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About A Week: A Century Of Pride

Peter Hinchliffe declares his allegiance to Huddersfield Town, a football club with an illustrious history.

There’s no evidence that my local football team was ever mentioned on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

At least not while the cameras were rolling.

But I like to imagine that while the actors were waiting to film a scene Captain Jean-Luc Picard, alleviating frustration, would grin and say, “Ah well...at least Town won on Saturday.’’

Actor Patrick Stewart, who played Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, is the best-know fan of Huddersfield Town, the English League One side.

Like thousands of loyal Town fans world-wide, Patrick can’t wait for the new season to kick off on August 9.

This is Huddersfield’s centenary season. To mark this historic milestone fans were offered season tickets allowing admission to the 23 home games for just £100.

Patrick was quick to snap up his £100 ticket.

And so was I, and 16,000 other fans.

Patrick was born in Mirfield, not far from Town’s modernistic Galpharm Stadium, and has been a life-long fan of the club. He left school at 15 to work as a reporter on a paper in the nearby town of Dewsbury. When the editor told him he was spending too much time at the theatre, he left to work as a furniture salesman before eventually going to drama school.

I worked for a newspaper in that town around the same time, remaining involved in the “drama’’ of journalism for the next 50 years.

On August 6, three days before the season begins, Town will be playing the mighty Arsenal at the Galpharm. The game symbolises the fact that there is still sentiment in English football, that traditions are still honoured.

Patrick Stewart, along with all who owe tribal allegiance to the Town Terriers and their traditional blue-and-white colours, is familiar with the proud history of a club which for a number of years fielded the best team in England, and possibly the world.

Town’s glory decade began when they played in the 1920 cup final, the first final after the ending of World War One. They were beaten 1-0 by Aston Villa. They won the Cup two years later, beating Preston North End 1-0.

Town were the first club to win the top division championship three years in a row, 1923-24, 1924-25 and 1925-26.

Herbert Chapman led Town to success for the first two of their three consecutive titles. He then left to take over the reins at Arsenal, who also won the First Division championship three years in a row.

Liverpool and Manchester United are the only other teams to have won the top title three years in a row.

The record attendance at Town’s old Leeds Road ground was officially 67,037. It was estimated another 5,000 broke into the ground to see Town go down 1-0 in an FA Cup 6th round game against Arsenal.

I saw my first Town match in 1942. My father carried me into the ground on his shoulders. Dad worked at one time for the big chemical firm ICI, whose works were near the football ground. He followed Town during their glory years.

In the late 1950s I worked as a reporter for the Huddersfield Examiner, covering Town’s reserve team home games. In those days we ran a Saturday sports edition. Even a reserve team match merited a 350-word running report.

I still feel a small twinge of panic when I recall the first reserves game I covered. Town were playing Wolverhampton Wanderers. I was alone in the press box, charged with reporting the match for two Birmingham Evening papers, the Wolverhampton Star, the Press Association, Exchange Telegraph, and of course the Examiner.

With only four or five minutes to go before the final whistle the teams had scored a goal apiece. Then, while I was scribbling my final sentences, Wolves scored a second. “Who scored that?’’ I shouted to the lone figure in the visiting directors’ box. “Didn’t see,’’ he replied.

Then Wolves scored a third goal. “Who scored that?’’ I shouted again. “Afraid I didn’t see that either,’’ said the director.

As the final whistle blew I was already sprinting to talk to the Wolves players as they left the field. I met all of my deadlines. Just!

For Town fans world-wide, and there are thousands of them, some of whom have banded into supporters’ clubs, the question to be answered at 5 pm on every Saturday during the season is: “How have Town gone on?’’

In the early 1960s, when I was working as a journalist in Texas, this in a time long before the US became infatuated with “soccer’’ as they will insist on calling the game, I found a novel way of answering that vital Saturday question. A friend of mine was an amateur radio operator. He contacted another amateur radio operator in York, England, who dutifully relayed the Town match result.

There’s was no problem in following Town’s fortunes when I worked in Kenya in 1969. The first editions of the English Sunday papers arrived on an overnight flight. They could be bought from street-sellers in Nairobi at breakfast-time on Sunday.

Huddersfield Town were having a good season. They topped the Second Division, and were duly promoted to the First Division.

One Sunday morning I was sitting on my veranda in Lavington, reading with pleasure of Town’s latest triumph.

Suddenly the paper was snatched from my hands. “David!’’ I exclaimed, thinking my two-year-old son was playing games. I looked up to see that a monkey was bearing the newspaper in triumph into the forest at the bottom of our garden.

British Prime Minister Harold Wilson was a devoted Huddersfield Town fan. One afternoon I caught up with Harold, who grew up in Huddersfield, on the steps of a local hotel, asking for a quote on the burning political issue of the day. (I forget what it was).

“Ah,’’ said Harold, his thoughts probably already fixed on the Leeds Road game which he was about to attend, “1.50 on a Saturday afternoon, Town at home, only the sports edition still to come out... All you want from me is three paragraphs.’’

I grinned and nodded. He grinned and gave me three very quotable paragraphs, then went off to watch the game.

For the new season, which starts next month, Town have a new young director who is chairman-elect, a new management team and new players. There’s an abundance of hope in the camp. Surely this is the season we win promotion to the Championship.

But even if we don’t, we’re blue-and-white Terrier fans for ever and ever.

A true fan doesn’t pick a team to support. The team picks you. It’s all about tribal loyalty.

As one of our illustrious former managers, Bill Shankly (who went on to lead Liverpool to a series of triumphs), so memorably said on a TV chat show:

“Someone said ‘football is more important than life and death to you’ and I said ‘Listen, it’s more important than that’.’’

We blue-and-white Town fans know what you meant, Bill.

We know it even when we’re on our Starships, venturing to the furthest reaches of the galaxy.

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