Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Huddersfield View

Before Birmingham City's match against Huddersfield Town yesterday, I interviewed Terriers fan Luke Sipka. Here, he discusses his club’s improvement in terms of financial security, the recent signing of Nahki Wells, and his thoughts on Birmingham's current manager, Lee Clark…

In this division about fifteen years ago, you went into a decline due to overspending. Has the club learnt it’s lessons?
Chairman - Dean Hoyle
Oh God yes, it’s a totally different boardroom. These days, we are owned by a lifelong fan and successful entrepreneur (Card Factory, if you’re interested) who has turned a club on a downward spiral with no assets to an established Championship club close to breaking even. He has gotten us shares in the stadium, our own training ground complex, and a good 5,000+ home fans coming back; not a bad legacy. We took a massive risk to get the big time 15 years ago, these days we’re more than happy to have a good footballing side at the level we belong, Premier League would be punching well above our weight.

You invested £1.3 million on the highly-rated Nahki Wells. Good signing?
Worth the money alone just to see the humiliation Bradford had to suffer! He started very well with 2 goals in 2 games, and I didn’t expect him to hit the ground running as we have a totally different style of play to Bradford. The time to judge him properly is next season with a full pre season behind him, but when you compare £8m for Jordan Rhodes and £6m for Dwight Gayle, it seems a good deal for a natural finisher.

Mark Robins has often used 3-5-2 this season. Is that an effective system?
I’m a massive fan. For me, if you have the wing back to make it work, it is the best formation you can use. But without the wing backs it would fail. It gives you the luxury of 3 defenders and 3 midfielders without having to sacrifice a striker. Adam Hammill and Paul Dixon have the decent level of pace, defensive nouse and crossing ability to make it work, we’re very fortunate and it’s given us some of the best football we’ve ever seen played, even if we don’t always get the rewards.

Best moment as a Terriers fan.
Beating the Blades to go up
The 2012 play off final against Sheffield United. It will never, ever be beaten. We spent a whole decade out of the Championship and the aim all that time was to get back there, it was one hell of a wait and involved a lot of pain and frustration, namely 3 previous failed play-off attempts. We didn’t finish the season well and weren’t really expecting to win them, but Grayson’s tactics got us to a penalty shoot out at a scorching Wembley. We missed our first 3 penalties… when that happens in football, you’ve basically lost, but this one went all the way to the keepers, and for all those years of pain to come to an end in that one moment was magical, the scenes on YouTube are pure exhilaration.

The worst…
Probably the previous year, again in a play-off final. We were incredibly unlucky not to get automatic promotion with 87 points which was absolutely gutting. After getting back an emotional semi final against Bournemouth via another penalty shoot out, we took 35,000 fans to the final (which is ridiculous for a town our size). Clark got it wrong and we lost 3-0, a devastating day. The small time post-match attitude from Peterborough fans that day is why our games will always be grudge matches. Sending them down on the last day last season was sweet revenge.

What did you think of Lee Clark?
Lee Clark
I didn’t like him. I was buzzing when we sacked him, games under his tenure had become a chore. His first year was good, with some exciting young players, namely Rhodes, Pilkington and Drinkwater, but he eventually got desperate, turned us into a horrible side of bullies and signed has-beens on huge wages. I find him in general to be a thoroughly dislikeable bloke. Some of our fans respect him for some good games, but that was down to the money given to him by Hoyle, who eventually realised we needed a tactician in Grayson.

Who are some of your favourite ever players at Huddersfield?
Andy Booth is probably our biggest modern day legend, with 150 goals. Pilkington was magical at times, and we’ll always have Jordan Rhodes’ goals to thank for us being where we are (his transfer fee will continue to help us for years to come). At the moment, Alex Smithies is probably my favourite player; a local lad that came through the academy, been a regular for years now but still only 23, and was the hero at Wembley.

Who would you say are your biggest rivals?
It’s strange in Yorkshire, because there are lots of local derbies but only one proper rivalry (the Sheffield derby). So different fans of different clubs will see different clubs as their main rivals, and it’ll be down to your upbringing, how often you play each other, and if you know any of their fans to have banter with. For me, it’s Bradford, so being so far ahead of them in recent years has been sweet, but for most of our fans it’s Leeds.

Thanks for answering our questions. Your score prediction?

I’m writing this before we’ve played Forest so things could change, but at the moment we’re back to full strength after a tough period of being without 4 of our best players. You can never be sure in football but if Clark does the double over Robins then it’ll make no sense to us whatsoever! 30 of our 34 games this season have only been decided by the odd goal, I expect it’ll be another tight one with us edging it 1-0.

My thanks again to Luke Sipka for his answers.

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