It has finally arrived. The time when we show the Premier League big boys what this little dog from West Yorkshire can do.
As the only Yorkshire club in the division, it’s up to us to prove ourselves on the biggest stage of all and maybe, just maybe, put a few top 6 club fans in their place. Still doesn’t feel real yet does it?
Not since the famous season of 1970/71 has little old Huddersfield Town been in English football’s top division. In that season, some of Town’s greatest ever players donned the famous blue and white stripes and pitted their wits against the country’s elite clubs.
Players like Big Frank Worthington carried the name of Huddersfield Town to the upper echelons of English football. Frank went on to be a Leicester City legend and was incredibly unlucky not to have a fruitful England career.
Others like Trevor Cherry, one of our finest ever centre-backs, crossed over to the dark side and became a Leeds United legend after our relegation. This is without even mentioning the great Jimmy Nicholson.
Soon, the likes of Chris Schindler, Tommy Smith, Elias Kachunga and Steve Mounie to name a few will achieve similar iconic status amongst town folklore.
Kids across Huddersfield and beyond are no longer being drawn to the glory hunting teams of Manchester City or Manchester United but are becoming fully fledged town fans, engrossed by our success and will provide a whole new generation of fans for years to come. Now, before I get all misty-eyed again just talking about it, onto the game.
Our first game of the season comes against a team who could almost call themselves an established Premier League club now in Crystal Palace.
Town go to Selhurst Park in the hope of a famous first victory in football’s top division but will be coming up against a hardened and quality Palace side under newly installed Dutch technocrat Frank De Boer.
Schooled on the craft and artistry of Dutch football, De Boer will be hoping to transition Palace from an effective and on many occasions lethal counter-attacking team to one based on a more possession-based Dutch model.
It appears to be a good time to be playing Palace as some of their players will take time to transition to De Boer’s new 3-4-3 formation and implement the tactical changes he craves.
Wilfried Zaha vs Chris Loewe
Chris Loewe’s introduction to the Premier League could well be one of the toughest physical and technical examinations of his ability that he will get this season.
This battle could well determine the outcome of the match with Zaha’s blistering pace and trickery a key weapon in Palace’s arsenal.
Since his return to Selhurst Park after a disappointing stint at Manchester United, Zaha has returned to the form he showed when he first burst onto the Championship scene under then manager and Town pantomime villain, Ian Holloway.
Many Town fans will remember the potent finish Zaha produced in the 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park in 2012 and if we are to nullify Crystal Palace’s threat, Chris Loewe will have to put in a stellar performance to cut off Benteke’s supply line that comes from Zaha.
Andros Townsend vs Tommy Smith
Similar to the battle between Zaha and Loewe, newly installed club captain Tommy Smith will have a big task on his hands nullifying the direct threat of England winger Andros Townsend.
Since his move from Newcastle, Townsend has aimed to fill the gap left by fellow speedster Yannick Bolasie whilst improving on his end product and cross delivery.
With a powerful shot and searing pace, Smith will need to cut out Townsend’s individual threat whilst also ensuring he does not whip in many crosses for Benteke to get on the end of.
Christian Benteke vs Zanka
The most titanic battle of the match will take place between new signing Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen and powerhouse Christian Benteke.
Benteke’s signing from Liverpool for £27m in today’s broken transfer market now looks like a real bargain.
Whilst Benteke was criticised by previous manager Sam Allardyce for a lack of concentration and application defending set pieces, it is in the opposition’s penalty area where he strikes fear into defenders.
With his imposing frame and fierce physical strength, Benteke is extremely effective at bullying opposition centre-backs and dominating the aerial battles.
His touch is also under-rated and he has shown on several occasions such as his spectacular volley for Liverpool against Manchester United that he is not just a target man.
Known for his anti-hero reputation and a love of battling centre-forwards and winding them up, if Zanka is to get the better of Benteke, he must use all the tricks he has up his sleeve and perfect the ‘dark arts’ defending he so clearly loves.
Patrick van Aanholt vs Tom Ince
The prodigal son returns to Selhurst Park to prove that he was cast off too soon.
Many Palace fans rated Ince highly but lamented that he was not given a proper run of games in the team to demonstrate his worth.
Having garnered a lot of stick during his career, most of which is unfair, Ince will be hoping his third crack at the Premier League will prove a successful one. He seems hungry, determined and driven to succeed.
He comes up against fantasy football favourite Patrick Van Aanholt who was another one of Big Sam’s January summer signings.
Blessed with pace and good end-product, van Aanholt provides goals and assists to his team but his defensive shortcomings are well documented.
Ince will be hoping he can take advantage of his perceived defensive fragility and exploit the pockets of space in between Palace’s defence to supply Steve Mounié.
Luka Milivojević vs Danny Williams
Both these players are relatively new to the Premier League. Milivojevic has only had half a season in the division but was one of Big Sam’s shrewdest signings when he brought in the Serbian international from Olympiakos.
Standing at an imposing 6ft 1inches in the centre of Palace’s midfield, this beast from the East is key to the breakdown of opposition attacks and is an effective shield in front of Palace’s defence.
Danny Williams, on the other hand, is making his debut for Town and in the Premier League.
Expected to be replacing the injured Jonathan Hogg, if his playoff final performance and previous season for Reading is anything to go by, we might have one of the most bruising encounters we’ve seen in recent times take place in the middle of the park on Saturday between these two enforcers.
Here is how we think Town will line-up for their opening day fixture against Crystal Palace.
Stats to look out for
Over the course of all our games, Palace have the edge with 12 wins to Town’s 11, with 17 games ending in draws.
- Since 2008-09, only four newly promoted sides have won on the opening day in the Premier League. All four, like Huddersfield, had won promotion via the play-offs.
- Crystal Palace have lost three of their last four opening-day matches in the Premier League.
- Palace are beginning their ninth Premier League campaign, with Frank de Boer the seventh different man to have been in charge on the opening day of the season.
- Huddersfield’s last top-flight match back in 1972 was also away at Crystal Palace – it ended 0-0.
- Palace have won just one of their last 12 matches against Huddersfield Town (D7, L4).
- Huddersfield’s last top-flight win was in November 1971 against Brian Clough’s Derby – they subsequently endured a 22-game winless run.
Whilst it may not be the standout fixture of the opening weekend of Premier League football, there is an air of exhilaration surrounding David Wagner’s fearless Town side and De Boer’s Oranje revolution.
Even though both sides are shrouded in uncertainty, as David Wagner and Frank De Boer look to implement their unique philosophies in the Premier League, it could well be one of the most interesting matches to watch this weekend.