From the National League to the Second Tier - Introducing Danny Cowley

Optimism was slightly muted to an extent but it was still in the air for Huddersfield fans when Jan Siewert was appointed as manager to rebuild a side that was most certainly heading for relegation in the 2018/19 Premier League season. His predecessor David Wagner had performed what many fans would call a football miracle keeping Huddersfield in the Premier League the previous season. He had failed to get the same level of performance out of his players so the German had decided to step aside and allow a new face to rewrite history in the next chapter of the club. Siewert had previously been manager of Borussia Dortmund II, following a similar path to that of Wagner, with the club believing they had found a man with similar methods that could continue the recent success they had enjoyed.

The events that followed were nothing short of a disaster. Siewert reportedly clashed with a couple of senior players and without a major overhaul in the summer transfer window, the minimum expectation was to keep Huddersfield competitive in the Championship. A 2-1 defeat to Fulham on a Friday night ended his reign, leaving the manager with the worst win ratio in the history of managers at the club. The win ratio was just 5.26% - one win and three draws from 19 matches. 12 goals scored and 42 conceded. That is one victory, against Wolves, in over seven months.

The Lincoln City revival 

The question remained - who could take on this club currently in free fall? While Huddersfield Town were sending shock waves through English football with their promotion in 2016/17, Lincoln City had just won the National League, sealing a return to the football league after a six year absence with an impressive 99 points. Who were the mastermind(s) behind this?

The Cowley brothers - Danny and Nicky

Step forward Danny Cowley and his assistant manager and brother Nicky. The duo had many people talking due to helping Lincoln become the first non league team in over 100 years to reach the quarter final of the FA Cup, claiming a Premier League scalp in the form of Burnley. To put these achievements into perspective, his previous role was in charge of Braintree, who happened to be relegated the following season after his departure from the National League, the same season Lincoln won the title.

While Wagner and co. were mixing and beating the likes of Manchester United to secure Premier League survival, Danny Cowley was leading Lincoln to the EFL trophy in the club's first season back in the football league, beating Shrewsbury in the final. This topped off a fine season as Lincoln reached the play-offs just to fall short against Exeter in the semi final. Danny picked up the manager of the month award in December and certainly had a few envious glances throughout the football league pyramid. 

The next season, with Huddersfield struggling with second season syndrome and a lack of just about everything, Lincoln City continued their remarkable rise under Cowley. Losing just twice in 23 home games, they stormed to the League Two title, with the only real dip in form coming when promotion was already assured. The club still won the league by six points. This involved a 19 game unbeaten run. The likes of Harry Kewell, Kevin Nolan, Sol Campbell and Paul Scholes had jobs in League Two that season but they were outshone by the former Concord Rangers boss who boasts a Batchelor's degree in Physical Education - just in case you were wondering what it takes to become a successful manager - are you reading Harry and co? 

Danny Cowley, unsurprisingly, was named League Two manager of the year.

Danny with the League Two trophy just two seasons after winning the National League.

Moving Up

Heading into League One, Lincoln City topped the table after just three games. However, on the 9th of September 2019, Danny and his brother Nicky were moving on to take over at Huddersfield having more than likely caught the eye the previous season when the appointment of Siewert failed to hit the ground running, to put it politely. While Siewert left with just one win in over seven months, it took Danny Cowley just two months to quadruple that total. The 41 year old also picked up the manager of the month award in October to add to his ever growing CV. A leaky defence has been tightened up to a degree, with defeats at Preston and West Brom showing that there is still plenty of work to do.

Having navigated through the lower tiers in English football with a 52% win ratio, the big question is how far can the Cowley brothers go? The main goal has to be to keep Huddersfield in the Championship. The start has been impressive but we all know honeymoon periods do not last. Rotating between a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 thus far, the likes of Fraizer Campbell and more so Karlan Grant have the firepower to fire Huddersfield to safety. Will the club show ambition in the transfer market to keep this hugely talented manager? Are the funds available? Will a Premier League club swoop in? The time spent in the lower tiers will have been a big experience that will surely stand in good stead. Not all fourth tier managers make it at the top level but the stars are shining bright for the former Concord midfield, who retired in 2007 due to injury. One thing is for sure - it is one to keep an eye on, particularly over the festive period and beyond. 

Danny Cowley - now of Huddersfield Town

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