Huddersfield Town: Can beaten play-off finalists bounce back after turbulent summer?

By Ian WoodcockBBC Sport
Carlos Corberan
May's Championship play-off final defeat by Nottingham Forest proved to be Carlos Corberan's last game in charge of Huddersfield Town

It's just over eight weeks since Huddersfield were involved in the last EFL game of the 2021-22 season.

After a brilliant campaign had seen them finish third in the table, the Terriers fell to a 1-0 defeat by Nottingham Forest in the Championship play-off final at Wembley to end their hopes of a return to the Premier League after three years away.

Now, two months on, Town play host to the first game of the 2022-23 EFL campaign against relegated Burnley on Friday with a new man in the dug-out and star players sold.

BBC Sport takes a look at their prospects for the coming season after a turbulent summer.

Corberan calls it quits

"I had no inclination. I was in Calais approaching the Channel Tunnel when I found out. By the time I reached Folkestone, he was gone."

To say Carlos Corberan's decision to walk out on Huddersfield midway through pre-season was a surprise would be something of an understatement, with even chief executive Dean Hoyle caught out by the Spaniard's decision.

"It's bizarre because these things don't normally happen in football. People don't walk away from jobs and I don't believe Carlos has another job to go to," Hoyle told BBC Radio Leeds.

"I was disappointed because if he was going to go then he should have gone as soon after Wembley as possible. To leave it the whole summer and then walk out... I found that completely and utterly disappointing."

The former Leeds coach had replaced Danny Cowley in July 2020 and set about changing the team's style of play to be more like the high-energy, high-pressing tactics employed by the Whites under Marcelo Bielsa.

Although they made a bright start to the 2020-21 season, they faded badly and ultimately finished just six points above the relegation zone.

With a very tight budget Town added only loans and free transfers in the summer of 2021 and, even within Huddersfield, not a huge amount was expected.

However, built on a solid defence and efficiency in attack, Corberan's men spent almost the entire season in the top six before eventually claiming a third-placed finish.

Victory over two legs against fellow surprise package Luton set up a Wembley date with Forest where an unfortunate own goal from Chelsea loanee Levi Colwill proved to be the difference.

Corberan returned for pre-season training as expected in June but, quite out of the blue, on Thursday, 7 July, he resigned.

Hoyle believes Town have actually been victims of their own success.

"The season before we finished 20th and we were aligned, and last season if we had finished 10th we would have been. We finished third and I think his aspirations and ours were not in alignment," he said.

"That's not to say we don't have ambitions to be promoted but my view is that had we finished 10th last season Carlos would still be our manager."

The succession

Danny Schofield
Danny Schofield made 253 league appearances for Huddersfield Town as a player

Town moved quickly to immediately install Danny Schofield as Corberan's successor the same day.

Schofield, who spent 10 years as a player with the Terriers between 1998 and 2008, had been on the club's coaching staff since February 2020.

Despite his inexperience in a head coach capacity, Hoyle is confident the club have the right man in charge.

"I knew the day before Wembley that Danny had another job offer," he said.

"Straight after the final whistle in the play-off final me and Leigh Bromby [head of football operations] went down to the dressing room to console Carlos and the players.

"Carlos was doing the press so I said to Leigh that now was a good time to speak to Danny and tell him that whenever Carlos leaves he would be in a good position to take over. Little did we know it would come to fruition so quickly.

"Danny had been offered a job on the continent and he wanted to take it. As disappointed as we are to have lost Carlos, and we are, thank goodness we kept hold of Danny because he was the succession plan and always had been.

"I think he is more than ready for this chance."

BBC Radio Leeds' Huddersfield commentator Paul Ogden shares Hoyle's opinion on the continuity the 42-year-old will offer the side.

"Danny Schofield was a key coaching advisor to Corberan and was at the heart of the operation throughout his time in charge," he added.

"Reassuringly, other coaching staff members have also stayed on, and can be expected to continue the Spaniard's work at the same standard."

Town stick to transfer principles

Lewis O'Brien and Harry Toffolo
Lewis O'Brien (left) and Harry Toffolo have both left for play-off final winners Nottingham Forest

Although much of Town's success last season was based around a collective effort rather than star individuals, it still seemed likely that some of their stand-out players would move on this summer.

Full-back Harry Toffolo and midfielder Lewis O'Brien both joined Nottingham Forest last week for a combined fee of around £10m and they are not the only ones to leaves West Yorkshire in the off-season.

Spanish defender Pipa was sold to Olympiakos, fellow defender Naby Sarr was released at the end of his contract and loanees Colwill and midfielder Danel Sinani returned to parent clubs Chelsea and Norwich respectively.

That means that of the 11 players that started the play-off final, just five are still at the John Smith's Stadium.

Ogden believes fans should hold fire on judging the club's summer window activity.

"O'Brien and Toffolo's inevitable departures for Premier League life with Forest will initially leave holes in the squad, but those who are chosen to fill them should be carefully assessed before supporters post their final judgements on this summer's sales and recruitment policy," he said.

"Likely left-back deputy Josh Ruffels' regular selection is long overdue; there are also the classically modern-day Huddersfield Town (low outlay, high potential) signings of forward Jack Rudoni (from Wimbledon) and midfielder David Kasumu (from MK Dons) to monitor, as well as the prospect of a fully-fit version of Tino Anjorin, returning for a second loan spell from Chelsea, to enjoy."

What becomes of the broken-hearted?

Bouncing back from play-off final heartache is a notoriously difficult challenge but Town can look at recent success stories for inspiration.

In the past five years, both Aston Villa and Brentford have won promotion at Wembley having been beaten in the play-off final the previous campaign.

The average position teams who have lost the Championship play-off final have finished the following season in the past 10 years is 10th and, though most Town supporters would probably be pretty pleased with a top-half finish, Ogden believes concerns they could struggle are unfounded.

"Experienced cornerstones of last season's third-in-the-table finish Tom Lees, Jonathan Hogg, Duane Holmes and Danny Ward remain in place and impressive goalkeeper Lee Nicholls has signed an extended deal," he said.

"That hard-to beat, pesky personality of Huddersfield Town as an opponent should remain unchanged for the new season, even if their likeable Spanish frontman has now departed."

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