Sunday 18 March 2018

'No fear' for Huddersfield ahead of Premier League debut

David Wagner's Huddersfield are favourites for the drop
David Wagner's Huddersfield are favourites for the drop

David Wagner insists Huddersfield will begin their first ever Premier League campaign with no fear, having already proven "the impossible is possible" in reaching the top flight.

The Terriers are back in the uppermost division for the first time in 45 years after winning promotion via the Championship play-offs despite finishing the previous four campaigns in the bottom half of the second tier.

Now they sit alongside English football's elite - a fact few believed possible throughout last season's campaign - and they are the pre-season favourites with bookmakers to drop straight back down to the Championship.

However, Wagner believes last year's achievement is evidence that his team can defy the odds.

"We said this last season very often, over a long, long time, it's unrealistic for Huddersfield Town to be in the Premier League," the German said.

"And then we said, 'This is not possible'. In football everything is possible. I think we've shown that even the impossible is possible in football.

"Now we have another task in front of us. A difficult task, of course. We are aware but it doesn't change that we are ambitious.

"We are in this league because we are ambitious, even if we know the task is a difficult one."

That challenge begins away at Crystal Palace on Saturday when Wagner and the majority of this squad will be stepping into the unknown.

Aside from former Stoke midfielder Dean Whitehead, only Tom Ince, Martin Cranie and Jonathan Hogg have ever played at this level before, and their experience amounts to only a handful of appearances.

Wagner is yet to manage in the division too but insists there will be no nerves for him as he claimed he was far more apprehensive about his bow in the Championship at Sheffield Wednesday in November 2015.

"For me personally, I was more nervous when I arrived in England rather than now starting in the Premier League," said Wagner, whose first game ended in a 3-1 loss.

"From the players' point of view, yes. It's more that I am interested in how they will react.

"We are totally inexperienced. Does it mean something in terms of the performance on Saturday? No. Did we have experience of the play-offs? No. But we did well. Did we have experience in terms of playing at the top of the (Championship) table? No. But we did it will.

"I am very happy to see on Saturday how they will react. With excitement, you usually are able to over-perform and hopefully we can see this on Saturday."

Wagner has prepared for the step up by recruiting 10 new signings, and an 11th may arrive before the weekend's opener with a deal for Barnsley defender Andy Yiadom "progressing".

Trailist Dimitri Cavare will not be offered a contract, though, and Nahki Wells (ankle), Martin Cranie (hip) and Jonathan Hogg (ankle) will all miss out at Selhurst Park.

Huddersfield have been boosted ahead of the kick-off by Danish midfielder Philip Billing signing a new three-year contract.

Billing, 21, who made 24 Sky Bet Championship appearances last season, will stay with the newly-promoted Terriers until at least the summer of 2020, while the club has the option of a further 12 months.

"Philip is such a big talent, he has everything you want from a modern midfielder," Wagner.

"I'm very excited to see how he copes with Premier League football. Philip has had a good pre-season and I think it is now the time to show everyone what he is capable of on the highest stage."

Billing, 6ft 6in, joined Huddersfield's academy aged 16 from Danish club Esbjerg and after making his debut in the final home game of the 2013/14 season against Leicester, has gone on to make a total of 42 appearances.

Press Association

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport