As all eyes turn to the Premier League, there has not been an opening game of the season for a Town fan that has been as eagerly anticipated.
Town’s Premier League campaign begins at Selhurst Park as David Wagner looks to attempt to replicate last season’s bright start with a victory.
It will be anything but straightforward as Frank De Boer will be wanting to start in the exact same manner in front of an expectant optimistic Crystal Palace crowd.
Ahead of the opening day fixture, we got in touch with HLTCO to discuss all things Palace, his views of Town and his thoughts on the game itself.
What have you made of Frank De Boer so far?
“I’ve been hugely impressed with de Boer so far. It sounds like a cliché but as supporters, we’ve been keen for a manager to come in and start building solid foundations for years now. With his history at Ajax (including their commitment to a certain playing style) there is hope that he’ll work hard to implement a similar ethos at Selhurst Park”.
Have you been impressed by his signings?
“So far, we’ve only had a handful of new arrivals but Jairo Riedewald, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Timothy Fosu-Mensah all point towards a real effort on the boss’ part to shift our game from “smash and grab” into one which dictates play through possession of the ball. We may be used to it but I’m not complaining for the time being”
Can you survive this season without the stability of Big Sam?
“The last few years have seen us follow a pattern of boom and bust with startling consistency. The club’s owners remain admirably keen to usher in a new, sustainable playing style but have often been forced to bite the bullet and call on the services of survival specialists as the new year rolls around. My hope is that, in Frank de Boer, we have a man who is tactically astute enough to guide us through any initially choppy waters and come out intact on the other side”.
Will Steve Parish show patience to De Boer if you struggle for form at any point?
“I think Parish is a man who is desperate to bring some stability to the club after years of topsy-turvy changes in the dugout. He is probably painted a tad unfairly as a man who is quick to pull the trigger when a manager is struggling but in truth, his haste has saved us from the drop year after year. As long as we’re clear of the bottom three, I highly doubt he’d ever contemplate giving de Boer the chop”.
Who will be your key players this season?
“Obviously Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke are the two names who immediately spring to the front of most people’s minds and whilst the pair are undoubtedly huge for us, I feel as though Luka Milivojevic (who has been a revelation since signing in January) and Patrick van Aanholt who is almost certain to play in his ideal role of left-wing back this season, could be just as pivotal”.
What are your expectations for next season?
“I’m keen to not expect too much too soon from de Boer’s Oranje revolution and would expect us to sit somewhere between 15th and 10th by the time May rolls around. His style is a definitive departure from the norm and teething problems will be inevitable but I’m hopeful that it won’t end up being an unmitigated disaster”.
What are your hopes and realistic ambitions for the upcoming season?
“Personally, I’d just like to see us begin to lay solid foundations for a shift in tactical approach under Frank’s guidance, with the occasional eyebrow raising result along the way. As I’m sure you know, the thought of him overachieving too early will only lead to one of the stereotypical big boys nabbing him next summer anyway”.
Are you happy with the business your club has done?
“I would be lying if I said I was satisfied with the number of players we’ve brought in (we still desperately need a goalkeeper and a back-up striker before the window closes) but personnel wise, I can’t fault the attributes of the players he’s got on board so far. It makes a pleasant change from the scatter-gun approach we have been known to indulge in during previous windows”
How have Crystal Palace looked in pre-season?
“The overall trend in pre-season has been overwhelmingly positive. Whilst I and no other football fan should ever read too much into results from this time of year, the players have looked to be thriving in the new 3-4-3 system, aided by de Boer’s pinpoint approach to training sessions”.
After discussing his hopes for Crystal Palace, our thoughts turned to Town and what they can bring to the Premier League.
Did you watch many of Huddersfield’s games last season?
“I have to admit, I watched one or two Huddersfield games in the early stages of Wagner’s tenure and was mightily impressed; ever since then, I’ve made a point of keeping an eye out for you whenever I can. To me, the style of football you played last term acts as a perfect example of the changing face of the Championship. It’s refreshing”.
What do you make of David Wagner and the signings he has made?
“I see Wagner as the sort of manager the majority of football fans would love to have in charge of their club. Yes, he can get a little too excited from time to time, (his run-in with Garry Monk springs to mind) but in the main, he’s a man who has transformed your club from the inside and that is to be applauded. In terms of signings, it’s hard for me not to draw certain parallels with our approach to the market in our first season back in the Premier League under Ian Holloway. Hopefully, yours is more successful”.
How do you rate their survival chances this season?
“It’s difficult for me to make anything approaching an accurate prediction given the number of new faces floating around your squad. Like tea bags and hot water, you don’t ever know what you’ve got until it’s too late but if Wagner can instil the same sort of spirit as last season, I’d give you a 50-50 chance”.
Do you think their style of play will suit the premier league?
“In essence, there’s little to stop Wagner and Huddersfield from producing the goods in the top flight but I’m sure you don’t need to remind you what an unforgiving division it can be, particularly when your backs are against the wall. Confidence plays an absolutely massive role, so, if you can get one or two early scalps (other than on the opening day) you could be sitting pretty in December wondering what all the fuss is about”.
Who in your opinion are their standout players?
“I remember randomly flicking on an A-League game a few years back, seeing Aaron Mooy and thinking to myself that he was one hell of a player, only to then see him pop up with you lot a little while later. He’s a player I feel many outside of the Huddersfield bubble still underestimate. Kasey Palmer has also looked superb to me whenever I’ve watched him”.
What are your thoughts on Tom Ince? Was he unlucky during his time at Palace and can he thrive at Huddersfield?
“Tom Ince is a very strange case, individually. At the time of his arrival at Palace, plenty in the press were suggesting he was a better player than Wilfried Zaha which is quite frankly ridiculous. That said, I don’t doubt that he’s a lad with genuine ability. I suppose a part of me feels as though his dad (and apparent interest in him from Inter Milan) may have damaged his work ethic, if his head is clearer now, he could be a lightning rod for the Terriers”.
Having discussed both teams hopes and expectations for the season, thoughts inevitably turned to the big game itself.
What’s your score prediction for the game?
“I’ll go with an open 1-1 draw”.
What will be the key battles that will decide it?
“I can’t speak for your attacking strengths but if you manage to nullify the wide threat of Zaha and Townsend, you’ll go a long way to blunting us”.
Do you think the game will be tight and cagey or end-to-end?
“As I said above, I think it’ll be quite a free-flowing affair, we’re still getting to grips with playing three at the back, remember”.
If you had to pick the Crystal Palace starting XI for Saturday, who would you pick?
How do you expect Huddersfield to approach the game?
“With a mixture of wide-eyed enthusiasm (in the early stages) and pragmatism as the game wears on, providing the scores are still close”.
What do you expect from the Huddersfield supporters?
“I expect a relative party atmosphere. Far be it for me to talk for you but after such a long absence from the top flight, you have every right to enjoy it”.
What atmosphere can Huddersfield fans expect at Selhurst Park?
“It’s regularly described as the best atmosphere in the league by neutrals and I would agree. It’s possibly not as consistently raucous as it was a few years ago but on the opening day, we should be well up for it”.
Much like Town fans, Palace fans are a humble but proud bunch with belief in their talented crop of players. Selhurst Park provides an intimidating atmosphere for players but a welcoming one for opposition fans.
Here’s hoping both of us stay up this season and we both provide a counter-narrative to the elitist mentality which can plague the top echelons of the league.