The Decline of Huddersfield Town

The January transfer window is welcomed by clubs all around the world and is considered a vital part of any team’s season. The chance to reflect on the positives and improve the negatives comes as a relief at the unofficial halfway point of the campaign. For Huddersfield Town, this point of the season has seen them looking at the negatives and trying to improve their squad rather than reflecting on the triumphs.


After drawing 1-1 to Blackburn Rovers, the Terriers currently sit in 21st, three points clear of QPR who occupy the final relegation spot, five above Sheffield Yorkshire rivals Wednesday and eight above Rotherham. Following last season’s second-half revival to avoid relegation, Town could be in for a relegation dogfight and the January window could determine how that fight ends. 


Since the turn of the century, Huddersfield fans have seen the rise and fall of their team, playing in the top three tiers of English football, multiple playoff campaigns and relegation. You only have to go back to the 18/19 season to see Huddersfield competing in the Premier League, albeit propping up the table at the end of the season, but their two campaigns in England’s top flight will be remembered by fans of the club. 


The Premier League


Their first-ever season in the Premier League saw David Wagner guide them to a 16th-placed finish, accumulating 37 points, and finishing four points above the drop zone. The 16th-placed finish may have even disappointed fans as the halfway point of the season saw them in 11th with a top-half finish looking like a very real possibility. The campaign brought hope to The John Smith’s Stadium and fans thought their first taste of Premier League action was something for the club to build on and push forward to rubbing shoulders with the big boys of English football every year.


Neil Warnock’s Final Swansong At Huddersfield Town


The 18/19 season would come as a shock for all involved with the club. The combined £30 million acquisition of AS Monaco duo Terence Kongolo and Adama Diakhaby seemed a statement of intent from Town. The squad looked as though it was shaping up for another successful season in the league. Aaron Mooy emerged as an unsung hero in the previous season and his delightful style and dictatorship of the midfield showed him to be the star of the squad.


Instead of success, Huddersfield would finish bottom of the table with only 16 points all season and ending 20 points from safety. The Terriers only recorded three wins all season, including a double over Wolves, who eventually finished in the European places. This campaign would see Wagner’s time at the club end alongside their time in the top flight.


Life in the Championship


Their return to the Championship would again bring negatives for the club. Town finished 18th, three points clear of Charlton who occupied the last relegation spot. The second half of the season loan signing of young Arsenal star Emile Smith Rowe seemed to be the addition of a bright spark to inspire the squad and push them on towards the end of the season and hopefully up the table. In 19 games, Smith Rowe scored 2 goals and Huddersfield eventually recorded their low finish.


The following summer would see Aaron Mooy depart to the dismay of Huddersfield fans. Despite this, Carlos Corberan took to the dugout at the John Smiths stadium thus starting the most successful period of recent times in West Yorkshire. Corberan’s first season saw the Terriers avoid relegation by six points, doubling the gap from the previous season and recording a 20th-place finish. The decision from the Huddersfield board to stick with the Spaniard proved to be a good decision.


Carlos Corberan’s Huddersfield Eyeing Up Unlikely Promotion to the Premier League to Replicate Past Terriers Heroics


2021/22 would see Huddersfield finish third and make it to the playoff final. The tally of 82 points comfortably placed them in the playoff spot and would see Town finish six points behind runners-up Bournemouth. London-born Welsh international Sorba Thomas emerged as an upcoming star, signing from Boreham Wood in January and immediately making an impact on the team and the league. Thomas racked up 12 assists in the second half of the season and pushed the Terriers to the finish line.


In the playoffs, Huddersfield would face Luton Town in the semi-finals. The away leg at Kenilworth Road would see a 1-1 draw, a massive result on their way to the final securing an away goal at a notoriously difficult ground to visit. The 1-0 win at home would set up a final meeting with Nottingham Forest after they defeated Sheffield United on penalties.


A team boasting talents such as Sorba Thomas and Chelsea loanee Levi Colwill excited the Town fans and gave them confidence for the final and a potential return to football’s promised land. A 1-0 loss deflated such hope and set Huddersfield up for Championship mediocrity yet again. Corberan would resign from his post In July following the final.


Mark Fotheringham took over from Corberan for the 22/23 season. Fotheringham would only last until February, leaving Huddersfield sat in the relegation zone looking destined to drop to the third tier for the first time since the 11/12 season. Sorba Thomas, the hero of the previous campaign, was forced out of the squad by Fotheringham and joined promotion hopefuls Blackburn Rovers on loan in January until the end of the season.


Fotheringham’s only managerial job to date proved to be a disaster. Thomas was delighted to join Rovers stating: “For me, it’s about smiling again, playing football, finding the love for the game again.” The Welshman’s words say a lot about the managerial reign and the squad management that led to the sacking of Mark Fotheringham.


Portsmouth FC: The Sleeping Giant Finally Awaking


Football veteran and fan favourite Neil Warnock took over in what seemed an impossible task of keeping Huddersfield up. Warnock took over on the 13th of February with little time for changes and no option to bring in his own players and make updates to a failing squad. Warnock’s first month in the job seemed their fate was all but sealed, taking four points from six league games. The five games to follow would see their luck turn around, taking 11 from a possible 15 and starting the revival of Huddersfield Town. Town would win their final three games, finishing 18th and nine points clear of the drop. 


Whilst fans may see the 22/23 season as a success considering that it looked like League One football was their fate, the decline of Huddersfield is still in full flow as they continue to struggle this season. 


Current Season


As of right now, Town currently sit in 21st after 27 games, four points clear of the drop after accumulating 26 points this season. Warnock was sacked in September and replaced by Darren Moore, the manager who guided Sheffield Wednesday to the championship now has the task of fending them off to secure safety. The Terriers have lost four of their last five games in all competitions with their last win being a 3-0 victory over their next opponents Blackburn Rovers on boxing day. Sheffield Wednesday have been revitalised recently under Danny Rohl, winning six of their previous 10 in all competitions. 


27 games into the season, Huddersfield have only won five games, the second least amount of wins in the championship, whilst having 11 losses and the most draws in the league with 11. The -18 goal difference is also the third worst in the league, as they have conceded 45 over the course of the season. Having kept only four clean sheets this season, the Terriers have accumulated a 40.5 xGA (expected goals against), meaning they have conceded just shy of four goals more than they should have this season, emphasising the issues they have defensively and conceding goals from chances that should not end up hitting the back of the net.


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In the final third of the pitch, the Terriers have scored 27, the fifth-lowest tally of goals scored in the division. The 27 goals come from an xG (expected goals) of 26.2 meaning they are outperforming their expected goals by 0.8. Whilst this is a positive, outperforming the xG whilst still having one of the lowest goal tallies in the league shows the calibre of chances Huddersfield are creating isn’t clear cut and they are struggling to create good goal-scoring opportunities. Huddersfield have only taken 496 touches in the opposition box this season, the fourth-lowest tally in the league showing their struggle to get into their opposition box and hold possession of the ball.


The issues defensively and in front of goal are highlighted by games such as the 4-1 loss away at Birmingham City. The Terriers had a 2.16 xG whilst the hosts only had 1.7, showing Town are struggling to convert chances when given. Their goal in this game only served as a consolation when centre back and top scorer Michael Helik converted a left-footed finish from close range in the 92nd minute of the match. 


The scoring issues are evident after looking at stats. Having accumulated 34 big chances throughout the season, the Yorkshire outfit have also missed 19 of those, squandering huge opportunities to score. In terms of possession and playmaking, Town average a pass success rate of 72.2%, with the only lower accurate pass percentage coming from the bottom of the league side Rotherham with 67.1%.


How Darren Moore Turned Sheffield Wednesday into a ‘Well-machined Oil’


Huddersfield only make 236 passes on average per game which again is only higher than Rotherham’s 192.7. Possession of the ball is also proving to be a huge issue, averaging 38.7% of the ball showing a real lack of creativity and ball retention in the squad. Teams playing against Town are regularly able to play out from the back and build up attacks. The team win the ball mostly in the midfield, having gained possession 624 times in the middle third throughout the season. However, they win the ball on average 3.8 times per match in the final third, a stat which once again is amongst the league’s lowest.


To put it simply for Huddersfield, a lot needs to be changed to stop this club dropping through the divisons. The highs of Premier League survival have been swapped for the dismay of Championship relegation battles. Although the thrill of survival may be a high for some spectators, it simply cannot go on for much longer until their luck runs out.


The club boast some exciting young players such as Jack Rudoni and Sorba Thomas, but without the correct squad around them and a manager to lead, nothing will change. As fans continue to hope and are let down by on-field performances, the Terriers will prove they are all bark and no bite as the decline of Huddersfield Town continues.


By: Josh Wright / @joshwrightt12

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Alex Dodd – CameraSport