By Tony Leighton
Newly-promoted Huddersfield Town are set to raise the curtain on the npower Championship season with a tough Friday night fixture against a Cardiff City team who are heading into the campaign looking to at last reach the Premier League after three successive heartbreaking failures in the Play-Offs.
Huddersfield manager Simon Grayson will take his team to the Welsh capital just 12 weeks after a highly-dramatic day in the English capital ended, the Terriers clinching their promotion from League 1 through an 8-7 penalty shoot-out victory over Sheffield United in a Wembley Play-Off final that took 21 spot-kicks to decide.
Grayson will be hoping for a less stressful evening at the Cardiff City Stadium than he had that afternoon at Wembley, though he will doubtless settle for a few nerve-jangling moments if Huddersfield emerge with the result that they want to kick-off what is their first Championship campaign in 12 years.
The former Blackpool and Leeds United manager, who led the Terriers to promotion just three months after taking over at the Galpharm Stadium, told football-league.co.uk: "That penalty shoot-out was some way to get promoted, but we're over the nail-biting now and looking forward to the new season.
"The club has waited so long to get back up to the Championship and it should be a really exciting night for us at Cardiff. We'll be up against a strong team who have been in and around the Play-Off places for the last few years, but we'll go there with no fears and we'll enjoy the evening and carry on enjoying the Championship ride."
Grayson will send out a significantly strengthened team for the live TV game, his seven new players including defender Anthony Gerrard who was signed from Cardiff, while despite much transfer speculation surrounding Jordan Rhodes the manager still has his star striker - who hit 40 goals last term - in his line-up.
Grayson said: "Having last season extended because of the Play-Offs meant we didn't have much time to turn things around, but we got to work very quickly after Wembley and we've had a busy summer with players coming in and going out. I'm still looking to maybe bring one or two more in, but I feel we've got a very competitive squad.
"We've beaten off competition from quite a few clubs for a number of the players we've brought in and I'm certainly excited by the new lads and pleased with the healthy competition the squad will have. It's also obviously pleasing to still have Jordan Rhodes in the squad and hopefully it will stay that way.
"You can never say never in football, but we're not in a position where we have to sell Jordan and nobody has come anywhere near our valuation. Every player has his price, as has often been proved in the past, but my own feeling is that Jordan probably needs to spend time playing in the Championship and I hope it will be with us."
Rhodes set himself up for the new campaign in fine style on Wednesday evening, scoring a goal on his first start in a senior Scotland international as Australia were beaten 3-1. Grayson would be delighted with a similar outcome on Friday night to give the Terriers the perfect start to the Championship season.
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