Huddersfield must use agony of missing automatic promotion to fire their Championship play-off bid


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SO OFTEN we see sides who have missed out on automatic promotion at the final hurdle suffer a hangover in the play-offs.

Brighton were a prime example last year when goal difference cost them a top-two place before they crashed out in the play-off semis.

Huddersfield are dejected as Fulham consign them to defeat – but they can use the pain they feel to fuel their efforts in the play-offs

Huddersfield will be desperate to avoid such a reaction after their weekend blow-up against Fulham virtually handed Newcastle the other promotion spot alongside the Seagulls.

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The key is to use the disappointment to your advantage, as Alex Neil’s Norwich did two years ago.

The Scot’s side went on such a terrific run after Christmas that an automatic finish was possible until a home defeat to Middlesbrough with three games to go put paid to that.

But Neil and his players took the heartache and turned it into heart-felt joy as the Canaries got the ultimate revenge with a play-off final triumph over Boro the following month.

Neil said: “After we lost against Middlesbrough I had a couple of players in the dressing room  crying.

“It showed how much it meant to them because we knew that was our chance to get into the automatics. They were really, really upset. You could hear a pin drop. But they used it as fuel.

“You can use it to spur yourself on or that disappointment can overcome you.”

Isaiah Brown heads towards goal for Huddersfield but they were outclassed by Fulham

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Isaiah Brown heads towards goal for Huddersfield but Fulham outclassed them

That was the high point of Neil’s Canaries career which came to an end in March.

And after holidays to Benidorm and Dubai plus some time with the family, he is keeping a close eye on the Championship as he looks to return to the game.

On the first axing of his career, Neil admitted: “It was a bizarre feeling.

“And what made it even more bizarre is that when a lot of managers leave places, you can see that they feel they were dealt with harshly and are aggrieved.

“I don’t resent anyone at Norwich. Michael Wynn-Jones and Delia Smith were a joy to work for and I  thoroughly enjoyed myself at the club.

“But when you don’t get results, your position becomes questionable.”

Fulham star Stefan Johansen closes on Huddersfield midfielder Aaron Mooy as the Cottagers win 4-1

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Fulham star Stefan Johansen closes on Huddersfield midfielder Aaron Mooy as the Cottagers won the vital match 4-1

Neil revealed Celtic chief Brendan Rodgers was one high-profile manager who unexpectedly reached out to him after his time at Norwich ended.

The 35-year-old is keen to­  emulate his work at Carrow Road with another Championship club – but would never tout himself about for a specific role if it were still occupied.

He added: “I’d like to basically do what I did with Norwich and try to take a club up to the  Premier League.

“The horrible thing is  you’re waiting on someone to lose their job which is  not something I’m  comfortable with.”

Neil has been hugely impressed with Fulham and makes them his tip to go up via the play-offs as they are hitting form  at just the right time in the campaign.

Anyone who took in the  Cottagers’ first-half masterclass at the John Smith’s stadium will doubtless agree.

Yet Slavisa Jokanovic’s players must be wary of not getting ahead of themselves — something that can be difficult to avoid in the social-media age.

Neil, always a man to call things as he sees them, openly admits platforms like Twitter and Facebook create more problems than they solve for the modern-day manager.

He explained: “Social media has a huge part to play in things now. It’s more prominent than ever and it’ll only get worse, if I’m being honest.

Alex Neil helped Norwich prove that teams that bounce back after missing out on automatic promotion

PA:Press Association

Alex Neil helped Norwich prove two seasons ago that teams that bounce back after missing out on automatic promotion

“With newspapers there is a bit of accountability there, whereas with social media a lot of the posters are anonymous so they can literally say whatever they like.

“It can affect players. You either have to pick them  up because they have been  getting dog’s abuse on social media — or you have got to keep their feet on the ground because everybody and their dog is telling them they are the best thing since sliced bread.”

Nothing hotta than Jota

BRENTFORD’S Spanish sensation Jota is one of the most exciting players in the league, who could well take this division by storm next term.

His 12th goal for the Bees since returning from Eibar on loan in January was the strike of the weekend.

He went past two QPR defenders and fired low into the net to settle the West London derby.

Port in a storm

PORT VALE’S 2-0 defeat to Bolton had to be halted for at least ten minutes as fans from both sides stormed the pitch.

Four were arrested in what were unacceptable scenes for the modern game.

Meanwhile, Trotters defender David Wheater now has a  colossal EIGHT goals this term after his second-half header.

Millers not the worst

RELEGATED Rotherham’s win over Ipswich means they have avoided the lowest-ever points total in a 46-game season for a Football League side.

That unwanted record — 20 points — is still held by the Doncaster side of 1998. Perhaps something for Millers boss Paul Warne to build on?

Love and War

MARK WARBURTON has copped some flak since coming to Nottingham Forest but surely the 3-2 win over Reading will be enough to keep them up.

Warbs is a very capable manager who worked wonders with Brentford.

If he is backed properly, I expect him to be the man to reverse the fortunes at the City Ground.

Mark Warburton should be the man to transform Forest if he gets the backing off the field

PA:Press Association

Mark Warburton can transform Forest if he gets backing off the field

Match of the day

GOALKEEPING performance of the weekend has to go to Joe Day, who played a blinder against Accrington to move Newport out of the drop zone.

Caretaker boss Mike Flynn is a miracle worker and you would back them to finish the job now — and send Hartlepool down.

Talking points

WHAT next for Leyton Orient, now  out of the Football League after 112 years, and their scandalous mismanagement?

And can hotshot Tammy Abraham, scorer of  26 goals on loan at Bristol City, make the grade at Chelsea next term?

It’s good team work

THE huge impact football clubs have on their communities often gets overlooked.

So it seems good and right to highlight the EFL’s Day of Action, which takes place tomorrow.

Club trusts from across the 72 teams are hosting  engaging and beneficial activities for local people.

Everything from Bolton putting on a walking football session to Accrington doing a healthy-eating workshop will be on offer.

One event that really caught my eye was the conflict resolution  workshop hosted by Charlton’s community trust at their community youth hub in Woolwich.

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A couple will talk about how they lost their 16-year-old son to youth violence and ask  questions about what type of society we want to be. Addicks duo Jordan Botaka and Brandon Hanlan will be there. The event is part of Charlton’s Street Violence Ruins Lives campaign, which raises awareness on weapons-related violence among young  people.

The club knows all about knife crime following the death of season-ticket holder PC Keith Palmer in the Westminster terror attacks.

Good on Charlton — and the EFL — for their work in this field.

Well done to Alex

I WOULD like to congratulate  Crawley Town media man Alex Stedman for beating cancer.

He  was diagnosed with testicular cancer  in February — despite only being in his twenties.

But this week he received the thrilling news that he is now all clear.

Much to the delight of Alex himself, his family, the John Hartson Foundation and  the people who rallied round him.

Alex tweeted: “With the help of the football family, I’ve beaten cancer. What a special few months. Thanks to all who donated to @HartsFND.”

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