LONDON (Reuters) - Just 18 months after taking over as coach of a struggling Championship team German coach David Wagner has achieved the remarkable feat of leading Huddersfield Town into the Premier League.
Victory in the playoff final at Wembley Stadium, in a penalty shootout, against Reading on Monday secured a return to the top flight for the Yorkshire club after a 45-year absence.
“We tried a lot of things, a lot of small details to bring this club forward. You usually need three or four years to do what we’ve done,” said Wagner who was part of Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp’s coaching staff at Borussia Dortmund before making the switch to Huddersfield.
Wagner took over in November, 2015 as the first manager of the club to be born outside the British Isles, following the dismissal of Chris Powell.
Chairman Dean Hoyle admitted he took a punt on the recommendation of an agent when hiring Wagner and it has turned out to be an inspired one.
The German managed to keep Huddersfield in the Championship - but only just as they finished 19th in the table - and not surprisingly many experts predicted relegation this season.
Without a large budget but with plenty of tactical innovation, Wagner’s counter-pressing style has helped guide the Huddersfield to an unlikely promotion.
“I said to the players before the playoffs that they are heroes - because of finishing fifth in the league and playing an unbelievable season,” he said.
“But from being hero to zero in football is sometimes only a week. So I told them here they had an opportunity to become legends - and they have done it. They are now legends for sure,” Wagner added.
”This is not a fluke. This has been deserved and they are legends.
“I am happy for everyone who has helped us make this big, big achievement, and especially for the chairman who has backed nearly all of my ideas - even when they seemed ridiculous,” added the 45-year-old.
One of the keys to the success had been pushing the players to try new approaches.
“We told our players all the way through they would have to come out of their comfort zone,” Wagner said.
”We knew if we didn’t leave our comfort zone we wouldn’t be competitive....they have been rewarded for their investment in what we wanted.
“I am unbelievably happy we have brought this fairytale to a happy ending. Unbelievably happy,” he added.
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond