Huddersfield Town Association Football Club are the visitors to FCR on Friday night. Richard Jeffery spoke to Danny of HTFC-World about broken players, playoffs, Iwan, the curse of Sky and soft spots. Repeat, it's a Friday night game! FRIDAY
Rich: Hi HTFC-World. The Terriers are the visitors to Carrow Road on Friday night. FRIDAY NIGHT FFS!! This season David Wagner has transformed you into playoff contenders, what's his secret?
HTFC-World: Wagner has transformed the club from one which went about its business in the Championship saying "it's not fair, you've got more money than us" to one which just works as hard as it can and doesn't feel sorry for itself. We've shipped out the players who don't buy into the philosophy of hard work (extra training) such as Joel Lynch and those whose bodies simply would've broken under the strain (such as James Vaughan). This, along with an influx of German based players, has seen us take points from teams who previously would've rolled us over.
Rich: Yes, apologies for James Vaughan, he was broken when we had him, but you did try before you bought! So we can expect a hard working approach from you. That may serve you well as we often don't seem to be up for the fight unfortunately. Our two recent wins (we've lost the other 6 out of 8 in the league) came against lazy and disinterested Brentford & Villa sides. I also feel that Nakhi Wells may have a field day against our defence. Who else should we fear in your team, and who of ours will you have an eye on?
HTFC-World: Wells splits opinion among our fans. Many would be happy to see him leave in January to be replaced by a 6ft tall German version of Iwan Roberts. He's had a hard time of it playing as a lone striker but has scored the winners in our last 2 games so he's back in favour with some. Aaron Mooy is key to our success, the Australian on loan from Man City is as good a player I've seen in a Town shirt in over 30 years watching. Our problem is that for him to play at his best he requires good movement from his teammates as he can pick a pass effortlessly, but they don't always make the runs. Wes Hoolahan has always been a thorn in our side right back to his Blackpool days. Our problem will be if you score first, we don't tend to handle that well. Unsportingly, other teams seem keen to do this often.
Does Cameron Jerome still play? He left our academy acrimoniously and on his one return with Birmingham in an FA Cup match said some rather unpleasant things about his time here (despite being a local lad). This didn't go down well and he was given stick from the off, had a terrible game, then was hauled off before the end. Hoping he doesn't come back to haunt us.
Rich: Well I have good news for you. Wes hasn't been in the team recently (sobs) and Jerome is injured so no law of the ex for you to worry about. Ah Iwan. What a guy. We've had a few players down the years who've played for both Town & City, Iwan probably being the most loved here. The aforementioned Vaughan of course (sorry again), Anthony Pilkington was good for us, also Mark Barham & Dave Phillips went on to play for you and ex-Canaries Robins and Bruce had a go at managing you.
I have to confess a soft spot for Town. I went to many games with a HTAFC supporting pal of mine (Hi Jon) when I lived up north during the mid-90s/Boothy era at the then MacAlpine. So as the song sort of goes. You won the league three times in a row, you won the FA Cup, but are you going up this season?
HTFC-World: I doubt it, it would require some investment in the January window to keep us up there, IMO. That's not me being negative, a top half finish would be a huge positive for me but I don't think we have enough options up front to keep a serious challenge going. Any injury or suspension to either of our 2 strikers would cause problems. At the start of the season, I had no idea where we'd end up - bottom 6, top 6 or inbetween, but so far so good. We've been great to watch even though it's tailed off over the past few weeks, as with yourselves. It will still end as our most enjoyable season back at this level since promotion. The rest have been fairly tedious, in truth.
Rich: Well, if he can keep you in and around the play offs you never know, but it's good to see you doing well, and the way you're doing it. I always think that when you look at some of the clubs that have been up to the Prem (your old mates at Bradford for example), Town should get there at some point, though it's a bit of a poisoned chalice for clubs of our size and funding. So, how will Wagner set you up? Do you play two up front? Does he change it up depending on the opposition?
HTFC-World: He's rarely changed it. He did put 2 up against Newcastle which got us the win but since it's been 1 up front supported by 2 wingers and a midfielder pushing on. This has resulted in goals from all over the team though not many as can be seen from our goal difference. We've been hammered on a couple of occasions but have yet to win a game by more than one goal. Some of the home fans tend to get a bit irate with our possession football, our build up is slow, even away from home we struggle to counter attack quickly preferring to keep hold of the ball. This is fine... unless we're behind as mentioned before.
When things get desperate we tend to throw our big defenders up front which has only paid off once with a late equaliser at Villa. The reason we've come unstuck recently is that our defence have struggled with set-pieces, namely free-kicks crossed into the box. Early season 1-0 wins built on a strong back line have turned into 1-1 draws and defeats. I'd take a point right now if offered it - the midweek win at Burton was a rare one for us in that we didn't play well but took 3 points. The previous away game we completely outplayed Blackburn but had just a point to show for it. It's also a worry that it's on Sky, our record in front of their cameras is abysmal.
Rich: That's not dissimilar to how we've been playing. We too have a poor record on TV, though we beat Villa on Tuesday night live on Sky, so maybe that's that monkey off our backs. I have to mention that you've been on the wrong end of a few thumpings at Carrow Road down the years, though I don't see this game going the same way, you're a different proposition this season and we ain't all that. So, finally, what are your hopes for the season? Where do you think you’ll finish, where do you think Norwich will finish? And a score prediction for Friday please.
HTFC-World: I think we'll be 11th but again, depends on the January transfer activity. Top half would be a great season but having been in and around the top 6 so far since the beginning, it feels like this could be our one chance to be contenders so would be nice if we could strengthen next month. I think Norwich will get back in the playoffs but see Brighton and Newcastle as the top two. Wouldn't like to pick a winner from the play-off lottery which is why it would be great to be in it for ourselves but less so for you ;) 3-1 Norwich on Friday. Don't think I've got a prediction correct all season, however. All the best for the season other than when you play Town!
Rich: I think it'll be a draw on Friday night with your work rate unsettling us and you taking the lead only for us to pull it back. 1-1, but my predictions are as bad as yours it seems. Yes, hard to see past Newcastle and Brighton as you say. So I'd take the play offs now. Went OK last time but as you say it's a lottery. I have a feeling you'll stay up there, no reason why not. Maybe see you at Wembley! Good luck to you too, thanks for beating Ipswich, please do so again.
Rich was speaking to Danny of off out of htfc-world.com. Check out their site, a must see for the cartoon match reports alone, and follow them on twitter @HTFCWorld.