Club Direction January 2021

It is 18 months since Dean Hoyle departed as majority owner of Huddersfield Town and Phil Hodgkinson took over. Initially, I found the choice by Dean to sell the club to Phil strange. Phil had only been in the football industry briefly owning National League North side: Southport. One would question the decision by Hoyle. Some reports at the time suggested that Phil did not produce the most lucrative offer while others suggested that Dean wanted to pass the club onto a fellow fan as he knew that they would also have an emotional attachment to the club and not someone who would leave once they get bored. Equally, cynics looked at this by saying Dean was giving the club to Phil as he thought he wouldn't be able to eclipse his achievements as chairman. In my opinion, Dean did the right thing, he could have sold abroad, but Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan Athletic have shown the dangers of doing that.

The club was in a mess when Phil took over

Recovering from relegation from the Premier League was never going to be an easy feat. The only players that Town had paid off in full since promotion to the Premier League were Laurent Depoitre, Scott Malone and Tom Ince, the rest of the signings still had remaining parts of their transfer fees to be paid off. This is why parachute payments are in place: so that teams don't suddenly go from £100 million a year in revenue to £10 million and can't afford to pay off their previous committed spending.
Phil realised that for Huddersfield to recover to a point where they are stable, then cuts were necessary. Phillip Billing, Tommy Smith, Aaron Mooy, Zanka, Chris Lowe and Rajiv Van La Parra were all sold to recoup some of the financial outlay from the Premier League. It is also important to point out that Town completed the signing of Isaac Mbenza who is the second most expensive signing the club has ever made. The club sold £25 million worth of players that summer which was only a quarter of the financial outlay on signings the club made while being in the Premier League. Ultimately Phil was left to pick up all the pieces and the tab for the Premier League.

The Premier League warps fan's perception of football

The Premier League was a great experience, but it has created an unrealistic perception of football. Prior to the promotion, Christopher Schindler was our most expensive signing at £1.9 million, so for Town to spend over £50 million on signings the following season, should show how big the gap is between the Championship and Premier League. So it shouldn't be assumed that when you return to the Championship you continue to sign £5 - 10 million players. Likewise, when it comes to the wage budget, Town got promoted on the same wage budget as Rotherham who were relegated, but when Town returned to the Championship they had one of the highest wage budgets. This is why when Phil said on paper they are a top 6 side, it is not because of how good the squad is, it is because they had one of the highest wage bills in the division.
It may have looked from the outside like Town were making cheap signings, that is only what they could have afforded as the wage bill was above what they wanted and with players like Pritchard, Diakhaby and Kongolo not leaving because no one would match what they were on at Town, it was a difficult job for the Chairman.

The Pandemic Struggles

The pandemic has been devastating and it has hit football hard. With no fans in stadiums, the club loses its main source of income. No matchday revenue plus the reduction in merchandise sales leads to the club relying solely on player sales for any revenue. Karlan Grant's sale to West Brom was absolutely necessary to keep the club afloat (instalments are not ideal, but it will provide a good source of income in future seasons.) The second instalment in the Billing deal came through, while Terence Kongolo and Steve Mounie took huge amounts off an already overbudget wage bill while also getting the club some cash. I think Phil has been rightfully cautious in the situation we are in, 14 clubs failed to pay their players on time in January - Town did, but it just shows how tight the finances are for many clubs at the moment, so if Phil spent £5 million on a striker, it may project us to 10th in the table, but it could also bankrupt us.

Why I think Danny Cowley was sacked

Danny and Nicky did a brilliant job in keeping the club afloat last season, so the sacking came as a shock to most supporters. They created a clear identity and while the football they played was not great, it kept us up. This was mainly down to the signings that they made. They signed 'veterans', but they did make some 'exciting' signings: Harry Toffolo, Emile Smith Rowe and Chris Willock, but note two of these were loans and from what the club has said this season, they only want to sign loan players of Emile Smith Rowe's calibre as they want to prioritise developing the players that they own. Something the Cowleys didn't really prioritise.
I have seen some fans criticising Phil for throwing the Cowleys under the bus, but when you look back at their tenure, they threw £40 million worth of players in the reserves with seemingly no route back into the first-team plans while they were in charge. Now £40 million is a HUGE amount to any club, let alone a club that turns over just under a third of that amount each year.
Ultimately, I think they were sacked for wanting too much control while also mishandling assets. Clearly, there was a clash of egos between the players in question and the Cowleys. Even if the players were at fault, it shows there was a lack of man-management from the Cowleys, as they never had been in control of managing this calibre of footballer before.

Give Credit to Phil for his managerial appointments

Phil doesn't have autonomy over player signings, but he is in charge of the manager or head coach appointment. Danny Cowley and Carlos Corberan have both been great successes and have done a job in moving towards their end goal. In my opinion, Town fans have brushed past this and have never given him the credit he deserves in this department. Dean Hoyle made some horrendous managerial appointments, but ultimately he will be remembered for the David Wagner appointment.

What is the end goal?

From what I am seeing with the way the club is progressing, I am very excited. The change in the youth academy ideology to become an academy that picks up players from abroad (Brahima Diarra, Loick Ayina, Etienne Camara) or who have dropped out of other academies (Kieran Phillips, Kian Harratt). The B team is preparing our youth players better due to the club choosing the teams they face rather than be in a league.
Phil is creating a club where there are 3/4 players that break into the first team each season, with some of these players being sold on for a few million, which keeps the finances ticking over. The scaffolding in place that Phil has put in, means that there shouldn't be widescale changes in the club's mentality when there is a change of personnel in a subdivision of the club i.e manager or head of football operations. While he is copying Brentford's model, it doesn't matter as it is a very successful one and one which will give Town the best chance to win promotion back to the Premier League.
While as fans we aren't seeing the results on the pitch changing, you can see what is being put in place and we should remember that these changes are not going to be instantaneous and will take time. If in a years time nothing seems to be changing, then maybe start to question Phil, but throughout his tenure all I have seen is complaints from fans about him. He has made mistakes, there is no denying that, the Twitter fiasco showed it, but we as fans need to stop holding this stuff against him. His reluctancy to spend money on transfer fees may look like he doesn't care, but the accounts will still show Town making payments for prior transfers. At the end of the day, Town is one of his businesses, he is not going to let it fail (relegated), but that doesn't mean he is going to overstretch and potentially cause it self implode like other clubs have done.