Preseason is a time for outrageous optimism. Whatever happened last season has been forgotten, mistakes of the past consigned to the history books, and despite thirty seasons of abject failure you just know this one will be different.
I like the optimism; the sense of new beginnings; a journey into the unknown. It is what will keep football fans coming back to the stadium every week; even when their sanity suggests that all that awaits them through that turnstile is abject misery.
So, I have no issue with being excited by the new season, in fact if you aren’t then you might as well stay home when Saturday comes. However, I am only thinking out loud and designating myself as the one cautious voice amongst the wildly enthusiastic majority.
Huddersfield Town have acted swiftly this transfer window. If the transfer window was a buffet then Dean Hoyle and David Wagner would be on to a second mini trifle, before anybody else had even noticed the cellophane had even been removed from a plate of scotch eggs.
We have acted quickly and efficiently. We’ve recruited players from across Europe, with our prime destination being, somewhat predictably, Germany. We even had three players signed before the end of last season, which is something I’m sure has never happened.
Now that is all exceedingly positive, and should certainly be cause for optimism, however it must be said that the majority of our signings have never played in England. Not that this really means anything, as if you’re good you should be good anywhere. It’s a field, with a ball, what’s the problem?
Well there are a number of issues: language barrier, fitness levels, response to the atmosphere, style of play, mental strength, how well they settle in the area, homesickness, if they don’t like Findus Crispy Pancakes/corned beef/Yorkshire pudding etc.
I obviously hope that all players are hugely successful, settle in nicely and go on to be club legends. Statistically this is unlikely, as our success in the transfer market, like most clubs, is very much hit and miss.
Also the sheer volume of signings concerns me slightly, and only because of our negative past experiences of making multiple signings. It’s a mammoth task to successfully blend together a team full of new faces, new personalities and giant egos. It also takes a long time to learn how your new team mates play.
Our “fresh start” under Stan Ternent promised a lot, but turned sour swifter than milk left out in the sun. We sold season tickets for £100, signed a load of players and optimism was understandably high. It failed, but not even in spectacular style. It was just dull. All the players who looked like sensible buys turned out to be ancient or shit. I’m not entirely certain all of them were alive.
The real difference this time though, perhaps more than ever it is certainly with a real vision in mind. The club know exactly what they want and believe they have the manager to deliver.
David Wagner clearly impressed the board last season. He passed his audition with flying colours. He’s intelligent, tactically astute, scientific in his approach and knows exactly how he wants his team to play. These are great qualities, and I am pleased that the club are backing their man so heartily.
However, he has been left with an enormous job on his hands. He inherited a squad that was short on real quality, whilst also being weighed down by loanees.
The goalkeeper, star centre half and two members of his start in midfield from last season have either been sold or returned to their parent club. This means that he is building the spine of the team. This is so important, but should be remembered when the season starts that a lot of the first team are still learning one another’s names.
Now at this point we also have no idea if these players are up to the task. We won’t know that for a while. On paper they look exciting and most have excellent pedigree. Many have come through the German academy system and many leave their club with very good reputations. They were captains, highly thought of and professional.
Every season you think your signings will be great, and all too often you’re left disappointed.
Regardless though, and this is important, I am delighted and proud to be a Huddersfield Town fan right now.
We’ve stepped out of our comfort zone to employ an exciting manager who wants to play football that gets fans out of their seats.
It’s a process though, and it will take a long time to find consistency of style along with the time it’ll take for it to be effective.
We’ve already proved that we can keep possession, as we dominated that particular stat in the majority of games we played under David Wagner.
However, turning that possession into actual proper domination is a different matter. You can keep the ball forever, but if you don’t punish teams, not only in terms of goals scored but also exhausting them by making them chase shadows all game, then possession remains a fairly irrelevant stat.
It’s very important to state that David Wagner got a team he inherited to run through walls for him. That was a limited team, and he’s now had a chance to bring in his own men. They are men he trusts and players who are coming in to an established style of play.
That to me is vital. This is not just a manager signing a bunch of guys from his homeland, it’s a manager signing players he knows will be able to play the way he wants.
Despite the mystery surrounding our new signings, the certainties are exceptionally pleasing. Season tickets are cheap, players want to play for Huddersfield and due to an intense training regime our players are bound to be amongst the fittest in the league.
This cannot hurt our chances, as under many previous regimes we looked as if we’d end up in a heap if we were asked to jog 10 yards, or we’d foul ourselves through sheer exhaustion if we had to collect a ball for a throw in.
Three training sessions a day should certainly eliminate the lethargic performances and new coaches should mean that things are suitably fresh and exciting for the players on the training ground.
The club truly have thrown everything they can at this new start, but my only real note of caution is: just be patient.
It will take a while. There is no might about that, unless everything just magically clicks, which goes against all footballing sense. However, I am certain it is unquestionably the right way to go for this football club.
Hiring good coaches, improving how the club runs from top to bottom, insisting on a style of play and signing exciting talent. It’s an impressive list of achievements from the club this past year and the board must be applauded for seeing the need to adapt and improve.
For what it’s worth, on the field I think we’ll set off like a freight train, be top 6 around Christmas time before a steady decline in the latter part of the season, as the pressure and intensity of the football catches up with us. Eventually we’ll finish mid-table.
I’ll be happy with that. We’re just starting our degree course, we’ve got an awful lot to learn before we’re ready to graduate.