David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Simon Grayson’

Big man little man partnership can fire PNE to promotion

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

KDaviesSean Gregan, Jon Macken, David Eyres, Ryan Kidd.

Names that bring back not-too-distant memories of Preston North End’s most successful period in recent history.

All were back in the famous Lilywhite shirt this week for a legends charity match at local non-league side Bamber Bridge’s Irongate ground.

Gregan’s shirt untucked swagger, Eyres’s jinks back inside, Macken’s goal from distance – some things never change.

These days at Deepdale, it is sometimes difficult to keep up with the comings and goings.

Once a model Championship club who promoted coaches from within, owned its own redeveloped stadium, and seemingly ran a tight ship based on stability: North End have been sucked into the same black hole of debt and indifference that has cut many proud clubs down to size in the last decade.

This year, however, there is a sense of optimism around the town which is pretty easy to explain.

The current PNE squad may not yet be back to the quality and recognisable names of Gregan and co, but the announcement of Kevin Davies as the big summer signing was a major coup for any club in League One.

It is a long time since a summer signing excited and energised the suffering Deepdale faithful. The plan of teaming Davies’ guile, knowhow, strength and above all, goals, with Iain Hume’s pace, tenacity and craft – if that is what Simon Grayson will do – is a potent one.

On the subject of the manager, there is further positivity. He has a track record of getting underachieving clubs with history, tradition, pedigree and big home crowds, like Leeds and Huddersfield, promoted. He also did the same at Blackpool.

Those associations with rival clubs shouldn’t count against him if, as hoped, he guides Preston to a top six finish this season.

There’ll be plenty of competition, though.

Like the Championship, most of the managers will be quoted as saying this league is the “hardest to get out of”. That’s underlined by the trend that no more than one team has bounced back to the second tier after relegation in the last nine out of 10 seasons.

Big city clubs like Wolves and Bristol City are hotly tipped to slot immediately back into the Championship. Free-scoring and free-conceding Peterborough will inevitably win more games 5-4 that they’ll lose 1-0.

Uwe Rosler’s Brentford should recover from play-off heartache to mount a challenge and how Sheffield United are still at this level with their intimidating home crowds, is a mystery perhaps explained by mismanagement and end of season yipps. Swindon – minus maverick boss Paolo Di Canio – still have the quality to do some damage.

For Preston, Grayson has said his squad is more about quality than quantity, adding only speedy winger Chris Hunphrey and strong centre half Tom Clarke to the signing of Davies.

Another aspect of this coming season that gets the blood flowing is a cracking set of opening fixtures.

After a sell-out 21,000 crowd for a home friendly with Liverpool during pre-season, North End have kick-off their campaign against promotion favourites Wolves on the first day of the season followed by a televised derby with The Lashers two days later in the Capital One League Cup.

It is a depressing sign of the fickle times that if Grayson wins these two fixtures his name will be bouncing around the stadium with chants of ‘We Are Going Up’ – yet lose these two and we’ll be certs for the drop, with the manager labelled a ‘Blackpool spy’.

Grayson oversaw a solid end to the previous season after the outspoken incendiary reign of ego-on-a-stick Graham Westley, guiding us clear of relegation and certain doom.

He’s also avoided the wholesale changes of his Teflon-coated predecessor, resulting in a settled, if not spectacular, pre-season work-out.

All bodes well at Preston North End for a season challenging at the top end of League One. Maybe next time we see the likes of Sean Gregan and his mates, it will be as guests of honour at the end of season promotion party.

Written by Sam Chadderton, We Are Going Up’s Preston North End Blogger

Sam tweets at @samchadderton

 

One year on: The disastrous reign of ‘Messiah’ Warnock

Monday, February 18th, 2013

It was Saturday 18th February 2012 when Neil Warnock was appointed as the man to lead Leeds United back to the promised land of the Premier League. Leeds were facing Doncaster Rovers at Elland Road as Warnock watched his new side from the stands, only to witness a 1-0 deficit at half-time to one of the divisions relegation battlers. He took it on himself to delegate second half tactics on the team, going down to the dressing room to make the needed amendments. Leeds won the game 3-2, and Warnock was presented as this fallen giant’s saviour. One year on, it looks much bleaker.

After being dumped out of the FA Cup through Sunday’s 4-0 thrashing by Manchester City, Leeds are left in Championship mid-table mediocrity with chances of a play-off finish slowly diminishing. But where has it gone oh-so-wrong for Warnock, the man described as a promotion Messiah?

Warnock succeeded the popular Simon Grayson, who had taken the club to the cusp of the promotion places, yet a weak winter period led Ken Bates to wield the axe. With seven promotions to his name already, Warnock was the perfect replacement.
But things rarely work out in football, especially at Leeds United.

The remainder of the season was a disaster. Leeds plummeted down the league places, with a string of embarrassing results, the worst a club record 7-3 home defeat to Nottingham Forrest. Leeds ended the campaign in the wilderness of 14th position.

The close season became one of much uncertainty, with a prospective takeover not being completed during the summer. Warnock was left relying on mainly free transfers, and a bizarre advert for the clubs new home shirt, to invigorate the fans. However, after an opening day 1-0 over recently relegated Wolves, it seemed as if Warnock was waving his magic wand over Elland Road, and a promotion pushing season beckoned.

But the fantasy of a return to the high table of English football has all but gone.

Leeds sit in mid-table, eight points of the play-offs and eight points off relegation with some tough fixtures coming up. The much anticipated Warnock magic has failed to create the needed spark. The heavy reliance on Luciano Becchio’s goals was evident and after his January move to Norwich, the future looks dreary.

Warnock, who is still referred to by many Leeds supporters by an unaffectionate anagram of his name, seems to have run out of ideas. The style of play he has implemented on the team is out-dated, the long ball hoof being no-where near as effective as the ‘tippy-tappy’ pass-and-move style. In recent games, the Leeds faithful have cried “Warnock, change the team,” with the Leeds boss rarely making substitutions until the final minutes. Many saw the mid-week clash with Middlesbrough as a must win, yet Warnock’s lack on intent was questioned, by only making changes after the home side took the lead, in the 81st minute.

The decision to send Everton starlet Ross Barkley back to his parent club also baffled fans, a player who is said to go on to great things in the game, yet Warnock could not guarantee him games over the ageing Michael Brown.

In the FA Cup post-match interview, Warnock, who is contracted until the end of the current season, admitted the future of his job is dependent on promotion, but says he deserves a medal due to the background circumstances he has faced. Simon Grayson created a competitive decent Leeds outfit, even from the tiny funds from Bates’ tight fist, and he never complained. He claims to have brought ‘stability’ to the club, but Leeds are in a much worse situation in terms of the league positioning now than before he was appointed.

With play-off chances fading vastly, I only see one solution; Warnock needs to leave, now. His reign at Leeds has been built on false promises and poor results, and is now partnered with the loss of the fans’ faith. Although a top six finish is still mathematically possible, a new man needs to be at the helm.

With games still left of the season, a new manager would be able to assess the team and gain an idea of funds available from the clubs new owners, GFH Capital, for the next campaign. The likes of former Southampton boss Nigel Adkins, Swindon’s Paolo Di Canio and former Leeds assistant and current Brighton manager, Gus Poyet have all been touted for the role. All three would be a more popular choice than sticking with Warnock.

But for now, see thee later Neil, thanks for trying.

Written by Josh Westerman, We Are Going Up’s Leeds United blogger

Josh tweets @JoshuaWesterman

Town go for Robins

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Huddersfield Town have finally appointed a new manager, with Mark Robins taking the hot seat three weeks to the day after Simon Grayson was sacked. Robins joins after leaving his job at Coventry City, where he had been in charge for just five months. In that short time though, he took the Sky Blues from the League One relegation zone to play-off contenders, taking 44 points from his 25 games in charge.

He has signed a rolling contract at the John Smiths Stadium, which strikes me as a bit odd from his point of view. For Huddersfield Town, it’s a great deal, as chairman Dean Hoyle won’t be faced with a hefty compensation bill if it doesn’t work out. For Robins, it’s a strange one. He was five months into a three year contract at the Ricoh Arena, so to ditch that security for the uncertainty of a rolling deal seems a little odd. Unless, of course, he will earn more in a year at Town than he would in three years at City! Either that, or he feels as though he had to leave City after expressing his desire to join Town.

Hoyle always maintained that he wouldn’t rush into an appointment, and the fact that he has taken three weeks suggests that he is finally happy with the chosen candidate. After all, he has paid a “six figure sum” to release Robins from his Coventry contract. And considering some of the managers that were linked to the club are out of work (Adkins, Coyle, Nicky Butt), he must be confident that Robins is his man, especially after paying somewhere between a hundred grand and a quid short of a million for his services!

There is no doubting Robins’ credentials. He did an outstanding job at Rotherham, almost leading them to promotion in 2008-09 despite starting the season with a seventeen point deduction. He spent two and a half years at the club, before moving to South Yorkshire rivals Barnsley, where it’s fair to say that things didn’t go quite as smoothly. Having said that, he did keep the Tykes in the Championship, but he resigned at the end of the 2010-11 season, citing differences with the board as the reason for his departure.

He was out of work for sixteen months before Coventry took a chance on him earlier this season, and he has shown the potential that was evident in his time at Rotherham. Thirteen wins and five draws have followed from his twenty five matches in charge, and he has also taken the club to the area final of the Football League Trophy, and a glamour tie at Arsenal in the League Cup, not to mention a trip to White Hart Lane in the FA Cup. City are understandably furious that Robins has left, considering he was out of work for a considerable amount of time before they hired him.

He has plenty of experience in the dugout, with over 250 games to his name, and a very decent win ratio of just over 40%. His first game in charge will be in front of the ITV cameras on Sunday, when Town host Premier League side Wigan Atheltic in the FA Cup fifth round. It would be a hell of a start to his tenure if he led the club into the quarter final for the first time in over forty years!

So, how do I feel about the appointment? Erm, well, a little bit “meh” to be honest. I mean, it’s not exactly an appointment that gets the pulse racing. I’m not overcome with excitement like I might have been with, say, Nigel Adkins. But then I’m not completely outraged like I would have been if Gary Megson had got the job! Having said that, I am now completely behind him, as he is now one of ours. It might be a good thing that it’s not a particularly high profile appointment; there is less hype around the appointment, and hopefully he can just go about his job quietly, and get us up the Championship table.

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

James tweets at @jamesb5374

Shut That Door! On Your Way Out!

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Huddersfield Town chairman Dean Hoyle has seen fit to dispense with the services of manager Simon “Larry” Grayson, with the Terriers dropping like a stone in the Championship table. Grayson was in charge for just eleven months, overseeing forty nine matches in that time. Despite delivering the promotion that Hoyle so desperately wanted, Grayson’s team only won seventeen matches, a win percentage of just 34%.

Grayson’s dismissal doesn’t come as a surprise considering the terrible run of form and performances of late. The team have not won in twelve league matches, although they did win at Charlton in the FA Cup third round. They now sit in eighteenth place in the Championship, with a seven point cushion between themselves and the bottom three. Now, if you’d said to me at the start of the season that with eighteen games to go we would be in this position, I would have gladly taken it. As a newly promoted side, I, and the vast majority of Town fans, was under no illusions about how tough the division would be. However, considering the start to the season, and the horrific run we are in, the sacking was somewhat inevitable I’m afraid.

The big rumour doing the rounds amongst supporters is obviously regarding Grayson’s successor. The main name in said rumours is that of one Nigel Adkins. He of course was harshly sacked by Southampton recently, and is the man most Terriers’ supporters, including myself, want in the home dugout at the John Smiths Stadium. Whether Adkins will want to jump straight back in is another matter, not to mention what the conditions of his severance say.

When Hoyle sacked Lee Clark last February, he appointed Grayson within five days, leading most people to assume that he dispensed with Clark because Grayson was available. The same is now being applied to our current situation. Is Adkins interested, and is that then the reason that the trigger was pulled this week?

Grayson’s last match in charge was last Saturday’s 4-0 humbling at Watford, yet he was only sacked five days later. This would indicate that the chairman has someone lined up ready to come in, just like he did last February. Otherwise why wait nearly a week to make the decision? Surely he would have done it after the match or on Sunday/Monday morning rather than wait until two days before the next match?

When Clark was sacked, Grayson was my second choice to take over, with Sean O’Driscoll the first choice. So when O’Driscoll was canned by Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day, I was kind of hoping Hoyle would have acted then and got the former Doncaster manager on board. Now, Adkins is my clear favourite, with Owen Coyle in second place. Funnily enough, that is how the bookies currently have it too. Maybe they are just the two best managers who are unemployed currently! Paolo Di Canio is high up in the odds too, but I am hoping that doesn’t come to fruition!

Whoever takes the job, it’s a really good one. A decent club with a brilliant stadium, and a chairman who is a lifelong fan, and isn’t afraid to back his manager in the transfer market. Yes, his two managerial dismissals while at the helm could be questioned, there is no doubt he will give a manager a chance to build at the club. He gave Clark more than three years in the job, so his reputation shouldn’t be tarnished by only giving Grayson eleven months.

Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you hope they will. Both Adkins and Coyle are hungry young gaffers, and I’m sure both would do very well with the club. If either one get the job, I would be a very happy Terrier!

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

James tweets at @jamesb5374

Terriers Getting Used To Life In Championship

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

After a less than impressive pre-season in which the team registered just one win (against Chesterfield!) in their seven matches, the season kicked off for Huddersfield Town with fans not daring to hope for anything more than survival in our first season back in the second tier after an eleven year absence. Yet a fantastic start to the season saw them take twenty points from the first eleven games, and be as high as second during that time. However, back to back hammerings at struggling Peterborough (3-1) and Millwall (4-0) have brought Town back down to earth with a bump.

It’s not the first time this season that Simon Grayson has had to suffer successive defeats. After brilliant 3-1 away wins at Hillsborough and Bloomfield Road, the Terriers were beaten at home by Watford and Leicester City. That was at the beginning of October, and they bounced back brilliantly with wins at Birmingham and at home over Wolves. Grayson will be hoping for a similar reaction from his players on Saturday November 3rd when they entertain Bristol City. Winless runs can become very difficult to turn around, and the manager will be hoping to put things right next time out. They managed it last time around, and I’m confident they can do it again.

That’s the beauty of this season’s Championship though, isn’t it? Anyone can beat anyone on any given weekend/midweek. And at least Town fans are being entertained, and we are seeing definitive results currently. Gone are the days of negative draws, and instead we are either winning or losing. We have only drawn two matches so far this term, compared to a ridiculous eighteen last season!

On the whole, though, it’s been a fabulous start to the season for Huddersfield. They’ve been especially good away from home, dominating but ultimately losing the first game of the season at Cardiff in front of the live cameras, and destroying Blackpool and Wednesday in their own backyards, the former again on the tellybox. And they don’t seem to be missing striker Jordan Rhodes either! James Vaughan and Jermaine Beckford, both on loan, are forming a really good looking partnership upfront, with both players scoring regularly, and the club have several million pounds in the bank to boot.

Bottom line, I said at the start of the season that I would be happy with a final position of around thirteenth to fifteenth, and that opinion certainly hasn’t changed because of a good start. The way I see it, we are twenty points closer to staying up!

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

James tweets at @jamesb5374

Bring It On!

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Well, here we go! The Championship 2012-13 season is upon us and I cannot wait! Just looking through the fixture list makes me go weak at the knees. Cardiff, Forest, Burnley, Ipswich. Those are our first four fixtures back in the second tier. Compare that to twelve months ago: Bury, Rochdale, Hartlepool, Colchester. Now, no offence to these clubs, but it’s another level entirely isn’t it?

Manager Simon Grayson has been busy in the summer months, bringing in exciting young talent such as Sean Scannell from Crystal Palace and Oliver Norwood from Manchester United, not forgetting Adam Clayton from Leeds United. Couple that with experienced campaigners like Keith Southern and Anthony Gerrard, and Grayson looks to have assembled a squad capable of survival at the very least. Obviously, the most important bit of business by the club was keeping Jordan Rhodes. Chairman Dean Hoyle has repeatedly said that he doesn’t need, want, or intend to sell the Scotland international, and so far he has stayed true to his word.

Rhodes certainly has plenty of suitors. Offers from West Ham, Fulham and Blackburn Rovers have all been rebuffed, with the latter being especially keen to get the player amid reports of offers up to £6m. That seems an awful lot of money for a striker only proven at third division level. However despite these mega offers, I am still confident that Rhodes will be a Terrier when we make the trip to Portman Road on September 1st, and that he will return to haunt his old club that day too.

Anyway, I digress. What are my hopes for the coming season? To still be a Championship club at the end of it, of course, but more than that. I hope that Grayson gets the chance to prove what he can do at this level after his tough times down the road at Leeds, I hope the fans get to see some absolutely cracking matches, both home and away, and I hope we will entertain the neutrals on the few occasions we are on the tellybox.

Most of all, though, I hope, nay I yearn, for midtable mediocrity! That will no doubt come across as the ramblings of a lunatic, but after three seasons of playoff rollercoasters, I would be delighted if next Easter we are somewhere around  twelfth or thirteenth, with no real hope of playoffs, or any fears of the drop. Now that would be nice!

If I were to make a prediction on our finishing position this season, I would go for somewhere around fifteenth. If we keep Rhodes, he will score goals at this level. With the likes of Scannell, Clayton, Norwood, Danny Ward and Lee Novak supplying and backing him up, we should see the net bulge on a regular basis once again.

Being back in the Championship after a decade of turmoil and uncertainty is a dream come true, and looking at the teams taking part this season, I think it is quite possibly the strongest Championship ever. There are perhaps fifteen clubs harbouring hopes, however slim, of promotion, including those promoted from League One, and three massive clubs that have come down from the top flight looking for an immediate return. It’s a brave man that puts his money on the 2012-13 Championship winner. I won’t be betting on it, that’s for sure! At the other end, there are maybe half a dozen teams expecting a tough relegation battle. If Town are somewhere in between, I’ll take that!

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

James tweets at @jamesb5374

Grayson begins rebuild

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Huddersfield Town manager Simon Grayson has wasted no time in beginning the overhaul of the squad in preparation for next season’s Championship campaign. Seven players have been released as they reach the end of their contracts, and there are likely to be a few leave for fees. Gary Naysmith, Gary Roberts, Danny Cadamarteri, Tommy Miller, Nathan Clarke, Aidan Chippendale and Simon Thomas have all been released, while new deals have been offered to striker Alan Lee, defender Tom Clarke plus goalkeepers Ian Bennett and Lloyd Atkinson.

The seven that have been released will certainly free up some of the wage bill, as Naysmith, Roberts, Cadamarteri and Miller will all have been on good contracts for League One. It’s mixed emotions in the Clarke family, as Huddersfield born brothers Nathan and Tom experience different emotions this summer. Gary Roberts had been linked with a move last summer, so it’s no surprise that he’s been refusing a new deal at the Galpharm, and I’m sure he will find himself a decent League One club for next term. Naysmith has been good for Town, but the emergence of Calum Woods at left back have limited his appearances, and we all wish him well in his attempts to get himself an employer for 2012/13. I’m sure there will be suitors.

Ian Bennett has been fantastic since joining in June 2010, and even though he is forty years of age, he definitely has Championship quality, and his experience will be invaluable next term. If I’m being honest, I am a little surprised that Alan Lee has been offered a new contract, as he does divide opinion like no other Town player I can ever remember. His supporters defend his style and scoring record, saying that he attracts defenders’ attention, therefore creating space for his teammates. His detractors say that he overuses his elbows and goes to ground way too easily for a man of his size. A lower league Emile Heskey, I guess you could say! There is no doubt that he is a battle hardened warrior who has been round the block a few times, so in that regard it maybe makes sense to keep him around for another season, especially as he has volunteered to take a fifty percent pay cut to stay on.

So, with seven released, and probably one or two sold to raise cash (not Rhodes!), who will be coming in this summer? The rumours are already starting up as you can imagine. We have a reputation as a club with money, so it stands to reason that we will be heavily linked with pretty much any player that becomes available. The positions that need attention are probably backups at full back, a central defender, midfielder and a forward, particularly if Jordan Rhodes is sold.

Damian Johnson could be the first new signing. The midfielder has spent the last two years of his Plymouth Argyle contract on loan at Town, as Argyle couldn’t afford to pay his wages. That contract has now expired, and he has been offered a permanent deal by Grayson. He has been largely excellent for us, and at 33 is another player whose experience will be crucial for next season. The first player most fans will be wanting to come to the club will be Sean Morrison. the centre back was on loan from Reading last season, and was fantastic in our promotion push. He became a firm fans’ favourite, and we all want to see him back on a permanent deal.

The newspapers are also linking Grayson with former Terrier Lee Peltier. The young defender/midfielder was sold by former manager Lee Clark to Leicester City last summer for £750,000 and the reported fee to re-sign him is around half a million. It’s a no brainer if there is any truth to the stories, as he was one of our better players. I would be delighted to see him back at the club. Defender Joel Lynch, of Nottingham Forest, is another name that Grayson is reported to be interested in bringing to West Yorkshire. The Welshman, who has been called up but not played for the national team, can play at left back or in central defence. However, injuries have limited his progress at the City Ground, and he has only averaged twenty appearances a season. A move and a fresh start could be just the ticket.

Jermaine Beckford is another name that has been strongly linked due to his links with Grayson. While he is a decent striker, and I welcomed the rumours on the podcast, I am now having serious reservations about him. He is only really proven at League One level, he hasn’t really impressed at Everton or Leicester. Also, I am not sure he is the best personality to have around either. However, Grayson obviously knows him and how to manage him, and he could be a decent signing.

While I have been writing this article, I have been logged into Twitter reading all the rumours going around. Names like Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Simeon Jackson are being bandied about, and if we could get Jackson I would be absolutely delighted. He’s proven at Championship level, and offers something completely different to what we already have. Taylor-Fletcher is a former Terrier, and while I liked him first time around, I would prefer we look elsewhere.

More and more names get linked all the time, and I’m sure there will be a fair few players going in and out of the club before the end of August!

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

James tweets at @jamesb5374

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

Grayson is the man for Town

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Huddersfield Town have appointed former Blackpool and Leeds United manager Simon Grayson as successor to the sacked Lee Clark. Grayson was dismissed by Leeds chairman Ken Bates on February 1st, and just nineteen days later has moved down the M62 to the Galpharm Stadium. Of course, due to him being a Leeds lad and fan, some Terriers supporters have reservations about him taking over, but I am not one of those fans; I am delighted with the appointment.

For me, there were only two candidates for the job; Grayson, and Sean O’Driscoll. Lots of talk circulated around a return for Neil Warnock, who won promotion via the playoffs in 1995 with Town, but I was uncomfortable with him returning. There is an old adage in football – never go back – and I fear that his reputation among Town fans may have been tarnished somewhat if things had gone badly this time around. Also, he has gone on record saying that he will retire at the end of next season. Hardly a long term appointment!

O’Driscoll was always going to be a tricky appointment, if in fact he was ever on Dean Hoyle’s shortlist in the first place. He is currently employed at Nottingham Forest as a first team coach, and therefore compensation would have to have been paid. The likely outcome, therefore, was to go for an unattached manager. Grayson is definitely the best of those managers. There was a rumour that Phil Brown was going to be given the job, but thankfully our chairman has more sense than that!

Why is Grayson the right man for the job? Simple, really. He has won promotion from League One with both clubs that he has managed. In 2007, his Blackpool side overcame Yeovil Town in the playoff final to gain promotion to the Championship. With Leeds, he went one better and achieved automatic promotion in 2010 after finishing second behind Norwich City. He also achieved a near fifty percent win rate while in charge at Elland Road.

Lee Clark’s dismissal was seen as a shock, as was Grayson’s nearly three weeks earlier. Interestingly, both club statements read very similarly: “With x games still to go, we feel that a new manager will be able to get us promoted.” Blah, blah, blah. On BBC Radio Leeds, Hoyle said the fact that Grayson was a Leeds fan didn’t make any difference and that as soon as he kisses the Town badge during his first game, the fans will take to him!

Yes, he’s a Leeds United fan. Yes, he was Leeds United’s manager until very recently. But none of that matters now. He is now Huddersfield Town’s manager, and all Terrier’s fans everywhere need to get behind him and the team, and let’s all hope he can deliver.

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