Huddersfield Town: Joey Gudjonsson interview

Classy midfielder Joey Gudjonsson hailed the influence of Huddersfield Town's backroom team for inspiring keeper Alex Smithies to make two penalty saves last week.

Smithies, 20, dived full length to deny Brighton on Saturday and Tranmere on Tuesday to help the team to valuable back-to-back league and cup wins.

The young stopper has been in imperious form since returning to the side after a dead leg and Gudjonsson feels veteran Ian Bennett and goalkeeping coach John Vaughan deserve credit.

"Alex is a top keeper," Gudjonsson said. "It gives the rest of the team confidence knowing that we have such a reassuring and consistent presence in goal.

"A lot of that is down to what goes on in training. The three of them, Alex, Benno and Vaughanie, are as thick as thieves. They get on really well.

"It's no secret that Vaughanie knew which way the Brighton player (Glenn Murray) was going to go with his penalty. He passed the tip on and Alex followed the advice.

"Vaughanie's had a lot to do with bringing Alex on through the academy and it's a real credit to him that the club has such a prospect on its hands.

"Alex has kept developing and some of that is down to Benno. He's so experienced and solid. Alex has been learning from him and has improved even more this season because of that."

Smithies, who has made the England under-21 squad, was this week linked with Premier League newboys Blackpool, and boss Ian Holloway had him watched against Brighton.

Town chairman Dean Hoyle has insisted the club has no plans to sell prized assets such as Smithies, Jordan Rhodes or Anthony Pilkington in the January sales.

This week dad-of-four Gudjonsson, 31, also paid tribute to fellow midfielder Damien Johnson, who is out for the season with a knee ligament injury suffered against the Seagulls.

Ex-Birmingham City enforcer Johnson became Town's main driving force this term, drawing comparisons with the playing style of a much-loved club legend, the iconic Welshman Barry Horne.

Johnson, on loan from Plymouth, is out for at least six months but will do his rehabilitation work at Huddersfield after Pilgrims boss Peter Reid allowed him to stay in the north.

Reid, an admirer of Johnson who was forced to get him off Plymouth's wage bill due to financial difficulties at Home Park, was gutted by the injury.

It is the second time this term a Plymouth player out on loan has had a season-ending knee injury after full-back Simon Walton was hurt while at QPR.

Republic of Ireland star Johnson may go under the knife with the same surgeon who operated on Walton before beginning the long road to recovery.

Town boss Lee Clark said: "Everyone is absolutely devastated. Most people would agree Damien's been our most consistent player. This news is a real blow."

Johnson left the stadium on Saturday on crutches and looked visibly upset. Plymouth boss Reid said: "It's one of the most serious injuries you can have in football.

"You just have to look at the lad to know it's a terrible blow and a terrible injury for him. Jonno has got a flat in Yorkshire, so I don't mind him doing his rehab with Huddersfield."

Former Iceland international Gudjonnsson said that was the only minor plus point about the situation.

He added: "It's devastating news for everyone at the club.

"Damien's been a really influential player for us this season on and

off the field. He's been one of our most consistent performers and has

been brilliant in the dressing room.

"We're glad he's staying to do his rehabilitation work here. It'll be good to have him around and I'm sure he'll still be an influence on our season behind the scenes."

Johnson's absence opens to the door for Gudjonsson, who's had to settle for a place on the bench for much of this campaign, to make the midfield anchorman role his own.

Manager Clark has options though from what is still a strong squad and could opt for the more defensively-minded Antony Kay alongside an attacking option like Scott Arfield.

Gudjonsson is therefore not taking anything for granted and said: "I'm sure that whoever comes in for Damien will do their best for the team."

He also has his eye on a return trip to Wembley after starring for Burnley there in their Championship play-off final success two years ago.

Town beat Tranmere 2-0 on Tuesday in the JPT northern semi-final and now only a double-header against Carlisle stands between them and a first visit to the rebuilt national stadium.

Huddersfield played in the final of what was then the Autoglass Trophy at the old Wembley in 1994, beating Carlisle over two legs at the same northern area final stage.

The first leg of the latest duel is to be held at Brunton Park in the week starting January 17, with the second leg at the Galpharm Stadium to be played in the week beginning February 7.

It means Town will play Carlisle at home on successive Tuesdays and four times in total over the next six weeks as the sides are scheduled to meet twice in the league around the same time.

Huddersfield's opponents in the Wembley showpiece, should they get through, could be either the club's perennial play-off foes Brentford or League One strugglers Exeter City.

Gudjonsson said: "It's a brilliant stadium and it was an honour to play

there with Burnley. I hope to do it again as it was a wonderful experience.

"We've always said doing well in the JPT was one of our targets – we'd love to give the fans a great day out.

"But we always respect our opponents and know that Carlisle will be tough."

Town are also chasing success on three fronts this term with a home clash with Dover Athletic to come in the FA Cup third round in January.

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