He is not the dyed-in-the-wool American coach slogging it out in Europe, as did Bob Bradley with Stabaek, Le Havre and Swansea City, but he’s a man to root for nonetheless. Wagner grew up in Germany and as the son of an American servicemen was eligible to play for the U.S., which he did eight times from 1996 to 1998. He ended his playing career in 2005 and six years later he joined the coaching staff at Borussia Dortmund and worked with current Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
Hired away from Borussia Dortmund II in November
2015, Wagner navigated a rocky campaign that steered the Terriers just clear of relegation in 19th place, then last season guided it to fifth place and a spot in the League Championship playoffs,
which culminated with a thrilling penalty-kick shootout defeat of Reading in the final at Wembley.
Interest from clubs such as Wolfsburg and Aston Villa failed to lure him away. Owner and chairman David Hoyle told the Guardian that relegation will not trigger the sacking of Wagner, 45.
“Yes, he stays,” Hoyle said. “Unless he buggers off.”
Wagner admits to thoughts of departing and riding off to meet the next challenge, thus passing on to someone else the hard battle of staying in the Premier League.
“At first, I thought maybe this is the best moment to say: ‘Thank you very much, always when we see each other in our lives, we will celebrate together,’” he at a press conference to announce his contract extension. “I always had the feeling in the last 18 months that I had an owner on my side that I really trust. He really wants to keep me at this club. I don’t have to play a role here. I can be exactly the man I am as a person and a manager.
“I think we have one of the best owners in British football, a local man and fan who supports you with everything he’s able to do. This is not something you should leave only because you have a better financial offer. And I like the people here, I like my team. I am such a happy man because I have a new challenge and still the same people around me. Nothing is better than that.”
Staying up will require much more than managerial loyalty and the club has already made several moves to bolster the squad. Huddersfield Town has paid a club-record transfer fee of 8 million pounds ($10.5 million) to convert the loan of Manchester City midfield linchpin Aaron Mooy into a transfer. The fee could rise to as much as $13.1 million but in any case the club considers it money well spent.
“Aaron Mooy is probably one of the lowest-risk signings we will make because we know him,” said Hoyle. “It was actually a no-brainer.”
The Mooy deal more than doubled the club’s previous record set only last week when it paid $4.6 million to sign Laurent Depoitre from Porto.
“We need to spend some big money because the Premier League riches are there for everyone to see,” said Hoyle. “The first season we’ve got the ability to really shape our squad for the future and bring in some real quality, high-profile signings.
“We may break our transfer record a few times but that’s the league we’re in. We’re in the biggest and richest league in the world with the most exposure and we’re a part of it and we’ll try to compete. It’s all exciting and we can really drive forward while remaining mindful of the down side.”
Huddersfield has reached a deal to acquire striker Steve Mounie from Montpellier that is conditional on him passing a medical exam and is in the hunt for winger Tom Ince (Derby County) and centerback Andre Ranocchia (West Bromwich Albion). Danish international goalkeeper Jonas Lossl has been signed on loan from Mainz to replace Danny Ward, who will return to Liverpool instead of playing another season for Huddersfield on loan.
The close ties between Wagner and Klopp won’t help much the Terriers in their first Premier League season.
“For sure, we will speak about the experience he has had in games against Team X and I will tell him about my experience when we play Team Z, but this will be the only help we can give each other,” said Wagner. “These are two totally different clubs.”
That being said, Wagner has enough bravado to suggest Huddersfield’s rise to the top flight won’t be a short visit. They have not been in the top tier of the English League since 1972, and just five years ago earned promotion from Division One to the League Championship.
“We are probably the biggest underdog ever in the Premier League but it doesn’t change our ambitions,” said Wagner. “We are not in the Premier League only to say hello and after one season it’s done. We want to stay more seasons. We know where we are, where we come from, but we will work as hard as we can. I have a very good feeling even if I know there is a difficult task in front of us.”