Debuts Part 16: Steve Mounié

SIVAN JOHN on a successful Premier League debut for both Huddersfield Town and new-signing Steve Mounié

“(How Does It Feel To Be) On Top Of The World?” asked singer-songwriter Ian McCulloch in his official England theme song for the 1998 World Cup in France. Well, on 12 August 2017 I was privileged enough to say to myself: “Now it’s for real, you’re on top of the world”.

It was Huddersfield Town’s first season of top-flight football for 45 years, and I wasn’t going to miss it for the world. I was away on vacation but, luckily enough, the resort where I stayed had a sturdy internet connection. There was no live telecast so I had to look for a good stream on the internet. With my laptop, sitting next to the pool with some chilled beers, I was good to go.

Now it was all up to the guys on the field. In his first Premier League game in charge, David Wagner opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation. The lone-ranger selected up front was a slim and hefty target man named Steve Mounié. A player I barely knew two months previously.

Mounié was signed from Ligue 1 side Montpellier for club record fee of £11.5 million. A quintessential forward with a predatory instinct inside the penalty box. On his day, if the supplies are right, he can be venomous in front of goal. While proven in the French league, the Premier League can be something else. So, just like every other one of Wagner’s signings, it remained to be seen if Mounié could be a success.

The game at Selhurst Park had all the perfect strands to make it a classic opening fixture. The home side, now managed by Frank De Boer, were keen to put out a strong performance, the Dutchman wanting to bring Totaalvoetbal to South London.

Wagner’s response was simple: there wasn’t going to be any forfeiture of Town’s ideals. He wasn’t going to turn his back on the high-pressing game which dropped a bombshell on every team in the championship. A typical Dutch versus German football moment, a battle of attainable meets archetypal.

Palace supporters were known for their noisy environs, But the 2,900 traveling Terriers, lead by the Cowshed Loyal, had other ideas. Everyone inside the ground was stunned by the magnitude of support for Huddersfield on that day.

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If the sound from the stands was pandemic, it was only a matter of time before it was transferred onto the pitch. Right from the start, the Terriers were unfazed by the Premier League experience. Palace were totally subjugated by the visitors.

Already a goal up thanks to Joel Ward putting the ball into his own net, the Terriers weren’t ready to settle for what they had. Instead, like a hungry wolf, they were on the verge of devouring Palace. Aussie midfield supremo Aaron Mooy provided a cross from the left. The cunning fox Mounié leaped over the entire Palace defenders to head in Town’s second goal. That was him saying: “Hello Premier League. My name Mounie, Steve Mounie!”.

Palace responded well in the second half in search of a comeback but Mounié toyed with the home defence. De Boers’s back line quickly learned to leave Mounié alone at their peril.

With 13 minutes left to play, Huddersfield Town were on a roll again. An instantaneous counter-attack saw Collin Quaner slot the ball to the incoming Mounié. He could do no wrong from 10 yards, effectively putting the game beyond Palace’s reach. The new boy was only denied a hat-trick after being tackled by Timothy Fosu-Mensah in an on-through situation.

There have been questions with regards to Huddersfield’s constitutional right to be in the Premier League. This result was the most pristine way for them to answer their critics. But on this day, it was Mounié’s double strike that changed everyone’s opinions of Huddersfield. It lifted the Terriers to the top of the league standings for 24 hours at least. It provided Huddersfield Town the plausibility of Premier League survival. It gave enough impetus against the idea that there is no place in modern football for a classic 18-yard-box centre-forward.

Above all, this game did made every Terriers supporters out there to feel what its like to be on top of the world!

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