In David Wagner’s own words, his chairman Dean Hoyle appointed ‘an unknown and crazy German’ in the November of 2015. Well, everybody knows him now.
For the first time since 1972, when the United States of America was brought to its knees by the Watergate Scandal and Mastermind was broadcast for the first time on the BBC, Huddersfield Town will play in the top-flight of English football.
For the first time since 1962, Huddersfield finish above their rivals Leeds United, affirming their status as the pride of Yorkshire. What an achievement, what a story.
This was a campaign that began in innovative and rather bonkers fashion.
It resembled the script of a reality television show as for four days, Huddersfield’s players were dispatched to a remote, cast-away island off the coast of Sweden.
The plot line was clear: send a squad of footballers into primitive isolation to fend for themselves, see who stands up to the task and who cannot cope when their luxuries and indulgences are taken away.
‘We didn’t bring a ball,’ Wagner said. ‘We were really in the wild, no electricity, no toilet, no bed, no mobile phone or internet. If you are hungry, take your rod and get a fish. If you are thirsty, go to the lake and put your bottle in. If you are cold, make a fire.’
This was Wagner’s reward, for a season of intense detail and planning.
To solidify team spirit, he wrote into his players’ contracts that they must live within 15 miles of the club’s training ground.
The theory is that such a commitment gives the players a closer identity with the club and that long commuting can also damage physical recovery after training.
At Huddersfield, it is this extra bit of thought that makes the difference. Wagner has operated on a particularly modest budget.
Only three teams in the Championship had a smaller wage bill. Huddersfield cap their players’ wages at £10,000 a week.
In a division that has housed big beasts such as Newcastle United and Aston Villa this season, Huddersfield’s achievements only shine brighter. At Newcastle, one player earned in excess of £60,000-per-week.
Off-the-field, the feel-good story continues. More than 17,000 supporters have committed to season tickets next season, at a generous price of £199.
Loyal followers who have kept season tickets for the past nine years will pay only £100 for the Premier League season season.
Fans are invited to attend the club’s training sessions every day. Training usually takes place late in the afternoon, so next season could see local kids racing from school to check in on their Premier League heroes.
The players’ eating area at the training ground remains open to supporters and the chairman Dean Hoyle, a Yorkshire local, lives nearby.
Huddersfield landed Wagner after appointing Stuart Webber as their head of football operations two years ago.
Webber, a former director of recruitment at Liverpool, spent five months at the club before finding Wagner.
He had previously described Huddersfield as a club who gave the impression of having ‘won a raffle to be in the Championship’. The search began for an identity.
Webber said earlier this season: ‘I met David at his house and in three hours we talked about everything, how he wants his team to play.
He had a pot of chocolate raisins on his table and he put 11 of them out in a 4-2-3-1 formation.’
In Wagner, they found a coach who had spent four years in charge of Borussia Dortmund’s second team.
He shares a friendship with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who is godfather to one of his daughters.
The two have spent evenings together at Klopp’s Merseyside home, where they talk the night away.
Leading Premier League clubs appreciate Wagner’s qualities and also the club’s broader vision.
Huddersfield are in regular communication with Chelsea’s technical director Michael Emenalo. It yielded moves for Chelsea pair Kasey Palmer and Isaiah Brown to join on loan.
Liverpool youngster Danny Ward has been outstanding in the Huddersfield goal, while Manchester City director Brian Marwood took the initiative himself and instigated a move for his young talent Aaron Mooy to head to Yorkshire.
Back in December, Wagner repelled a multi-mullion pound approach from Wolfsburg. Interest persists from major German clubs.
Towards the end of the season, Webber jumped ship to Norwich. Wagner, however, saw the job through. Now for the Premier League.
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