Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

Huge task to rebuild at Huddersfield Town after Leicester City defeat

A 4-1 loss heaps more misery on relegated club who now face transition period next season

It was a good day for Jamie Vardy and his Leicester City side against Huddersfield Town. Matthew Lewis / Getty Images
It was a good day for Jamie Vardy and his Leicester City side against Huddersfield Town. Matthew Lewis / Getty Images

The people of Huddersfield rose to their feet. The chorus was defiant. “Stand up if you’re going down,” they chanted. There is no ‘if’ about it.

Huddersfield Town’s fate was already sealed, just the Premier League’s second March relegation sealed seven days earlier. Demotion is not a source of shame, but a matter of economic reality in an unforgivingly wealthy division.

“Let’s show the Premier League what they are going to miss,” the tannoy announcer bellowed. Huddersfield didn’t; they conceded four goals for the first time at home this season and suffered a 25th defeat in 33 games.

“This was the hardest week mentally,” manager Jan Siewert said. “The result is explainable.”

The club impressed, even if his team did not. A seven-year-old Texan girl, Bella, was given VIP treatment.

Having lost her hair as a result of brain cancer, she selected Huddersfield’s shaven-headed midfielder Aaron Mooy as her hero after watching him in the World Cup.

It was a reminder that principles underpinned Huddersfield’s rise. If the temptation is to treat their presence in the Premier League as an anomaly, the challenge now is to ensure it was not a solitary stint.

It is no simple task.

Siewert may be tarnished by nine losses in 10 matches but has chairman Dean Hoyle’s backing. At least Huddersfield, who made a £23.2 million (Dh111.10m) profit in 2017/18 and who should be in the black again this year, have not risked their future in a vain bid for survival.

Their formula for promotion may remain the same: a “very clear playing identity”, in Hoyle’s words, even if Siewert’s style is yet to really be seen in England; a determination to be the fittest team; an emphasis on recruitment.

Huddersfield’s was inspired in their promotion-winning campaign and wretched last summer, with the three wingers signed, Ramadan Sobhi, Isaac Mbenza and Adama Diakhaby, all yet to score.

And yet if Siewert was the continuity choice to succeed another Dortmund alumnus, David Wagner, a clearout beckons. Huddersfield could be stripped of their stars and trying to offload their mistakes.

Regaining the unity and spirit that propelled them to promotion will be imperative but top-flight predators could eye Christopher Schindler, Terence Kongolo, Mathias Jorgensen, Philip Billing and Mooy, the five finest players in an outclassed group.

Yet the loss of their premier central defenders and midfielders would leave a hole at the heart of the team.

Factor in a goal-shy attack and, in Jonas Lossl, an out-of-contract goalkeeper and it leaves a huge rebuilding job along the spine of the side.

For the second successive week, Lossl, Jorgensen and Billing were omitted from the 18. The Danish trio had all made noises about leaving while on international duty.

“They were not injured,” Siewert said. “I have to look at each player.”

Including those who may stay.

On the day, his hardline approach may have backfired. Ben Hamer, preferred to Lossl, was beaten four times and erred badly for Youri Tielemans’ opener, neglecting to dive for a shot whipped past him.

“Sign him up,” chorused the Leicester fans, and keeping the gifted but on-loan Belgian will be a summer priority. Hamer was left powerless to stop City’s second, set up by Ricardo Pereira, with an inch-perfect cross, and finished by Jamie Vardy. The striker’s late penalty took him to 104 Leicester goals, one more than Gary Lineker. His double sandwiched James Maddison’s wonderful free kick.

“It’s about being clinical – this is the crucial thing about being in the Premier League,” Siewert lamented. “We need too many possibilities [to score].”

His side at least struck once. Leicester’s Caglar Soyuncu, deputising for the new father Harry Maguire, cleared Alex Pritchard’s delicate chip off the line – the flair player, a proven Championship performer, represents one source of encouragement for next season – but undermined that fine work by clumsily conceding a penalty.

Mooy converted it.

It was just Huddersfield’s eighth home goal of the season and one for Bella.

Updated: April 7, 2019 10:52 AM

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