Huddersfield Town 2 - 1 Brentford - 6 August 2015 - 15:00 KO.
It was pretty much the perfect day for many Huddersfield Town fans. A fairly comprehensive win against a side the pummeled us on the final day of last season, impressive debuts from a number of David Wagner's new signings and debut goals from Elias Kachunga and Kasey Palmer.
The most impressive part of the side David Wagner put out? Quite simply the business of the players and the fitness. It is no doubt that a mid season change from Chris Powell's laboured football to the German style of gegenpressing (counter-pressing) took it's toll towards the end of the season when Town were on the end of some big hidings, including yesterdays opposition.
So much has changed in the three months since Brentford put five past the terriers. A full pre-season with double and even triple training sessions that test the players, the arrival of Dr John Iga, a new nutritionist and more importantly many new signings that the manager knows to build a squad worthy of being a solid Championship team. Everything that is being built at the club that will surely lead to some success, whatever you determine success to be. The foundations have been laid, the club has a philosophy, the manager has a squad to work with even if there are still some deficiencies and holes in certain areas. All in all Town fans can be positive.
Yesterday gave us fans more scope to be positive. It was a dominant performance with Danny Ward rarely called into action and when he was the efforts were rather tame. His opposite number on the other hand had to save well several times, including one point blank stop from Rajiv Van La Parra which would've made the scoreline 2-0 - instead Brentford went up the other end and equalised.
Aaron Mooy, Jack Payne and Elias Kachunga looked like they had been playing with each other and their team mates for years rather than the six or so weeks of pre-season. The latter's work ethic and pace was hard not to admire and he led the way defending from the front - that ethos saw Town hassle Brentford off the ball several times in their own half.
Joe Lolley, a man who has come under plenty of scrutiny since his move from Kidderminster back in 2014, looked the real deal. Tricky, quick and becoming stronger under Wagner's leadership. The three playing behind Kachunga really tested Brentford's defence with their quick running and potency on the ball.
However, while there are many positives there are still a few issues with the Town side. Elias Kachunga felt his hamstring as he was substituted in the second half meaning Town had no other option than move Van La Parra to play as a false nine with Wells and Bunn both out injured. Without a third choice striker, you feel that Town may struggle in parts this season, plus there are the never ending rumours about Wells departing the club.
And while Chris Schindler looked assured on his full debut, his partner at the centre of defence never filled anyone with confidence. Mark Hudson, who signed a three-year player coach deal in the summer, has been on the end of some criticism for a while - not all of it due. Yet, once again Hudson looked like the weak link, the one area where Brentford may get a goal out of nothing. He may be a good leader and a good bloke but soon enough Wagner will need to make a bold decision. Michael Hefele and Jon Stankovic are both knocking on the door with the latter at just 20 years old looking like a natural successor to the club captain.
Let's not end on a note of criticism though. Yesterday was fantastic, the performance was good and the feel good factor is beginning to return. The day was made better with the sunshine, the result and if you went the great grub and alcohol available in St George's square. Perhaps Kirklees Council would like to put on a winter food and drink festival when Bristol City visit in December?
Ratings: Ward 7; Smith 7, Hudson 5, Schindler 7, Loewe 6; Hogg 6, Mooy 8; Lolley 7, Payne 7, Kachunga 7. Subs: Scannell 6, Palmer 7, Paurevic n/a.
The season is back and optimism has returned to Huddersfield and it's surrounding areas. Over 15,000 season tickets sold, a dozen new signings with maybe one or two more to come in yet. A manager who has a clear identity, his own squad and a full pre-season behind him to get his counter-pressing 'terrier identity' nailed down. Oh... and a new home kit which looks really nice, much better than the faded Tesco bag of two years ago.
Town fans, according to the newly branded English Football League (EFL), are the 4th most optimistic in the division. The reality may be different but for the first time since Town returned to the second tier in English football we can look ahead and hopefully up the table.
The only worry if the optimism is that some will genuinely believe the hype. Nobody but Town fans believe that we'll finish in the top six and I'd suggest those fans are perhaps living in cloud cuckoo land - or perhaps their expectations just need tempering. (A worthy time to point out James Chisem's blog on that topic)
Truth be told, we have a side that has only had six or so weeks together and they may take a little bit of time to click. There are still questions over certain areas of our squad and deficiencies that have yet to be rectified. 2016/17 is a year of transition and a top half finish would be an outstanding achievement.
Town will have four absentees for the seasons opener. Dean Whitehead is serving a three match ban for an apparent stamp on Nico Yennaris in Town's final day defeat to Brentford last season. Phil Billing is still nursing an ankle injury first sustained in the friendly against Liverpool, Harry Bunn's struggling with an hamstring injury and Nahki Wells misses out after missing the last few games of pre-season.
Wells' absence and Town's lack of depth up top could mean a place on the bench for academy graduate Rekeil Pyke with Elias Kachunga virtually guaranteed to start. Expect Town to start with the side Wagner has largely used through pre-season.
Brentford are without star man Alan Judge who is recovering from a leg break sustained against Ipswich last season and Lasse Vibe is away in Rio for the Olympics, no doubt stashing away some free condoms.
Talented 'keeper Dan Bentley and John Egan are set for their debuts but Maxime Colin (quality signing on FM15) and Andreas Bjelland (not Bellend) are doubtful.
Here's our Town starting XI (courtesy of The Examiner's pick your team widget)
Well it's a bit difficult to look at league form given the season hasn't started yet but here's Town and Brentford's head to head record over the past few seasons.
Town had a wretched end to the 2015/16 and David Wagner's counter pressing took it's toll on a small and tired squad. The 5-1 defeat on the final day showed that tiredness and the last few results were definitely anomalies.
Given how both teams have strengthened and neither quite knows where each other are it's fair to say this is a tough one to call, especially as both sides are missing their best players (Wells and Judge respectively).
In that case my money is on the score draw 1-1. And if I were a betting man going on recent history I'd go both teams to score (8/13 with SkyBet) and over 2.5 goals (5/6 with SkyBet).
The oppositions view
Billy Grant - Beesotted Brentford - @Beesotted
TC: Last season was very much hit and miss, especially under Dean Smith. How confident are you that Smith can get the consistency needed to perform week in week out in the Championship?
BG: We will see. His start was shaky and fans weren't confident he could take the team to another level but to be fair he turned things around and ended the season with a bang - winning seven and losing just one of our last nine matches.
He had a lot to deal with - striking players, players wanting to leave, injuries, politics, an unbalanced team young team and not bringing his own players in.
This season, he's got his feet more under the table and he has been able to pull together a more balanced squad but is not quite finished yet. Two or three players to go but let's see.
TC: Brentford have a unique system in place regarding scouting players and two Directors of Football. Has this been a hindrance to the club or beneficial, especially in bringing in players and not unsettling a fairly new manager?
BG: The system was there before the manager joined so he knew what he was getting into. Also (and this is no disrespect to one of the Director of Football's Rasmus Ankersen), I believe (just from what I have seen) there is really one Director of Football Smith works a lot closer with - Phil Gilles who heads the recruitment with a team of analysts and scouts to help identify players. Rasmus does other stuff which the fans aren't really too sure what that is.
From what I can tell from the outside, it seems to be working very well. Smith obviously knows what type of player he wants and either directly recommends him to the recruitment team (like Callum Elder - who played for Peterborough on loan from Leicester last season - Romaine Sawyers - who played for Smith at Walsall - and Ledesma - currently on trial and played for Smith four years ago) or outlines the type of player he wants then is given options which he gives thumbs ups or thumbs downs to.
The system isn't that unique. Many teams in the UK use it. And loads do on the continent.
TC: Were Brentford far too over reliant on the terrific Alan Judge last season and how will you cope until he has made his recovery from his leg break?
BG: Alan is a great player, had a great season and got us out of a hold with his terrific one man displays. When he broke his leg we feared the worst. But the other players stepped up and it saw is go on a tremendous unbeaten run - losing only once in the final 7 matches without Judge including the terrific 5-1 defeat of Huddersfield.
Hopefully that will continue until he returns
TC: It seems to have been a productive transfer window so far at Griffin Park. How would you asses the comings and goings?
BG: David Button and Jake Bidwell were great players. But they didn't want to play for Brentford any more so we have to wave then bye bye and bring in players who want to join the journey.
Romaine Sawyers a midfielder from Walsall and John Egan a centre back from Gillingham were both in the PFA League One team of the year last year. Enough said.
Daniel Bentley (keeper) was wanted by a few teams. Peterborough were crying they couldn't renew Callum Elder's contract when he came to us. They all look decent.
Add Andreas Bjelland and Lewis McLeod - both of whom haven't actually started their Brentford careers despite being at the club for three seasons between them - who have been out due to injury. And there is Scott Hogan - out for nearly two years after starting half a league game for Brentford - who scored seven goals in under 180 minutes of football at the back end of last season.
We've got ourselves a wealth of new talent.
TC: Which Brentford player(s) should Huddersfield fans worry about?
BG: If he's on fire, Scott Hogan looks as potent as Andre Gray did.Vibe is at the Olympics with Denmark so you have a let-off there. This Elder chap is meant to cause a few problems.
TC: Which Huddersfield player(s) stands out to you?
BG: Harry "Bunny" Bunn because he's such a fool. Copped loads of abuse from Bees fans last a couple of seasons ago after goading them with James Vaughan after he scored against us in another romp for the Bees.
TC: What is your prediction?
BG: Not quite 5-1 but I think we'll win. I'm going 2-1 Bees
Well Billy's confident isn't he? I'm sure he and the Brentford fans will miss Harry Bunn though as he's out through injury. Nay mind - they can spend their dosh at the food and drink festival instead.