by Jack Miller
WHILE socks and scarves are the usual stocking fillers, Joe Lolley is half-expecting his to be filled with coal this Christmas after helping to beat his family’s beloved Birmingham City last weekend.
The 23-year-old Huddersfield forward found the net at St Andrews after just 31 seconds – his second goal in as many seasons against the club he joined as a nine-year-old – inspiring the Terriers to a 2-0 triumph.
The result was only Huddersfield’s fourth win of the Championship campaign, their first under new manager David Wagner, and the fact it came against Birmingham was a bonus for Aston Villa fan Lolley.
But the Terriers starlet, who left Birmingham’s academy as a 16-year-old, admits not all the messages he received were congratulatory.
“To score against a club I played for as a youngster and that my family all support is just unbelievable,” said Lolley. “Obviously it was more important to get our first three points under the new manager, so it was a great day.
“There are still a few faces at Birmingham I remember, but all the messages came from my uncles and weren’t the nicest – but I’m guessing they were all in jest.
“My mum, Lynne, is a Birmingham fan but she was just proud of me for doing my best.
“We’ll all get together at Christmas for a big family do, and I’m sure we’ll get to talk about what happened.”
The result moved the West Yorkshire side out of the Championship bottom three, but anyone who has watched lowly Huddersfield in recent weeks is quick to suggest their form does not match their league position.
The Terriers somehow lost 2-0 at home to Middlesbrough the week before, despite enjoying a whopping 75 per cent of possession.
According to Lolley, new boss Wagner’s philosophy of ‘Gegenpressing’ is already paying dividends.
The 44-year-old was Jurgen Klopp’s right-hand man at Borussia Dortmund and turned down the chance to join the charismatic German on Merseyside.
Lolley insists Wagner’s ideology of working harder, pressing higher and counter-attacking faster than their rivals will propel Huddersfield up the Championship table.
He said: “When he first came in, we were shown clips of Dortmund and he told us that was how he would like us to be playing.
“Anyone who has watched Dortmund over the last five years will have seen how exciting they are, so it’s been amazing just to train with someone who works under that philosophy. You can see it at Liverpool now, who are doing very well with it, too.
“We’re not looking too far ahead, but we’ve had some hard games recently and now we have fixtures ahead where we’re targeting wins. By the end of Christmas or mid-January we’re hoping to be back towards the middle of the table.”
Lolley’s prospects looked so different in September when, after just two appearances this season, he was loaned to Scunthorpe for a month.
But Wagner has brought him back in from the cold and Lolley is relishing life.
“I got on very well with the old manager, Chris Powell,” he added. “But maybe I needed a change to someone who believes in me that little bit more.
“The new boss has given me the confidence to express myself. The freedom he’s given me has helped massively.”