18/2/23 Huddersfield Town V Blues. The Wrong Kind Of Colin.

Huddersfield away is one of my favourite trips of the season. In fact, Huddersfield away, is just one of my favourite trips full stop, and a very underrated one at that. So why do I enjoy going there so much? Many reasons. Firstly, it nestles in the foothills of the Pennines, just over the border in Yorkshire from Lancashire and because of that, it doesn’t matter which way you travel to it on the train, the scenery is breath taking. The architecture of the town itself screams of an affluent time when the mills were in full production and woollen cloth was in demand. The railway station alone, rivals anything else on the network, and is not only listed, but magnificent. As a real ale drinking football fan, both the football ground and the pubs are all within walking distance. A special mention of the football ground. Up until the 94/95 season, Huddersfield Town played at Leeds Road. Although that ground was even closer to the town centre, the new ground is less than 200 yards away from where it was. Along with Wigan Athletic, another ground that is within walking distance of the town centre and its train stations, both the towns football and rugby league clubs share the ground. It’s an indication of what can be achieved if town and city councils understood the value and importance that sport plays in the lives of their inhabitants. Too many times the town or city’s football clubs are seen as a hindrance, and not an asset. Planning permission is slow to be awarded. Clubs are forced further and further away to find cheap enough land to build on. Before I veer off on a full on rant, I’ll move on to the pubs. For a real ale drinker like me, the number of pubs that sell a good range of it, is brilliant. This actually includes no less than two built into the train station itself. In a nutshell, you just can’t go wrong with Huddersfield. Anyway, I’d better get on with my account of the day, never mind all the advertising I seem to be doing for the town’s tourism board. (Honestly, I’m not getting any money for it. I just like the place.) I met up with Steve, JK, Spoons and Daryl at New Street. I knew Ian was reluctantly giving the game a miss. (Well sort of, he was in Liverpool for the city’s real ale festival.) It meant that I wasn’t able to make use of our railcard. I’ve always got advanced tickets before, but when I went to get them a few weeks earlier, I’d been advised by the booking clerk that splitting the tickets would be cheaper. Not really knowing what split would be the best, I’d asked Daryl. Daryl is an expert at finding this sort of stuff out. He’s got that kind of mind. He worked it out, and informed the group that the best way was off-peak return to Derby, and then Derby to Huddersfield. So after my first ever purchase of split tickets, we then saw that the train we needed was delayed. With advanced tickets, you have to catch specific trains, whereas with split tickets, you can catch different services. We decided to catch the Nottingham train to Derby and then see if we could get a different train up to either Sheffield and then Leeds, or just Leeds. As it was, it turned out that we couldn’t, and ended up catching the delayed train anyway. Getting off at Leeds, we were still able to get the train to Dewsbury. Yes, I know I’ve been extolling the virtues of Huddersfield, but whenever able to, dropping in the West Riding Refreshment Rooms that is connected to the station, is an absolute must. The place is excellent.

“Only a couple of pics”

I have actually taken other photos of the place before for this blog, so I don’t really want to take repeat photos. Besides, I’m rubbish at taking photos. Now back to Daryl. He may be absolutely on top of things when it comes to public transport times and prices, but he does comes across as quite an agitated character. He’s always first, always keen to get to the next place, and can walk faster than the speed of light. In fact, he actually only slows down enough so light can just about keep up with him. He was to find out though, that the next train from Dewsbury to Huddersfield had been servely delayed, and the next service after that wasn’t due to stop at Huddersfield anyway. It left us then, with a bit of a problem. With Dewsbury being close to Huddersfield, we first looked at bus times. Judging by the time it would’ve taken, we’d have missed out on some seriously valuable drinking time. A taxi would be the only viable alternative. Daryl was already on it. He was up and outside ordering one, before you could say “We’ll need a 5 seater”. The Ironic thing in all this, was that we were always going to get a taxi out to the first pub on the itinerary in Huddersfield anyway. We were though, soon in the hilly countryside in between Dewsbury and Huddersfield, and talking about previous visits. It included Steves recollection of the time he was with a bunch of off-duty Ol Bill in a Police owned minibus, all landing on a rural pub and a lone, unsuspecting barmaid, just outside Huddersfield. The game in question was the game we needed to win for promotion, back at the end of the 94/95 season. Neither me nor JK were able to get tickets for the game, but it was a day I remembered well. Well, most of it anyway. Let’s just say this, drinking pints of champagne to celebrate the subsequent win, whilst in charge of a child is not a wise thing to do. Especially if you’ve already spent the whole afternoon drinking……In mitigation, I have never ever claimed to be a good parent. Vice versa in fact. I’m only surprised my son still speaks to me without being compelled to scream a stream of obscenities at me. Especially as I indoctrinated him into also supporting Blues. The Star might be the furthest from the centre of the town, but it’s well worth the walk, or the usual taxi from the station, or indeed, a taxi from Dewsbury station, like we did this time. I’m sure I’ve taken photos of the place before, so didn’t bother taking anymore. The place hasn’t changed. The only thing that does change, is the beer. It always has a decent range of well kept beer. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say that about the normally good Rat and Ratchet. My pint had gone off. At least JK met a fellow member of the Irish Kelly clan.

“They’d even got a mosaic of Sir Kier Starmer.”

Normally, we’d have gone on to another couple of pubs, as there are so many good ones to choose from, but time was against us. We’d just got enough time to take in the King’s Head. One of the pubs that’s set in one of the wings of the station. From there, we walked up to the ground.

Huddersfield had rolled the dice and managed to coax Neil Warnock out of retirement. Coincidentally, the season we won at Huddersfield to secure the second division championship trophy and thus promotion, Warnock lead Huddersfield to promotion via the playoffs. Whether they believe he can repeat that achievement, because ‘Colin’ does actually have an excellent record at getting teams promoted, I don’t know, but I should imagine that all they’re concerned with this season, is escaping relegation. He was certainly welcomed back like the all encompassing conquering hero, by the home support, and the attendance had definitely been bolstered by his reappointment. However, the fairy tale didn’t start well. Not for Huddersfield anyway. Blues took the lead through Deeney. Now before the World Cup break, Blues would’ve built on the goal’s foundations, and gone on to win the game quite easily. Post World Cup break has been little short of an utter shambles. That strength we had has disintegrated. Compared to the granite we were fast becoming, we’re now just a pile of dust. A pile of dust that gets blown away every game. Joseph Hungbo took his equaliser well, but the ease with how he was able to get into a shooting position was criminal. Blues were playing in their change kit of red, and they may as well have lain down in a row and pretended they were a roll Axminster. Halftime, and I went to produce some Carling. I saw Willenhall Micky, Roost Paul, and Badger, resplendent in that chequerboard coat of his. I honestly don’t know how he has the bravery to wear it. I wouldn’t even wear it within the safety of my own home, and without anyone else in eyeshot, but then I suppose everyone’s different, and if anyone could get away with wearing a coat like that, then Badge can. With just 4 minutes of the second half gone, Huddersfield took the lead. The optimism that Deeney’s goal had given us, seemed a long long time ago. Another well finished goal, it was the last thing our fragility needed. Warnock has his work cut out with Huddersfield, but like I keep highlighting, momentum is valuable, and I have the feeling that Colin will have his players working for each other, and busting a gut in the process. With every game Blues play, it seems that the momentum that Eustace was able to build up before the World Cup, happened in another lifetime, or maybe I just dreamt it all.

Once again, I was to leave the ground early, but this time, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to miss a Blues equaliser. I was always going to go in The King’s Head again, but wanted to go in The Head of Steam first. The HOS in Huddersfield is situated in the other wing of the train station. JK and Daryl were already in there when I got there. They’d got the same idea.

“And then there’s ‘Edward, the Very Strange Bloke”

From the HOS it was to the King’s Head where not only Steve and Spoons were, but also Donny Karen. Even though I haven’t lived in the place for 9 years now, there are still Blues fans that know me as Telford Sid. I must admit, it was good seeing Karen. A one time part of the furniture at all the away games north of Brum, and also most of the London away games too, it was a rare appearance from her. Catching up, I was to find out that she’s buying her own house, hence the lack of appearances at Blues. I’ve known Karen for just under 2 decades now, and life seems to have been good to her in the intervening years. I remember her being quite timid at the time. Something I think attracted Badger to her. So much so, that he carried a torch for her. I’m not sure exactly what transpired between them, whether the batteries ran out, or it ran on solar power, but it just didn’t happen. On the train back to Leeds, I carried on with catching up. A, these days much more confident Karen, went on to tell me what she was doing for a living. With what she does and I do, we were to find a bizarre common ground of machine safety system knowledge within manufacturing. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into details.) Touching down in Leeds, we all got split up in the crowd. Leeds Station is the one station in the country this can happen. It’s even more confusing than understanding the ownership of Blues. Karen was off home to Doncaster (Yep, that’s why she’s known as Donny Karen, not because she was obsessed with Donny Osman as some of you may have believed.), the rest of us were heading to a pub, but I was under the impression it was the Wetherspoons on Leeds Station. It wasn’t. Anyway, I did see this though.

“A closer look was too good to resist”

“One day I’ll get to travel on it.”

After texting the group to find out where the rest had gone, I worked out that by the time I got to where they were, it wasn’t worth joining them. There just wasn’t enough time. After spotting Badger (Hard to miss in that jacket of his.), I got something to eat and took a slow walk down to the platform to wait for the rest and the train back to Brum.

“Sleeping Gargoyles make good bookends”

We were joined on the train at Sheffield by a lot of the usual suspects that follow Blues away. The songs started. Not the usual generic bilge, but the old tunes that only Blues fans of a certain age and longevity of commitment know. Sung properly and slowly. Loud enough to be heard but not irritatingly obtrusive. Original and interesting enough to be entertaining. A lamenting pride in the club we all follow around the country. Win, draw or lose, we’re Blues.


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