Mikel Arteta, Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker are all seen as young managers making their way through the game, but on the day he turns 39, Carlos Corberan is younger than them all. There are actually only nine young managers across the league’s 92 clubs; none of them are at clubs above Huddersfield Town’s position as the 23rd best club in the country at the moment.
There were times last season when it felt more like a downside than a plus. Corberan was, of course, a head coach overseas and spent two seasons helping Leeds United win promotion as an assistant but taking control of your own Championship club which just narrowly avoided relegation is about as big a challenge as any manager can take on. .
Perhaps his biggest misstep was overestimating his players’ ability to master the intensive man-to-man marking system that had worked so well at Leeds but which Town’s less capable side had too much to deal with. . Nonetheless, they had a good enough start to the season that even a near-disastrous slump after the new year, brought on mostly by an injury crisis, proved to survive.
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With lessons duly learned and a far superior team to work with, Corberan was able to get to work on version 2 of his vision for Huddersfield Town. Last season’s line-up was crude and duly criticized – heavily. But with fitting tweaks and flourishes to the outline he helpfully provided to key players, last year was reduced to a pentimento, barely showing the masterpiece he put up this season.
This work is not yet finished, of course. With six games to play, we’re still hoping they can go all the way and secure a place in the play-off. Getting there would be a huge achievement for a side widely tipped for relegation, but even if they do, talk will immediately turn to whether they can actually go further and promote to the Premier League.
One step at a time, however. A more in-depth end-of-season review can only take place once we have the full picture, and the tightness of the league table coupled with the toughness of Town’s next three games means the overall assessment can pass. from “dream season” to “excellent progress”. But even the latter would praise the work done by Corberan.
Almost everywhere you look there have been improvements: goals conceded, clean sheets, goals scored from set pieces, goals scored in open play, variety of goalscorers, ability to come from behind (something they had to do less than anyone but the top two), ability to hold onto leads (despite what it may sometimes seem, the numbers back it up), a great track record for avoiding costly fouls, and a huge reduction in the number of stupid mistakes leading on opposition goals have all played a big role in Town’s rise.
The highest praise we can give, however, is that his players now seem comfortable playing a variety of different shapes and styles, sticking to the Carlosball fundamentals that were established last season ( minus the marking system) as far as possible but able to change things if necessary.
This was particularly instrumental in producing that glorious unbeaten run from early December, with Town’s newfound flexibility allowing them to continue to surprise and suppress the opposition. Corberan’s decisions haven’t worked out every time, and there have been disappointing afternoons here and there, but show us a manager who never has them. Whenever missteps and issues arose, they were almost always identified and corrected.
Corberan would be the first to point out that these achievements are not his alone, with his coaching staff, the scouting department, the board and above all the players all playing their part. But it’s all about Corberan and his methods, which have given fans reason to believe there could be a bright future for Huddersfield Town – even if they were to ultimately fail this season.