Huddersfield Town shrugged off the disappointment of a West Yorkshire derby defeat by beating Charlton Athletic 1-0 away from home last night. Under usual circumstances that victory alone may not have been cause to pop the champagne, but our chief writer John is feeling quite optimistic today, and here’s why.
The One Hundred Percenters
There have been a lot of phrases and buzzwords attached to Huddersfield Town in recent years, but perhaps we have a new one now. It’s clear that Danny and Nicky Cowley only want players that give a hundred percent for the cause.
This was made clear on Saturday when the pair named a substitutes bench with a combined age of about 12. Out were the big earners, the ones who quite frankly, couldn’t give a toss about Huddersfield Town and in came a group of young, hungry players eager to make their mark on the game.
To see one of them – Matty Daly – score the winning goal last night was heartening and shows us that a huge spending splurge in January might not be necessary. After a period in which we've all become too accustomed to using the word 'mercenary', it looks like we have the bones of a squad of 'one hundred percenters'.
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Adaptation & Improvisation
The last two managers that we have had at the club have been very wedded to their own particular style of play. Jan Siewert was a major proponent of 4-3-3 and preferred to focus on what his own team could do rather than worrying about his team’s opponent.
His predecessor David Wagner was very similar, but unlike Siewert, he managed to find a system and a style that worked. One criticism of Wagner though was his inability to change things in game to overturn a deficit.
Danny and Nicky appear to be completely opposite to their German predecessors, demonstrating their pragmatism once again at The Valley. Florent Hadergjonaj was moved from full-back to left-wing, a position in which he provided the crucial match-winning assist.
Days earlier against Leeds, Town played a more back to front style to minimise the effect of Marcelo Bielsa’s famous press. Whilst it didn’t work in terms of the result, it certainly gave Town a fighting chance in the game.
With a limited, dwindling playing staff the Cowley’s ability to adapt their approach for different opponents will prove invaluable over the course of the season.
(Highlights of Town's 1-0 win over Charlton Athletic at The Valley last night.)
Whilst it might not be as redemptive a story as Saul of Tarsus, Florent Hadergjonaj’s man of the match performance last night was heart-warming. The Kosovan full-back has taken his fair share of criticism in recent months (quite a lot of it from this blog.)
However on Saturday against Leeds he grafted and toiled for the entire ninety minutes before doing it all over again last night against Charlton. His persistence was rewarded with the assist that won the game, but what has been most impressive about Hadergjonaj over the last two games has been his concentration levels.
Whilst he may not have been defensively perfect in his last two showings, Hadergjonaj has demonstrated previously unseen levels of concentration and grit.
(Tin Tin has shown real signs of improvement in his last two outings.)
Going, Going, Gone
In the past week Danny Cowley has intimated that Terence Kongolo, Adama Diakhaby, Isaac Mbenza, Herbert Bockhorn and Reece Brown will be free to leave the club in January. It’s undoubtedly disappointing that the last two on the list have seemed unable to make their mark at the club.
Brown and Bockhorn were only brought in over the summer and the former arrived at the club with rave reviews from his former manager and the fans at Forest Green Rovers.
Ultimately, both Brown and Bockhorn have appeared unable to make the leap to Championship football which is yet another criticism that our under-fire recruitment team will have to face.
However I cannot hide my glee at the news of Kongolo, Diakhaby and Mbenza’s imminent departures. Whilst Kongolo may have demonstrated his unquestionable talent during the early part of his Town career, the other two have done no such thing.
The two underwhelming wingers clearly think themselves better than a Championship club, so it will come as a shock to them when their agent presents offers from Turkey, Greece and the French second division in January.
(Actual footage of Adama Diakhaby at training.)
It Gets Easier
It is always prudent of a manager to say, “There are no easy games in football”, but as a fan, there’s no reason why I can’t say that. Only two of Town’s next six opponents are currently in the top half of the table – Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers.
In the aftermath of damaging results – particularly the losses to Bristol City and Leeds United – it’s easy to get swept away in doom and gloom. But let’s not forget, that in the past month we’ve faced a hell of a lot of good teams.
So a slightly easier run of fixtures comes at a very welcome time, especially considering our current injury and ‘unavailable for selection’ crises. If we can come out of the next six games with a minimum of nine points and bring in some reinforcements in January, the second half of the season should be more enjoyable than the first half has been thus far.