London- Huddersfield Town’s preparations for their first top-flight campaign in 45 years got the ideal boost on Friday when the manager who led them to the Premier League, David Wagner, pledged his future to the club despite receiving more lucrative offers.
The German signed a contract extension that should keep him at the club until 2019. The Huddersfield chairman, Dean Hoyle, vowed not to sack him even if they are relegated next season. “Yes, he stays,” Hoyle said. “Unless he buggers off.”
Wagner had several opportunities to do just that even before Huddersfield’s triumph in the Championship play-off final, with Aston Villa and Wolfsburg among clubs who tried to entice him.
Wagner turned down such offers in order to see Huddersfield’s promotion push through to its conclusion but he admitted on Friday he thought, fleetingly, that the aftermath of that sensational play-off win at Wembley, when they beat Reading in a penalty shootout, might have been a good moment to bid farewell.
“At first I thought maybe this is the best moment to say: ‘Thank you very much, always when we see each other in our lives, we will celebrate together,’” he said before explaining why that thought did not last. “I always had the feeling in the last 18 months that I had an owner on my side that I really trust. He really wants to keep me at this club. I don’t have to play a role here. I can be exactly the man I am as a person and a manager.
“I think we have one of the best owners in British football, a local man and fan who supports you with everything he’s able to do. This is not something you should leave only because you have a better financial offer. And I like the people here, I like my team. I am such a happy man because I have a new challenge and still the same people around me. Nothing is better than that.”
Huddersfield are determined to ensure that Wagner remains surrounded by people he trusts: on Friday his assistant, Christoph Bühler, also signed a new contract and the club paid a record fee of £8m to Manchester City, rising to a possible £10m, to complete the permanent transfer of Aaron Mooy, who was the linchpin of Huddersfield’s midfield while on loan there last season. “Aaron Mooy is probably one of the lowest-risk signings we will make because we know him,” said Hoyle. “It was actually a no-brainer.”
The amount paid for Mooy eclipsed the record set only last week when the Belgian striker Laurent Depoitre joined from Porto for £3.5m. Hoyle said the club intend to make “lots of signings” before they kick off their season away to Crystal Palace on 12 August. “We need to spend some big money because the Premier League riches are there for everyone to see,” said the chairman. “The first season we’ve got the ability to really shape our squad for the future and bring in some real quality, high-profile signings.
“We may break our transfer record a few times but that’s the league we’re in. We’re in the biggest and richest league in the world with the most exposure and we’re a part of it and we’ll try to compete. It’s all exciting and we can really drive forward while remaining mindful of the down side.”
The chairman hopes all recruits will have similar moral fibre to Christopher Schindler, who joined this time last year after Huddersfield paid £1.8m, a fee unheard of for them at the time. The centre-back repaid that with immaculate performances throughout last season before scoring the decisive penalty at Wembley.
“On the evening after it, I said: ‘Chris, why did you take the last penalty? I’ve never seen you take a penalty before,’” recalled Hoyle. “He said to me: ‘You paid more money for me than you’ve paid for anyone else in this club so I had a duty to give a bit of value back to you.’ I just thought: ‘Wow, what a man.’ That just epitomises everything about the team spirit here, that sense of duty and togetherness.”
Huddersfield have agreed terms with the Montpellier striker Steve Mounié, whose transfer will be completed if he passes a medical. The Terriers are also hopeful of prising the winger Tom Ince from Derby County and are vying with West Bromwich Albion for the affections of the Italy centre-back Andre Ranocchia. The loan signing of the Danish international goalkeeper Jonas Lössl from Mainz was completed on Friday after Jürgen Klopp told him he wants to keep Danny Ward at Liverpool rather than let him spend another season on loan at Huddersfield.
Wagner and Klopp have been close friends for many years but the Huddersfield manager is not expecting the Liverpool manager to be able to do him many favours next season. “The clubs are not comparable so there is not the possibility that he can give me a lot of advice or I can give him a lot of advice,” said Wagner. “For sure we will speak about the experience he has had in games against Team X and I will tell him about my experience when we play Team Z, but this will be the only help we can give each other. These are two totally different clubs.”
Not that Wagner is worried. Bookmakers may have installed Huddersfield as favourites to be relegated but, after gaining promotion on a paltry budget by Championship standards, Wagner is looking forward to fighting against the odds again. “We are probably the biggest underdog ever in the Premier League but it doesn’t change our ambitions. We are not in the Premier League only to say hello and after one season it’s done. We want to stay more seasons. We know where we are, where we come from, but we will work as hard as we can. I have a very good feeling even if I know there is a difficult task in front of us.’