Opposition Q & A
What a la la! as my Jamaican grandmother would have said: West Ham failed to pass muster against an almost relegated Cardiff last time out. This Saturday we will try to make amends against the almost demoted Huddersfield, whose time in the top division is certainly coming to an end. Ahead of the game I once again chatted to our old friend John McNamarra of Huddersfield fanzine Terrierblog to get some home truths on the state of play for a fan of a team that has had an horrendous season, after two of fluctuating success.
Unfortunately it looks like Huddersfield will be returning to the Championship at the end of the season, what’s been the main difference between this season and last season?
Quite simply, momentum. We had 7 points from our first 3 games last season and that gave us a good platform to build on. As it turns out, we needed that good start as our form slipped down the pan just before Christmas last season. This time around we’ve had the wrong kind of momentum. We’ve grown accustomed to not scoring, not getting the rub of the green and most importantly not winning. Losing has become second nature to the players this season and unfortunately, that shows no sign of changing.
Does having to share your ground with a Rugby League team have any effect on the football team, or has it always been thus?
I went to my first Town game in spring 2004 and the pitch was pretty torn up from the Huddersfield Giants then. Fortunately that made little difference back then as we predominantly launched long balls to our prop forward Andy Booth! In the promotion season Dean Hoyle invested heavily into maintaining the pitch to mitigate the impact of rugby on the playing surface. It still isn’t ideal but I don’t think it’s had any significant impact on our fortunes this season.
It was sad to see David Wagner leave earlier on in the season: at least from where we stand it looks like he left on his own terms. Was he right to go? How do you sum up the David Wagner years?
You’re right, he did go out on his own terms after initially agreeing to see out the remainder of the season in private. It was unfortunate to see Wagner go as he is an absolute legend in Huddersfield. Without going into too much detail, David Wagner’s job was made 10 times harder this season than last through no fault of his own. I think he had just got to a point where he was burnt out and we bare no ill will towards him for looking out for his own peace of mind and leaving his post.
I suppose it was all too late for Jan Siewert to have any impact on your season, will Jan still be guiding you next season?
I feel sorry for Jan Siewert. His position is similar to that of Theresa May, he’s inherited a poisoned chalice. Can he really do anything to improve our season now? I don’t think so.
It’s all about next season in the Championship and Siewert’s success will very much depend on what he does in the transfer window. Perhaps with more focus on the departures rather than the incomings.
What have been your highlights if any over the past two years in the Premier League?
I think I mentioned it in a previous Q&A on your site, but I absolutely despise the Premier League. Real football fans and real football experiences are few and far between I’m afraid. I feel obliged to say that the highlight was beating Manchester United but any joy I had after that result was assuaged by the patronising punditry. I believe Ian Wright constantly referred to us as ‘Sundersfield’ on Match of the Day with no hint of irony.
Returning to the rest of the division, who have been the best players you’ve seen this year at The Kirklees Stadium?
Wilfried Zaha without a shadow of a doubt. It would be easy to pick a player who plays for one of the big clubs, but those players are surrounded by other quality operators. Zaha is playing in a limited side and he single handedly won the game at our stadium earlier this season.
Who is your pick to win the Premier League this year, and who are going to fill the other Champions League places?
I think it all depends on the Champions League. I think City would give anything to win the Champions League so if they go deeper in the competition than Liverpool I can see them slipping in the league. Apart from those two I firmly believe Arsenal will grab a top four finish, I’ve been impressed with their resolve under Emery and they have a favourable run-in. I’m also backing Manchester United to pip Spurs to the final top four spot. Whatever pact Daniel Levy made with the Devil, it’s surely wearing off now and Spurs simply cannot continue to overachieve as they have done now for so long.
Who are your favourites for the drop?
Fulham, Cardiff and Southampton… Only joking. Obviously we’ll finish rock bottom with Fulham just a few points ahead of us. I reckon Cardiff will slip away too, although that’s more of a hope to be honest because I cannot stand Neil Warnock.
Which of your players will get your vote for club player of the season? Which other players have got a look in?
Christopher Schindler. He is without doubt our best and most committed player. If he had a higher level of ambition he would be plying his trade at a much better club than ours.
Unfortunately for Town fans, there is not one single player in the squad that has come even close to matching his levels of consistency this season.
Which players do you think will be on their way during the summer?
Brace yourself, here’s my list of players that I’ll happy drive to their next clubs; Zanka, Hadergjonaj, Diakhaby, Mbenza, Mounie, Depoitre, Pritchard and Durm.
Are we going to have to wait another 45 years or so years to see Huddersfield come back to the top flight? Do you think these past couple of years have laid down the structure for your rapid return?
It all depends on Jan Siewert’s first transfer window, until then we won’t really know what to expect in the Championship. What’s certain is we need to get rid of a lot of deadwood if we are to mount a serious challenge to return next season.
The players we currently have are far too familiar with losing every week, so something needs to change in that regard. To be honest though, I’d be happy enough to flirt with the play-offs rather than get promoted. The Premier League isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
What will your priorities be for next season back in the Championship?
Score some goals, have a bit of fun, win a couple of matches and compete in every game we play. The beauty of the Championship is that a Preston fan can go to promotion chasing Middlesborough and watch their side win.
Fans go into every game knowing that there’s a chance of their team winning. Can any of your fans honestly say the same about a trip to the Etihad?
How are Huddersfield going to line up against West Ham on Saturday? Players/Formation?
I have no idea. Siewert has changed his formation several times and the playing personnel as well. He seems to have lost his rag with a couple of senior pros recently and has been happy to replace them with youth.
Don’t be surprised to see a couple of players with squad numbers in the 40s facing off against your lot.
Are you going to follow Cardiff and give us an unexpected beating? Prediction for result?
No, of course not. Bet your wage, your savings and your house on West Ham to win to nil. We certainly will not score, the amount of goals you get all depends on how up for it your players are.
Well thanks once again to John for his thoughts: he didi warn me they might be a bit on the glum side. Despite wrongly having predicted us to beat Cardiff surely we can put Huddersfield away this weekend. I’m going for the ridiculously optimistic shout of 4 – 0 to West Ham. COYI