“If you do not win away it puts more pressure on you to win at home,” said David Wagner on Friday. “This is what we have done so far. We have so far a very good home record. We have lost only against Tottenham and Manchester City.”
The valiant performance in devastating defeat to City in particular had perhaps masked Huddersfield’s recent slump. West Ham’s victory over Chelsea on Saturday lunchtime meant the Terriers welcomed Brighton to the John Smith’s Stadium with just a two-point gap separating them from the relegation zone.
Not for the first time, Wagner had overseen a late autumn collapse. Since the German was appointed Town manager in 2015, Huddersfield have won just one of nine games in November. Their record in December is the Christmas miracle that follows the barren run: it now reads eight wins, three draws and three defeats.
That sole November win had kept West Yorkshire heads above rising waters. The Terriers secured only a second win in 14 games over West Brom when they visited the John Smith’s Stadium five weeks ago. It was a result that effectively sounded the death knell of Tony Pulis’ Baggies reign.
“I have to say this place is like Stoke when I was first at Stoke,” said the Welshman after the defeat. “It’s absolutely rocking, everyone is as one and it doesn’t half make a difference.”
Huddersfield are trying to achieve what many thought impossible, but Pulis and Stoke were in the same position a football lifetime ago. In each of the subsequent seasons after their unexpected promotion to the Premier League in 2008, they were backed as favourites for relegation. Each time they defied the doubters.
Stoke based their survival hopes on home comforts. The Potters finished 12th in their first season in the Premier League, ten of their 12 victories coming at home; they never finished higher than 11th, nor lower than 14th under Pulis. He kept Stoke up for five seasons before leaving in 2013 – 41 of their 56 league wins in that time came at the Britannia Stadium.
Pulis created the blueprint that Huddersfield are looking to follow: survival founded on home form. A deserved 2-0 win over Brighton means that 14 of Huddersfield’s 18 points this season have come in front of their own fans. They rank 17th in a table comprised solely of away results, but relegation battle becomes mid-table safety in their own backyard – only ten teams have a better home record this season.
This is a team that can beat Manchester United and push Manchester City to their limits at home, but be dismantled by Bournemouth and Arsenal, and fail to even score against Swansea away. In a Premier League where teams can rise or fall three or four mid-table places with a single victory, such decisive home support is an ace in the hole.
‘Talking to two people who made the trip to Everton on Saturday, both were agreed on one thing: Town may never score another away goal in the Premier League,’ read Winners and Losers on Monday, with Huddersfield firmly entrenched in the latter column. Their lack of away goals since the opening day is not for the want of trying: they have had both one more shot (67 to 66) and one more shot on target (20 to 19) away compared to at home. But football is sometimes about the unquantifiables, and Town have something to set them apart from the rest of the mid-table muddle.
‘The end result is that there is now a ridiculous amount of pressure on their home games,’ Winners and Losers continued earlier in the week; Huddersfield’s fortress is proving itself more than capable of coping.