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Huddersfield Town success must be judged off pitch as much as on it in season ahead

Huddersfield Town success must be judged off pitch as much as on it in season ahead

It’s hard to discern where we should set our expectations for the seasons ahead. As it stands, the Terriers are going into the new season with largely the same squad that spent most of last season in the bottom three, but also the same squad – and manager – that ended the campaign as the third-best side in the division.

Neil Warnock seemed keen to err on the more cautious side of things at the press conference that heralded his one-year extension at Huddersfield Town. He pointed out that the league was likely to be highly competitive again; that the club were operating on a limited budget; that very few pundits tipping his side to continue their form from late last season would be willing to stake substantial money on the notion; and that indeed the bookies would have Town among the favourites for the drop. He wasn’t wrong: at 3/1, they are priced behind only Plymouth Argyle and Rotherham United.

Perhaps the most sensible thing would be to anticipate something in between the depths of despair and the elation of a promotion challenge. At this stage, nothing would really surprise us one way or the other.

What Warnock does offer is the best shot at stability the club could have gone for. As he himself has described it, the manager feels he can have – and has had – a steadying and calming influence while allowing the club’s non-football staff to concentrate on their own business.

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The changes to the coaching staff to suit Warnock’s requirements, as well as Leigh Bromby’s dismissal as sporting director, suggest that Kevin Nagle and his team intend to do exactly that, effectively annexing the football side of the club over to Warnock, who now wields more influence over the club’s summer transfer business than any of the head coaches they have had in place over the past five years.

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That’s a model that both Dean Hoyle and Phil Hodgkinson were keen to avoid if they could, certainly in the latter days of Hoyle’s time as owner. Only David Wagner got anything like that degree of trust and ultimate autonomy, and even then he had to earn it and still had a head of football operations above him. If they had wanted to, Town could have shifted to a managerial model with the Cowleys in 2020, but instead opted to get rid and revert to a head coach by bringing Carlos Corberan in to work under Bromby.

Both systems have their merits and their drawbacks, as Town’s very mixed record working under the sporting director model demonstrates, but the club now appears to have decided that the old-school managerial model is the way to go for now.

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  • June 25, 2023