DAVID WAGNER has stressed that Huddersfield Town will be immune from the weight of pressure in the Championship run-in – and insists his players are mentally and physically prepared to last the course.
Third-placed Town aim to successfully complete the latest chapter in their remarkable season ahead of the forthcoming international break on a winning note at relegation-threatened Bristol City tomorrow evening – under the full glare of the spotlight while several promotion rivals watch on.
Chief among that number are Newcastle United and Brighton, mindful that a win for Huddersfield would move the West Yorkshire outfit to within three points of them before Saturday’s action.
A victory would also take Town’s points tally up to 74, their joint-highest second-tier total since the three-points-for-a-win system was introduced in 1981.
Town amassed that total in their play-off ‘near-miss’ under Steve Bruce in 1999-2000, but whatever happens at Ashton Gate in front of the Sky cameras tomorrow, they are sure to comfortably surpass that figure with another eight games pencilled in for April and another for May.
Wagner, who reports no fresh injury worries, insists he is not concerning himself with points targets or the results of promotion rivals either and is adamant that Town will not be distracted from their own focus. Wagner, whose side have been beaten just once in their past 10 league outings and are seeking their third successive league win tonight, said: “They (players) have no mental or physical pressure. They know what they have to do and if you know what you have to do, you cannot feel pressure.
“It is a problem if you do not know what you have to do or are physically not strong enough for this challenge. Then you feel pressure – but there is no pressure for us.
“We have not changed in our mindset and we just think about what it is in front of us, which is now Bristol City. If we put pressure on the others or not, this only happens with results and to deliver results, you have to perform. This is why we are always focused on our performances, first. The boys have done consistently excellent in the past and this is what they have to confirm again on Friday and again and again.
“It sounds very easy, but it is not. For this, you have to be so focused. We have to look at ourselves.”
Symptomatic of Wagner’s relaxed stance regarding his promotion rivals is that instead of watching the action unfold elsewhere on Saturday, the German will be taking in a game in his homeland instead – ahead of the latest international hiatus. For the Town head coach, it is plainly about ‘controlling the controllables’ and he says that he is paying little attention to results elsewhere, including Saturday’s encounter between Leeds United and Brighton.
He added: “I have not thought about it to be fair. Like I do not know the other fixtures, I do not think about how many points we need to secure the play-offs. This is totally out of my mind and I am only focused on Bristol City.
“I am not interested in other games and results. There are so many games to go and I am focused on our game on Friday. If we are able to take three points whatever (else) happens, I accept.
“I am not really sure they (Newcastle and Brighton) think about us.
“They know exactly how good they are and how well they have performed. They have 77 points at the minute; if they think about us or not, it is irrelevant.”
Tomorrow’s game against the third-from-bottom Robins also has significant ramifications in the battle to avoid relegation, although Wagner is reading nothing into the lowly league position of the hosts, who have won just once in the league at home since December 3.
It is an astute policy, especially with the likes of struggling Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers having previously this term taken points off Town, who have also been pushed all the way by several other lesser lights, including Rotherham United and Burton Albion.
Wagner said: “To predict a result, you should not look at the table.
“We are focused on causing them problems and finding solutions and not looking at the table before we play the opponents.”
Meanwhile, the Town chief confirmed he has no plans to contact Australia counterpart Ange Postecoglou about managing key midfielder Aaron Mooy’s workload during the international break – after speaking with him about the issue in the autumn.
Mooy is in the squad for the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Iraq – which takes place in Tehran on March 23 – and for another key appointment against the United Arab Emirates in Sydney five days later.
Town forward Elias Kachunga has received his first call-up to the DR Congo squad and is in the squad for the friendly against Kenya in Nairobi on March 26.