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Terriers' tough return to second tier - Interview
Thursday, 6th Feb 2020 18:46 by Clive Whittingham

Brady Frost from the And He Takes That Chance podcast reflects on a difficult return to the Championship for Huddersfield Town which has encompassed managerial change, enormous squad overhaul, and a worrying battle against a second successive relegation.

How would you assess Huddersfield's season overall?

I think mixed would be a fair assessment. To be seven games into the season and only have one point, from the game at QPR, was worrying. I think I can speak for most Huddersfield fans when I say that doing a ‘Sunderland’ seemed a real possibility. The final straw for the club was the home defeat to Lincoln in the Carabao Cup, so Siewert went and we got the Cowleys from the away dugout. Since then, it’s been largely positive. We went on a long unbeaten run, but some of the bad eggs from last season were still in the squad and it’s taken effect in some games. Now, with the new January signings in I think we’ll kick on.

League results so far…
Huddersfield 1-2 Derby (Grant pen 30 – Lawrence 22, 25)
QPR 1-1 Huddersfield (Hall 83 – Grant pen 49)
Huddersfield 1-2 Fulham (Grant 57 – Cavaleiro 51, Mitrovic 80)
Cardiff 2-1 Huddersfield (Ralls 42, Hoilett 88 – Chalobah 50)
Huddersfield 0-2 Reading (Ejaria 71, Morrison 84)
Luton 2-1 Huddersfield (Collins pen 57, Shinnie 66 – Grant 47)
Huddersfield 0-2 Sheff Wed (Fletcher 10, Winnall 72)
West Brom 4-2 Huddersfield (Phillips 19, 74, Furlong 70, Ajayi 89 – O’Brien 16, Grant 35)
Huddersfield 1-1 Millwall (Campbell 24 – Smith 41)
Stoke 0-1 Huddersfield (Bacuna 82)
Huddersfield 3-0 Hull (Grant 68, Bacuna74, Kachunga 82)
Blackburn 2-2 Huddersfield (Holtby 20, Dack 33 – Grant pen 13, Bacuna 63)
Huddersfield 0-0 Middlesbrough
Huddersfield 2-1 Barnsley (Schindler 30, Grant 53 – Brown 79)
Brentford 0-1 Huddersfield (Grant 62)
Preston 3-1 Huddersfield (Stockley 4, Browne 33, Gallagher pen 50 – Bacuna 74)
Huddersfield 1-1 Birmingham (Campbell 55 – Jutkiewicz 78)
Huddersfield 1-1 Swansea (Grant 41 – Fulton 18)
Bristol City 5-2 Huddersfield (Brownhill 11, Kongolo og 30, Eliasson 36, Williams 40, Weimann 49 – Grant 35, Bacuna 57)
Huddersfield 0-2 Leeds (Alioski 50, Hernandez 79)
Charlton 0-1 Huddersfield (Daly 90)
Wigan 1-1 Huddersfield (Windass 43 – Grant 70)
Huddersfield 2-1 Forest (Schindler 32, Mounie 49 – Worrall 74)
Middlesbrough 1-0 Huddersfield (Spence 37)
Huddersfield 2-1 Blackburn (Stankovic 25, Mounie 71 – Graham 7)
Huddersfield 2-5 Stoke (Mounie 48, Batth og 50 – Vokes 15, Powell 57, Campbell 66, 70, Gregory 90)
Barnsley 2-1 Huddersfield (Mowatt 14, Chaplin 65 – O’Brien 66)
Huddersfield 0-0 Brentford
Hull 1-2 Huddersfield (Tafazolli 66 - Grant 24, Mounie 90)
Fulham 3-2 Huddersfield (Reid 10, Cairney 15, Mitrovic 30 – Rowe 35, Mounie 39)

Why didn't it work out for Jan Siewert?

Ultimately, it was too big a job for him. The club thought lighting would strike twice hiring the manager of Dortmund’s second team like it did with Wagner, but it failed. In fairness to Siewert, I think he could have been the right man, but it was the wrong time. Arguably the greatest manager in our history had left and it was always going to be a tough act to follow. Combine that with our former chairman Dean Hoyle being ill and stepping down and the club being at the bottom of the Premier League, we should have seen it coming.

The thing is, the previous seasons were actually a miracle. No-one expected Town get promoted to the Premier League, never mind stay up. So the fall from grace was hard and Siewert took the brunt. He didn’t help himself, criticising the players far too frequently and not seeing to have the answers when things were going wrong. The fan base was divided on whether he should have gone in the summer but the start of this season showed he was out of his depth, especially for a club going through a lot of changes. I wish him all the best and think he could be a great manager in the future, but I think even Siewert would admit he got a lot wrong, albeit in very difficult circumstances.

What did you think of the Cowley's appointment at the time and what do you think of them now?

Personally, I was pleased because they were my first choice. Young and upcoming managers who engaged with the fanbases of whichever club they went to, and had the success as well. They turned us down originally, but credit to our new chairman Phil Hodgkinson, he was persistent. I think the start was great, there’s been a few bumps but I’m very happy with them so far, their job this season was to consolidate the team and they’ve done that. I hope they can push on next season and I’m confident they will.

What have they changed, good and bad?

They’ve got rid of the players who didn’t want to play for us in the Championship and brought back our Terrier spirit, dogged and determined and bolstered the squad with good additions. Players like Terence Kongolo, Issac Mbenza and Adama Diakhaby and been replaced with grafters like Richard Stearman and quality like Arsenal loanee Emile Smith Rowe. They’ve brought in some youngsters who have performed well, Lewis O’Brien and Jaden Brown have been real highlights. Ultimately, they’ve made us competitive and that’s what we wanted so badly from the lacklustre side at the start of the season.

Any January business done?

Yes and it’s been a fantastic window where as mentioned, we’ve shifted players with bad attitudes and added quality. We’ve picked up Richard Stearman on a free and he’s slotted in seamlessly at the back. Left back Harry Toffolo has come from the Cowley’s old club Lincoln and looked like a shrewd signing, great for an overlap. Premier League winner Andy King has come in on loan from Leicester, it remains to be seen how he’ll get on but has the potential to add experience in our young midfield. Emile Smith Rowe has brought the flair that we so desperately need, I think he has the potential to be the signing of the window for any club, big call. Winger Chris Willock from Benfica has come in, a position we needed to add to but the most out of the blue addition has to be the return of former ‘keeper Jonas Lossl. The injury to Liverpool loanee Kamil Grabara meant we had to get a goalkeeper quickly, but no-one saw this coming. I’m interested to see how Lossl gets on because I’d argue he was our player of the season in the previous season when we got relegated. There were rumours he was one of the players who mutinied against Siewert last season and with no games for Everton, he has a point to prove.

Summer Ins: >>> Isaac Mbenza, 23, RW, Montpellier, £11.25m >>> Herbert Bockhorn, 24, RB, Dortmund, £225k >>> Reece Brown, 23, CM, Forest Green, Free >>> Tommy Elphick, 31, CB, Villa, Free >>> Josh Koroma, 20, CF, Orient, Undisclosed >>> Kamil Grabara, 20, GK, Liverpool, Loan

Summer Outs: >>> Philip Billing, 23, CM, Bournemouth, £15m >>> Tommy Smith, 27, RB, Stoke, £4m >>> Mathias Jorgensen 29, CB, Fenerbache, £1.8m >>> Chris Lowe, 30, LW, Dresden, £810k >>> Ramadan Sobhi, 22, LW, Ahly (Egypt), Loan >>> Rarmarni Edmonds-Green, 20, CB, Bromley, Loan >>> Aaron Mooy, 29, CM, Brighton, Loan >>> Ben Hamer, 31, GK, Derby, Loan >>> Erik Durm, 27, LB, Frankfurt, Free >>> Laurent Depoirtre, 30, CF, Gent, Free >>> Jonas Lossl, 30, GK, Everton, Free >>> Jack Payne, 24, AM, Lincoln, Free >>> Abdelhamid Sabiri, 22, AM, Paderborn (Germany), Free >>> Danny Williams, 30, DM, Released

Winter ins >>> Richard Stearman, 32, CB, Sheff Utd, £180k >>> Harry Toffolo 24, LB, Lincoln, Undisclosed >>> Danny Simpson, 32, RB, Unattached, Free >>> Frazier Campbell, 31, CF, Hull, Free >>> Emile Smith Rowe 19, LM, Arsenal, Loan >>> Andy King 31, CM, Leicester, Loan >>> Chris Willock, 22, LM, Benfica, Loan >>> Jonas Lossl, 30, GK, Everton, Loan

Winter outs: >>> Aaron Mooy, 29, CM, Brighton, £5.4m >>> Rajiv van la Parra, 28, LW, Red Star (Serbia), £1.08m >>> Rarmani Edmonds-Green, 20, CB, Swindon, Loan >>> Isaac Mpenza, 23, RW, Amiens, Loan >>> Reece Brown, 23, CM, Peterborough, Loan >>> Terence Kongolo, 25, CB, Fulham, Loan >>> Florent Hadergjonaj, 25, RB, Kasimpasa (Turkey), Loan >>> Ryan Schofield, 20, GK, Livingston, Loan >>> Adama Diakhaby 23, LW, Forest, Loan >>> Josh Koroma, 21, CF, Rotherham, Loan

Stand out players and weak links in the team?

Academy player Lewis O’Brien has been one of the standouts for me. He works his socks off every game and is just willing to get stuck in, will play any position he’s asked to has a bit of a quality too. He’s scored two great goals this season against West Brom and Barnsley. Karlan Grant has caught the eye of everyone in this league and I dread to think where we’d be without his goals. Right back is still a weak point for me, we signed Danny Simpson on a free and he started well but got injured and hasn’t looked the same since. Right wing has been an issue too but hopefully Chris Willock will add some quality because Kachunga, unfortunately has struggled this season. We’re quite a small team too in places, so we can be vulnerable at defending set pieces but have looked threatening when we get our own, so should be a high scoring game against the R’s.

Prediction for the rest of the season?

Even though we’re still around the relegation zone, I think we’ll be safe. It’s been frustrating that we seem to do well against teams where we’re not expected to get much from such as Brentford or Forest but lose to the teams around us, Barnsley, Luton etc. This season is just about survival, so personally I can’t see us getting much higher than sixteenth which is fine given the state we were in before the Cowley took over. I initially said in pre-season that we’d finish tenth, if we somehow managed that I’d call that a major success but I’m not holding my breath.

Only in the Prem last season but it feels so long ago given the rapid decline, what's the three to five year plan? Do you see you getting back?

I think last season has really set us back and we just need to consolidate. The Cowley’s are ambitious but our owner has said we need a three window transition and that the club was in a ‘challenging’ position when he took over. In regards to the plan I think we want to be a competitive Championship team who regularly challenges for the playoffs and hopefully get promoted again. Personally, I think we can be a competitive Championship team but it’s going to take a few years to get there. With the Cowley’s in charge, I think it’s more than possible if they’re supported by our chairman in the same way they have been. I can’t wait for next season.

Links >>> Official website >>> Ground Guide >>> Down at the Mac – Forum >>> And he Takes That Chance – Podcast

The Twitter @brady0894, @takesthatchance, @loftforwords

Pictures – Action Images

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TacticalR added 12:09 - Feb 8
Thanks to Brady.

Coming down from the Premiership is a rollercoaster for most teams. Given the circumstances it sounds like the Cowleys have done well to steady the ship and there are some decent prospects in the team.

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