every chairman in the land must be confident that with the right backing to the management and playing staff, they too could experience the sheer euphoria that club chairman and lifelong Huddersfield fan Dean Hoyle experienced.
You see the thing about the Championship is you can have the embarrassment of riches at your disposal but it doesn’t guarantee success. Okay, so Newcastle won the title on the final day of the campaign, but signing Matt Ritchie for £12 million represented a value that most teams couldn’t afford to part with throughout the entire campaign. Leeds United, Aston Villa and Derby County all spent big money on additions last summer and none of those three teams even reached the play-offs.
You could say that Paul Merson’s famous rant about English managers not getting a chance at clubs nowadays was made to look pretty silly by Huddersfield’s meteoric rise too.
When Marco Silva got the gig at Hull City certain eyebrows were raised, with the same said by some when ex-Dortmund coach David Wagner rocked up in West Yorkshire to replace Chris Powell – an Englishman who had defied Merson’s theory and failed in a Championship job!
After guiding the Terriers to survival during 2015/16, the club were expected by some to improve last season but very few could have predicted such a story, with even the majority of their fans astounded by such glory.
Next season the club’s supporters will go through a different kind of emotion as the team strive to stay in the Premier League. There is a lot to be said for work rate, determination and heart, which can sometimes win the day over a team assembled by simply splashing a wad of cash.
Wagner has all the attributes to succeed at the very top level of football and his Huddersfield Town team will forever be remembered as a special group of players who offered hope to absolutely everyone.
Follow Lee on Twitter at @Clarkey_No1