Against Tinpot Football

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I watched Huddersfield Town beat Newcastle Utd yesterday, on TV. It wasn’t the best match I’ve ever seen, but for a number of reasons – most pertinently the winning goal from Aaron Mooy – it will live long in the memory.

I’ve watched Huddersfield play before, I’ve sat through dreary third tier encounters with the famous blue and white shirts adorning the frames of men who neither care for, nor want to nourish the town, and cheered them every bit as loudly when they score.

But Huddersfield isn’t like that any more. The town and the Town are in sync. It’s a good thing; while Huddersfield isn’t in the dire straits it once was, it is a northern industrial town, and any way it can gain impetus and vibrancy is good. It can be hard.

Since the internet allowed people the right to comment on it, it has become a wasteland of points scoring about football teams. Liverpool and Manchester Utd fans occupy certain trenches, firing broadsides at one another to aggrandise themselves, and most other rivalries have an equally poisonous online presence. Around these, certain go-to buzzwords have sprung up, including the one I want to talk about – “tinpot”.

Yet there is another way. Both of those clubs have a positive fan culture, and inclusive, creative, witty and pleasant group of people who use the Internet for good.

I want to stress that because it is possible to fill your days with that and feel genuinely happy that such talented people share your interest, even if not your team. I’d love cricket to have such a wide range of creative supporters.

Anyway, back to ‘tinpot’. Ostensibly, the word comes from the idea of clubs that compete for lower level trophies, smaller attendances, fewer televised games and a longer distance from the glitz and glamour.

We saw Hartlepool’s third game of the season on BT Sport, at Maidenhead. There was a brass band playing the Grandstand theme in the background. It made me happy but to those keyboard warriors, that is undoubtedly ‘tinpot’.

Huddersfield are now in the Premier League. Things are different there to the Championship, we’re told, and ‘little old Huddersfield’ are too tinpot to participate.

I’ve seen so many aspects of yesterday described as ‘tinpot’ that I couldn’t list them all. Here’s a few.

  • A road sign.
  • Selling all available tickets for the game.
  • Giving the fans clappers.
  • Having an area that leads chanting.
  • Having been in the Championship.
  • Signing a player for £10m.
  • Having a German manager.
  • Celebrating with the fans after the game.

The list is incomplete, of course, but there’s a distinct split in the ideas. One side is simply a jealousy, fans of clubs who are still in the Championship or lower see a side they view as comparable or smaller than their own playing the games they want to play.

Suck it up, kiddos, for whatever reasons, your team is not there and you’ll have to wait your turn.

The other side is more damaging, I think, and comes from the more established sides (or Newcastle yesterday). There’s an idea that having fun, and doing things from a place of positivity is ‘tinpot’.

In this iteration, it is as if the only reason you should be able to enjoy football is if your team are winning heavily.

Newcastle’s fans had a field day describing parts of their matchday experience as ‘tinpot’ yesterday, but I’m sure they had a pretty miserable day all told. These arbiters of fun could not enjoy themselves without the ultimate goal of success; the game (play up play up and play the game) itself is a means to a win, not something that should be enjoyed en route regardless.

I think back to why I started watching football in the first place; the wide-eyed joy in seeing players do things that seemed familiar to football I played, but alien. These were third division players, but they were still wonderful.

It was a joy. To watch football, to support this team, this bunch of men who represented my town, and wore its name on their chests in their trips up and down the land. When I went to away games, and still, I find it an opportunity to learn about the town I’m in, the club I’m visiting – to see the magic that their children are falling in love with.

‘Tinpot’ for me, is for people who have fallen out of love with football. The only joy they can experience is either with their own team winning or by belittling people who are enjoying themselves. It’s a petty small-mindedness that I’m happy is being gradually erased from football.

Its not just Huddersfield either. Crystal Palace have had active supporters groups, Nottingham Forest do, Norwich do, I’m finding and enjoying more and more.

The ‘tinpot’ mentality is inherently negative; a sense that ‘we’ve got 30,000 more fans than you, so we’re better, even if they’re miserable all the time and yours enjoy it’. That’s hardly going to get the next generation involved, is it?

Cricket has learned and is learning. T20 has many elements of fun, and is searingly popular. Aspects are creeping in across all formats. I’m a traditionalist in that, but I would never condemn T20 cricket. It’s not (particularly) for me, but if people are enjoying cricket, then go for it.

Times have changed, football is not the only game in town and pissing on its chips when it tries to make things more pleasant isn’t going to help anything. Change with it.

There will be easier days for Newcastle fans, and harder ones for Huddersfield and yet I still get the feeling that even when there is, the Town fans will be happier about it.

I’m a Huddersfield Town fan enjoying myself, and if you think I’m tinpot, I laugh at you and continue to enjoy it.

I feel like I’ve been taking potshots at Newcastle today. They just happened to be there, that’s all. I’m sure many other Premier League clubs fans would say the same.

There Will Be Terriers

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There will be Terriers there tomorrow; and not just on the field. Those are the Terriers that made the day possible, their only obligation to snap at the heels of Newcastle United and make sure they give the best of themselves, as so frequently they have these recent months.

No, there will be Terriers there tomorrow, picked out in letters in the stand. Evidenced by snatched photographs filtered through the excited immediacy of social media, there is a new look to our home, and some people have peeped through the letterbox.

There will be Terriers there tomorrow, no doubt bounding along the electronic ticker that will cover three sides of the stadium. Three sides because the TV cameras sit on the other, so there is no need for it to be there. Will these new additions have been made in time for FIFA 18? We will wait with bated breath, for there will be Terriers there, too.

There will be Terriers there tomorrow, twenty thousand or so of them. Each with their own memories and feelings, each sharing the same moments having been doing so gleefully since last they saw their team kick a ball, be it in North London in May, or South London in August. These Terriers were always there, in some guise or other, but they will be there tomorrow in welcome.

There will be Terriers there tomorrow, in the hearts and minds of each one of those who attends. A Terrier who dreamt of that day, perhaps still does, and is not there, and cannot be there, but whose presence is carried to every game in the glances and the looks and the wishes to pass on those moments that should not be forgotten. At least one of those, a fine Terrier will be applauded during the game. He will not be alone in being missed there. Not tomorrow, not ever.

There will be Terriers there tomorrow, getting their first view of what that epoch-defining victory over Reading really meant, relying on those three-sided TV cameras to beam their team into their living rooms, their phones, their computers or their pubs. They will shout and curse and sometimes sing as if they were one of the twenty thousand, and they are, they are just somewhere else.

I was there when Paul Reid rifled a late Tuesday night winner against Leyton Orient in August 1994, cementing a first victory at this spaceship like stadium, and ensuring that a decent start became a good one.

I was there in the summer to see R.E.M., disappointed back then that they weren’t to be supported by Oasis, but the Beautiful South instead – though now I’m pretty sure I got the better part of the deal there.

I was there for the 3-3 draw with Chris Waddle, who on that night (for the first half at least) was masquerading as the XI men of Bradford City.

I was there for a sumptuous, electric destruction of Leicester City on a Tuesday night – night games are special, the blue and white shirts shine under the lights, even if the players don’t always. They did that night, a performance that was as good as I’ve ever seen from Town until I got badgered into watching last season’s game against Brighton in a pub in Rochester.

I was there when Paul Dalton unleashed a shot from just beyond half way on the Riverside Stand touchline that looked good until it bounced, and then lost pace, and lost speed, and time stood still and nobody knew quite what to do.

I was there, less than a second later, when it rolled over the goalline, nestled in the bottom corner and Town had their first win of the season at the 15th attempt.

I was there the following year for the full flowering of Delroy Facey; when he raced past the right hand side of Bradford’s defence before squaring for Paul Barnes to ram home, just a minute or so before Grant Johnson’s miracle strike that swung the game inexorably in Town’s favour.

I was there at another League Cup match when new signing Efe Sodje made his debut and looked colossal, as though he could head the ball 100 yards – and he probably could. I was there, too, for countless matches when heading the ball 100 yards looked about all he was able to do – and it possibly was.

I was there for a game against Scunthorpe United, that probably didn’t matter in the big scheme of things, but did because it was near the end of a playoff season, that Town had lost until a late John McAliskey equaliser. I was there at that same game that Town had settled for a draw, until a last-breath John McAliskey winner. I don’t think John McAliskey was there – he was on an entirely different plane.

I was there for a couple of ding-dong encounters with Nottingham Forest; warhorses like Grant Holt, Jack Lester and Andy Booth dragging their respective charges onwards despite frailties elsewhere in the teams, and I was there, and I was in the perfect spot, for when Danny Schofield settled one of those games with the most beautiful chip I’ve ever seen (sorry Lee Novak at Brentford), when the ball rose up over Paul Gerrard like a child had released a helium balloon and then drifted, as if on an Autumn breeze, into the goal.

I was there for a stag do, my first, in October 2007, that ended not just in a disappointing draw with Oldham Athletic and playing cards being put in both a fish tank and a box of frozen potato waffles, but my leaving Yorkshire for good by bus from Wakefield and then Brighouse the following morning.

I’ve been there through Kirklees Stadium, McAlpine Stadium, Galpharm Stadium, John Smith’s Stadium, through Gardner Merchant, Pink Link, John Smith’s Stand, Fantastic Media Upper and all sorts, and I’m sure there’s more besides.

I’ve been there through so many players, shirts, managers, opponents, first team and reserve, and so many things I’ve seen and forgotten, and so many I remember, but have no idea who they were, or when it was

When did I miss Wayne Allison scoring because I was scratching my knee? When did that shot hit the crossbar in a turgid 0-0 draw in winter and all the snow came off the bar? Who did Lee Makel score that weaving goal against? Which year did 5,000 people gather to watch Town Reserves beat West Brom, each one urging departing hero Peter Jackson to take a penalty? Did he score it? What were any of Andy Payton’s goals like? Why do I feel that I spent fifteen years of my life watching Town draw against Tranmere, Oldham, Barnsley and Brentford?

I will not be there tomorrow and, today, I don’t feel too bad about it. Tomorrow, I might, and in another twenty three years, I might, but today I don’t. I’ve got my own memories.

Tomorrow, there will be Terriers and they will make their own batch of new memories. It will be a momentous day and one to cherish. Make sure you do, because eventually you’ll look back on it, and it’s better to remember things than know you’ve forgotten them.

There will be Terriers tomorrow, and there will be Terriers forever.

This is tagged ‘Ideas I Owe To Somebody Else’ as I was reading an article by Dan Norcross in the Nightwatchman when it came to me; he was reviewing his years at the Oval. A short extract is here, but I’d recommend the full glory of it – available here, if you’re that way inclined. To be honest, if you’ve been drawn in by a blog about Huddersfield Town and feel strongly about the Oval in the late 70s forward, I guess you’re in a small group.

Huddersfield Town and the 2014 Tour de France

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One of the biggest moments in Yorkshire cycling history saw the Départ of the 2014 Tour de France take place in the county.

The first stage was between Leeds and Harrogate and was, goes the thinking, designed for Mark Cavendish to win, which would have given him a tidy boost in his bid for the green jersey.

Bear with me, I’ll get to the football.

As it was, Cavendish crashed into Simon Gerrans in the run in, which allowed Marcel Kittel the win, the points and most importantly, the Yellow Jersey.

For one day, Kittel held the Yellow Jersey, a sprinter in a climbers shirt.

That day, the Tour de France passed through Huddersfield on its way to Sheffield, where genuine GC contender Vincenzo Nibali surged into the lead up Jenkin Hill Road, gaining an advantage he lost only after Stage 9 to Mulhouse (say it, it’s lovely, “m’lose”) when Tony Gallopin claimed it for a day.

But Kittel wore the Yellow Jersey for a day. It shouldn’t really happen, but it did. Yesterday, Huddersfield Town were Marcel Kittel.

They are not realistic contenders for the Premier League’s General Classification, and now one of those big beasts has claimed the top spot as expected. But for a day, they were in yellow.

In a way, the Premier League Huddersfield are in is a lot like the points competition in a cycle race. They are not expected to do well in the mountains, climbing to such peaks to defeat Arsenal and Manchester City is likely beyond them (though there’s something of the Peter Sagan to Burnley’s result yesterday; one to worry about).

However, when it comes to head to head combat, when they are facing off against those other teams who are expected to be competing not for the Yellow Jersey but the green, they need to get as many points as they can.

In that, striking a mental blow by winning the first stage could be all important.

They’ve got the points on the board, made sure they’re top of the mini-league at the bottom and that spell at the top of the actual league is just a bonus.

Crystal Palace might not end up being the Mark Cavendish of the story; the Premier League has a lot more ‘sprint’ stages than the Tour de France, but they will be feeling a little more nervous knowing that they’ve lost a game to a team who will likely be a rival at the end of the season.

There’s a cursory note that needs to be made in this tale; Sagan took the green jersey as expected, as soon as the second stage.

Yes, the day the Tour passed through Huddersfield was Kittel’s best in that competition. I hope the Terriers do not find that same problem; by the time the Premier League visits Huddersfield, most other teams will have played their second game.

Kittel eventually finished fourth, behind Sagan, Alexander Kristoff and the excellent Bryan Coquard.

Fourth in the lower table mini-league would do just fine, I’m sure, but look out for the Greipel, the Renshaw and the rest.