“Why the hell are you here? Shouldn’t you be out for freshers?” said the shocked man as I handed over a reduced price match ticket at the turnstile. Every season Huddersfield do a one off match where they entice poor and vulnerable students to their matches by flogging tickets at the freshers fair. Those of you who know me will know that I bloody hate freshers. It’s full of drunken idiots who are into crap modern music and even worse concoctions of drink. I may go as far as saying that other than my annual stack of Wetherspoons vouchers, this ticket to Huddersfield was freshers at it’s peak.
Crawley fan Craig has just started university at Huddersfield and kindly twisted somebodies arm to get me a ticket for just £3. This was an absolute bargain considering when I looked at going just a few days previously (when they played my beloved Bolton) it would have cost me an eye watering £28.
What made this match a bit strange was the fact it was to take place on a Thursday night. No, Huddersfield hadn’t reached the Europa League. They were however playing two times European Cup winners Nottingham Forest. The match was to be shown live on Sky Sports meaning that my Dad could watch it from home and we could message each other with our thoughts, which was quite nice, as this can’t usually be done when I go to some weird non-league match.
I was timetabled to be in university until 17:00 on the day of the match meaning I would be getting into Huddersfield pretty late from York. Fortunately, the lecture finished half an hour earlier and I was on a train before the hour. I arrived into Huddersfield at around 17:45 and made my way through the town centre that was pretty empty by the time I arrived.
A couple of months ago I visited Huddersfield (albeit on the ale trail) meaning I only visited one of the two pubs at the train station before heading on to Marsden. Emil did take me and Eddie down to the station approach to see the George Hotel that is famous for being the building where Rugby League was founded in 1895. There’s also a large statue of former Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, which one of the local Wetherspoons is named after, unsurprisingly I had this place in my sights for some tea.
As I walked down the hill towards the Harold Wilson, I stopped at the cash machine where a rather distressed girl was close to punching something as her student loan still hadn’t come through. I was in the middle of comforting her when a gust of wind blew her dress up, to display her bottom to the whole of the main shopping district. In a poor attempt at making her feel less embarrassed I explained that I had “seen many bottoms before and it was nothing new to me” before I waddled off down the road for Curry Club.
The Lord Wilson is a Lloyds Bar meaning that there was music playing as I sat enjoying my Curry Club for one. This wasn’t an issue though, as they were playing Foals new album What Went Down in full; well worth a listen. Craig still wasn’t answering his phone meaning I faced the prospect of going to the match on my own and paying £15 to get in.
Still waiting for my Southern friend to ring, I decided to have a quick Punk IPA in the Warehouse, exactly the same as the Graduate in York but slightly cheaper. It was fantastic in there with a live band playing and loads of students already drinking ahead of a night out. Five minutes later and I was walking over the dual carriageway to the University where I eventually met up with Craig who also arranged to meet up with his flatmates who were coming along.
Sam, Matt and Alice were soon joining our party, supporters of Leeds, Chelsea and Hartlepool respectively. It was quite a random mix, and it was made even better when Bradford Park Avenue fan and media officer Joe joined us. If any other groups were like ours I wondered whether even half of the people in the ground would actually be Huddersfield supporters. I didn’t have to think hard to realise who I would be supporting when I realised that former Bolton manager Dougie Freedman was the Nottingham manager; COME ON HUDDERSFIELD!
It didn’t take too long to reach the ground from the town centre, walking past the huge gas works in the process. There’s even a social club at the works which is where all of the away fans appeared to be congregated. As tempting as it was to nip in for a quick pint we were now near the ground and the floodlights guided us towards the sporting venue that has always intrigued me.
The John Smith’s Stadium was built in 1994 and became the first Alfred McAlpine structure of its kind. A few years later the company went on to design and build both Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic’s grounds, meaning it felt a bit like being at home. Huddersfield’s home bares more resemblance to Bolton’s with the iconic swooping arches and metal work on the roofs of each stand. It could be argued that the John Smith’s is more impressive in the sense it is sunk into a small valley yet it has gaps in between each meaning it isn’t as enclosed.
The John Smith’s, or Galpharm as I knew it to be growing up was built to replace Leeds Road which was the Terrier’s home from 1908. The ground was redeveloped as a retail park and the centre spot has a plaque outside B&Q with all of it being only a stone’s throw from the new ground.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the turnstile operator couldn’t see why I was watching Huddersfield when I was apparently a fresher. I spent a good couple of minutes speaking to him as I explained that I was a Bolton fan. “You were bloody awful here on Saturday! Neil Lennon wasn’t a happy man!”
Past the turnstiles I walked down a large set of steps that are open to the elements before entering the concourse of the Kilner Bank Stand. The others had all gone in the ground before me as I had a wander around to the other end of the ground to get some photographs. I eventually found them all sat in completely the wrong seats before we were all told to move by an old woman who fancied herself as a steward.
Coming into the match there was very little separating the two sides in the table. Huddersfield were 13th while Forest were in 12th with just one point making the difference. A win for the visitors would send them up to fifth, which I didn’t particularly want as I’m not a huge fan of Dougie Freedman. I find the bloke boring, monotonous and in serious need of a good wash.
The Huddersfield fans to our left were in fine voice as the two sides emerged on to the pitch. It was quite a decent match, with the home side having the first opportunity when Elliott Ward headed wide from a Mustapha Carayol corner.
Nottingham had barely entered the Huddersfield half when they took an undeserved lead on 22 minutes. Daniel Pinillos broke free down the left hand side and sent a cross towards the back post. Eric Lichaj was on hand to nod the ball across to Ryan Mendes who in turn knocked the ball past goalkeeper Jed Steer.
Huddersfield left back Jason Davidson had been beaten to the ball by Lichaj in the run up to the goal and he suddenly became a scapegoat for anything that went wrong. The bloke who was stood behind me blamed everything on him. His frustrations peaked when he kicked a seat before shouting, “If he is Australia’s first choice left back they must be f*cking useless at football over there!”
Things didn’t get much better for the home side as Nottingham began to grow into the match as half time approached. I saw this as an opportunity to go for a wander up to the other end of the ground, while Craig and his mates decided to head to the bar as they were going out after the match and this was technically part of pre-drinks.
Huddersfield began the second half brightly, with Dean Whitehead threading a neat through ball to Martin Cranie who got in behind the Forest backline. He cut the ball back for Harry Bunn who shot right footed from the edge of the area but his effort was headed away by Kelvin Wilson.
Nahki Wells and Joe Lolley were introduced by Chris Powell, and the game opened up as Huddersfield looked more energetic in their play. Lolley is a player I had heard a lot about from his time at Kidderminster, when he became one of the most talked about strikers outside the Football League despite only featuring 21 times for the Harriers.
Forest came close to doubling their lead in the 77th minute when Chris Burke beat the offside trap and found himself clean through on goal. He moved the ball onto his left foot and hit the post; the rebound found Chris O’Grady, but his shot was brilliantly cleared off the line by Martin Cranie.
An equaliser came on 84 minutes when the ball came out to Emyr Huws 20 yards from goal. The midfielder smashed it towards goal and it somehow resulted in a goal. His effort took a huge deflection off a Forest defender which sent it over Dorus De Vries. It then hit the underside of the bar and bounced just over the line before heading out again. Was it in? Was it not? The linesman called it spot on and the score was level through one of the scruffiest goals ever.
The closing stages were fast paced and frantic with both teams looking for that vital winner but it wasn’t to come and both teams took a point a piece. The result took Forest up to tenth, level on points with sixth placed Reading.
With the rest of the crew heading out into Huddersfield, I decided to make my way back to the train station to catch the next train back to York. I arrived slightly early which allowed me to visit the Head of Steam pub which is found on the platform. It was more expensive than the pub at the other side of the station, but they did have Punk IPA which made me happy. Having been to both I would recommend heading to the other pub, even though it literally is just a hall with a bar.
It was a shame to be leaving Huddersfield straight after the match, but I had university in the morning which meant I couldn’t take Craig up on his offer of sleeping on a floor for the night. I was glad I didn’t spend £28 watching Bolton lose 4-1 there when I watched a decent match for £3 just a few days later. Thursday night football is a rarity unless you’re a Liverpool or Manchester United fan, so it provided a good accompaniment to Wetherspoons’ Curry Club and got me out of the house for a while.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 48 miles from York
- ADMISSION: £3 courtesy of the University of Huddersfield
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £2.50