Friday, 12 February 2016

Huddersfield: A warning from the Nottingham Forest history books

Dougie Freedman's 13-match unbeaten run has certainly deserved the praise it has received this week. Yet praise has been followed by dangerous talk of another 'p' - promotion.

I don't know about you but that sort of thing instantly makes me nervous. In some ways it's natural to look up. We're on a great run, we're in the top 10 and we've got a points tally that would've secured safety after 46 games last season.

Yet I'm always worried of getting carried away and that fear is especially true when it comes to tomorrow's opponents. Huddersfield, more than anyone, stick in the back of my mind as a side that epitomises the way a bubble can very easily burst.

The reason for that was a disastrous defeat to the Terriers on Wednesday December 13 2000.

Picture the scene. After a farcical start and that business with the dodgy Italian signings, David Pl*** was finally starting to deliver results. Having seen his side win 7 of their last 9 games, hope of a promotion challenge was building. The crowds - which dipped as low as 14k in the previous season - were starting to return. In total 28, 372 turned out on that Wednesday night, desperate to see wht the fuss was all about for the sixth placed Reds.

In front of Forest stood Huddersfield. The away side had done the double over us under Steve Bruce the previous season but after one win - and 13 defeats -  in their first 19 games of the 2000/01 campaign Bruce was axed and replaced by Lou Macari. They came to Forest a few games later, still bottom of the league.

A big crowd, then, and a big chance to hammer home that promotion push.

Only it went spectacularly wrong. In just eight second half minutes, Huddersfield scored three goals - one from on-loan Peter Ndlovu and two from veteran marksman Kevin Gallen - that burst Pl***'s bubble. Andy Reid scored his second senior goal but it was a mere consolation on a humiliating night for the manager and his team.

We never really regained our momentum from that night on, winning just eight of the remaining 24 games, losing 11 and slipping meekly to an 11th placed finish. In short, it knocked the stuffing out of us. It's a cruel lesson that I've sworn to try not to forget.

It's probably harsh to bring that game up now. Freedman is a far better manager than Pla***, he's more astute, more calm and more experienced in the job. But it does show why I worry about taking teams lightly. Yes the Huddersfield of 2015/16 have lost their last three, but before that David Wagner seemed to have got them performing well. We were wrong to presume we'd steamroller Macari's basement battlers back then so we'd definitely be wrong to rule out a defeat tomorrow.

I still think promotion is beyond this side. It'd probably need 10 wins from the last 16 games at least to make the top 6 - a big ask with the strike force at Freedman's disposal. Sheffield Wednesday's surge and Brighton's revival should also mean that that top is impenetrable (surely even Wassall can't fail to get that lot in the top 6?).

While it's nice to dream, however unlikely, we shouldn't allow it to let us get carried away or complacent. That night in December 2000 against Huddersfield should prove that.

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