The long-awaited 2020-21 Championship season begins on Saturday, with Norwich City travelling north to face Huddersfield Town.
To understand more about the Terriers since we last visited the John Smith's Stadium, canaries.co.uk caught up with journalist Steven Chicken, who covers the club’s fortunes for ExaminerLive.
canaries.co.uk: Last season, Huddersfield finished 18th in the league after losing seven of their first eight games, so what was the verdict by the end of it?
SC: It was just a relief that they’d stayed in the division really. No-one expected to go straight back up when Huddersfield first came back down from the Premier League, but I think people expected a solid mid-table season, so it came as a bit of a surprise to a lot of people that they found themselves struggling quite so badly.
Obviously, they made the managerial change fairly early in the season and that really did turn things around. Lockdown kind of came at the worst time because Town had just started to gather a bit of momentum after getting through another tricky spell after the turn of the new year, and then they came back from lockdown and in the behind closed doors games they were largely awful again.
It was only that surprise win over West Brom that got them over the line really. Obviously, it was a massive relief to do it with a game to spare, but they’re certainly hoping not to have another season like that this year.
canaries.co.uk: They conceded ten more goals away from home, so have they made any defensive signings this summer?
SC: Pipa is a right-back but he’s a very attacking right-back. They’ve got a few players back that Danny Cowley removed from the squad last year, so Adama Diakhaby and Isaac Mbenza - two wingers who are likely to come back into the side. To be honest, they’ve both been quite underwhelming during their time at Huddersfield so far, but Corberan apparently believes that he can get a tune out of at least one of them.
Karlan Grant was the top scorer last season, but he looks like he might be on his way to West Brom. We believe the two sides are talking although a deal is not done yet, but he didn’t play in the Carabao Cup on Saturday, which may be to do with the fact that those transfer talks are ongoing.
Neither did Steve Mounie who, by the time you go to print, might even have left. We believe that the deal for him to go back to France is going to be confirmed soon, and he was the second top scorer.
However, they have brought in Danny Ward from Cardiff, so he was at Town before as a winger a few years ago but he’s coming back as a centre-forward and he’s going to be the first choice going into the new season.
canaries.co.uk: What can you tell us about the new head coach then, and what type of manager do you think he’s going to be?
SC: He’s coming from Leeds and he has a really good reputation as a coach. He has been a head coach before as well in Spain, Cyprus and Saudi Arabia, but at Leeds he was academy manager and then, when Bielsa arrived, he also took on duties as his assistant.
From the games that we’ve seen so far, he’s playing a very flexible and attacking system which is sometimes called a 4-3-3 but on the ball is more of a 3-4-3, with very attacking wing-backs. It’s an exciting system and should lead to a really open game on Saturday.
canaries.co.uk: How did pre-season go, and should we avoid reading too much into the Carabao Cup defeat to Rochdale?
SC: It’s hard to say. They’ve had a lot of injuries. The player of the year last year was Lewis O’Brien - a central midfielder - and he’s been out with a quad injury so he’s going to miss the Norwich game.
There have been others out as well, so they’ve had to play a lot of academy players in pre-season. Part of the reason they brought in Corberan is to try to bring those academy players through into the first team, but I think they’ve ended up having to play before they’re necessarily ready.
When you get that and the players trying to get used to a completely new style of play under Corberan, there wasn’t the cohesion or quality that there really should’ve been in the final third. A lot of moves broke down at the last moment because of a poor final ball or a poor choice of when to shoot.
That’s something they’ll need to develop over time, but hopefully the Rochdale game means they’ve got it out of their system.
canaries.co.uk: Have there been any players in pre-season who have caught your eye and could hit the ground running this season?
SC: Josh Koroma has looked good in pre-season friendlies. He’s a winger who signed last summer and didn’t play very much, spending the second half of last season out on loan at Rotherham, but he’s looked good in pre-season.
Again, there have been a couple of issues with his final ball, but his running has been excellent and he’s really good at making up ground. He got a really good goal against Manchester United Under-23s in one of the friendlies, so he could be a threat.
If Pipa doesn’t play, it’s possible that an academy lad called Aaron Rowe will play instead. He was also one of the few players against Rochdale who looked good.
Of course, there’s also the former Norwich man, Alex Pritchard. He’s been playing, because Corberan’s system doesn’t have a number ten, more in a central midfield role. To be honest, he’s not really been great at Town since coming from Norwich and never really reached the heights we know that he’s capable of, but having more players ahead of him looks to suit him, so he could be a threat as well.
Harry Tofolo came through at Norwich, didn’t he? So he’ll be playing left-back for Town. He signed in January from Lincoln and has been really good since he came here, so he’s another one to lookout for.
canaries.co.uk: What are your expectations for this weekend’s game and the season as a whole for Huddersfield?
SC: It’s obviously a really, really difficult game. Town have got a horrible fixture list in their opening run of games because they’re away to Brentford after this one.
I think if we just see a performance, even if the result isn’t there to match, if Town can put in a performance to show that there is something there, that they’re work in progress and the project is underway and that there’s promise in it, then that would please a lot of fans I think.
But I don’t think that many people are expecting three points on Saturday.