By Jamie Holt
AT FIRST glance Jonathan Hogg’s past year reads like a tale of Premier League misfortune, but the Huddersfield midfielder insists he’s the lucky one having finally been reunited with his young family.
Hogg almost made it to the top flight last season with Watford, only to be cruelly denied in the play-off final against Crystal Palace in May.
And the 25-year-old could now be sitting on the verge of Premier League football if Burnley boss Sean Dyche had had enough in his transfer kitty to follow up on interest in the summer.
But Hogg – sitting comfortably in mid-table with the Terriers and, crucially, just an hour down the road from his two daughters and fiancée in Middlesbrough – couldn’t be happier.
“I feel 100 per cent more settled up here, especially for me and my family,” said Hogg, who left Boro’s academy at the age of 14 for Aston Villa and has been on the road ever since.
“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been on the road since I left school and we’re all seeing the benefits of it. I think it’s a move that needed to happen in my career and I’m totally happy I’ve done it.
“I was missing a big part of the girls’ (Lila, 6, and Libby, 2) lives. I was seeing them once a week if I was lucky, maybe once a fortnight – that was the reason I made the move to see them more and my fiancée (Louise).”
With Burnley currently flying high and looking certain to clinch automatic promotion, you would forgive Hogg for harbouring some bitterness that a deal could not be struck with his ex- Hornets boss Dyche.
But Huddersfield held a trump card in head of football operations Ross Wilson – another former ally of Hogg’s at Vicarage Road – and he has no regrets.
“I maybe had the chance to join Burnley, but at the time they were struggling financially,” added Hogg. “I knew Dychy would have taken me if he had the chance. I get on really well with Dychy, I spoke to him a couple of times but nothing was set in stone.
“I knew Ross from Watford, so I had a good relationship with him as well and we decided Huddersfield was a good place to go and it’s been a successful move for me.
“Ross looked after me at Watford, he’s a good guy. I could always go and talk to him and he’s played a big part in my career.”
While Hogg retains many memories of his two-year stint at Watford, it’s the play-off semi- final against Leicester that sticks out.
Anthony Knockaert proved the Foxes villain with his last-minute penalty miss and Troy Deeney the Hornets hero with the winning goal 20 seconds later, so it’s often forgotten the role a composed Hogg played.
“I got an assist for that goal,” he says with a wry smile. “I nodded it back to Troy and put it on a plate for him!
“I’ve still got that semi-final saved on Sky, I watched it a couple of weeks ago with my missus actually. I don’t think I’ll experience anything like that in my career again.
“I did really enjoy it at Watford. I had a couple of meetings with Gianfranco Zola and I said: ‘Look boss, I’m struggling’. The only reason I wanted to leave was my family.”