Simon Grayson will take more risks at Huddersfield
Presuming that Huddersfield fans don’t bear any grudges over his past connections with Leeds, the appointment of Simon Grayson is as low-risk as one could possibly imagine. A tidy bit of business by chairman Dean Hoyle.
After more than six years of continuous management, Grayson comes with certain guarantees. Yet, at only 42, he also bears the promise that his best years might still be ahead of him.
For starters, he will instantly command the respect of the dressing room by virtue of what he achieved at Elland Road. He already has a couple of League One promotions under his belt – with different clubs in different circumstances – and he is now widely-regarded as an established Championship manager after leading the Whites to a seventh-placed finish in his first season at this level.
Only mild regression was being experienced by the Whites this term, and this against reports that his playing budget was being severely cut by chairman Ken Bates with several key players sold off and inadequately replaced, either through the loan market or by no means at all.
The budget angle is an interesting one because, if our suspicions are correct about Grayson overachieving on a small budget at Leeds, and Clark underachieving on a big budget at Huddersfield, improvement in the performance of the Terriers over the next 12 months could be quite significant.
Comparisons between the two men are inevitable because of their respective timelines since December 2008. Clark was appointed Huddersfield manager 11 days prior to Grayson at Leeds and he was dismissed 14 days later.
On Christmas Day that year, both teams were neck and neck in League One on 32 points from 21 games and, putting all other circumstantial considerations to one side, it’s not unfair to conclude that Grayson has continuously outperformed Clark ever since.
Over the course of the remaining 25 matches in that first campaign, Grayson would amass an additional 16 points to secure a play-off place that the Terriers would fall short of by eight points. The following season, the gap was only eight points in Grayson’s favour but it would be enough to achieve automatic promotion, whereas Huddersfield missed out via the play-offs.
Of course, you could argue that Grayson was given a better starting position in terms of the players he inherited at Elland Road and that’s where the debate crosses from an objective one into a subjective one, at which point we’ll move on and leave it with the locals propping up the bar in west Yorkshire pubs.
However, it’s the difference in the cultural and strategical approach of the two managers that I personally find most intriguing. And this is what I believe will transform Huddersfield into serious automatic promotion contenders over the remaining 16 matches, not to mention serve them better should they fall short and require another three matches of knockout football in the play-offs.
In short, Grayson takes more risks. Whereas Clark would often seek the sanctuary of a stalemate, appreciating the positives in avoiding defeat – especially during the course of that epic 43-match unbeaten run – Grayson operates with a much lower degree of uncertainty avoidance.
Indeed, in my opinion, it’s no coincidence that, under Clark, Huddersfield gained fewer points from a losing position year on year, whereas, under Grayson, Leeds improved year on year in terms of fighting back to salvage games.
Of course, you might speculate that this is probably a by-product of Huddersfield’s improvement insomuch that they have fallen behind less frequently over the progression of time but, in truth, only in the first three months of this season has the first-goal percentage in Huddersfield matches strayed from a consistent ratio of 64:36 in their favour.
In the first 18 matches of this season, the Terriers conceded the opener only twice. Game 19 was Charlton away when the unbeaten record finished and, since then, they have returned to the standard 64:36 ratio by conceding the opener four times in 11 matches.
The two sets of figures (points gained from a losing position, and first-goal percentage), when used in conjunction with each other, provide pretty damning evidence that Clark’s capacity to take risks was diminishing over the progression of time. You might also wish to cite the fact that Huddersfield’s draw percentage was increasing season upon season, up from 24 per cent in 2009/10 to 43 per cent this term.
Grayson’s time at Leeds, by contrast, has charted a reverse pattern. The longer he has been in the job – and, indeed, the more difficult his job has become – the more his team have taken risks in order to get results.
At this point, it’s important to understand that the capacity for taking risks can be both cultural and strategical. It can be transmitted as an attitude in the working environment, which limits the sense of fear when faced with adversity. It can also be supported by positive tactics and the use of substitutions.
Either way, or both ways, Grayson’s capacity for taking risks is symbolised by the fantastic character of his Leeds United team. Last season, the Whites finished third in the Championship for the number of points gained, recovering 26 points from a losing position. This season, they are bang on course to better that figure as they sit second with 20 points gained from 32 games.
Indeed, perhaps most enlightening of all, and what many regard as the biggest indication of character within a team, is the sheer volume of late goals that Leeds score. This season, no fewer than 13 goals have been scored in the last five minutes (nine of them officially timed at 90) at a reward of 14 points, without which the Whites would be sixth from bottom.
Needless to say, when you’re seven points off the League One promotion pace with 16 games to play and there’s little danger of missing out on the play-offs, it’s probably about time that Huddersfield started taking a few more chances.football, huddersfield, lee clark, Simon Grayson
Recent Posts on Sport
- iBet: A tight game between Northampton and Bradford
- On The Road at the Giro d'Italia: Feeling ill and racing in the rain must be pretty grim
- PSG and the French league must be more proactive in dealing with hooliganism
- The ghost at the feast: Luiz Felipe Scolari hopes that dropping Ronaldinho for the Confederations Cup won't come back to haunt Brazil
- iBet: Chelsea and Benfica to continue scoring runs
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter