Huddersfield Town’s meteoric rise to securing Premier League status under David Wagner in 2017 was regarded by many as a fairy-tale story for a club who had been absent from the top tier for 46 years.
Despite having all the odds stacked against them, the Terriers ran both Brighton and Newcastle United extremely close for automatic promotion before eventually finishing third in the Championship standings, setting up an all-Yorkshire play-off semi-final with Sheffield Wednesday. In what was an incredibly tight affair across two legs of action, Wagner’s side eventually prevailed via a penalty shoot-out, a result which would have been particularly painful for their opponents who had failed once again to deliver in the knock-out competition.
Huddersfield went on to face Reading in the final in what turned out to be a largely forgettable affair at Wembley Stadium. Forward Izzy Brown missed the best chance of the game, somehow firing wide with the goal gaping yet a lack of ambition from either side ultimately ended in the clash having to be decided by penalties. Using the experience of the previous round to their advantage, the Terriers won 4-3 in the shoot-out with defender Christopher Schindler blasting home the winner which took them to the top flight.
Although this particular game will live long in the memories of the club’s supporters, it could be argued that promotion came far too soon for Wagner’s side. Last season’s miraculous survival in the Premier League only temporarily papered over the cracks at the John’s Smith’s Stadium with the current campaign outlining the void between Huddersfield and the rest of the top flight teams.
Despite receiving a significant financial boost from winning the play-off final, it was a big ask for the Terriers to compete in the transfer market when you consider that up until 2017, the biggest amount of money they had spent on a player was just £1.98m which they forked out to bring Schindler to the club from 1860 Munich (via Transfermarkt). Although they have gone on to break this record on numerous occasions, the quality of signings have, with the notable exceptions of Aaron Mooy and Zanka, not been anywhere near good enough.
However, whereas other clubs have blown ridiculous amounts on players, chairman Dean Hoyle’s decision to keep spending within a suitable limit could have a positive impact for next season when the club find themselves back in the Championship.
It would be naive to argue that the Premier League hasn’t had its benefits for Huddersfield yet in terms of competing on the pitch, they may have been better suited to one or two more seasons in the second tier. By doing this, Wagner would have been able to build a better foundation that would have allowed his side to establish themselves at the top level for years to come.
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