Author Topic: Huddersfield Town - in the image of Jurgen Klopp  (Read 778 times)

Offline trophy4toon

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Huddersfield Town - in the image of Jurgen Klopp
« on: August 16, 2016, 07:06:51 am »
This article in the Sunday Times by George Caulkin last April explains a lot of what we say at St James last Saturday. The Championship is a tough league full of ambitious clubs dragging up the quality of the league with talented managers and fresh ideas.
It's going to be an exciting season:

David Wagner - Huddersfield Manager/German mate of Jurgen Klopp
How Klopp room-mate sold ‘gegenpress’ to Huddersfield
He has been a room-mate of the Liverpool manager, who is godfather to his daughter, but now David Wagner is shaping a Championship side in his countryman’s image

George Caulkin | Northern Sports Correspondent
April 4 2016, 1:01am,
The Times

Wagner’s methods have been embraced not just by the players but also the club’s fans

They first tried it at Hillsborough in November, when their lungs burnt and their legs took root. “We blew up after 70 minutes, every one of us,” Mark Hudson, the Huddersfield Town captain, said. “We hit this wall and that was us done. It was everyone in the team — we flatlined. We were winning 1-0, Sheffield Wednesday scored and we were finished.”

They tried it again in their next match, David Wagner’s introduction to the John Smith’s Stadium. They lost 2-0, but had 75 per cent of the possession and Aitor Karanka, the Middlesbrough head coach, said afterwards that “Huddersfield looked like the top team, not us”. Something was stirring and it was no longer just the heart-rate of players.

“The supporters gave us a standing ovation and that was a key moment,” Wagner said. “It was proof of what the chairman had told me, that in Huddersfield there’s a real hard-working mentality. This is exactly what Borussia Dortmund, in the Ruhr area of Germany, is like. It’s the perfect place for me to be. I’m a worker, too.”

Huddersfield Town are still trying, still working. They stand 18th in the Sky Bet Championship — they lost at home to Wednesday two days ago — which may not have the feel of ferment and yet that is precisely what they are striving for, committed to the gegenpress, a ferocious style of play and a new way of doings things. They have a difference, an edge.

It spreads across the club. Huddersfield announced their ticket pricing for next season with the Twitter hashtag #wagnerrevolution; adults will pay £179 for a season pass, at less than £7.80 a game. An initial run of 10,000 sold out within four days and the offer has been extended to 15,000 fans. Risk permeates everything.

Last season, Huddersfield finished 16th. The year before they were 17th. Twelve months earlier they were 19th and, when he arrived as the new head of football operations in June, Stuart Webber, who has worked in recruitment and youth strategy at Liverpool and elsewhere, saw a club in need of “a jolt of electricity”. It is what Wagner brings.

There are parallels with Anfield. Born in Frankfurt to a German mother and American father, Wagner, 44, is a compatriot and confidant of Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp, former room-mates at Mainz and colleagues at Dortmund, whom he served as second-team manager, coaching in the third tier of German football. They are now reunited in England, separated by 60 miles and one division.

They share more than that, too; facial tics, a wide grin, a fondness for baseball caps. “A lot of friends say we are similar, except that he has blond hair and I have black,” Wagner said. He was Klopp’s best man. “It’s the same in Germany — you have to give a speech, tell jokes. I can’t remember it. Too much beer.”

Klopp is godfather to the youngest of Wagner’s two daughters and the relationship is deep. “Sometimes you are not able to explain it — we met and in the first moment we were mates,” Wagner said. “He made it very easy for me to settle in at Mainz. There is no explanation, he was just a good guy and I hope he felt the same about me.

“We were roomies, we spent four years together, each away game and in the training camps. We were young, with a lot of crazy things in our heads, and this brings you together. I have known him longer than my wife, more than 25 years. I understand that for outsiders it’s a big story but for me, he’s a normal friend. The only thing is that it’s Jürgen Klopp.”

The bond includes a footballing philosophy, honed at the Westfalenstadion, where Klopp twice won the Bundesliga and reached the Champions League final. “In one of our first meetings, the chairman asked me, ‘Is it possible to bring the game of Borussia Dortmund to my club?’,” Wagner said. “Yes, of course. If everybody is open-minded and protects this idea and is patient, then it isn’t a problem.”

Hired on a rolling contract, Wagner spoke to the coaches of all age groups; from now on, each Huddersfield team would play the same way (developing youngsters is fundamental). And players, comfortable in familiarity, suddenly had their touchstones removed. Theirs is a life of double sessions and if their next game kicks off at 7.45pm, that is when they train.

Hudson, who has played in the Barclays Premier League, viewed Wagner’s appointment as “out-there thinking”; he and his team-mates had to google their new gaffer (the lack of knowledge was reciprocated: “I knew nothing about Huddersfield,” Wagner admitted). “It was a shock to the system, a change to the way we did everything,” the 34-year-old centre half said. “But this is the best footballing team I’ve been involved in. And I’m fitter than I’ve ever been.”

Wagner recognised the pitfalls. “If you’re a typical English professional who has been around for ten years and you have two days off in a week and only train each day at 11am and then this crazy German comes in and says, ‘Double session on Tuesday, double session on Wednesday, you always train in the afternoon. I think my wife would have said, ‘What is he doing?’”

His methods have chimed with who Huddersfield are. “I call it the Terrier Identity,” Wagner said. “The philosophy of Borussia Dortmund’s football is full-throttle, passion, speed, never giving up, making life uncomfortable for opponents and then, with these basics, create chances and score goals.

“And a terrier has speed, a terrier is full-throttle, and Huddersfield are the Terriers. It’s very easy for me to say that this is the right club. It’s perfect, because I don’t have to play a role, I can be myself. I love this style of football, I love this philosophy.”

It has re-energised Dean Hoyle, Huddersfield’s home-town owner and chairman, who made his fortune hawking greetings cards from the back of his car at Wakefield Market, a business he would later sell for £350 million. And yet there is also a sense of a club in abeyance.

“It’s funny,” Wagner said. “We’re fighting to stay in the league, but the atmosphere is very positive. It shows we have potential, that we’re greedy, but we have to be realistic. We’re ambitious, but you can’t just say, ‘OK, we’re one of the best teams,’ and then it happens. We can’t forget we’re Huddersfield. Our long-term aim is to attack the top ten, but we won’t do it with the most money. We have to get our decisions right.”

He has not been afraid of them. At the end of his playing career — Mainz, Schalke, where he won the Uefa Cup — Wagner stepped away from the game. “I wasn’t hungry any more, perhaps I’d lost my love for football,” he said. “I thought I had seen everything, done everything. I had played everywhere in the world, travelling from city to city, town to town, country to country.

“I was also excited about doing something new, I was interested in other parts of life. I went to university and studied biology, sports science and education as a teacher and I was out of the football family for five years. It gave me new influences and ideas. For my personality, it was very important. The biology helped me understand what happens in the bodies of players.”

Klopp advised him to return to the game but, in any case, the “football virus” had already returned. “It’s funny we both ended up in England,” Wagner said. “I’ve only met him twice — he is busy, me too — but we speak two or three times a week. He’ll ask me about the Championship, if I’ve seen Liverpool’s games. We’ve spoken about the different culture here. He has exactly the same problems, but on a higher level.”

Wagner was perched on a stool at Huddersfield’s Canalside training complex. It had been a members’ club for the old ICI plant across the road and when it was sold, there was a commitment to maintain and enhance the facilities. Players mingle with the public, who sup pints or work out amid the hubbub of football. “It keeps them honest,” Hoyle is fond of saying. The Terrier Identity is evident here, too.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2016, 07:11:14 am by trophy4toon »