The day after Huddersfield Town secured promotion to the Premier League, David Wagner stood in front of a crowd of twenty-five thousand people in St. George’s Square.
As the chants of “He’s Better Than Klopp” died down, he told them that it “doesn’t count how big you are or how experienced you are”, so long as you have “passion and desire, you have no limits.”
Later in the evening, as the gathered revellers made haste for the nearest bars and pubs, they might have been forgiven for thinking that Herr Wagner was preaching to the converted.
After all, in 1919 their ancestors had fought tooth and nail to stave off a supposedly “inevitable” merger with Leeds United, setting the stage for the triumphant Thrice Champions side of the 1920s in the process. And in 2003, many of them had raided their own savings to salvage the club from liquidation—a show of faith and loyalty that has surely paid handsome dividends.
Indeed, like a handful of other provincial clubs, if Huddersfield Town A.F.C. had a middle name, it would be ‘Against All Odds’.
And this week, as the club prepares for its first season in the top-flight for forty-five years, the odds are most certainly against them. Frankly, there’s nothing to be gained by belabouring this point, so suffice it to say that the Terriers are the biggest underdogs in Premier League history.
When Robbie Savage, Paul Merson, and every man and his parrot on Twitter tip them for the drop, they’re not displaying the first symptoms of acute indolence, they’re simply acknowledging a salient fact: that is, nine times out of ten, money wins.
But there’s always the exception, and back in May, that dubious honour was bestowed upon Huddersfield Town by dint of Christopher Schindler’s Playoff winning penalty.
At the beginning of the 2016/17 campaign, only a romantic or a fool would have backed Wagner’s ragtag bunch of cut price Teutons and young loanees, assembled on the division’s fourth lowest budget, to pip so many supposedly revered clubs to the promised land.
I can almost hear the half-time team talks now.
Lads, it’s Huddersfield.
Well, quite, and it’s not unreasonable to suggest that different variations of this epithet will echo around changing rooms and television studios for the next ten months, just as they did for Oldham, Barnsley, and Swindon, not to mention Burnley, Bournemouth, and Swansea.
And, when all is said and done, that’s the real question, isn’t it? Do Huddersfield belong in the former group or the latter?
For the realist, the answer is simple. It does indeed matter how big and experienced you are, and how big and experienced you are is dependent upon transfer budgets and wage budgets, agents’ fees, merchandise sales, global imaging rights, and so on and so forth.
Go directly to the Championship, do not pass Goal, do not collect another £200 million.
But it’s not so clear to the rest of us. Whether we support Brighton or Huddersfield or Leyton Orient, we have no choice but to hope against hope that football is still fundamentally about good old-fashioned things like brains and guts and legs; that gold makes you blind and power makes you complacent; that for every Karl Oyston there’s a Dean Hoyle, and for every 2003 there’s a 2017.
A series of futile exercises, perhaps, but these days my mind often wanders to the response a self-described “crazy German” gave when asked by the press whether he was familiar with the Biblical story of David and Goliath.
“Yes, I remember this story from when I was a child. And do you know what my favourite part of this story was? David won.”
Romantics and fools, eh! Who’d be anything else?