David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Lee Clark’

2012-13: A season review

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

On the 26th of June 2012, Lee Clark was confirmed as the new manager of Birmingham City. Chris Hughton had succumbed to the lure of the Premier League by taking over at Norwich. Nobody blamed him – he deserved to manage in the top flight.  The man who had led us to a 4th placed finish, the Europa League group stages and an FA Cup fifth round replay was gone. So, it was Clark’s time. Could he go one further than his predecessor and take us to Wembley? Was automatic promotion even on the cards?

Behind the scenes, our owner Carson Yeung had been arrested on money laundering charges and the club’s future looked unstable. Jordon Mutch was sold to Cardiff to raise much-needed funds to reportedly ‘keep us going’. A transfer embargo was placed on all incoming transfers, although this was lifted. Those early hopes of promotion soon faded as fans realised Clark had a tough job on his hands.

Upon arriving, the new manager had to deal with masses of transfer speculation surrounding young goalkeeper Jack Butland, Nathan Redmond and Curtis Davies. Blues managed to hold on to all three during the summer transfer window. Lee Clark did what he could with the tight budget he had been given and brought in Hayden Mullins, Peter Lovenkrands and Darren Ambrose. The latter being the only player that commanded a transfer fee. Ravel Morrison and Paul Caddis joined on season-long loans, with Adam Rooney going to Swindon as part of the Caddis deal.

Blues started at home to newly-promoted Charlton, and it took a 94th minute goal from Nikola Zigic to rescue a point. It took until September 1st for Birmingham to record their first league win of the season; a 1-0 victory over Peterborough, a match in which five of our substitutes were teenagers. This was a sign of things to come, with many Blues youngsters making their breakthrough’s this year.

Three weeks later, Barnsley were the visitors to St Andrew’s and no matter how much Blues fans try to forget that day, it was quite simply, unforgettable. We’d comfortably dispatched Bolton in the midweek leading up to the match and I was quietly confident of a victory. The first half was drab, uneventful and uninspiring but nothing could have prepared the 13,893 crowd (less than half of that by the end) for the events of the second period. Just 28 minutes after the restart, Barnsley were 5-0 up. Craig Davies had scored four at the home of the club he supported as a boy after Stephen Foster’s opener. The worst thing was our goalkeeper actually played well! Seven days later Blues emerged the victors at the Amex with a 1-0 win over Brighton, showing everyone what a ‘funny old league’ the Championship is.

By 5pm on Saturday October 6th, Birmingham City had lost as many home league games in 14 days as they had during the whole of the season before. A solitary loss during the 2011-12 campaign – two in two weeks during this one. Supporters who had started the season as optimists were now ‘glass half-empty’ kind of people. Blues weren’t performing and Clark was under pressure. Just a single win during October further increased the pressure on our boss, although Leroy Lita’s goals which won the three points at Leeds was a special one indeed.

A packed November schedule followed and a chance for Blues to find some form and distance themselves from the relegation zone. However, just two wins from seven ensured this wasn’t the case. Another sub-15,000 crowd at St Andrew’s saw a confident home side dominate the game against Bristol City; the scoreline should have been greater than 2-0. This was a stark contrast to the loss versus visitors Ipswich three days before. Two more draws and two more losses then followed as Blues rolled over at home to Hull City, 3-0 down at half time, and at Pride Park against Derby. We played host to Middlesbrough in the final game of November and won 3-2 against a backdrop of a large ‘Clark Out’ banner at the top of the Tilton End.

Up next was a visit to Molineux in the first Wolves derby of the season. In truth it was a tame and boring affair, nothing a derby match should be. Blues’ top scorer Marlon King was the only player on the scoresheet, unfortunately scoring an own-goal in front of the South Bank. We beat Barnsley 2-1 on Boxing Day, the return fixture of that horror show at St Andrew’s three months earlier.

After losing 1-0 to Cardiff on New Year’s Day, our FA campaign finally got underway and Blues were drawn away to Leeds. The match ended 1-1 with Wade Elliot scoring the goal of the season but that was overshadowed by a horrible leg break sustained by Blues’ young American defender Will Packwood. Thankfully, Will is progressing well after nearly six months out. The replay saw The Whites through to the fourth round. The only win in January came at Turf Moor; Marlon King’s stunning injury time volley cancelling out Burnley’s equaliser.

Onto February and Blues’ on-field fortunes were looking up with a loss to Watford the only blip. Comfortable wins over Nottingham Forest and Peterborough propelled Birmingham up the league and up to the dizzy heights of mid-table. The match against Forest was one of significance as it saw Alex McLeish’s first return to his old ground since he joined Villa from Blues in 2011. The reception he got was less than welcoming and Chris Burke, one of McLeish’s targets during the January window, fittingly scored both goals in a 2-1 win, thus achieving back-to-back wins for the first time under Clark’s reign. The Scottish winger was also on target at London Road against Peterborough in a 2-0 victory.

The month of March was undoubtedly a turning point for Lee Clark and his squad, fans harboured play-off ambitions once more and the form tables were led by Blues.  After victories over Derby and Middlesbrough this fine form undoubtedly peaked when Blues visited Selhust Park and ran out 4-0 winners, and on Sky too. Shane Ferguson’s sensational free-kick capped off the performance of the season, one that everyone connected with Birmingham City had a right to be proud of. I was one of the 1300 away fans on that Friday night and was in awe at an absolutely magnificent achievement of hammering the team with one of the best home records in the league.

Unfortunately Blues couldn’t carry that form onto the visit of Wolves, but if we had, who knows what could have transpired in the closing months of the season? We were within sight of the play-offs but after going three games without a win that dream seemed to be slipping away. But, after wins over Bristol City and Leeds, Blues went into the final two games of the season still within mathematical reach of sixth place. But an altogether anti-climactic finish to the campaign ensured that Birmingham City finished 12th place in the Championship, seven points of the play-off places and seven points from the relegation zone. Fifteen wins, fifteen draws and sixteen losses. We couldn’t have finished more mid-table if we had tried.

Lee Clark has my praise for assuring safety and another season in the second-tier of English football. Next season however, with the tightening of the wage budget and increased instability off the field, could prove an even tougher task.

Written by Shane Ireland, We Are Going Up’s Birmingham City blogger

Shane tweets at @_ShaneIreland

Patience: Thorn Out

Monday, August 27th, 2012

After Birmingham City’s start to the season we have to hope that we are going up because there isn’t much below us in the Championship at the moment.

Blues sit 22nd in the table, and Lee Clark’s solitary point as manager came via an injury time Nicola Zigic goal at home to Charlton on the opening day. This is not a good return from a side that finished in the playoffs last season and acquited themselves well in the Europa League. However, we have not seen any signs of panicking by the board yet, and the fans that I speak to remain optimistic that Clark can deliver a season that’s more focused on clambering out of the division than dropping through it.

But this afternoon my attention has been piqued by happenings just a few junctions down the M6 (not least because we play Coventry in the League Cup on Tuesday night.) Coventry City’s Board have sacked their manager Andy Thorn (pictured) after three consecutive draws to open the season. What does it say about that Board’s judgement that they judged the manager to be the right person to take them back up after relegation and left him in post all summer, only to panic after 3 games when although they haven’t set the division on fire, they are still unbeaten?

Birmingham fans have our fair share of chancer owners and clueless muppeters in charge but we’ve never have a board do something this dopey aside from Brady and the Sullivans allowing Steve Bruce to pay £4.25 million plus Andy Johnson for Clinton Morrison, which given that Johnson was subsequently sold for £8.6 million valued Morrison at  £12.85 million. This sacking is surely an omission of an aggregious failure of judgement on the Coventry board’s part to dump their manager so soon into the season.

We have three home games in the next four so hopefully, we’ll start to see Blues climb into the middle of the pack but even if we don’t I hope the board are more patient with Clark than our neighbours were with Thorn.

For a start he’s got a better pedigree, I like to think there’s something to be read into the Football League record 43 match unbeaten streak (excluding playoffs) he managed Huddersfield Town to. We’ve also shown battling qualities by scoring late goals in two of our three league games, the only concern is the age of the squad.

We have plenty of promising youngsters not least Jack Butland, Nathan Redmond and Ravel Morrison (on loan from West Ham) but there are a number of players for whom their twenties are but a fading memory. Obviously club captain Stephen Carr is one of these, but so too are Stephen Caldwell, Pablo Ibanez, Wade Elliott, Marlon King, Zigic and even two of the new signings, Hayden Mullins and Peter Lovenkrands are both 32 plus. They bring experience but it is not a massive squad and we do not know if can they handle the arduous Championship season.

Written by James Dixon, We Are Going Up’s Birmingham City blogger.

James tweets at @thejamesdixon

Project Promotion Achieved!

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Huddersfield Town finally delivered on their potential in 2011-12, winning promotion on a gloriously sunny day at Wembley in perhaps the most bizarre and dramatic penalty shootout in recent years. The season started with many fans, myself included, expecting the team to finish in the top two under the stewardship of Lee Clark. Instead, what we got was a record unbeaten run, a change of manager and a record breaking striker. 2011-12 was, for Huddersfield Town, a rollercoaster season.

After a low key preseason, which involved no home games due to the Galpharm Stadium pitch being relayed, the season got off to an equally low key start. Draws in the first three games was not the start we had been hoping for, and immediately put us six points behind eventual runaway leaders Charlton Athletic. However, four wins out of the next five matches, including a remarkable 3-0 victory at Bramall Lane, saw the Terriers shoot up to third in the table, and really ignite the fans’ hopes for a successful season. However, the team never really put together a lengthy run of victories to put pressure on Charlton at the top of the table, and just seemed to drop points in disappointing games. The amount of two goal leads (and a three goal one!) we threw away to drop points was unbelievable, and saw the team fall further and further behind The Addicks, who just kept putting those three points on the board. We were, however, keeping that unbeaten run going, and drawing our way into the record books!

That run started, fittingly, on January 1st 2011 with a 2-2 draw at Brunton Park against Carlisle United. Terriers fans will not be surprised to read that we were 2-0 ahead in that game! The run ended at 43 games, which comprised twenty five wins and eighteen draws. In the end, it was the best team in the division that ended the run. Chris Powell’s Charlton side easily brushed Town aside as they recorded a 2-0 win which put them seven points clear at the top of the table. It may also have set the wheels in motion for Clark’s demise. He did last another eleven games, until a disappointing 0-1 home defeat to Sheffield United left the club in fourth place, four points behind the Blades in second, who still had a game in hand. Clark was dismissed by chairman Dean Hoyle, who claimed that he had lost faith in Clark’s ability to get us into the top two, and also lost faith that he would succeed in the playoffs at the third time of asking.

It was a brave, some at the time said foolish, decision, and one that would only be justified if the new manager achieved promotion. That new manager was Simon Grayson, himself harshly sacked from his hometown club Leeds United less than three weeks before. He was installed as the new Huddersfield Town manager just five days after Clark was sacked, which does suggest that his availability maybe influenced the chairman’s decision somewhat.

Grayson had sixteen games to deliver the promotion that everyone connected with the club was desperate for. His regular league games in charge have yielded seven wins and five draws, but did also see us lose three league games in a row without scoring, the first time for nearly two years that this has happened. Grayson did, however, deliver a fourth place finish, and a playoff with MK Dons. An impressive performance in the first leg at Stadium: MK saw the Terriers triumph thanks to goals from an expected, and a wholly unexpected source. Jordan Rhodes glanced in a Lee Novak cross to put Town ahead before right back Jack Hunt sealed a 2-0 win with a left footed shot in the 73rd minute.

That first leg win rendered the second leg a little bit redundant, especially when Rhodes notched his fortieth of an amazing personal season in the first half to make it 3-0 on aggregate. MK Dons did end up winning the match 2-1, with Alan Smith heading the winner in stoppage time. So, it would be Town v Sheffield United at Wembley for a place in English football’s second tier. The 120 minutes of football were not great for the watching neutral I imagine, but the twenty minutes or so of penalties were the most dramatic minutes of the season. It was a whole season’s worth of emotion wrapped up in twenty two spot kicks. After missing our first three kicks, there was not a Town fan present who thought we could turn it around. However, Sheffield United missed two of their first three, and thankfully our boys then smashed home the next eight penalties, the last one taken by young goalkeeper Alex Smithies, who was only playing because Ian Bennett broke a finger in the second leg against MK Dons. Steve Simonsen took the fateful last penalty, and blazed it over the bar to send the Terriers’ faithful into delirium. The scenes of jubilation on the pitch and in the stands was a sight to behold, and is without doubt my finest memory in football. I must pay tribute to the Sheffield United players who came to the Town fans and applauded us at the end of the game. Absolute class gesture.

This season was also the season that Jordan Rhodes really made his name in English football. He had already got a reputation as a prolific goalscorer, banging in forty five goals in his first two seasons with the club. However, a forty goal return, including an incredible thirty six league goals, has put him firmly on the radar of clubs in the Championship and Premier League. Depending on which rumours you read, Mr Hoyle has already turned down offers in the region of £4-6million. However, now we are in the Championship, there is an optimism amongst fans that JR might hang around for another season.

Special tribute from me, and I’m sure every single Town fan, goes to our chairman Dean Hoyle. He has put in so much of his own money to drive the club forward and to see the unbridled joy on his face at the end was truly heartwarming. He is one of us; a fan, a season ticket holder before he was the owner, and unquestionably the man to take us forward.

Honourable mentions also should go to Messrs Ken Davy and Lee Clark. Mr Davy, who owns the Huddersfield Giants Rugby League club, bought the football club when it was on it’s deathbed after the horrific reign of Barry Rubery. He steadied the ship and although the end of his six year reign was acrimonious and he is not held in particularly high esteem by the majority of Town fans, without him we would have no club to support. As for Clark, he started us out on this road to the Championship, and there was a lot of love for him on twitter in the hours after the playoff final.

So, onto next season. The aim? Well, obviously, the cliche is to survive, but I think a midtable position is achievable, and if we can keep Rhodes, that should definitely be the target. Onwards and upwards! Bring on the Championship!

Written by James Bartaby, We Are Going Up’s Huddersfield Town blogger

James tweets at @jamesb5374

Clark Out, But Who Comes In?

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Huddersfield Town have sacked their manager Lee Clark, along with his entire backroom staff. Academy manager Mark Lillis will take control of the first team until a new manager is appointed. This has led to opinion being divided amongst Terriers fans, and most pundits and observers are condemning Town Chairman Dean Hoyle for the decision. Let’s face it, it’s not as if Town are in crisis. Fourth in the league at the time of the dismissal, and looking good for at least a play-off place.

However, this might be the problem. The play-offs. Clark has led Town to a play-off finish for each of the last two seasons, and then seen his side beaten. Hoyle has made it quite clear that promotion is a must this season, and he has ploughed an awful lot of money in for a League One club. As it stands, after defeat to Sheffield United in Clark’s final match in charge, the play-offs now seem the most likely outcome for Town, and Hoyle must feel that Clark doesn’t have what it takes to get a team promoted this way.

The whole situation is a mess. Reading the comments on Twitter and message boards, the rumours are that Hoyle wasn’t even in the country and Clark got sacked in a thirty-second phone call from a board member. If this is true, it is a little shoddy to say the least. Lee Clark has reportedly turned down job offers from higher division clubs, most notably Leicester City, to stay at Town, and then to be treated like this is going to sting. There are also stories circulating that Clark has been applying for jobs without the club’s knowledge, and that this has angered the board. He has been heavily linked with the vacancy at neighbours Leeds United, and the rumour mill suggests that he was blocked from applying for it. Whatever has happened, and more will no doubt be revealed over the coming days, it would appear that relations between Clark and Hoyle have deteriorated rapidly.

According to the official statement on Huddersfield’s website, Dean Hoyle said the following:

“This was a very difficult decision; one not taken lightly or in response to one result. Concerns have been raised over recent weeks.”

This surely means that the club have someone lined up to take the job? Or at least someone in mind? And if he’s been thinking about it for several weeks, why wait until a fortnight after the winter transfer window has closed to pull the trigger? And why let Clark sign three players during said window?! The good thing is that there is time to get a new man in, as Town don’t have a game until February 25th due to the FA Cup.

So, onto the topic of who will replace Clark as manager of Huddersfield Town. Two former Terriers managers, Steve Bruce and Neil Warnock, have been linked, although neither will get it in my opinion. Simon Grayson, Billy Davies, and Phil Brown are also on the shortlist, according to reports, and Sky Sports are running a story on their website linking MK Dons boss Karl Robinson with the job, but I don’t put much credence in that particular rumour.

Out of those listed, Simon Grayson, would be my first choice. I would ideally like Sean O’Driscoll, but I am not too sure he would leave his relatively new post at Nottingham Forest. However, the lure of another chance as a manager might be too good to turn down should it present itself. Grayson, though, would be favourite for me. Yes, he managed our most hated rivals, but he did a magnificent job at Elland Road, taking the club from League One to the higher echelons of the Championship. He was working in difficult circumstances too, with players being sold out from under him and not being given much money to spend. At a forward thinking club with an ambitious young chairman, he might fulfil his potential.

Imagine the headlines: Huddersfield and Leeds swap managers!

I was initially shocked and saddened by the sacking, but the right appointment would alleviate any disappointment among Terriers fans. Let’s just hope Dean Hoyle has got this decision right and, more importantly, gets the replacement right.

Written by James Bartaby, We Are Going Up’s Huddersfield Town blogger

James tweets at @jamesb5374

Hands Off!

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Over the last few weeks, Huddersfield Town fans have endured media and press reports linking manager Lee Clark with the managerial vacancy at Leicester City. Thankfully, nothing came of it and Clark remains at The Galpharm. However stories are now emerging linking Scottish international striker Jordan Rhodes with a move away from the club. While on one hand it is nice to have other clubs covet Town players and the manager as it shows they are doing something right, it isn’t half annoying!

Lee Clark has recently said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph that he had talks with Leicester City, but opted to stay at Huddersfield as he has unfinished business. He also said that he owed a lot to club owner Dean Hoyle, who could easily have got rid of him after a second failed promotion attempt. Currently, Clark has overseen a phenomenal unbeaten run of forty two regular league games, equalling the great Nottingham Forest side of the late seventies under the legendary Brian Clough. In fact, Clark has delivered a better run, as he has 24 wins and 18 draws, while Forest got 21 wins and 21 draws.

Unbeaten run aside though, it is surprising he was apparently Leicester City’s first choice as Sven’s replacement. He has only been a manager for three years, having been appointed at The Galpharm in December 2008. He has failed to win promotion in his two full seasons in charge and his only real achievement so far is that unbeaten run. Impressive though the run is, does that mean he should be favourite for a club pushing for promotion to the Premier League? Don’t get me wrong, I am a massive Clark fan and hope he stays for years to come, but it did surprise me just how much he was linked with The Foxes.

He definitely made the right decision in terms of his career though. Had he had gone to Leicester and failed to get them promoted, he would undoubtedly have been shown the door, and that could have had a huge detrimental effect on his fledgling managerial career. There is no guarantee that Hoyle will dispense with him if Town don’t achieve promotion.

There is no surprise Jordan Rhodes is being linked with a January move after his recent form and Town fans everywhere will be praying he does not leave. He has recently become a full Scottish international, making his debut as a substitute in their away game to Cyprus last week. He has also become the Under-21′s joint all-time top scorer this season, netting six times.

The big worry about the stories linking Rhodes with a move surround the fee. Certain reports have said he has a release clause in his contract of just £2million. Town have refuted those claims, with Lee Clark telling the Daily Record that amount wouldn’t even buy Rhodes’ socks! It is easy to agree with Clark on that one, Rhodes has to be worth a lot more than that fee, especially if he scores the goals to fire Town into the Championship. Ironically, perhaps both manager and player’s futures at Huddersfield depend on the goals Rhodes scores between now and the end of the season.

Written by James Bartaby, We Are Going Up’s Huddersfield Town blogger

James tweets at @jamesb5374

All Rhodes lead to Scotland

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

He is Huddersfield Town’s main man, the Terriers’ biggest goal threat who recently notched his 50th goal for the club. Now Jordan Rhodes has announced himself on the international stage with his first goals for the Scotland Under 21′s.. He has now played five times for the U21′s with five goals to his name. All five strikes have come in his last two appearances – a hat-trick in a 5-1 win in Luxembourg and  both goals in a 2-2 draw with Austria.

It’s a cracking return for the 21-year-old Oldham born striker and he must now be on the verge of a call up to the full national team. In fact there is a train of thought that if the U21 games had been last week, he could easily have been on the plane to Spain with the senior Scottish team.

It is reward for a superb career at Huddersfield during which time he has scored 51 times in just over two seasons. Lee Clark had chased Rhodes, then at Ipswich Town, throughout summer 2009 before finally persuading Roy Keane to part with the player for the now obligatory “undisclosed fee” and what a signing he has been for the club. With an almost one-in-two strikerate, he is easily the most prolific striker at the club, and one of the most prolific in the Football League.

This season he has scored six times in ten appearances but funnily enough all of them have been braces, against Colchester United and Brentford in League One – plus a double against Cardiff City in the Carling Cup. Rhodes’ first against Brentford was his fiftieth for the club, and came against a team he had a loan spell at from Ipswich in 2009. During his time at Griffin Park, he netted seven goals in fourteen games. Again, an impressive strikerate of one in two.

He is certainly destined to play at a much higher level, and whether that is with Huddersfield Town remains to be seen. If the club don’t get promotion this season it will be extremely hard to keep hold of him and even if they go up, Lee Clark is sure to be fending off potential suitors during the summer. He is a top-quality striker who can definitely rise up the divisions and keep banging the goals in.

As for international honours, he must be in with a great chance of a full Scotland call up sooner rather than later. The current squad has includes Craig Mackail-Smith, a striker who was capped whilst a frequent goalscorer in League One for Peterborough United. Rhodes has to fancy his chances of breaking into the squad in the next couple of years, I just hope he’s a Terrier when he does!

Written by James Bartaby, We Are Going Up’s Huddersfield Town blogger

James tweets at @jamesb5374

The next ten games….

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

As an exiled Terrier living in Greater London, I don’t get to too many Town matches, but I did make my seasonal trip to Griffin Park recently to see Lee Clark’s boys dismantle Uwe Rosler’s Brentford, running out comfortable 4-0 winners. This result extended the club’s record unbeaten run to 36 league games. Some fans dispute it because of the playoff final defeat last season, but it doesn’t count as it was a cup game! There were no points on offer, so it can’t be brought into the equation when talking about this feat. Otherwise, you would be able to say that the unbeaten run ended with defeat at Cardiff in the Carling Cup, a competition which is also run by the Football League. Anyway, I digress!

They are ten matches away from going a full season’s worth of league games without losing, a remarkable feat if they pull it off. I want to take a look at the run in more detail and offer up some comparisons between this season and last. In the 36 games, there have been twenty wins and sixteen draws, totalling 76 points taken. Most Town fans have said that the team have drawn too many games during the run and that stat seems to back the claim up. However, if you look at the League One table after 36 games last season, Town had 63 points, some thirteen less than they have taken while on this epic run.

Of course, statistics can be used to prove any point, and I don’t see the world through Blue and White tinted glasses. Town have drawn a lot away from home because in a number of those draws they were one or two goals ahead and ended up throwing the points away. The  first game in the run was away to Carlisle United where the Terriers drew 2-2 after being two goals up. It has happened so often, it is starting to become routine!

Comparing the league table after 36 games last season with the current run is somewhat erroneous, as the two overlap, but it was only to serve as an indication. If you look at the tables from this and last season at this point, it makes for interesting reading. Last season after eleven games, Brighton were already top with 22 points, whereas this year Charlton have 27 at the summit. As for Town, this season they currently sit fifth with 21 points from eleven matches, four points and one place better off than last season. Further proof to back up the claim Town have drawn too many games comes thanks to Sheffield Wednesday, who are currently one place and one point above. They have lost three games already this season but are where they are thanks to winning all their home games.

Looking ahead to Huddersfield’s next ten games, what are the chances of maintaining this run? There are only two obvious games where you would maybe expect us them to come unstuck – away games at Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday and a tricky home match against Preston North End. Of course all games are difficult, but there are home games against Stevenage, Walsall, Notts County and Bournemouth, which are all winnable. Trips to Exeter, Yeovil and Scunthorpe complete the next ten, and if Lee Clark’s men could get seven wins and a draw, they would be right on track.

Last season, Huddersfield accrued 87 points, which would have sealed automatic promotion for each of the seventeen previous seasons, but for Southampton’s excellent form. That same total should be enough to achieve at least second place this time around. Whether Town can reach that target is another matter. I believed at the start of the season that there wasn’t going to be a team that would run away with the league and I stand by that even though Charlton have opened up a five point gap. Instead, there is a lot more strength in depth this year than in previous seasons and at least six clubs in with a genuine shout of automatic promotion, funnily enough they are all in the top six already. It could go right to the final day of the season.

As for Huddersfield Town, most fans expect this to be Lee Clark’s last attempt at promotion before chairman Dean Hoyle decides he has to try something new. Clark has done well, improving the club’s position each season, but two successive play-off heartbreaks have piled the pressure on this season. Whether he and his team can finally deliver on their potential remains to be seen.

Written by James Bartaby, We Are Going Up’s Huddersfield Town blogger

James tweets at @jamesb5374

Glass Half Empty Or Half Full?

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Huddersfield Town have now played three games in this season’s League One, and have drawn all three.

It’s not a brilliant start for the team that many people, including me, have predicted as winners of the division come next May. As the title suggests, there are two ways of looking at it. On the one hand, we are stretching our unbeaten run in regular league games. This run now stands at a very impressive 28, the last defeat coming at Southampton way back on December 28th 2010. On the other hand, of course, we haven’t won in the league yet this season, and if you count the playoffs last season, that is now six draws and a defeat in the last seven games. Our last league win was the 3-2 victory at Brighton, who were already champions at the time, so you could argue they had taken their foot off the gas.

All this makes the weekend’s game at home to Colchester United a must win game, even at this early stage of the season. Town are now already six points behind the leaders, and while it is way too early to start worrying too much, Brighton showed last season that it is possible to get clear early on and stay top for the whole season. Now, just to add to the pessimism side of things, the last time Town won a home league game at 3pm on a Saturday was also all the way back before last Christmas on December 11th! The team they beat? Again, it was Brighton, a 2-1 victory.

One thing is true in football, though: all runs, good or bad, have to come to an end sometime. So, we will probably either lose, and end our record unbeaten run, or we will win and kick start our season. Looking at last season’s match with The U’s, it took place on a Saturday, at three o’clock. And the score? 0-0. A fourth consecutive draw on the cards then! The most annoying thing is that we’ve taken the lead three times so far this season, but not held on to it. Obviously that has to change, and quickly.

There is a few possible reasons for the winless start. There have been eight new players coming in over the summer. Two of those were on loan last season, and have returned to the club, so that leaves six new faces that have to be integrated into the club and the team. It can take time for new players to gel with their new colleagues, and I personally think this is the main reason for the slow start. There are fans who have been losing faith in the management for a while now, even though the team are unbeaten in so long. The main grumble seems to be the constant change in team selection and formation, which obviously isn’t going to get the best out of your players. Having said that, Lee Clark has steered the team to within ninety minutes of promotion. In the second half of last season, it did seem that there was more consistency in tactics, and the general consensus was that we should make a real push for a top two finish this season.

To answer the question in the title, then: my glass is half full, I am fully behind Lee Clark and his players, and am sure Saturday will bring our first win of the league campaign. Our season will be bang on track then and we won’t look back in our charge into the Championship! I hope…

Written by James Bartaby, We Are Going Up’s Huddersfield Town Blogger

James tweets at @jamesb5374

Third Time Lucky?

Friday, July 29th, 2011

The upcoming season is vital for Huddersfield Town. After playoff heartbreak in the last two seasons, it is do or die in 2011-12. Manager Lee Clark has come so close, especially last season, to getting promotion to the Championship, and you might even say that this will be his last chance before chairman Dean Hoyle decides that he has to try something new.

On the transfer front, two big players have left The Galpharm. Lee Peltier signed for Sven’s Foxes, and Anthony Pilkington joined Premier League new boys Norwich City. Both transfers represented huge profits on the fees originally paid for them by Clark, which certainly looks good on not only Lee Clark’s CV as a manager who can develop young talent and turn a profit for his employer, but also makes the club attractive to young players looking to get a good start in the game.

Incoming, Town have signed seven players so far, five permanently and two on loan. The most exciting of the new arrivals is that of 21 year old attacking midfielder Donal McDermott, who has joined from Manchester City on a two year deal. He is well known to Terriers fans, as he played a starring role in last season’s playoff semi final for Bournemouth against Town, scoring a twenty five yard screamer to level the tie in the first leg.

Also joining up with the squad are defender Calum Woods, midfielders Tommy Miller and Oscar Gobern, centre back Liam Cooper on loan from Hull City, and Danny Ward for a “six figure sum” from Bolton Wanderers. The winger enjoyed a superb loan spell at Huddersfield in the second half of last season, and his signing could be one of the best bits of business that the club do this summer. Damien Johnson, who was on loan from Plymouth Argyle last season, has rejoined on a season long loan from Home Park. His continued presence will add competition and strength to central midfield.

So who are all these players? Well, Woods is a product of Liverpool’s famous youth academy, but he failed to make the grade and was signed by Dunfermline Athletic in 2006 on a free transfer. He went on to make well over a hundred appearances in his five years with The Pars before moving to West Yorkshire, also on a free transfer. He helped Dunfermline win the Scottish First Division last season, and with it promotion to the SPL. Town will be hoping for him to bring similar success to the club!

Oscar Gobern is a twenty year old, left footed midfielder. He stands at 6’3” tall, so should bring some much needed strength and dominance to midfield, something which has been lacking on occasion in the past. He prefers to play in the centre, but can also play out wide, although being so tall, he is likely to be more effective in the middle of the park. Also in midfield, highly experienced 32 year old Tommy Miller has joined on a free from Sheffield Wednesday. With over 400 games to his name he will bring a cool head and experience of the Championship and League One which will be invaluable to the younger players like Gobern and McDermott.

The final signing to date is the loan capture of teenage centre back Liam Cooper on a season long loan from Hull City. A Scottish international at U17 and U19 level, he will provide cover for the first choice central defenders Peter Clarke and Jamie “Boom Boom” McCombe.

So, that’s the transfer business up to date. What about the competition? Well, in the past few seasons there has always been one or two teams that were obvious favourites to go up. The likes of Leeds Utd, Leicester City, Southampton, Nottingham Forest and Norwich City have all been in the third tier in recent years. This season, though, there isn’t an opposition side that I would say are definitely going to finish above us this season.

Sure, the likes of Preston North End and both Sheffield clubs will probably beg to differ, but I genuinely feel we are the best bet for going up automatically, maybe even as champions.

Time will tell. Bring on the new season!

Written by James Bartaby, We Are Going Up’s Huddersfield Town Blogger

James tweets at @jamesb5374