What's changed at Huddersfield Town since the appointment of Danny Cowley?

Peter Taylor by Peter Taylor / 23 October 2019, 09:07

It’s no secret that Huddersfield Town were on a downward spiral before the appointment of Danny Cowley from third-tier Lincoln City.

Having led the Imps to two promotions and huge cup success in just three seasons, he and brother Nicky rightly enjoyed their burgeoning reputation as one of the best management duos outside of the Premier League.

What did Cowley inherit at Huddersfield?

To the less observant, it might have seemed like the clearest indication yet that the Terriers had swiftly fallen from the top table of English football, having been three leagues apart from their new boss as recently as May this year.

Jan Siewert, who himself had taken over from David Wagner back in January, proved to be incapable of dispelling the losing mentality so prevalent at the Kirklees Stadium.

Indeed, he only managed one win across all competitions in his 19-game spell, and had been dumped out of the EFL Cup by Cowley just prior to his final game in charge against Fulham.

Cowley (who celebrated his birthday on Tuesday) inherited a bloated, horribly lop-sided squad that is in dire need of pruning wherever possible in the next two windows, especially up top.

Conversely, defensive-minded midfielders and full-backs are in scant supply, even with the acquisition of the experienced Danny Simpson.

His standing in the domestic game has been built just as much on psychology and the importance of making marginal games as it has tactically.

As such, it doesn’t always manifest itself immediately by way of improved performances. Static defending in their own area proved costly at home to Sheffield Wednesday during his first game in charge; scoring twice in the league for the first time in 2019/2020 wasn’t sufficient to gain anything against West Bromwich Albion, although it should be noted the West Yorkshire outfit led on two occasions.

How has Cowley implemented change?

Since then, he has managed to steer them to four games unbeaten on the bounce.

Whether by accident or design, Cowley has completely changed the right side of the back four - the wily Tommy Elphick and the aforementioned Simpson have replaced Terence Kongolo and Florian Hadergjonaj respectively; in doing so, the unit has gained 14 years’ greater experience whilst also keeping things a touch tighter in their own third.

Karlan Grant, who was head and shoulders above his peers in the shambolic opening weeks of the campaign, has kept up scoring form, regardless of whether he’s deployed on the left of an attacking midfield trio or as the sole striker.

Additionally, the lively Juninho Bacuna has made the most of his recent cameo appearances from the bench, netting in each of the last three games from midfield.

Shaping a club in his own image

Off the ball is where Cowley’s teams always excel, and they now look competitive in every encounter.

The number and volume of shots they’re giving up remain concerns, but he’s pleased with his charges’ mentality, most notably in coming from behind to earn a 2-2 draw at Blackburn Rovers last weekend.

As basic as it sounds, instilling in the squad a belief that a game is not lost if they’re losing is a huge step forward - you only have to consider how much of the calendar year’s games prior to his appointment across all competitions were spent playing catch-up to understand that.

What's next?

On Wednesday evening, Huddersfield entertain Middlesbrough.

It’s reasonable to suggest that neither set of supporters would’ve anticipated being in or around the relegation zone at this juncture, and a decisive outcome would go a long way for one side to latch back onto the plethora of teams above them.

There are positive shoots of recovery for the ‘sponsorless’ men in white and blue, but the proof will be in experiencing defeat once more.

Ensuring those occasions are bumps on the road rather than streaks should be the aim for the rest of the campaign.

Only at the end of it will Cowley have a free hand to truly shape the club in his own image.

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