A WIZ­ARD FROM OZ HOLDS ACES

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

ASKED if David Wag­ner has a strat­egy for halt­ing Sh­effield Wed­nes­day, Christo­pher Schindler rubbed his stub­bled jaw, then broke into a grin.

“Yes he does,” said Hud­der­s­field’s gi­ant Ger­man de­fender. “But here is not the place to talk about it. You might be Wed­nes­day fans.”

Maybe, but it doesn’t take a loose-lipped cen­tre-half or spies in the me­dia suite to know what Wag­ner will do at Hills­bor­ough to­day. Press like demons. Out­work the op­po­si­tion.

And, above all else, get the ball to Aaron Mooy.

The Aussie mid­fielder is Hud­der­s­field’s lynch­pin, a dili­gent drum­mer set­ting the rhythm amid the fury and flam­boy­ance of Wag­ner’s self-pro­claimed “rock ‘n’ roll” foot­ball.

Does any player at this level pos­sess such a com­pelling com­bi­na­tion of grace, vi­sion and tech­nique? Not ac­cord­ing to his peers, who voted the 26-year-old into the PFA Cham­pi­onship team of the sea­son.

And not ac­cord­ing to Wag­ner, who doesn’t even at­tempt to dis­guise how vi­tal Mooy is to Hud­der­s­field’s hopes of reach­ing the top flight for the first time in 45 years.

“If Aaron per­forms, the whole team per­forms,” ad­mit­ted the Ger­man. “He is the heart of our team. The pivot. He knows ex­actly how to ac­cel­er­ate or de­cel­er­ate the game. He is so calm, so con­fi­dent on the ball.

“When he un­der­per­formed this sea­son, we of­ten as a team had prob­lems as well. It was very rare that we were strong with­out him.

Con­sis­tent

“So, the fact that we fin­ished fourth and were very con­sis­tent tells you ev­ery­thing about what a good sea­son he has had.

“Keep in mind how many times he was in­volved with the Aus­tralian na­tional team, as well. Long flights, changes of time zone, changes of tem­per­a­ture.

“It has been a very tough sea­son for him, but he has de­liv­ered his best again and again. He has been top, top class.

“On the other side, of course, Aaron can­not do it on his own. We need Jonathan Hogg to be a proper ter­rier, who never gives a player a breather. He must al­ways be there, very op­pres­sive.

“We need our cen­tre-backs, Schindler and Michael He­fele, to be very ag­gres­sive, very strong in the air.

“Our full-backs, Tommy Smith and Chris Lowe, to be great at­tack­ers and proper de­fend­ers. Aaron is very im­por­tant for this team but he needs all the play­ers around him to per­form.”

Mooy’s un­der­stated ar­rival in July il­lus­trates why Nor­wich City poached Stu­art Web­ber, the Ter­ri­ers’ erst­while di­rec­tor of foot­ball.

Last sea­son, Mooy notched an A-League record 20 as­sists for Mel­bourne City, one of sev­eral clubs owned by Man City supremo Sheikh Man­sour.

Both Txiki Be­giris­tain and Pep Guardi­ola were keen to take a punt but judged that Mooy needed a Cham­pi­onship loan spell first.

Web­ber got wind of the plan, of­fered Hud­der­s­field’s ser­vices and the cor­ner­stone of a pro­mo­tion push was duly laid.

“Stu­art ac­tu­ally men­tioned Aaron to me at the end of last sea­son,” ex­plains Wag­ner. “Then, he showed me some clips from the Eng­land v Aus­tralia game at Wem­b­ley (a 2-1 de­feat for the Soc­ceroos) in May. Af­ter that, I said ‘Yes, let’s try to get him’.

“City were very re­cep­tive. Very in­ter­ested in what we could of­fer. One thing fol­lowed another and Aaron came to meet me here in Hud­der­s­field. We went for din­ner with the chair­man and, af­ter this, I was pretty sure I wanted him in my

squad. “Since then we have kept in touch with City. We were con­tacted around Jan­uary be­cause there was a call-back clause in his con­tract. Thank­fully, they didn’t use it!

“The con­ver­sa­tion was very quick and sim­ple. Are you happy? Yes. Are we happy? Yes. Great, then let’s keep go­ing. There was no sense in tak­ing the player out of a sit­u­a­tion that was work­ing for him.

“Now, Aaron has a chance to make sure he is in­volved in the Pre­mier League next sea­son. That is in his own hands, I think.”

Not that Mooy has been seen much re­cently. The play­maker was one of sev­eral play­ers con­tro­ver­sially rested for the penul­ti­mate match of the sea­son against strug­gling Birm­ing­ham.

The Ter­ri­ers lost 2-0, lead­ing to ac­cu­sa­tions from rel­e­ga­tion ri­vals Black­burn and a let­ter from the Foot­ball League ask­ing for Wag­ner’s “ob­ser­va­tions” on the team se­lec­tion.

With £200m at stake, the for­mer Schalke mid­fielder is un­re­pen­tant.

“I was to­tally sur­prised how many com­ments I got about these de­ci­sions,” said Wag­ner. “You have to do what is the right thing for your foot­ball club.

“If you are in­volved in rel­e­ga­tion trou­ble af­ter 46 games, it usu­ally isn’t the start­ing XI of Hud­der­s­field Town or any­one else that is the rea­son.

“It is be­cause you made mis­takes and didn’t do things right over the whole sea­son. That is what I didn’t like.

Un­der­dogs

“We made those changes to be as best pre­pared as we could be for the play-offs. And that wasn’t just about rest.

“Danny Ward, our goal­keeper, got sent off against Cardiff in the last game of the sea­son.

“But be­cause Joel Cole­man played against Birm­ing­ham, he has game time in his legs and is much more ready to come in. That is why I am to­tally sure I did the right thing.”

De­spite fin­ish­ing fourth, Hud­der­s­field will kick off as un­der­dogs to­day against a Wed­nes­day side able to dump two £10m strik­ers on the bench.

Wag­ner’s en­tire side cost less than that, but the 45-year-old isn’t wor­ried about per­cep­tions, hav­ing started the sea­son among the book­ies’ favourites for rel­e­ga­tion.

He adds: “I knew in pre­sea­son we would not be in a rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle, even if some ex­perts pre­dicted trou­ble for us. Un­til Christ­mas, I al­ways said pro­mo­tion was pos­si­ble but not re­al­is­tic. But, af­ter 23 games, I thought ‘Right, now it’s re­al­is­tic’.

“If we get pro­moted, this for sure is the Le­ices­ter City story reloaded. One hun­dred per cent. I didn’t de­lib­er­ately take them as in­spi­ra­tion.

“But if it hap­pens I think this will be a sim­i­lar sur­prise and a sim­i­lar level of achieve­ment.”

PICTURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

MOOY OF SAME: Aaron Mooy cel­e­brates scor­ing for Hud­der­s­field and, inset, boss David Wag­ner

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