29 May 2017 will live long in the memory for Huddersfield Town fans. It was the day their dreams came true. Huddersfield won the Championship Play-off final and were promoted to the Premier League. But for those who don't follow the club, who are Huddersfield Town?
Away days, where is Huddersfield?
Huddersfield is a town in West Yorkshire, 19.7 miles from Leeds, and 29.2 miles from Manchester. Both these clubs have been (and are still in the case of Manchester United and City) in the top flight of the English game more recently than Huddersfield. Leeds United were there 13 years ago, both Manchester clubs are still there now.
Huddersfield Town is one of the oldest clubs in the North of England, formed in 1908. Their original ground was on Leeds Road, at the time when it was discouraged for Rugby and Football to share grounds. After a few turbulent years that saw the club in financial trouble, they were saved and in 1920 not only did they make the FA Cup final, they were promoted to the then Division One (the equivalent now to the Premier League).
Town went from strength to strength, being the first of only four clubs (to the present day) to win the top flight title back to back to back (1923/24, 1924/24 & 1925/26) – This has never been beaten. Only Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool have equalled the feat.
Huddersfield had started to Yo-Yo between the top flight and the second division in the 1950's. Their last appearance in the top flight was back in the 1972 season, from here they declined and dropped down the league. In 1984 Town found themselves in the old fourth division.
Still playing at Leeds Road, the ground was becoming unsuitable for any football, let alone top flight. 1992 saw planning permission granted for the new ground and new optimism spread amongst the fans.
Huddersfield made their first appearance at Wembley in 52 years, when the reached the final of the Autoglass trophy in 1994. This was a trophy for those in the second and third divisions. Swansea City were the opponents. The match ended 1-1, so penalties were needed (does that sound familiar?) - It wasn't Towns day as they lost 3-1.
2003 saw Huddersfield once again came out of administration under new ownership, the goal as always was the same, to get back into the top flight of English football. Working the way back up the divisions took it's time.
2012 saw Huddersfield back at Wembley to contest the playoff to reach the Championship (the old division two). Town beat Sheffield United on penalties (now that definitely sounds familiar) and made it into the Championship.
During the period between 2003 and 2012 Dean Hoyle joined the board. The founder of Card Factory joined the Huddersfield Town board in 2008. Just under a year later, he took over as majority shareholder and Chairman.
The “Deano” influence
Once Hoyle was at the helm, things appeared to change for Huddersfield. A succession of managers and hovering around 16th - 19th in the Championship (once they made it there) earned Town the “perennial strugglers” tagline.
Chris Powell was Town manager from September 2014, but was sacked by November the following year. The objectives had not been met.
Hoyle then decided to take a risk (in footballing terms). He appointed David Wagner, the ex US International player and German, the former manager of Borussia Dortmund II. The German was manager of Borussia Dortmund from July 2011 to November 2015. He was rumoured to be joining Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool when he left the German side, however Hoyle persuaded the German to come to the Championship side, the goal as always would be promotion. No time scale had officially been set.
“The Germans are coming”
As a smaller club, Huddersfield Town did not have a large purse for transfers. Wagner knew this, but also knew what he wanted. He brought in four German players, along with Christoph Buhler as his assistant. The record signing for Town was brought in £1.8m spent on Christopher Schindler from 1860 Munich. With Michael Hefele, Chris Lowe & Elias Kachunga this brings to four players from Germany.
Finding it difficult to compete in the English market for English players with their small budget, this was another masterstroke by the chairman and the manager. The 2016/2017 season started with all the pundits putting Town as favourites for relegation to league one (the old division two).
With Wagner at the helm, and with the interesting tactic of taking the whole team to a secluded part of Sweden, and with only the very basics, the team had to bond to survive. Bond and survive they did, this team, including four on loan players (who also went on the trip) formed into the team that at one point of the season were sitting in an automatic promotion place. They were the only team of the top six that actually did not spend any time in the lower part of the championship this season.
With Town sitting high up in the table, it seemed entirely possible that they could gain automatic promotion. However, it appears that Wagner had a slightly different plan. Finish in the positions from third to sixth and you get to play off for the one remaining spot. Winning the playoff final brings a windfall of around £170m to the club that gets promoted – this obviously includes the ability to buy more expensive players, for example the players you have had on loan, if released by their clubs and you are in the Premier League, you have extra cash to splash.
Finishing sixth in the Championship put Huddersfield into the playoffs. Wagner had played for this. In the play-off semi final, Town drew rivals Sheffield Wednesday. After the home and away legs, it was all square. It would come down to penalties.
With Germans in the team, Huddersfield had the upper hand, as Germans tend to be very good at penalties (not that we need reminding of that, do we England?). Danny Ward (who was on loan from Liverpool), heroically saved to give Town their day in the sun. Reading defeated Fulham over the two legs, and the pair would meet in the final. We all know what happened there.
Sir Patrick Stewart makes no secret of his support for Town, he even rescheduled his time from April 2017 so that he could catch as many of the Huddersfield games to the end of the season. This would include the playoff final. Stewart even joked that he had told his agent that he would not be available for any work during the run in. Like the rest of the fans on Monday 29th May 2017 Stewart was in the stadium as the tension filled penalty shoot out took place.
So that is Huddersfield Town – into the Premier League for the very first time, but back in the top flight of English football after 45 years of waiting.
Can they stay there? Who knows, we wait to see what signings they bring in and how they perform, the bookmakers already have them as favourites to be relegated next season (wait! Wasn't that said about them this season?)
Welcome to the Premier League Huddersfield Town, bring on the big boys.