Corberan's surprise Terriers pushing play-offs - Interview
Tuesday, 23rd Nov 2021 12:41 by Clive Whittingham
Huddersfield, tipped by many (ok, us) for a season of struggle, are trucking along very nicely in seventh. We asked Brady Frost from the And He Takes That Chance Podcast, and Town regular David Siddall for their thoughts on the Terriers so far.
How would you assess Huddersfield's start to the season?
DS: I think our start has taken a lot of people including myself by surprise. Given the last three seasons where we have become accustomed to being in and around relegation it is a pleasant surprise. We started last season strongly before collapsing in the second half of the season so there is certainly a sense of cautious optimism but we do seem to have a more a solid defensive base then last season in addition to squad depth which we didn’t have last season and contributed to our dire second half of the season.
BF: Very positive. There’s been a few disappointing results chucked in there but I'm really happy with the start to the campaign, we’re a lot more competitive which given how poor we were in the second half of last season is a refreshing change.
Terriers’ league results thus far…
DS: We have switched from 4-3-3 to more of a 3-4-3 formation which has helped solidify our defence we conceded the highest number of goals in the Championship last season (71) and threw away more than 30 points from winning positions last season so that had to be addressed and it has been so far. The emergence of Sorba Thomas has been pleasing to see and his quality not just from open play but set pieces to have played a crucial role in most of our wins, especially as we I don’t think many of our attacking options have hit form yet. This team very much has feeling of a sum of all parts rather then relying on any individual’s quality to carry it through and there is certainly much more of a team spirit and hard work ethos throughout the squad this season then there has been in the last couple of season.
BF: The signings have made a huge difference. We’ve now got experienced professionals in the squad rather than inexperienced kids to make up the numbers, we now look competitive in most games regardless of the opposition which is a huge plus. I have to give credit to Carlos Corberan too, he seems to have learnt from some of the mistakes from last season. With him having experienced Championship football more, now seems to be getting more familiar with the league and getting his ideas across to the team.
Secondly, I thought the summer recruitment looked a bit strange, and not exactly matching up the manager's specific style - has he adapted and changed? How have the new players settled in? Who's the stand out?
DS:This summer saw the last of our Premier League signings leave the club (only Hogg from the Premier League team is still at the club) and it seems the club is looking to rebuild. This Summer was mainly about adding depth which is not glamorous but something we needed to do, Josh Ruffels and Turton add depth at Full back which we lacked last season. Lee Nicholls has added more of a presence and calming influence in goal, Ryan Schofield had a very torrid time the second half of last season and Nicholls has been a bit of a surprise with the move up from League one. We have overhauled the defence with the additions of Tom Lee’s, Matty Pearson adding some experience and steel in addition to Levi Colwill (on loan from Chelsea) who is already looking like he will grace the Premier League soon, these moves also allowed some of more promising prospects such as Ramani Edmonds Green to go out on loan and play regular football. Daniel Sinani has hit a bit of goal scoring form of late but also has a tendency to go missing in games, Jordan Rhodes is currently injured so we have to hope that he has a productive second half of the season. I think the manager has adapted his system and realised you cant be as open as we were last season and given the players in the squad and who we recruited the style of football he wanted to implement when he first joined isn’t possible so has adapted to a more safety first style though we will look to be more expressive if the opportunity arises.
BF: Carlos Corberan has realised how important being strong defensively in this league is, I would say. The recruitment, at first didn’t seem to correlate with Corberan’s style, but when a team concedes the most goals in the division last season, it’s not surprising that the majority of their summer recruitment focuses on defence. After shipping in 71 goals in a 46 game Championship campaign, we focused primarily on defence and it’s made a huge difference. Lee Nicholls, the goalkeeper from MK Dons has been a calming presence in goal compared to the inexperienced Ryan Schofield but the switch to three at the back has made us more solid defensively too. Matty Pearson is a no nonsense defender, Tom Lees, an experienced Championship defender has come in and surprised us all and Levi Colwill, a youngster on loan from Chelsea has been fantastic. Colwill is the most impressive for me, 18 years old, only playing men’s football for the first time this season is so calm and composed on the ball and an excellent defender - he is going to be a fantastic player.
Ins: >>> Josh Ruffels, 27, LB, Oxford, Free >>> Lee Nicholls, 28, GK, MK Dons, Free >>>Matty Pearson, 27, CB, Luton, Free >>> Tom Lees, 30, CB, Sheff Wed, Free >>> Jordan Rhodes, 31, CF, Sheff Wed, Free >>> Ollie Turton, 28, RB, Blackpool, Free >>> Levi Colwill, 18, CB, Chelsea, Loan >>> Danel Sinani, 24, AM, Norwich, Loan >>> Mipo Odubeko, 18, CF, West Ham, Loan
Outs: >>> Juninho Bacuna, 24, CM, Rangers, £2m >>> Jaden Brown, 22, LB, Sheff Wed, Free >>> Christopher Schindler, 31, CB, Nuremburg, Free >>> Jayson Leutwiler, 32, GK, Oldham, Free >>> Alex Pritchard, 28, AM, Sunderland, Free >>> Richard Keogh, 34, CB, Blackpool, Free >>> Isaac Mbenza, 25, CF, Qatar SC, Free >>> Yaya Sanogo, 28, CF, Released >>> Richard Stearman, 33, CB, Derby, Free >>> Christopher Schindler, 31, CB, Nuremberg, Free >>> Jaden Brown, 22, LB< Sheff Wed, Free >>> Tommy Elphick, 33, CB, Released >>> Oumar Niasse, 31, CF, Released >>> Demeaco Duhaney, 22, RB, Released >>> Rarmani Edmonds-Green, 22, CB, Rotherham, Loan
Presumably manager's approval rating is pretty high?
DS: I think there are still mixed feelings, if we had started this season the way we finished last he likely wouldn’t be here so to turn that around deserves enormous credit. Likewise to be where we are in the league with the squad we have on paper is tremendous, I think with the nature of Football he is only 18 months into a huge job so I would like to think he really gets the time to develop at this club as he is still a relatively new coach learning on the job in a tough environment. I still have doubts based upon our second half of last season so I think the end of the season would be a fairer reflection to judge him. He doesn’t tend to change much in games and his tendency not to rotate players particularly during intensive fixture periods causes concern and often leads to injuries to key players at crucial times, I was hoping that with the squad depth in the summer would change his approach but keeping the same 11 during the last 3 game week has my alarm bells ringing. Saying that you will still struggle to find a shop in Huddersfield that has Chino’s and a pair of New Balance in stock.
BF: Yeah definitely. Initially, I had concerns about whether Carlos Corberán and Huddersfield Town complement each other but he has impressed me so far this season as whenever we’ve lost it’s not turned into a run of defeats, we seem to bounce back and that’s so crucial in the chaos of the Championship. The only slight concern I have is we made a great start in the first half of the season in 20/21 and then everyone knows we dropped off. There are caveats to the poor run in the second half last season but there are some fans who are waiting to judge at the end of the campaign. To be less pessimistic, there’s been a lot of poor results of the last three or four years for Huddersfield Town fans to stomach so let’s just enjoy it.
Stand out players and weak links in the team?
DS: Sorba Thomas started the season well but has tailed off a bit in the last few games but is still a threat and I am probably being harsh on him. The back 3 (likely to be Sarr, Colwill and Pearson) are crucial to everything we do and provide the platform and confidence for the team to build on. Pearson and Sarr at Set Pieces are a threat and we have had quite a lot of success from Set Pieces which is something most Town fans aren’t used too! Weak links attacking I the final 3rd we sometimes lack creativity and for all his toil Danny Ward is not prolific in front of goal. We also have a bit of an injury crisis in centre midfield with Hogg and Alex Vallejo injured that means we are relying on the inexperienced Scott High to partner Lewis O’Brien in the centre which at the moment is an untested partnership over a prolonged period.
BF: Sorba Thomas and his set piece delivery has offered us a real attacking threat and can’t be understated. He’s been outstanding this season and earned a deserved call up to the Welsh national team. Lewis O’Brien has been fantastic this season in the middle and captained the team against West Brom in Jonathan Hogg’s absence, there was a lot of interest from Premier League clubs for O’Brien in the summer and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the step up before long.
For weak links, we can struggle to create chances in open play and rely on set pieces this season. We’ve also got injuries in certain areas, such as midfield which means we’re using an academy player while our captain Jonathan Hogg is injured. Ollie Turton, the right back who we signed from Blackpool in the summer has flattered to deceive this season but showed signs of improvement at the weekend.
Revised expectations for the season?
DS: I don’t think our season expectations have changed much to be honest , if we are away from the relegation pack in April it will be a good season. I don’t think most fans expect us to be in the play off hunt come the business end of the season but if come January we are I would hope we would try and push on a bit, what we don’t want is to repeat the mistakes of last season where we thought we were safe in January and stagnated a combination of injuries, getting rid of experienced players and replacing them were the primary reason in our second half collapse. If we could get a good Mid Table finish with something to build on for the next season I think most fans will be satisfied with that especially after the last couple of seasons relegation battles.
BF: I still think mid table because we lack a striker who can get us 15-20 goals and although the squad depth has improved, there’s still a gap in quality between the Starting XI and the substitutes in some areas. Plus, this league is so unpredictable and although we’re seventh at the moment, we’re just ten points off 19th and with three games a week anything can happen. If we’re still around the playoffs in January, with one or two quality additions then who knows? As long as we’re continuing to show progress and well clear of a relegation battle, then I’d be happy.
The Twitter @brady0894, @takesthatchance, @loftforwords
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