Huddersfield Town promoted to Premier League: 10 moments that mattered

By Ian WoodcockBBC Sport
How Huddersfield accomplished the impossible

"I'd like to apologise if I smell like champagne."

As news conference entrances go, Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner's opening statement on Monday will probably take some beating.

The German had every right to be in celebratory mood having just seen his side beat Reading on penalties to secure a first-ever promotion to the Premier League.

In just over 18 months Wagner has taken the Terriers from perennial Championship strugglers to a promotion worth a minimum of £170m.

But how did a man previously almost unheard of in this country mastermind Huddersfield's return to the top flight after a 45-year absence?

1 - Time for change

There were some raised eyebrows further afield than West Yorkshire when Huddersfield opted to sack Chris Powell and replace him with Wagner in November 2015.

Wagner had spent the previous four seasons coaching Borussia Dortmund II, the Bundesliga giant's reserve side, and had been expected to link up with great friend and former Dortmund colleague Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.

Defeat by Sheffield Wednesday in his first game in charge left Town above the relegation zone on goals scored only.

But, though the rest of the campaign was far from plain sailing, the Terriers did go on to comfortably avoid relegation to League One - despite ending the season with 4-0 and 5-1 defeats by Bristol City and Brentford respectively.

David Wagner
Wagner celebrates with his players after his first win as Town boss, a 2-0 victory at Birmingham City

2 - Stranded in Sweden

Wagner had seen enough in his first six months in England to know what kind of players he wanted and needed for his preferred style of play.

In total, 13 players joined the Terriers in the summer of 2016, with Chris Lowe, Christopher Schindler, Michael Hefele and Elias Kachunga all coming in from German sides and making a big impact in their first season in the Championship.

Aware that assembling an almost completely new squad, with many experiencing English football and culture for the first time, would not be routine Wagner decided to take the squad on a bonding trip. To Sweden. To an uninhabited island.

The players had to put up their own tents and source their own food - and many have since credited the experience as a crucial contributing factor to the team's excellent spirit.

Wagner said on Monday: "It was a starting point to bind the team together and the bonding and togetherness built from there."

3 - The man from Melbourne, via Manchester

Aaron Mooy
Aaron Mooy was joined by Town skipper Tommy Smith in the Championship Team of the Year

Almost all of the summer signings had a big impact through the season, but the most important addition was almost certainly that of Australia midfielder Aaron Mooy.

The former St Mirren man signed on a season-long loan deal from Manchester City shortly after joining the Premier League side from sister club Melbourne.

Generally playing as one of a midfield two, Mooy's abilities to keep the ball under pressure and move it on quickly to the forward players - while also breaking the lines with runs from a deeper position - were integral to Town's play all season and saw him named in the Championship Team of the Season.

4 - Written off

As Leicester City had shown with their 5000-1 Premier League title win in 2015-16, predicting things in football can often leave you looking pretty foolish.

With Town having ended the previous season in less than impressive fashion, and with a still relatively inexperienced manager now assisted by a cast of unheralded players, pundit Ian Holloway felt confident in his assertion that the Terriers could face a relegation battle.

He was not alone in thinking that Town might struggle this season, but the QPR manager's words stuck and Wagner credited Holloway with "giving me an opportunity to motivate my players".

Pictures from the jubilant Town dressing room on Monday even showed the team chanting "There's only one Ian Holloway".

5 - Magnificent at Magpies

Huddersfield's identity throughout the season has been based on a high-pressing 4-2-3-1 formation, with an emphasis on quick transitions all around the pitch.

However, Wagner showed early on that he was not unwilling to be flexible in his approach when needed.

In just the second game of the campaign Town went to Newcastle and allowed the hosts to have 65% of possession while sitting deep and coming away with a 2-1 win.

That victory helped them get off to a blistering start that saw them win eight of their opening 11 games.

Nahki Wells
Nahki Wells gave Huddersfield the lead at Newcastle before Jack Payne scored the winner

6 - Bouncing back

The ability to overcome setbacks is key to any success and after their terrific start Huddersfield's season threatened to unravel when they suffered three defeats in four games in October, including a 5-0 hammering by Fulham.

Their slump continued through November, where they picked up just one point in three games and lost at home to relegated Wigan.

After a 1-1 draw at Blackburn on 3 December left them outside of the top six for the first time all season, they went on a run of four successive wins that placed them firmly back in the play-off race.

7 - Derby delight

David Wagner
Garry Monk accused Wagner of "lacking respect" for his celebration after Town's late winner against Leeds

Huddersfield were not the only West Yorkshire side enjoying an excellent campaign.

After years of hanging around in mid-table in the Championship, Leeds United finally looked like they had put their off-field issues to one side and were ready to mount a serious challenge for a return to the Premier League.

They visited the John Smith's Stadium on 5 February, sitting two points above the Terriers in the top six.

Garry Monk's side took the lead through Chris Wood but Izzy Brown levelled for the hosts before a dramatic conclusion.

Hefele deflected a Mooy shot in for an 89th-minute winner that sparked wild celebrations, involving Wagner sprinting down the touchline to join his players. On his way back to his technical area he clashed with Monk, starting a fracas that saw both managers and clubs fined.

On the pitch, the win meant that Town had done the double over their bitter rivals and Leeds eventually missed out on a spot in the top six altogether.

8 - Securing top six

Defeats by Bristol City and Burton Albion all-but ended Town's automatic promotion hopes at the start of April.

They travelled to Wolves on 25 April knowing a victory would see them qualify for the second-tier play-offs for the first time.

An Izzy Brown strike edged them past Paul Lambert's men and gave them a 25th win of the season - and 22nd by a single-goal margin.

Wagner told BBC Radio Leeds after the game: "The fans were desperate for something special and something extraordinary. I'm absolutely proud and delighted.

"The whole football club worked hard to achieve something and now we have it two matches before the end of the season. It's an unbelievable achievement."

More unbelievable achievements were to follow.

9 - Ward wonderful at Wednesday

Danny Ward
Danny Ward saved three penalties across Huddersfield's two shootout wins

Successive defeats with much-changed teams meant Huddersfield finished the season in fifth place and faced Yorkshire neighbours Sheffield Wednesday in the play-off semi-finals.

Despite dominating the first leg at home they travelled to Hillsborough with the tie still goalless and fell behind in the second leg when Steven Fletcher headed home.

The Terriers battled back and levelled when Tom Lees diverted the ball into his own goal. With no goals in extra-time the two teams needed penalties to decide who would join Reading in the final.

Liverpool loanee Danny Ward saved efforts from Sam Hutchinson and Fernando Forestieri to send Huddersfield through and prompt Wagner to say "the fairytale goes on and we want to write the last chapter at Wembley".

10 - Heroes become legends

Huddersfield made a strong start to Monday's final but early misses from Hefele and Brown were as close as they came to breaking the deadlock in a predictably tense game.

The match seemed destined for penalties long before the 90 minutes were up - and so it proved to be.

Indeed, the biggest celebration of the afternoon up to that point came when referee Neil Swarbrick indicated the spot-kicks would be taken in front of the Town fans, just as they had been when the Terriers beat Sheffield United on penalties in the League One play-off final in 2012.

The Terriers fell behind in the shootout when Hefele's effort was saved, but Liam Moore smashed his spot-kick high over the bar before Jordan Obita's strike was saved by Ward. That left Schindler, at £1.8m the club's most expensive signing ever, to convert and send Huddersfield back to the big time.

Wagner said afterwards that promotion had seen the players "go from heroes to legends", adding: "We said we had no limits at the start of the season and now we know where the limit is - the Premier League.

"We have brought the fairytale to a happy end."

Huddersfield did not have the lead in open play in any of their three play-off matches

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