London (AFP) – David Wagner insists Huddersfield are ready to hit the Premier League jackpot as his unfashionable club face Reading in a £200 million ($256 million) shoot-out in Monday’s Championship play-off final.
Wagner is aiming to take his team into the English top-flight for the first time in 45 years and the Huddersfield boss is well aware how out of place the Terriers would look among the Premier League aristocracy.
Huddersfield have never played in the Premier League and haven’t been a force in English football since the 1920s, when they won the title three times under legendary boss Herbert Chapman.
Widely tipped as relegation candidates at the start of the season, Huddersfield have defied all expectations to reach a Wembley showdown that promises untold riches for the winner.
At least £100 million in media rights is at stake, plus hugely increased revenue streams and ‘parachute payments’ to clubs relegated from the Premier League, leading financial experts to estimate the value of promotion at around £200 million.
For Huddersfield to be on the brink of cashing in is incredible to Wagner, who is close friends with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp after working under him at Borussia Dortmund.
Leicester pulled off one of the biggest sporting upsets last season by winning the Premier League title and Wagner believes taking Huddersfield into the top tier would an equally miraculous achievement.
“We are still Huddersfield Town, even if we are in the final,” said Wagner, whose team defeated Sheffield Wednesday on penalties in the play-off semi-finals.
“I have the feeling nearly everybody, not only in this town, maybe in England, even in Europe, hopes that this fairy tale comes to a happy end.
“After what happened with Leicester last season, this is now a second fairy tale in a row in English football and we are a part of it, we are aware of it and of course now we’d like to get it over the line.
“Leicester have shown it is possible. The prize of the Premier League makes it even bigger.
“We are happy and excited to be in this game and we will be ready for sure.”
– Surprised –
Like Huddersfield, Reading are unexpected finalists and the catalyst for their success has been the appointment of boss Jaap Stam.
Stam insists he will remain in charge next season, regardless of whether or not he leads Reading back to the Premier League for the first time since 2013.
Stam, a treble winner as a Manchester United defender, has been linked with several bigger clubs and admits his ambitions may one day lie away from the Madejski Stadium.
But the Dutchman, whose side beat Fulham in the play-off semi-finals, said: “We need to prepare for both scenarios, after the game we can think about what it means for the club.
“The result won’t have an impact on my future here. I enjoy working here.
“I want to go to the top, I played at the top as a player and I want to as a manager. But hopefully I can do that at Reading.”
Together with the club’s new Chinese owners Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li, Stam has revitalised Reading in his first season in charge.
But even he didn’t expect to compete for promotion so soon.
Reading finished third in the table, two places and four points above Huddersfield, and Stam said: “Everyone wants to play at the highest level. It’s great for the money to get to the Premier League.
“I’m pleasantly surprised at how we’ve done this season. There was a lot more in the players than I first thought.
“But there is still a long way to go and we need to focus. Finals are there to be won and we need to give it our best shot.”
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