Huddersfield Town embarked on a German journey, that has lasted for over three years, and is one they aren’t willing to give up just yet.
Little over three years ago, Huddersfield Town were just your average English club, that had spent years in the lower echelons of the football league, without a stint in the top flight for over four decades. A hard-working club, with loyal fans, a local owner, and a good stadium. But it was stagnating. After gaining promotion to the Championship in 2012, the club had just about kept its head above water in the second tier for a few years. Attendances were dropping, as was the investment on and off the field.
So, in hope of changing the club’s fortunes, owner and fan Dean Hoyle made a huge change in 2015. Little did he know at the time, but this change was to alter the history of Huddersfield Town forever. After researching and scouting for months on end, he appointed the club’s first ever foreign Head Coach, the unknown David Wagner. As google was in overdrive in the West Yorkshire town as fans tried to find out just who this German manager was, it quickly became apparent what he would be referred to – Jurgen Klopp’s best man. But to the whole of Huddersfield, he was much more than that. Instant changes occurred – players in, players out, new training, new tactics, a whole new style of football, and there were results from the off. Fans, who had been bored of the same old merry-go-round managers, the lacklustre football, the constant sales of players, were excited again. It was obvious from very early in Wagner’s tenure that something special was taking place.
Wagner was given the whole reins at the club, and he brought a revolution – a Dortmund revolution (quite fitting that the club based a whole season card campaign on the #WagnerRevolution). All Wagner’s ideas were from the Borussia Dortmund school of coaching; one it seems is far more in-depth and superior to any in England.
After Wagner consolidated Huddersfield’s position in the Championship in his first season, he set about turning a club that was one of the favourites for relegation again, into one that could challenge the best in the league. He brought in a host of new faces, including many more unknown Germans. In almost every press conference, he referred to a term, ‘Terrier Spirit’, that quickly became the underpinning phrase of the whole club. He guided the club to the Championship play-offs against all the odds, and in doing so put Huddersfield back on the footballing map after a distinct absence.
Despite not scoring a goal in the play offs, Wagner masterminded two penalty shoot-out victories which sealed the club’s first ever season in the Premier League. The fairy-tale didn’t end there for the West Yorkshire club, as the German increased his own stakes by leading the club to safety last season, an achievement he described as more ‘extraordinary than promotion’.
Secretary of HTSA (Huddersfield Town Supporters Association), James Chisem said “David Wagner took a failing second tier club to the Premier League and kept us there. His legacy is the same as Chapman, Greaves, and Buxton—profound and everlasting.”
This year hasn’t been as successful, with the club languishing in the relegation zone for most of the campaign. Wagner left the club in January, leaving a legacy that will last for decades.
Chisem added: “Two things went wrong this season. First, our recruitment was poor. Not buying another striker was, in hindsight, a critical mistake, as was the decision to privilege potential over experience when buying wingers.”
“Next season we need to be very canny in the transfer market, which is easier said than done. Whatever happens on the pitch, we’re now sustainable off it. Fans shouldn’t lose sight of that fact.”
The club returned to Wagner’s roots for his replacement, with Jan Siewert being poached from Dortmund II.
Sebastian Sollgan, editor of schwatzgelb.de, the biggest Dortmund fanzine in Germany, reports on Dortmund II. He said: “I think BVB’s reserve team is a good starting point for ambitious players and managers. The head coaches of the first team and the reserve team work together closely, discussing players, training and tactics.”
“His (Siewert) qualities are a good tactical understanding, varying training formats that help developing each player and the team as well, a good understanding of characters and leadership, and lastly a great interaction with youth players.”
“If Huddersfield give Siewert the time to work on the team and bring in young talents he will get them back on track to compete for promotion again. They will most likely get to see exciting matches, an interesting style of football and a developing team.”
The outcome of Huddersfield’s return to Dortmund’s managerial production line is unknown yet, but for sure, the ‘Dortmund era’ of Huddersfield Town’s recent history lives on.