When Danny Cowley took over at Huddersfield Town in September, things weren’t going so well for the Terriers. After a couple of tough years in the Premier League – their first since it was formed – they’d been sent back to Championship, where they seemed destined to spend the year battling to avoid two consecutive seasons of relegation.
Six games into the season they’d earned themselves just a solitary point. None of the losses had been damning, but for a team which had been playing against teams responsible for some integral footballing records at the highest level just a few months prior, the start was difficult to stomach.
Enter Danny Cowley. After almost four years at Lincoln City, Cowley was appointed manager at Huddersfield Town alongside brother Nicky, who was appointed Assistant Manager.
The task was a confronting one – the team looked completely devoid of confidence, a tier below teams who they had literally been playing a tier above last season. The significance of the job was not lost on the brothers, and it didn’t take long for them to be reminded of just how much work they had to do.
In Cowley’s first game as manager, the Terriers went down 2-0 to Sheffield Wednesday, a team whose advances the brothers had previously rejected. The absence of confidence was as prevalent as ever, but Cowley was defiant in the wake of the defeat.
“I like that feeling when your back is up against the wall and you are in adversity,” he said. “You have two choices in this world: you are either a victim or a fighter. Nobody but us controls our destiny and I know where mine is going.”
The words were strong, but without results they meant little, and the following week the team was beaten 4-2 by West Brom. The loss continued a remarkable run of poor performances – stretching back to the Premier League last season, the Terriers had, at that point, lost 16 of their past 19 games.
But the Championship season is a long one, and in the three weeks since then Cowley has started a revolution of sorts at the club. It began with a 1-1 draw against fellow battlers Millwall – hardly an awe-inspiring result, but at least it stemmed the bleeding.
The next week they won just their fourth game in the past 55 courtesy of an 82nd minute Juninho Bacuna strike against last-placed Stoke City.
Though these were results which no one would have raised an eyebrow at, at the beginning of the season, they were important to turn around the confidence of a group of players which had none. And as if to prove just how significant a role confidence plays in sport, the group came out the following week and smashed Hull City 3-0.
After losing 16 of 19 games, winning just three times in 54, and sitting second-last in the Championship just months after being relegated from the Premier League, Huddersfield Town have now won two in a row and earned points in three consecutive games.
Call it a revolution or call it a couple of decent results against three ordinary teams, but the reality is that just five weeks into his tenure, Danny Cowley has managed to find something in this team which had been missing for a long time.
It’s hardly time to open the champagne bottles just yet. The Terriers have moved themselves up to 21st, out of the relegation zone by the skin of their teeth, but they are still a bottom tier team and their record of 2-2-7 – while better than 0-1-7 – is not exactly anything to get excited about.
As Cowley himself said, the club is in a relegation battle, and despite the turnaround in form, this season won’t be spent hunting any silverware.
But the optimism is there. Results have begun to fall their way and with those results is a renewed confidence, something which was so blatantly lacking in the team throughout the past couple of years.
The next month will play a major part in where the Terriers’ season goes from here. With belief as high as it has been for two years, they will head into a stretch of four more winnable games – against Blackburn, Middlesbrough, Barnsley and Brentford, all of whom find themselves in the lower reaches of the table as well.
A poor run of results through this period could see Huddersfield quickly back to where they started, in the relegation zone and battling just to keep their heads above water.
The opposite, however, will earn them some breathing room, and a couple of wins will no doubt see Cowley hailed as a saviour if he hasn’t already been. There’s a long way to go in the Championship season, but he’s already managed to breathe life into a club that was on its knees, something which seemed almost impossible just a few short weeks ago.
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