An Open Letter to David Wagner

Updated: Jan 17, 2019

In the spring of 2004 I was taken to my first Huddersfield Town match – a League Two game against Scunthorpe United. I wore my Arsenal shirt, I was determined not to support this team of underachievers.

I had heard the stories. Huddersfield Town were terrible, they were playing in the bottom division and had been relegated twice in recent seasons. So there was absolutely no way that I was opening myself up to that sort of disappointment.

I would continue to support Arsenal from afar, they were on their way to an unbeaten season in the Premier League. They were brilliant, and supporting them gave me bragging rights in a school playground full of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea fans.

A late John McAliskey winner changed everything for me. I ditched my allegiance to Arsenal and became an ardent Huddersfield Town fan. Promotion followed a few months later via the play-offs and I started to think this local club thing wasn’t too bad.

As the year’s progressed, supporting the club gradually got worse. We were marooned in League One for what felt like an eternity. When Town lost to Barnsley in the play-offs I sat in my seat and cried.

I believed that Huddersfield Town were a big club, destined for greatness, but as I saw the Barnsley fans celebrating I began to question myself. Maybe Huddersfield were really a laughing stock like all my friends had told me. Maybe I would have been better off sticking with Arsenal.

I persisted though, and I felt an enormous tinge of excitement when Dean Hoyle took over from Ken Davy as chairman. Finally we had someone capable of injecting the funds we needed to take our rightful place at the top of English football.

Lee Clark arrived and he echoed my feelings. Huddersfield were a big club and the future was indeed very bright for my football team. Exciting football followed, we became the neutral’s favourite in League One, but success did not follow.

Firstly Millwall crushed our dreams on a sombre evening in London, then Peterborough the following year. The Posh didn’t just crush our dreams like Millwall had, they made a mockery of our dreams.

3-0 was the score in the final. It wasn’t just, it wasn’t right. Peterborough was a small club and they didn’t deserve it as much as us. They hadn’t been on the same emotional rollercoaster, they hadn’t expected it like us.

They hardly brought any fans to the game either, whereas it felt as the whole of Huddersfield had travelled to Old Trafford. When their chairman told us we could wipe our arses with our Believe shirts it was like a dagger through the heart.

Not only had a small club like Peterborough done something that we couldn’t but they, along with the rest of the lower leagues were laughing at us. The following season we achieved promotion via the play-offs, third time lucky.

But it didn’t feel as good as it should have done. After missing our first three penalties, I resigned myself to another disappointment. It didn’t sting as badly this time as I was used to it, it was just what Huddersfield did.

Somehow we won the penalty shoot-out and snatched promotion, but it did feel somewhat hollow because Lee Clark hadn’t done it. Lee Clark had made me believe in my club, believe in their bright future and winning promotion without him felt wrong.

Heading into the Championship with Lee Clark at the helm would have filled me with excitement and immense pride. I felt as though Simon Grayson was our manager through obligation, not because the club meant something to him.

When he was relieved of his duties, I had no particular feelings of sadness. He was replaced by Mark Robins who kept us in the division, but Mark left of his own accord. After seeing us hammered 4-0 at home by Bournemouth on the opening day of the season it became clear that he thought the task ahead of him was too large.

Chris Powell then took over and his mission was simple, keep Huddersfield Town in the division. In interviews with Paul Ogden he would constantly do us down. Belittle our ability, our spending power and our size.

The dream of Huddersfield Town competing in the Championship, never mind the Premier League seemed to be foolish. Ticket prices were too high to justify going every week and my support began to waver.

I’d leave games frustrated, angry and disenchanted with Huddersfield Town. There were dissenting voices everywhere and a return to League One seemed inevitable. Perhaps that would be for the best I thought. We could win some games, get some momentum and watch attacking football again.

I stopped telling people I was a Huddersfield Town fan, it was embarrassing. We didn’t stand for anything other than grim survival from England’s second-tier division. During this period I worked with fans of Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest.

They all thought I was tragic for persisting with Huddersfield Town. They all routinely took the piss out of me for our latest loss, our latest uninspiring signing or something dour that Chris Powell had said.

Then you arrived. The piss taking continued, but this time it was louder. Who do Huddersfield think they are? Have they not seen what happened to Wolves when they appointed an unknown foreign manager?

We had gone against all the perceived wisdom of English football. I questioned the decision, I thought you’d be terrible, you wouldn’t get the club or the fans and that you’d try to implement a style of football that wasn’t suited to West Yorkshire.

I went to your first game and your inexperience was confirmed to me half an hour before kick-off. You had selected Kyle Dempsey at full-back. Unbelievable. The lad wasn’t good enough to play in his preferred position and some quirky German manager had thrown him in at full-back!

We went on to lose the game 3-1, but I wasn’t upset, instead I was excited. I accepted the decision to play Kyle Dempsey at full-back, I accepted everything. The style of football was incredible, it was exciting. I maintain to this day that we would have beaten Wednesday if the players had the necessary fitness to implement your instructions.

We lost more and more games under you that season, some of them by more than the odd goal, but I didn’t care. We were giving it a go, throwing everything at some of the biggest clubs in the decision and bloody hell, it was exciting.

The following season I had a feeling that I dare not reveal to anyone. If someone asked how Town would do in that season, I shrugged my shoulders and said, “mid-table hopefully”. Inside I had a feeling something special could be done, a late push for the play-offs perhaps, a cup run or a few big wins against Villa, Leeds or some of the other big boys.

All I wanted was for people to talk about Huddersfield Town, recognise their existence again. I thought you would do that by getting us up to 10th or maybe 9th in the league.

I was wrong again, you went above and beyond those expectations. That side played ridiculously good football, the likes of which I had never seen at the John Smith’s/Galpharm/McAlpine Stadium.

People began to ask me about this amazing German at Huddersfield. This amazing Australian in the middle of the park and about the Premier League. It was crazy. Some of my best footballing memories were made that season even before Wembley.

Sitting directly behind the ball as it hit the back of the net from a Tommy Smith volley at Rotherham. Seeing Michael Hefele divert the ball past Rob Green in the dying minutes against Leeds United.

Then came Wembley. I cried, uncontrollably as did almost everyone else around me. Myself and my friends were veterans of grounds like Brunton Park and The Bescot, now we were going to Old Trafford, Anfield and The Emirates.

My God, Huddersfield Town had finally achieved the dream. They had made it to the promised land of English football, the place that I had envisaged them reaching when I was a naïve 13-year-old.

The place that seemed a million miles away after the losses to Millwall and Peterborough. The place that Chris Powell never even bothered to think about. The Premier League and the subsequent survival was good, the draw at Stamford Bridge was incredible.

But none of those achievements on the field match up to what you actually did for me and thousands of other Town fans. You helped us to feel proud of our club again, not just because of victories but because of everything.

How you handled yourself after defeat, how you bigged up the Town and the club. How you made us feel connected to the players. During your time at Huddersfield Town I never felt like a spectator.

I felt like an active part in it all. In reality all I was doing was sitting in a stadium and cheering you on, but you made us all feel incredibly important. Because of you I can tell people that I am a Huddersfield Town fan in confidence.

They may mock, but I don’t care anymore. I know that we are a special club, an incredible club and a unique club. I know that my bond with this club is for life and worth bragging about. All of that is down to you and everything you did at this club.

When you announced your resignation on Monday I felt empty, which to the outside world is strange. I was asked to go on TalkSport to discuss your departure and the hosts couldn’t understand why I was so upset.

We haven’t won a game in over 10 matches, we’ve been playing poorly, we haven’t scored goals and we are going down. To the rest of the footballing world I should be happy that you’re gone, but I’m not, I’m devastated.

You are the miracle man, the man that made us all believe again, and your departure feels like the end of all that. And it is in a way. No other manager is likely to have the success that you had either on or off the pitch.

The David Wagner era is over and that hurts, but I want to take this opportunity to thank you for everything you have done for me, my club and my fellow fans. You are an inspiration, an iconic legend and you are forever welcome back at Huddersfield Town.

Good luck for the future, thank you and goodbye.

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