Following the announcement on Thursday afternoon that Elias Kachunga has signed a new contract with the club that will run until 2020, it is only fitting to pay tribute to the man who has been a revelation for us since signing from Bundesliga side FC Ingolstadt.
Having been fast-tracked through the German youth system and featured regularly at international youth level, Elias Kachunga quickly emerged as a bright young talent who look destined for the very top. However, it wasn’t until his spell at Paderborn that he really established his reputation earning his move to the Bundesliga side Ingolstadt.
Whilst there was much excitement about Elias Kachunga’s move to Ingolstadt, the move wasn’t beneficial for either party. Elias Kachunga struggled to break into Ingolstadt’s first team squad, as he made just ten appearances in his single season for the club and Ingolstadt’s much-coveted signing was unable to justify the price tag paid.
When Huddersfield Town began to show an interest in taking Elias Kachunga on loan, it appeared that Ingolstadt’s prayers had been answered. Originally joining the club on a season long-loan, many fans were not sure what to expect from the half German, half DR of Congo player. There was an expectation that he would be arriving to provide competition for Town’s main striker, Nakhi Wells.
Reports from Germany seemed to continue to indicate he was struggling in a struggling side, with Ingolstadt content with shipping him out as they could not extract what they needed from him.
However, Town head coach David Wagner saw a star quality in him that most in Germany did not see and swiftly took advantage of Ingolstadt’s generosity to bring him to West Yorkshire.
What Wagner did not foresee (and what he openly admitted himself) was Kachunga’s supreme adaptability and willingness to fit into our team ethos and structure, with the result being his switch to an inside-forward role on the right hand side in Wagner’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
Kachunga signalled his arrival with an immediate impact, scoring the first goal of Town’s promotion winning season with a perfectly met header at the back post to open the scoring against Brentford. From then on, his goal contributions in matches as well as his infectious endeavour, personality, work-rate and consistent performances endeared him to the Town faithful as he quickly established himself as a fan favourite.
Kachunga would go on to finish the season as Town’s top scorer with 11 goals and notable contributions include his goal in the scintillating performances against Norwich as well as the home fixture against Queens Park Rangers. Most notably, Kachunga’s last gasp winner against Derby County which saw David Wagner charge down the line to join in with the celebrations is a moment that will live long in the memory of Town fans.
What was particularly special about Kachunga’s embracing of the club was also his interaction with the fans. Footballers are under no obligations to be shining role-models but Kachunga recognised his importance to the young fans, some of who were supporting Town for the first time and some coming to games especially to see him play. He always made himself available for autographs, pictures and readily gave his shirt away to young fans, culminating in him winning the ‘Young Terriers’ award at the end of season awards evening.
Now we are in the Premier League, there is no reason why Kachunga cannot thrive again in a league that will suit his pace, direct running style and combative approach to games. Often Kachunga, along with Izzy Brown and Kasey Palmer would be mercilessly targeted by opposition players, often with little to zero protection from Championship referees. That did not stop Kachunga from putting in the same performances week in, week out and never throwing a strop or a tantrum. For him, the team came before any ego.
After joining Huddersfield Town from Ingolstadt where he appeared to be lacking direction, the switch to West Yorkshire has proved to be inspired. David Wagner has not only taken Kachunga under his wing and revitalised his career giving him the fresh start he needed, he is now flourishing and he now has the opportunity to show exactly what he can do on the biggest stage of them all.