David Wagner performed a minor miracle getting tiny Huddersfield into the English Premier League and then keeping the team there for a season.
With the dream starting to turn sour, the German-born American coach feels he cannot do anymore.
Wagner stood down as manager of the Premier League’s last-place club on Monday, with chairman Dean Hoyle saying the coach "came to us and made it clear that he needs a break from the rigours of football management."
After just two wins from 22 games, Huddersfield is eight points from safety with 16 games remaining.
"I had no intention of sacking David this season," Hoyle said, adding that, under Wagner, Huddersfield has "achieved things on the football pitch that surpass anything in modern memory."
Wagner, a former U.S. international, arrived at the northern English club in 2015 from Borussia Dortmund, where he was the reserve team coach, and only just managed to keep Huddersfield in the second tier.
From that 19th-place finish out of 24 teams, Wagner worked wonders on one of the smallest budgets in the division — signing many players on loan and from Germany — and Huddersfield was promoted to the top flight for the first time since 1972.
Wagner then produced possibly a more impressive feat: Keeping Huddersfield in the Premier League, despite the team’s low budget and it failing to score in 21 of its 38 games last season.
Wagner has struggled for positivity this season, however, with Huddersfield having lost 15 league games. A 0-0 draw at Cardiff on Saturday ended Huddersfield’s eight-game losing streak, but there appeared to be no real sign of improvement.
Hoyle said it was a "truly joint decision" between Wagner and Huddersfield’s board. Wagner offered to stay on until the end of the season if the board preferred but, after more discussions, "we all now feel that the time is right to part ways," Hoyle said.
"David has a real, genuine love for this club," he said, "and, like me, his foremost concern in our talks has been to establish what is best for Huddersfield Town."
"Under David’s management," Hoyle said, "we took this club to the highest position it has held in almost 50 years," Hoyle said, "and created memories that will last forever."
Wagner’s departure might prove to be a blessing for his close friend Juergen Klopp, the Liverpool manager. Huddersfield’s next match is against Manchester City — first-place Liverpool’s biggest rival for the Premier League title — and the team will be led by interim manager Mark Hudson, who was part of Wagner’s technical staff.
A new face on the training field and in the dugout may still not be enough, however, to lift Huddersfield out of its perilous position in the league.
Huddersfield’s main problem this season has been its inability to score, with the team netting a league-low 13 goals in 22 games. The absence since early December of injured playmaker Aaron Mooy has been a blow to Wagner, who saw one of his strikers score for the first time this season only on Jan. 2.
Huddersfield was the English champion each year from 1924-26.