David Wagner can’t even actually believe it. Sure, he had faith throughout the season and he certainly never doubted the character of his Huddersfield Town group. But, on the precipice of promotion, the former U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder still finds it all a bit surreal.
“I’m sure we will enjoy and we know that we are now one game away from the Premier League,” Wagner said, according to the Yorkshire Post. “Even if I speak about it it sounds ridiculous.”
Wagner and Huddersfield Town edged Sheffield Wednesday in penalty kicks on Tuesday, booking their spot in the promotion playoff final. With it comes a date with Danny Williams and Reading at Wembley Stadium, and an opportunity to take a previously unfathomable leap.
Huddersfield Town hasn’t been to the top division since the early 70s. Prior to the return to the Championship in 2013, the club had largely bounced between the third and fourth tier with occasional stints in the middle. This season, under a second-year head coach, promotion seemed like an impossible goal.
On Wednesday, though, they took a step towards it. After a 0-0 draw in the opening leg, Huddersfield found themselves down a goal in the 51st minute as Steven Fletcher fired Sheffield Wednesday ahead. In the 73rd, Huddersfield bounced back via a Tom Lees own goal, one that eventually sent the match to extra time.
Eventually, extra time evolved into penalty kicks, where Huddersfield proved up to the task. Chris Löwe nailed his first opporutnity before goalkeeper Danny Ward stopped a shot from Sheffield Wednesday’s Sam Hutchinson. Both sides traded goals from there until the fifth round when Huddersfield’s Jack Payne saw his shot stopped, opening the door for Sheffield Wednesday to level the scoreline.
It didn’t happen, as Fernando Forestieri’s shot was stopped by Ward, sealing Huddersfield’s spot in the final.
“We were about to manage both legs and create some opportunities,” Wagner said. “We did some great blocks. If you play two games and you have to go to penalties, it shows how tight the games are. What we have invested over the last 10 months, everyone knows how tough this situation. How my players managed it I’m so proud for everyone connected with Huddersfield Town
“There was never any doubt about the character of this group. They have shown over the course of the season they can bounce back. They will always show they will try everything. we have to make sure we have trust and believe in ourselves. We have shown that again.”