The last roll of the dice: Huddersfield Town’s bid to beat the drop.


At the age of 74, Neil Warnock has come out of retirement to manage once more struggling Huddersfield Town. The club’s fourth managerial appointment in seven months is evidence of the problems for the Terriers, despite made the play-off final only nine months earlier.

Whilst Warnock represents new hope in the pursuit of Championship safety, with this appointment come numerous talking points about Town’s fall from grace and the challenges the new manager faces.

Firstly, the difficulties Town have faced have undoubtably stemmed from the departure of former head coach Carlos Corberán just three weeks before the televised Championship opener against Burnley. The unexpected nature of the departure led to the appointment of former player Danny Schofield, who was already involved as part of the coaching staff at the club.

Although an evidential disaster, winning just one of eight games, the board can be forgiven for the poor appointment given the closeness of Schofield to the players as part of the coaching staff and previous role as caretaker manager, as well the lack of financial wiggle room. The desire to keep the role in-house was one which, although cannot be defended in retrospect, was understandable, given the success of the last season.

After languishing in the relegation zone for too long, Schofield was sacked after just 69 days in charge. His replacement, Mark Fotheringham, was also a disaster. Amassing just 21 points in 20 games and failing to get Town out of the bottom three, Fotheringham was out of his depth in the role.

Yet here, the board of directors is much more culpable than with the Schofield appointment. The idea that the answer to a side that resided 23rd in the Championship was the appointment of a manager with no previous experience as a head coach, nor any coaching experience in the EFL at all, was ludicrous.

Without these managerial risks taken, it is unlikely that Town would have been able to punch above their weight

Despite some more positive results in the period between Christmas and New Year against Preston and Rotherham, the overall feeling was one of sliding into relegation with a mere whimper. The nail in the coffin was the Blackpool game — a relegation six-pointer.

Going into half time a goal to the good against 10-man Blackpool, it seemed as though Huddersfield would gain a much needed three points. Yet Town squandered their lead not once, but twice, drawing the game 2-2. Ultimately, it was this result which was fatal to Fotheringham’s disastrous tenure.

There is an argument that with Huddersfield’s financial situation as one of the lowest budgets in the Championship, the only way you find the success that Huddersfield have had in recent times with both David Wagner and Corberán is by appointing a maverick — a new manager who has the capability to make successful, radical changes to the type of football being played.

Without these managerial risks taken, it is unlikely that Town would have been able to punch above their weight. The wage bill is the greatest and most consistency predictor of success in the Championship, but it can be surpassed, as proven by Huddersfield and others, such as Luton. Yet when a club is languishing in the relegation zone, it is not the time to take this risk with an inexperienced manager. Rather it requires a coach with a proven record of success.

Given the circumstances, the appointment of Neil Warnock is the right one. Warnock’s proven managerial record and experience is vital if Huddersfield are to avoid the drop. His style will tighten up the defence and allow the side to get more players in the box, which creates a greater goal threat going forward.

Yet even with these seemingly old-school tactics, Warnock is not the dinosaur that many portray him to be. For instance, he adopted the forward-thinking strategy of the over-lapping centre back during his time at Middlesborough, creating an overload in wide areas to create more powerful attacking moves. Warnock was the best possible option of the available managers interested in the role.

Yet whether there is enough time to save the club from relegation, only time will tell. Town have a tough run in, with many sides in the top ten still to play. The task remains a tricky one, but with an improved atmosphere surrounding Huddersfield’s chances of survival, there remains a quiet optimism from the Warnock appointment.

It is clear that Town are still suffering a long hangover from the spontaneous nature of the Corberán departure, but under Warnock, at the very least, they will fight right to the very end in the hope of beating the odds and achieving the improbable.

Image: Pgcedave111 via Wikimedia Commons

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