Huddersfield Town need a firestarter, not a firefighter…

The early betting showcased the ignorance of bookmakers about the club marooned at the bottom of the Premier League table. Sam Allardyce? David Moyes? No chance. This is not a team in need of a firefighter; this is a team in need of a firestarter.

Not even the most optimistic of fans believes the Terriers can stay in the Premier League this season – there will be no third miracle – so there is no logic in appointing a survival specialist. We do not even expect to go down fighting…simply to go down with a little more joy in our hearts.

As David Wagner grew more and more exhausted during an eight-game losing streak, so did the fans. Only a ridiculous few blamed the manager for failing to complete a hat-trick of triumphs at least as impressive as the Herbert Chapman-inspired treble of titles almost a century ago, but there was a collective weariness. The only thing worse than losing eight games in a row is losing eight games in a row while scoring just five goals. That eight-game run being ended by a 0-0 draw at Cardiff that featured just two shots on target seems incredibly apt for a season in which Town’s relative defensive solidity (five teams have conceded more goals) has not compensated for a chronic lack of creativity and desperate dearth of firepower.

This is not a team in need of ‘shoring up’; it would not benefit from going ‘back to basics’. There is a reason why Allardyce immediately declared the job to be too difficult. Having donned his firefighter’s uniform to rescue a cat from a tree at Everton, he would have arrived at Huddersfield to find no fire at all. What Town need is a man with matches, not water. The fans need awakening from their torpor with goals and just enough excitement to spark some optimism for next season – to draw games 3-3 instead of 0-0, even to lose 4-3 rather than 1-0. Could another manager spark something in Adama Diakhaby or Isaac Mbenza or Alex Pritchard? Could another manager find a way to service Steve Mounie? Not enough to stay up – that really does seem impossible – but to make the remainder of the season something other than a funeral march.

When Derby were relegated in 2008 with that pathetic points total, their final 16 games of the season brought just four draws and a depressing ten goals. Even after some serious summer restructuring, there was little surprise when the following season began with a 1-0 home defeat to Doncaster and never really improved; they finished 18th and it would be another five years before the club would regain a little spring in its step. To avoid a similar extended comedown, Huddersfield’s next managerial appointment really matters. Think Rafa Benitez at Newcastle in 2016. Despite relegation and despite a faith-sapping owner, the fans were smiling that summer. They bounced straight back.

No coaches of Benitez’s calibre will be attracted to Huddersfield but there is one stand-out name among the candidates – Slavisa Jokanovic. His Fulham side beat Huddersfield by an aggregate score of 9-1 in Town’s promotion season and his brand of possession-based attacking football could suit a squad moulded by Wagner. He has twice taken teams into the Premier League and been outscored only by the champions, while in 2016/17 his Fulham ended the season just one point behind Wagner’s Terriers but with a ridiculous 29 more goals.

It sounds a little perverse for the club in 20th to covet the manager who was sacked by the team in 19th, but this is no ordinary club – we have already proved that by emotionally mourning the departure of the hero who left us marooned at the bottom.

Sarah Winterburn

 

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