Manager in the media: Huddersfield Town’s David Wagner

Johnny’s new series to takes a positive look at managers in the media and what we like about them. This week it’s the turn of the only man who looks like a lovely bearded Care Bear. That’ll be David Wagner, then…


Who Are Ya?
Brought up in West Germany by his German mother. Having an American dad meant he qualified for the States national side. His playing career was as a striker for the likes of Mainz, Schalke 04, FC Gütersloh and SV Darmstadt 98. Turned out for USA national side too, a little controversially, as he’d played for German youth teams.

After retiring, he studied for a degree in Sports Science and Biology, went into coaching Hoffenheim’s youth team and then managing Borussia Dortmund reserves as part of old Mainz buddy Jurgen Klopp’s reign.

Was expected to go to Liverpool with Klopp but instead surprised everyone when he took over Huddersfield Town, which was widely regarded as a slightly mad thing to do due to the fact that Huddersfield were absolute rubbish at the time.


Cunning Linguist?
Has those two rare but metaphysical qualities that you just can’t fake: charisma and charm. This is why you just can’t help liking him. Think about this. If anyone came to you and said they thought David was horrible, you’d think there was something wrong with them, wouldn’t you? How could anyone not like someone who has THAT look in his eye. Someone who is bright and sparky and interesting?

He speaks enthusiastically but never sounds dismissive of criticism, arrogant or overly defensive even though his Huddersfield side have hovered near relegation much of their time in the top flight.

His press conferences are very rational and even-paced affairs with occasional jokes.

Fluently bilingual, he has that Germanic twang to his voice which means occasionally he misses out a conjunctive in a sentence.

Very erudite and clearly well-educated, he manages never to be aloof and is capable of viscerally emotional celebrations pitchside. Has done a couple of touchline sprints as goals go in, loves to celebrate with the fans when a big win happens and is not above winding up opposition managers and players too if necessary. Once had a bit of a pushy-pushy set-to with Garry Monk.


Fashion Icon?
Very boyish indeed for a 47-year-old man. Could easily pass for 35. Lovely smooth well-moisturised skin. Endearingly, is prone to huge grins. When he shouts, he has a noticeably capacious mouth which could probably hold a whole butternut squash.

Is usually pitchside in the tracksuit and sportswear which should look odd on a 47-year old, but for some reason he gets away without looking like a man buying cider at a static caravan holiday park clubhouse bar.

Often sports a baseball cap and has been spotted in a suit too, usually in the full Man From Milk Tray all-black which, while not especially stylish, always looks neat and tidy. One has the impression that his instinct is to be very scruffy. The sort of chap who can’t wait to loosen the tie, loosen the belt and let out a long fart. Taking off his jacket reveals a shirt with many soup and sausage stains. Is possibly the only Premier League manager who you could imagine wearing a spotty dalmatian onesie and making barking noises while his missus tickles his tummy.

Really suits his salt and pepper beard and looks the sort of lucky man who will never be short of follicles and thus will keep a thick head of hair for the duration of his natural. Haircut is out of the ‘tamed bog brush’ style guide.

Often wears those perspex-type glasses frames which somehow makes everyone who wears them look like a radical German architect who is designing a geodesic eco pod. Can you imagine Tony Pulis in those? No, you can’t. They do really suit him though. The glasses I mean, not geodesic eco pods, though I can see him in one of those too.


Media Hit or Miss?
The press have basically got two takes on our Miracle Man.

The tabloids are obsessed with his friendship with Klopp and have run lots of pieces about the most normal of things – having a pal – as though it is really odd and more weird still to admit to it. This may possibly be because tabloid journalists don’t have any friends and thus feel suspicious of someone who does.

TV also can’t wait to get them into the same shot when Liverpool play Huddersfield as though they expect or want them to start cuddling and kissing or something. It is as though having a friend is an exotic thing. Seem to feel obliged to interview them together as though this adds something special to proceedings. Very odd. Very few of the interviews or pieces about him don’t mention his Klopp friendship almost as much as his Huddersfield achievements.

However, the more thoughtful end of the media spectrum find a very modern man who is philosophic, erudite and thoughtful. There’s much well-deserved respect for the fact he came into Huddersfield when it was described as a League One team in the Championship, kept them up and then got them promoted. A lot of interviews reveal just how much work he’s put into getting to this point in his career.

And even more for the fact that he involved himself in the local community by doing things such as helping out at local kids breakfast clubs.


Proper Football Man Rating: 0%
The boys gave David a wide birth because people with dual nationality confuse them. It’s like he’s double foreign, Jeff. How can you be from two places, Mark? They’re envious of his buddy-buddy relationship with Klopp and secretly wish they could be like that with one of the boys, without feeling the need to humiliate him and laugh too loudly whilst doing it.

Consequently, is destined to never throw TC over a house, squeeze Sparky’s thigh, or feel the warmth from Reidy’s spent nuclear waste, pig fat and tequila worm smoothie, nor sleep in a skip on an abandoned retail park in Goole. Get’s a Zero rating because…

German. You can’t like Germans, Jeff. They’re from Germany.

Played for USA. How can you play for America if you’re from Germany? He scares me, Jeff.

Is friends with someone everyone likes whereas your PFM has little appeal outside his own fetid cabal.

Replaced an Englishman at Huddersfield thus proving that the English lads don’t get chances anymore.

His sides have played some awful football this season and every PFM knows that’s what they’re on earth to do, not a sexy foreign.

Knows too much about too much, and we all know knowledge is for stupid people, Jeff.

Made a silly Xmas video in which he danced with his family. Every PFM knows dancing should only happen on the counter of a Chicken Cottage after drinking with Reidy.

Will almost certainly go on to get a bigger job and be really successful and not just have to try and stop Southampton being relegated before being hounded out of the club by the fans.

Seems happy in his own skin.

Constructs cogent sentences. I’ve not haven’t been doing that have I, Jeff?


What The People Say
I suppose because the Terriers have a relatively small fan base, that is the reason I didn’t get a lot of comments in about Mr Wagner. Not even one Ring Cycle or joke. Indeed, it’s one of the consistently puzzling things for me is why so many are unconcerned about anything that either isn’t their club or isn’t a top-six club. Isn’t all of football, from top to bottom of interest?

Simon Curtis wrote in with this wonderful recollection and photo:

Covering Huddersfield v City in the FA Cup two years ago on crest of Wagner wave of enthusiasm; stumbled into the Town club shop. Very flustered lady on phone going ballistic “You’ve got to come and help. It’s going mental in here. We’ve sold out of David Wagner hats.”

I’m torn between being pleased and disappointed there’s not more cliches around his surname e.g ‘operatic’, ‘Götterdämmerung’, ‘football of the Gods’ etc.

Orchestrated some of the most negative football I’ve ever seen last season, at any level. Not much better this season. No Wagner love here.

Can the media stop doing joint interviews between him and Klopp please? We get it . They are friends. But can’t be fun to do when you know you’re probably about to get hammered

Have quite a lot of time for someone who is comfortable enough in his own skin to do that Christmas video with his family from last year. Clearly isn’t bothered by what a load of angry eggs on the internet thinks. A good lad I reckon.

Wears a hat well. Name close Wenger… What’s not to like?

Last minute goal celebrations against Leeds

Something eerie about his voice. Doesn’t seem to match his face, which doesn’t seem to match his personality. He’s an enigma. But I tell you what, Jeff, he’s done a great job at Huddersfield


How Long Has He Got?
Contract was extended to 2021. Usually a tough second season in the top flight leads to the sack, as some club owners get terrified of not being in the Premier League and not having all that money available to waste on average players who are not worth half the fee they have to pay for them, just because they’re in the Premier League.

However, in Huddersfield’s case, they know they’ve bagged a good fella and that staying up last season was as big a miracle as getting promoted in the first place. So he may survive, or at least until an attractive European club comes a-calling and snaffles him.

Be in no doubt though, this is a man who we will be seeing a lot of in coming years, probably at a high-flying Bundesliga club and also at another Premier League club who need some Wagner love.

John Nicholson