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Everton at Huddersfield Town: The Opposition View

We chat with Terriers fan and writer John McNamara prior to Tuesday night’s clash

Everton v Huddersfield Town - Premier League
Everton and Huddersfield drew 1-1 at Goodison Park in September
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Everton will look to bounce back from Saturday’s embarrassing FA Cup exit at Millwall when they visit Huddersfield Town on Tuesday night.

The Terriers prop up the Premier League table and, ten points adrift of safety with 15 games to go, seem destined for a return to the Championship after two seasons in the top-flight.

The visit of the Blues will be the first game new Huddersfield boss Jan Siewert has taken charge of, after his predecessor David Wagner left the club a fortnight ago.

Siewert, 36, left Borussia Dortmund II to take charge of the Terriers, just as Wagner did in 2015.

Ahead of Tuesday’s game at the John Smith’s Stadium, we spoke to Huddersfield fan and sports writer John McNamara, creator of Terrierblog:

RBM: Firstly, do you see any hope for Huddersfield in their attempts to avoid relegation?

John: As a football fan, I still have some amount of hope that we can pull off the unthinkable and avoid relegation. If you can’t have that blinkered hope as a fan then what’s the point?

Despite that, my hopes are disappearing every week – it will take something crazy for us to avoid relegation from the position we’re in at the moment.

RBM: Though Wagner will forever be hailed as the man who led Huddersfield to the Premier League, was it the right time for him and the club to part ways?

John: Yes, definitely. Wagner had been looking worn out after a long losing run. He seemed to be at the end of his tether and that’s completely understandable. From what I understand, he was overruled in the summer transfer window and didn’t manage to get the targets he wanted.

Further to that, he had seen his team on the end of some abominable refereeing decisions over the past two months and they undoubtedly took their toll on him. The timing of Wagner’s departure means that he will forever be a legend at Huddersfield Town, but most importantly, he can have a rest from the fast-paced world of football.

Huddersfield Town v Manchester City - Premier League
Huddersfield fans paid tribute to Wagner during their last home game against Manchester City
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

RBM: Jan Siewert is, to many people, a complete unknown. What have you made of his appointment?

John: Until about a fortnight ago, he was a complete unknown to me and many other Town fans as well. From the outside, it may seem that the Town board have simply repeated what worked with Wagner previously.

That’s not the case, however. According to chairman Dean Hoyle and CEO Julian Winter, we have been tracking Siewert for the past two years – when he was originally at Essen. Siewert has been earmarked as the long-term successor to Wagner for some time, and I see no reason not to trust the judgement of our board.

RBM: Huddersfield had a distinct, rigid style of play under Wagner, which frustrated Everton enormously in the 1-1 draw at Goodison Park earlier this season.

What approach do you expect under Siewert?

John: It saddens me that you think that about Huddersfield Town. Under Wagner we were accustomed to full-throttle, high-pressing attacking football. Unfortunately, a few heavy defeats to petrol-rich Premier League clubs forced Wagner into the rigid style that you referred to.

From what I understand, Siewert is committed to attacking football, preferring a fluid 4-3-3 formation. I’d expect to see a renewed vigour from Huddersfield Town against Everton on Tuesday, which could mean we’re more susceptible to counter-attacks.

RBM: Aaron Mooy will sit out Tuesday’s game having been sidelined since December with a knee injury. How much have Huddersfield missed the midfielder recently?

John: Enormously. Mooy is by far our best player, so much so that Wagner refused to sign a contract extension in 2017 unless we signed Mooy permanently. In the media, not much has been said about Mooy’s absence from the team, but he is the man that sets the pace of our play.

Without him, we’ve looked incredibly poor in the final third as well as being unable to control games. When he does eventually return, I’d expect to see an immediate upturn in performances and results.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Huddersfield Town - Premier League
Mooy (right) scored twice in Huddersfield’s win against Wolves in November, their last league victory
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

RBM: The lowest scorers in the league, Huddersfield have managed only 13 strikes in their 23 league games this term.

Is there anyone in the current squad who you think is capable of netting the goals to steer them to safety, or are striking reinforcements a necessity before the transfer window closes on Thursday?

John: This is the big question among Town fans at the moment. Did Wagner’s recent ‘safety-first’ tactics inhibit strikers Steve Mounié and Laurent Depoitre? Or, are they just terrible strikers? I’d suggest it’s probably a mixture of both of those factors.

Mind you, if you watched our most recent game against Manchester City you’ll probably have a different opinion. Mounié blazed the ball high and wide, three yards from goal. The fact that I did not find that at all surprising probably says a lot.

RBM: How do you expect Huddersfield to line up on Tuesday?

John: As mentioned earlier, Siewert tends to favour a 4-3-3 formation so I’d expect Town to line up in that formation. Hopefully there will be more emphasis on attacking wingers as Wagner had recently taken to playing full-backs out wide.

Philip Billing, Jonathan Hogg and Juninho Bacuna will probably start in midfield, injecting plenty of energy and bite into the middle of the park. Up top it will be either Mounié or Depoitre leading the line. Although I’d like to place on record now that I am available for selection, and could most probably do better than both of those strikers.

Huddersfield Town v Liverpool - Premier League
Mounié and Depoitre have just one goal between them this season
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

RBM: Which of Huddersfield’s players do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

John: Billing is currently our best player, and regardless of what happens to us in May, he will be a Premier League player next season. The young Dane has been with us from his mid-teens and is finally fulfilling his promise.

He’s tall and physical, which is what you will notice first. But he has that special ability to glide past players and dictate the tempo of a game. All in all, he would probably be an excellent signing for Everton when (sorry, I mean ‘if’) we go down.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for the game?

John: Perhaps it’s blind faith that’s clouding my judgement, but I think we’ll beat you on Tuesday. I don’t think Siewert could have hoped for a better game to kick-off his Town career. I’ve watched a lot of Everton games this season and even reported on a few, and there is a soft centre at the core of your team.

I also think that Marco Silva has somewhat of an arrogance to him when it comes to tactics. I’ll point you in the direction of the heavy home defeat to Spurs when Silva tried to outplay one of the best teams in the league with no defensive presence in midfield.

For that reason I’m predicting a 2-1 win to Huddersfield Town. I believe we’ll have too much fire, energy and passion for the occasion which will ultimately drag us through to victory. Here’s hoping, anyway.

Our thanks to John for his time.