Premier League? We’re having a dilemma…

Date published: Friday 17th February 2017 9:25

“The Town are going up…the Town are going up…and now you better believe us…and now you better believe us…”

Erm, guys, wait a minute, do we actually want to go up?

Is it sacrilege to wonder whether glorious failure in the Championship might be better than inglorious destruction in the Premier League? Whether you really want praise from Danny Murphy for trying to play ‘the right way’ in a 3-0 defeat. Whether you want to hear Martin Keown saying you need to find a ‘different way’ to compete. Whether you want to replace Reading and then Middlesbrough as the team Daniel Storey always forgets to mention in Winners and Losers. Whether you want better pundits than Ian Holloway to write you off even before the season starts.

But what kind of fool would turn down the chance to see their team in the top flight for the first time in their lifetime? What kind of fool would opt out of Match of the Day, Guardian pull-outs, Old Trafford, Jurgen Klopp, the Emirates, Sky Sports, all that delicious money, Alexis Sanchez, Pep Guardiola, Michael Cox tactics boards, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Premier League Trophy in Asia, MailOnline Instagram stories and missing a round of the League Cup?

Our own John Nicholson often writes that he enjoys Championship seasons with Middlesbrough more than the long, slow death of the Premier League and the criticism always comes thick and fast, though it’s telling that the criticism comes largely from two sets of supporters: Those whose teams are firmly ensconced in the elite and see the Championship as a place further away and far more frightening than Baku, and those whose teams are so low down the food chain that they cannot ever imagine spurning promotion.

But those of you in the squeezed middle classes will recognise that ‘oooh, we might go up, but do we want to go up…of course we bloody do…oh wait a minute, what if we’re Derby?’ feeling.

As the jubilant Huddersfield Town fans celebrated like bouncing, Haribo-high five-year-olds at the end of Tuesday’s 3-2 win at Rotherham (my brother and his wife among them…Happy Valentine’s Day, love), there will not have been a shred of doubt that they want this feeling to last until the very last second of the season and beyond an optimistic summer.

At that moment, it feels like the genius of David Wagner will be enough to not just survive but thrive in the Premier League. Those wonderful young loan players from Manchester City and Chelsea will sign on again, Wagner will find cheap, pacey defenders in the lower reaches of the Bundesliga, Andy Booth will come out of retirement, and we could be another Bournemouth, you know. We bloody could. Oh when the Town…

By Thursday morning, the doubts have started to creep in again. We play a breed of football that could get taken apart by much better teams with the same high-pressing style, our defenders are painfully slow, nobody decent will want to join us, our best players are all on bloody loan, we will be an embarrassment, and even if somehow we do fare okay, our manager really will bugger off this time. We’re Yorkshire, and we’re miserable.

This weekend, Town play Manchester City in the FA Cup – a game not televised despite Town’s ludicrous record of losing just once since the end of November – and yet that oddly feels like a non-event compared to what is happening in the Championship, where a ten-point gap to leaders Newcastle has been halved.

The dream of the play-offs has been replaced by a bloodthirsty hunt. And that hunt is addictive even if the ‘pessimistic’ half of your brain is screaming that the Premier League could be a very lonely place for a small, provincial club still singing about glory days that are almost a century old.

The answer to the ‘do we really want to…?’ question lies in the memory of failure, for 17 years ago Huddersfield Town were top of the table at Christmas – above City, for all you Alanis Morissette fans – and then contrived to fall out of the play-offs on the very last day of the season with abject, spineless defeat to Fulham.

There will be no repeat of that debacle because there is no Steve Bruce sodding off to Brazil to commentate on the World Club Championship mid-season and no mind-boggling sale of the club’s best player in the middle of a promotion fight.

The price of devastating failure was a disastrous start to the following season (one win in 19 league games) and the first of two relegations in three campaigns, sandwiching another failed promotion challenge. Town had to hit rock bottom before the climb, with five play-off campaigns in nine seasons finally landing us back in the Championship.

So when faced with the question of whether we want to move further away from those dark days, the only sensible option is to embrace promotion and brace ourselves for the heartache that will likely follow.

“….and now you better belieeeeeeeeeeve us….the Town are going up.”

Maybe. Possibly. Hopefully.

Sarah Winterburn

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