Huddersfield are back in the top flight for the first time since 1972 after Monday’s play-off final victory over Reading secured promotion to the Premier League.
Here, TEAMtalk identifies five things the Terriers must do if they are to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.
1. Exploit the loan market once again
There is no doubt that players borrowed from other clubs played a massive part in Town’s memorable season. Goalkeeper Danny Ward, on loan from Liverpool, featured 46 times in all competitions and saved penalties in both play-off shoot-out wins. Manchester City loanee Aaron Mooy was named in the PFA Championship team of the year for his influential midfield performances, while Chelsea pair Kasey Palmer and Izzy Brown also contributed to the unlikely success story. Boss David Wagner may struggle to recruit any of the quartet on permanent deals but he will surely attempt to bring them back on a temporary basis at the very least, in addition to scouring the loan market for more shrewd signings. His extensive knowledge of German football and close ties with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp could be key to his recruitment plans.
2. Improve their goal ratio
The Terriers’ achievement is even more miraculous given they finished the season with a negative goal difference. They were the only side in the Championship top 10 to do so and you have to drop all the way to 13th-placed Barnsley to find a team with a worse record in that department. A repeat of that next season will certainly not guarantee relegation – only the top seven in this season’s Premier League managed to record a positive goal difference – but it is not a statistic which usually breeds success. Of Town’s 25 league victories, 22 were secured by a one-goal margin, while they were walloped a few times, conceding four goals or more on three occasions.
3. Keep hold of Wagner
Town were perennial Championship strugglers prior to the German’s arrival in November 2015. In the four seasons since their 2012 promotion from the third tier, the Terriers twice finished 19th, as well as 17th and 16th. Wagner’s impressive work at the John Smith’s Stadium has reportedly made him a target for numerous other clubs, including some in his homeland. Having unexpectedly taken Huddersfield up, the 45-year-old could have his head turned by a tempting offer from elsewhere given that his managerial stock is currently at its peak and his present team are likely to be favourites for the drop next campaign. A lucrative new deal with the West Yorkshire club is apparently on the table and chairman Dean Hoyle will be desperate to keep his man.
4. Bring in some experience
The average age of Huddersfield’s Wembley starting 11 was less than 26 and the line-up contained only two players who have started a Premier League game. While some recently-promoted clubs – notably Bournemouth, Burnley and Southampton – have demonstrated that players can make the step up from the Football League, the Terriers will need to supplement their young squad with some older heads who possess top-flight know-how. Town do have some experience on their books but Mark Hudson and Dean Whitehead, both 35, and 30-year-old Martin Cranie have only been bit-part players this campaign and are arguably no longer good enough for the Championship. Midfielder Whitehead and defender Cranie are also out of contract this summer.
5. Find a regular source of goals
A consistent goal-threat is a vital component for sides looking to stay in the Premier League. Huddersfield only have to look at Middlesbrough to see what happens when a promoted team fails to find the back of the net on a regular basis. Boro managed only 27 strikes in 38 games – a third of which came from on-loan striker Alvaro Negredo – and went down with a whimper. Town lack a proven Premier League goalscorer and have no-one near the quality of Negredo. Central striker Nahki Wells scored just 10 league goals from 43 outings this season, while top-scorer Elias Kachunga, who was mainly deployed in a wide position, contributed 12 in 41 starts. An in-form forward will not assure top-flight survival but the absence of one will almost certainly result in relegation.