The 2017/18 Premier League vintage won’t feature Aston Villa, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Leeds, Derby, Forest, or Blackburn, but will include Huddersfield Town — a team no one seems to have heard of until yesterday. And to be fair, the Terriers haven’t competed in the top-level of English football for almost fifty years, so you need to be of a certain age to even recall them as a first-division club.
However, since I’ve been following the Championship this season, plugging away at the hard yards so you don’t have to, I’ve had more than a few words to say about this Yorkshire side. Indeed, they were a recurring nightmare for Newcastle for large parts of this season, chasing down the Mags like some footballing Freddy Krueger but ultimately stumbling down the stretch and falling into the play-offs.
But again, just who are these guys? To answer that, here’s my one-stop shop for intel on the Premier League’s newest members.
First Impressions — Newcastle played Huddersfield very early in the season at St. James’ Park (the second game to be exact) and little was expected from the visitors. This was my evaluation of their squad a few days before that match, with a little club history on the side. So to anyone who says that reaching the Premier League is their greatest triumph as a club, I refer you to their back-to-back-to-back first division titles accrued in the 1920s.
Then, a few days later after Newcastle had lost to Huddersfield, I wrote this piece in the midst of an existential crisis. The Magpies had choked in the first two fixtures of the campaign, and I was more than a little distraught. As we know now, things managed to turn out all right in the end.
Growing Indignation — Though I was *upset* at Newcastle’s defeat against Huddersfield, I soon had to reckon with the fact that the pesky Terriers might stick around at the top of the table. Indeed, they enjoyed a blistering start to the season and were in the automatic promotion spots for the first few months. In this piece, I reexamined the team, and I stand by most of what I said in October: that Huddersfield succeeded mostly through hard work, a tough defense, and an opportunistic (or let’s just say it, lucky) attack. Neither Elias Kachunga, nor Nahki Wells particularly impress me. (For context if you combine their stats, they played in 80 games and scored 23 times — or the same amount of goals Dwight Gayle scored in less than half that number of appearances.)
The Inevitable Dip — Fast-forwarding to March now, and Huddersfield were still somehow in the mix for automatic promotion. Those aspirations were more or less quashed, with this game, which saw Newcastle storm into the John Smith Stadium and run out 3-1 winners. The Terriers certainly didn’t help their own cause down the stretch either. They drew with Derby County and lost horrifically to Fulham in April, and their demise was Newcastle’s gain. Still, they’ve finagled promotion anyway, so some kudos are probably due.
Moving Forward — And now to the big question, what can you expect from Huddersfield Town next year? Well — to be frank — not very much. And that should be obvious to anyone who watched that extraordinarily dire Play-Off Final yesterday against Reading. Neither team displayed a penchant for attack, skill with the ball, or anything to indicate they won’t be relegation fodder next term. In many ways the win was a nice summation of Huddersfield’s season: defend, defend, defend, and hope for a bit of luck breaking forward. This is underlined by the fact that Huddersfield were promoted with a NEGATIVE GOAL DIFFERENCE.
Throw in the fact that virtually no one on the current roster has any Premier League experience, that one of their best players — on-loan from Man City midfielder Aaron Mooy — refused to commit his future to Huddersfield in the aftermath of yesterday’s game, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Barring a major facelift in the offseason, they’ll do well to avoid finishing bottom, let alone escape relegation.
However, I’ve underestimated this team for a long time, so I could be proved wrong yet again.
(Images via zeenews.india.com, thenewage.co.za, foxsports.com.au)