It seems just yesterday that Huddersfield Town achieved one of the unlikeliest promotions to the Premier League after beating Reading on penalties at Wembley back in 2017. However, their short stay in England’s top division looks to be coming to an abrupt end and they could go down this weekend if they lose to Crystal Palace and other results go against them. They would become only the second side relegated in March, joining that infamous Derby side who went down with 11 points in 2008.
Southampton would need to beat Brighton and Burnley would need to beat high-flying Wolves to secure the Terriers unavoidable fate but despite this season’s failings, we should not forget the impact and incredible run that they went on to reach the Premier League and indeed stay up against all the odds.
His turnaround of Huddersfield was simply outstanding. A club so often battling relegation in the Championship were transformed into one of the divisions most pragmatic and dogged (excuse the pun) sides. Having finished 19th the previous season, Wagner remarkably lead his transformed side to an unlikely play-off place at the end of the season, finishing fifth, amazingly with a minus goal difference.
In the semifinals, they faced a tough Sheffield Wednesday side who had impressed with attacking football throughout the season. The first leg at home ended 1-1, as did the second leg as a late own goal kept the Terriers’ dreams alive. The tie went to penalties and Danny Ward was the hero, saving the key spot-kicks before an epic full-length pitch celebration. Little old Huddersfield were at Wembley.
There they would face Jaap Stam’s Reading, the team that had finished third in the league and pushed Newcastle and Brighton all the way. On play-off final day Wembley is always packed full of the hopes and expectations of thousands of fans, and the whole season comes down to one game. 90 minutes.
Or in this case 120. It was one of the most forgettable play-off finals in recent years but not for the Huddersfield fans, as they took the game to penalties. The Terriers actually went behind in that shootout before Danny Ward made a big save to give Michael Hefele the chance to send them to the Premier League. He converted and sent the fans wild. Amazingly Huddersfield Town were in the top flight. They had won the richest game in football and unbelievably become the first team get promoted with a negative goal difference. They didn’t even win a game in the play-offs, using penalties to take them to the promised land.
David Wagner was rightly heralded as a hero but before the dust had even settled on their Wembley win, Huddersfield had already been written off in the Premier League. They were tipped by almost every pundit to go straight back down to the Championship, with Wagner having a tiny budget to operate with against the big boys. Huddersfield were seen as the whipping boys in the league that season having come up under ‘lucky’ circumstances for many but it just did not pan out that way.
Retaining several of the side that earned them promotion, Wagner went about proving the pundits wrong. They started the season with two successive wins against Crystal Palace and Newcastle before a home draw against Southampton got them off to a dream start in the Premier League. A few tough results followed before the highlight of Huddersfield’s season came in late October.
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United came to town expected to keep up their pressure on rivals Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table. However, Huddersfield had different ideas and went two goals in front in the first half, before repelling sustained United pressure in the second half, eventually coming out 2-1 winners.
That win will go down in the history books for the Terriers and was vital as they propelled themselves away from the relegation zone. Huddersfield lost only once in December but a dodgy January with five losses in a row meant they still needed something heading into the final stages.
Back-to-back wins against Bournemouth and relegation rivals West Brom helped them out but many felt they were still in trouble heading into some incredibly difficult final fixtures. A loss at Everton put the pressure on their final three games but again, against all odds they delivered.
They got a miraculous point away at Champions Manchester City before heading to Stamford Bridge and officially sealing their survival with another draw. The scenes at full-time were spectacular and really encapsulated what a fantastic achievement it really was to keep the Terriers in the top flight.
Although things proved more difficult this season, with iconic manager David Wagner leaving the club in January. Jan Siewert came in in his place but has failed to improve the results and relegation now looks inevitable. However, we should not forget how exciting it was to have Huddersfield in the top flight and they are only heading to the Championship, not off the face of the earth.
With two Premier League seasons under their belt and the finances that come with that, they could launch an unexpected promotion push next season. They may be (nearly) gone, but hopefully, we may see a return of David Wagner in the Premier League as his success should not be forgotten.