Travels to the soul and heartbeat of English football...alright primarily Leicestershire!!!!
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Original plans for today was as is normally the case a visit to a non-league club, with plan A being that of Oakham United in the Peterborough & District League. About ten days ago I was looking at the weather forecast and for the week leading up day time temperatures would seldom get above freezing. With this in mind I asked my mum and her partner if they fancied going to watch Leicester City play their fourth round FA Cup tie @ Huddersfield Town, helped by fact that the two clubs had agreed to reduce ticket prices. With not being a season ticket holder or member of Leicester City I would have to wait to see if any of their allocation would be available on general sale, and I believe there was around 1,000 left. Come 9am and both myself and my wife (who decided to come along) had rang the club using the land line and a mobile and were in a que - I got through first after about ten minutes and managed to purchase four (three adults and one senior) tickets and a price of £36 which included a £1 booking fee. I personally have visited the stadium before but it was for rugby league and not football when I saw the Huddersfield Giants take on the Sheffield Eagles in April 1997.
The plan was to leave earlier in order to have some lunch in the town and have a walk round before heading to the stadium. We (my wife Angela and I) were picked up at 9.30am by my mum and her partner Dave and made the ninety-five mile journey north with no problems. The traffic on the M1 motorway was light with it only being busy when he got into Huddersfield itself. The John Smith's Stadium is well signposted and we parked up in a pay & display car park on St. Andrews Road. From there we walked into the town centre and made our way to one of the two JD Weatherspoon outlets, The Cherry Tree for some lunch and liquid refreshment - two pints of Arctic Fox went down very well. Heading back in the direction we came I popped into the other 'Spoons outlet The Lord Wilson for a quick half while the others were looking around House of Fraser. From there we made our way to the stadium and got to the ground around 2.15pm.
Huddersfield is a large market town with a population of around 150,000 inhabitants, located in, and being the principal town of the Metropolitan Borough of Kirkless in West Yorkshire. It is located some twenty five miles east of Manchester and twenty miles south west of Leeds while the M62 motorway passes a few miles to the north of the town. The town has direct rail services to a lot of the "major" northern cities including Leeds and Manchester but not to the nations capital London.
Huddersfield is not a tourist town though does have some excellent examples of Victorian architecture, but is more well known for sport - the birth place of Rugby League, the birthplace of prime minister Harold Wilson and its role in the Industrial Revolution.
The railway station is a Grade 1 listed building and was describe by John Betjeman as `The most splendid station facade in England, second only to St. Pancras in London.'
During the Industrial Revolution Huddersfield was a centre of civil unrest. This was during a period when Europe was experiencing frequent wars and trade had slumped and crops failed. Local weavers faced losing their livelihood due to the introduction of machinery in the factories. Luddites began destroying mills and machinery in response. One of the most notorious attacks was on Cartwright - a Huddersfield mill owner who had a reputation for cruelty.
The club were formed in 1908 and joined the North Eastern League in time for the 1908/09 season, finishing in 16th place in the 18 team division. The following season they transferred to the Midland League finishing in 5th place come the season end. Just two years after being formed they were elected to division 2 of the Football League. In 1922 the club secured its first major honour by winning the FA Cup. Between 1923 and 1926 they were crowned Football League champions, becoming the first English team to win three successive league titles. A feat that has been matched (but not bettered) by only Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United.
The stadium was designed by H.O.K. Sport and built (by Alfred McAlpine) and opened in 1994 at an estimated cost of £40m. While construction was taking place it was known as the Kirklees Stadium, while from 1994 to 2004 it name the McAlpine Stadium. It was under this name that I saw a rugby league game here in 1997 when the Huddersfield Giants took on the Sheffield Eagles. From 2004-2012 it became known as the Galpharm Stadium, and after brewery Heineken took out a five year sponsorship deal last August it became known as the John Smith's Stadium.
The capacity of the stadium is 24,499 and is an all seater affair. It is located to the north west of the town centre, approximately one mile from the railway station.
Previously the club played their home games at Leeds Road which was their home since 1908, and they recorded a club record attendance of 67,037 for an FA Cup 6th Round tie v Arsenal on the 27th February 1932.
Away fans are housed in the John Smith's (South) Stand which was full today and is the one you come to first. Views in the stadium are excellent though despite it being all seater it was "standing room only" with the club or stewards making no attempt to make the visiting supporters sit down. Personally I don't have a problem with this helped by being over 6' tall, but with my wife being only 5' 2"" she did have trouble seeing the action at times. If clubs are going to allow supporters to stand then surely it would be safer to have specific standing areas in stadiums than allow them to stand in seated areas. I know when this gets mentioned the old rhetoric of Hillsborough gets brought up, but in my opinion it wasn't the terraces that caused this tragic event, but the fact that supporters were in pens and could not get themselves to safety.
Leicester came into the game as favourites with them putting together a winning run that has put them in the second automatic promotion spot in the Football League Championship, while Huddersfield find themselves in 19th place and sacked manager Simon Grayson a few days ago.
After seeing Leicester play very well against Middlesbrough just over a week ago it was a different story today. They were very disjointed, lacked any sort of cohesion and the first half was up there with the dross that I have witnessed this season. The second half did improve with Huddersfield looking the more likely to score. With the atmosphere already being electric in the away section, it went up a notch on the hour mark when Jamie Vardy and Martyn Waghorn were replaced by David Nugent and Chris Wood. Wood almost made an immediate impact but his curling shot was turned round the post by Huddersfield keeper Alex Smithies. Town took the lead on seventy minutes when Lee Novak beat Kasper Schmeichel from the penalty spot, this following a Lloyd Dyer foul on Jack Hunt. Leicester drew level with nine minutes left when Wood turned in a Richie de Laet cross. To be fair Huddersfield should have had the game sown up but James Vaughan poked the ball wide from six yards out and Peter Clarke had a header cleared off the line.
A more detailed report can be found on the BBC website by clicking here - HTFC
As expected it was very busy getting out of the car park and Huddersfield itself, and following a stop for a coffee at the Tibshelf services on the M1 we were back home at around 8pm.
10 ground photos can be viewed in the slideshow below: