WAGNER IS WARY OF WOUNDED WEST HAM
AHEAD of tackling what he considers to be a “proper Premier League club”, Huddersfield Town head coach David Wagner insists his side’s eyebrow-raising start to life among the elite will count for nothing tonight.
The Terriers head to the London Stadium for a first league meeting with West Ham United in 45 years on the back of taking seven points from their opening three outings.
A trio of clean sheets has also been notched, meaning another shut-out in the capital tonight will set a new record in the Premier League era by a newly-promoted club.
As pleasing as that start has been, however, Wagner is at pains to stress that all the plaudits and praise that has come Huddersfield’s way will be of little use against Slaven Bilic’s men.
“The past will be irrelevant on Monday night,” said the 45-yearold German ahead of the televised clash with the Hammers. “We have to deliver. Of course, confidence is important. But shortly before the game starts, it doesn’t help because we have to perform again.
“This group have seen many times that what happened before is irrelevant.”
The huge gap in league fixtures between Town and the Hammers – pierced just once by a two-legged League Cup tie in 1997 that the Londoners won 3-1 on aggregate – underlines just how different a path the two clubs have taken in recent decades.
Wagner is well aware of that disparity, as he is the gulf in re- sources that allowed Bilic to make a late unsuccessful move for a player in Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho whose £36.1m buyout clause all but matches Town’s entire transfer outlay over the summer.
West Ham failed with those attempts and sit rock bottom of the fledgling table, meaning an air of gloom has descended over the East End club.
This has led some to suggest that Wagner’s previous assertion that Town will be “huge underdogs” in every fixture this season is not necessarily the case tonight.
The German, however, does not agree.
“OK, yes, we are a Premier League club, like West Ham are,” he added. “But West Ham are much more established.
“West Ham work with totally different numbers to what we do. They have a 60,000-capacity stadium, we have a 25,000-capacity stadium.
“I think the sizes of these two clubs are still not comparable, even if they are both in the Premier League.
“West Ham are a proper Premier League club with a big history.
“Everyone who knows me knows that this does not mean we are not ambitious.
“We are ambitious but I think we should be honest that in terms of the size, these are two different clubs.”
Following such a poor start to the season and the failure to bring in any big name signings during the final days of the window, Hammers fans are in unforgiving mood at the moment.
An early Huddersfield goal, therefore, could lead to supporters turning on their own players. Just three seasons ago, West Ham were booed off at Upton Park despite beating another Yorkshire side in Hull City.
Sam Allardyce was the main target of the locals’ wrath that night and, while Bilic is a much more popular figure, there is every chance of a repeat of those catcalls if things are not going to plan.
Wagner added: “Of course, this is something we are aware of – how the atmosphere can change if a team does not get a lift.
“What usually happens at home is more stones on your shoulders from the stands. We are aware about this situation but we, at first, have to do our own things right. That is why I always say we have to be focused on ourselves.
“It doesn’t help if you are aware about this but then don’t make use of it. To get something out of it, first of all we have to be focused on ourselves.”
Attacking midfielder Abdelhamid Sabiri and right-back Florent Hadergjonaj – both signed in the final week of the window – are in the squad after spending the international break getting up to speed with both Wagner’s fitness demands and also Town’s style of play. All six of those away on international duty have also returned with no injury problems.
DAVID WAGNER: Huddersfield head coach takes his unbeaten side to the capital tonight.