Lee Nicholls insists characters are there to buy time for Darren Moore’s long-term plans

UNDER PRESSURE: Huddersfield Town manager Darren Moore (Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Last week it felt as though the pressure was really building on the Huddersfield Town manager after consecutive four-goal defeats which, if truth be told, would have been worse had Cardiff City and Leeds United not eased up when they did.

There were boos at the John Smith’s Stadium and little defiance on the field or in the away end when Elland Road was taking the mickey out of the former Doncaster Rovers and Sheffield Wednesday manager.

It seems ridiculous to say only seven games into Moore’s Huddersfield career but this is modern Championship football.

CHARACTER REFERENCE Huddersfield Town goalkeeper Lee Nicholls (Photo: George Wood)

The case for the prosecution is that whilst all second-tier sides have good days and bad Town have already served up four defeats this season where they have conceded four goals, three under Moore. That does not just raise questions of him but also the dressing room’s character, questions goalkeeper Lee Nicholls is confident they can answer.

The fixture list makes Saturday actually quite a good opportunity – though it would be better were captain Jonathan Hogg not suspended and the club’s injury bulletin more like a script from Casualty. Visitors Watford’s own manager – former Barnsley coach Valerien Ismael – is facing uncomfortable questions himself after four wins from his 15-match tenure.

Brought in in September, not as February firefighter as his predecessor Neil Warnock was, Moore is trying to build something lasting, but knows only short-term results will buy him the time.

“It’s looking at the short-term of performances and trying to win games – that doesn’t change – but also at longer-term sustainability,” explains Moore. “But right now we’re focusing on the here and now.

SUISPENDED: Huddersfield Town captain Jonathan Hogg will miss Watford’s Championship visit (Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

“I don’t think the team’s anywhere near the finished article if I’m being perfectly honest but we’ve been able to come in and assess the group. It’s about making adjustments based on where the team’s at now.

“Do I see the team anywhere near the model I want it to be? Nowhere near. Does that take time? You know that.

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“I’m aware of the process needed but I’m aware of results. You can’t moan and groan about it.

“Learning comes in very different forms and some learn quicker than others. If you look back in history any team or individual, over time by consistently working hard at a particular skill, there is improvement.

“Some of the most successful organisations and teams are built over time and I see that as no different at Huddersfield Town.

“Everybody in touch with this football club wants it to do well and 100 per cent so do I. I work hard every single day for that.

“But I understand the industry I’m in and I don’t deviate away from it being a results industry.

“We’re just in a spell that requires everyone pulling together while the work at the football club is ongoing.”

Ask him why the difference between his team’s best and worst is so wide and the answer is a long one.

“Many contributing factors,” he insists, “the turnaround of games, the inability to consistently have the same squad and build relationships and dynamics, there’s probably not been a consistent flow of XIs.

“There’s been trying to get used to partnerships, units and team cohesion and things you can’t quite put your finger on but you end up trying to teach a group of players a certain way that’s expected over time.

“And no opposition’s the same, just like taking a golf shot, you’re never going to hit the same shot twice. It’s just adapting and applying yourselves right and trying to do more things right than wrong.”

When a club’s media department asks a player to front up in a press conference on the back of two debilitating pastings, that tells you he is a leader. Goalkeeper Nicholls sees enough others – even notwithstanding the injury to Danny Ward – to pull through without Hogg.

When he first took over as manager last season, Warnock doubted that but over time he came to change his mind.

“I remember Warnock saying that but I think there’s enough leaders in there, definitely,” says Nicholls.

“It’s the older ones who will have to lead on Saturday. There’s enough people who have played enough games to call themselves a leader and even Maxi (his experienced understudy Chris Maxwell) who hasn’t been playing is still a leader, giving his opinion in the dressing room.

“The leaders as a group need to step up a little bit more and do what Hoggy does as a team.

“We know what squad we’ve got. There’s a lot of young lads with lots of ability and lads who have been together for three or four years as a unit so we know exactly what we’ve got and what team we can be.”

Victory will put Town level on points with Watford, and with Rotherham United at home to Queens Park Rangers, possibly widen their cushion to the relegation zone. It is up to them to grasp it.


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