A Moment In Time: Huddersfield Town v. Northampton Town

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Huddersfield Town 5-0 Northampton Town – 6th November 1979.

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A peculiarly swift second match-up of the season brought the Cobblers to Leeds Road to face top of the table Huddersfield Town looking to repeat their performance of a fortnight previously. That Tuesday night, the Terriers had suffered something of a humbling, falling 4-2 to a side who enjoyed their fifth consecutive home win.

The Terriers, meanwhile, had returned to the top of the Fourth Division with a 2-2 draw with York City, former Huddersfield man Terry Eccles grabbing one of the visitors’ goals. Manager Mick Buxton noted the dip in form, admitting that his side were ‘going through a transitional period, a learning period’ and not playing as well as they might do.

Buxton’s side might have been under transition, but a familiar XI was already in place. Alan Starling started in goal, behind a back four of Malcolm Brown, Fred Robinson, David Sutton and Chris Topping. Brian Stanton and Peter Hart occupied the midfield along with David Cowling and Micky Laverick, with Peter Fletcher and Ian Robins up top. It was still a month or so before Steve Kindon was to join the Terriers, so the substitute was usually Bernard Purdie or Ian Holmes.

The Cobblers could count amongst their starting line-up Phil Sandercock, who had spent the previous two years at Leeds Road, and were beginning to look upwards under the stewardship of Clive Walker after relegation from Division Three in 1977.

Despite their defeat at the County Ground a couple of weeks before, the Terriers went into this game as favourites. Their only home defeat had come against Portsmouth, while Northampton were yet to win away from home in their eight attempts, winning just one point in those games.

The little blip in Buxton’s side had caused something of a log-jam in the middle reaches of the table. While Portsmouth were level on 26 points, as many as 10 sides were within 6 points at kick off on the Tuesday evening. Vultures were beginning to circle and had not gone un-noticed.

The closest of those, in every sense of the word, would cross Huddersfield’s path in fairly short order – as Saturday 10th November would bring a trip to Valley Parade, with only £1.05 stand tickets available by this point.

On the Tuesday evening, Northampton were blown away. Within a little over quarter of an hour, they were 3-0 down. Cowling continued his fine form with a sixth goal in seven games after just nine minutes, which Ian Robins added to immediately.

The two-nil deficit became three soon after when Micky Laverick got his third of the season, the match over before half time. Robins and Sutton added to the total in the second half to complete a 5-0 rout that more than made up for the defeat in Northamptonshire that played on Buxton’s mind before kick-off.

What Happened Next?

Well, the thrashing of Northampton kept Town top of the league for the trip to Bradford, which was drawn 0-0. It was undeniably a poor spell for the side, who went four games without a win before Boxing Day. And yet having dropped to third over Christmas, the Terriers lost just once after the turn of the year – to Portsmouth again, and went on to storm to a historic promotion.

101 goals in the season remains a club record, as does 61 at home, and the 16 home victories matched the Terriers’ best ever as well.

For Northampton, this was the third of a ten year spell in the bottom tier, and one that was typified by disappointing away performances. The Cobblers failed to win on the road until March and ended with just two victories away from the County Ground. Their respectable home record lifted them to 13th position but it took the arrival of Graham Carr to take them back to Division Three.

Standing Up For The Cup

The FA Cup is a competition that is constantly talked of as being devalue, but manages to survive season after season providing entertainment along the way.

In some ways, it mirrors the County Championship. What was once the blue riband of England’s sporting calendar is now marginalised to a point, often played in front of dwindling crowds and with the scores found out on the internet afterwards.

Premier League teams, we are told, are at the forefront of this devaluation. Bournemouth changed all eleven players from their previous leasubseq a breathless draw with Arsenal, for their third round cup tie at Millwall. They lost, handsomely.

Serve them right, come the cries, though one suspects that Cherries fans will lick their wounds for a short while then come to terms with the job in hand – the league.

Yet there is little incentive for Bournemouth to use the energy of their star players in the cup. In the last 20 years, only two winners of the competition have come from outside the group of the two Manchester sides, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.

Wigan were victorious in 2013, and Portsmouth in 2008. It would be disingenuous to suggest those sides subsequent struggles were as a result of their cup success, but the trips to the Europa League they earned would not have been beneficial to squad who were not bolstered by the extra Champions League funding.

You’ll note, I have not once mentioned the trophy in all of this. I support a traditionally second or third tier side. Aside from playoffs, the only competition I have seen them win is the Yorkshire Electricity Cup (1994/95, a 4-2 win against Hull, if memory serves). Every year we hope for a cup run, not expecting to win it, but at least make a splash – maybe if we got a big draw we could get on TV, because there’s no other reason we’d get picked – neither big enough to be giant killed, nor small enough to be minnows.

Even at Championship level, there is a disinterest in the cup, with rafts of changes being made. Again, there is no incentive not to do. The only way a Championship side can enjoy a successful cup run (realistically) is to progress to a point where one of those big five knocks them out.

The team changes themselves are not the cause of the devaluation of the competition, in other words, they are the effect.

The devaluation has come with the fact that, firstly, winning the competition is almost definitely a closed shop, and secondly, the money that a televised tie can bring in is generally given to those sides most likely to win it; money goes to money.

In some ways, that makes sense. The choice of Liverpool v Plymouth for television might seem natural over, say, Millwall v Bournemouth. Yet there was always likely to be more chance of an upset at the Den, something that perpetuates the story of the ‘magic of the cup’.

For all this complaining, nothing will change. The free-to-air broadcasters will continue to screen ersatz Premier League ties, or occasional victories for the big boys, starved as they are of such viewer-drawing fayre elsewhere.

Bournemouth, Swansea, Everton and the like, will continue to view the competition as an inconvenience, something they can’t win and few seem to care whether they progress or not.

To save the FA Cup, the competition itself needs to demonstrate a little integrity – perhaps to insist on one all non-Premier League tie to be screened, perhaps to insist on a maximum number of player changes. In other words, the FA must stand up to the Premier League.

We all know that won’t happen.

Congratulations to Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea or one of the Manchester clubs; FA Cup winners 2017, 2018, 2019….

On Dragons

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I was in the bath reading a book about the 1960 Olympics in Rome, but started thinking about dragons.

You don’t see dragons any more,

In deserts or on jungle floors,

In fact, I’m sure you never did,

While humans roamed the dragons hid.

And yet, you’d know one were it there,

They look the same most everywhere,

Green of skin and hard of scale,

A whip of triangle on its tail,

Truly scary, it transpires,

And that’s before the breathing fire,

The fact the pictures look the same,

And that the beasts do not remain,

Suggests to me one honest truth,

A theory of which I have no proof.

You don’t see dragons any more,

They’re legendary dinosaurs.

I was thinking of the mythical creatures like the kraken, and the fact that they were based on things that might have been present but we’re so horrible and so unfamiliar that they took on another more terrible identity (a bit like the Gruffalo) and it strikes me that dragons are a bit the same. Maybe a cave painting was exaggerated, maybe tales became taller.