A final day to remember: a story 12 years in the making

On the 6th May 2001, I went to the McAlpine Stadium, aged 15, to witness the final day of the season game against Birmingham City.

I have been to so many games at that Stadium, but that game I remember vividly and I doubt that I am the only Huddersfield fan who can recall every depressing moment.

I will not go over the details; it will be more painful to remember than a top board belly flop or a gym class erection.

It was, put simply, the day when everything that could have gone wrong, did.

The last day of the season is so often just a chance to get drunk and enjoy an afternoon in the sun, but if your side has something to play for, you’ll simply never forget the day, whether that is for good or bad reasons.

That day in May has haunted Huddersfield fans ever since, and it was going to take something special to drive a stake through the heart of that particular demon. On May 4th 2013, a mere twelve years later, that special something finally happened.

Those twelve years have been painful for Huddersfield Town. We have suffered two relegations, administration, and had countless different managers. We have seen good players come and go, and we have seen terrible players arrive and stay too long. It has been an era of false dawns & shattered dreams.

There has been heartbreak, and humiliation along the way too. That back pass against Cheltenham, the hideous season that started with appointing Mick Wadsworth and ended with relegation and the near death of the club, and the terrible play off semi final against Barnsley, that was the beginning of the end for Peter Jackson.

There have been good times too; the play off victories over Mansfield and Sheffield United, scoring a hundred goals in a season under Lee Clark, and that glorious game against York that brought back so much belief after the disaster of the year before. However even though we got close to good times, it seemed we were never too far away from disaster.

Just as the hero of a film looks closest to redemption, that is when the lead is slipped into the boxing glove and he’s knocked cold. And just as it seemed that all the bad times were about to end, we came up against Peterborough in the play off final, at Old Trafford.

That day was supposed to be our occasion. We outnumbered their fans two to one, we all had a free fruit of the loom t-shirt with “believe” printed on it, and it seemed we just had to turn up to win. Losing this game had not been a consideration. We completely fell apart, and so much good work was undone.

It was the latest of our painful memories, a humiliation witnessed by every football fan across the country. The team, who boasted a long unbeaten run, was taken apart in a play off final. In the crowds Huddersfield fans fought amongst themselves, and those t-shirts had us all looking more ridiculous than a kid who comes to a school disco in a suit jacket but no trousers.

However, as much as Old Trafford seemed tailor made for putting aside so many bad memories, it turns out that we were going to finish this story the way we started it: on the final day of a Championship season.

And so, 12 years on, and no longer a child, although if the club do a quid-a-kid deal I’ll still chance my arm, I once again walk to the stadium to witness the final day unfold.

I’ll once again spare you the details as this was drama that you cannot do justice to with words, as artsy fartsy as that sounds, I do believe that’s true. Those who witnessed it will never forget this game. This was the glorious conclusion to the story that started on that day in May 2001.

This is now our chance to put behind twelve years of disappointments and the sense that we’ve underachieved. It is our chance to savour a final day when everything, finally, went right.

If you wanted to write a film script, and yes you could script this, unless your intention is to write the dullest film on earth, this would be your final scene.

Glory shared with a local neighbour, a 90 minute game that ebbed and flowed and left both teams on the brink of relegation throughout the ninety minutes, and the club who left you humiliated a few years before, suffering relegation at your expense.

As for the future, the club will never have a better chance to push on and establish itself as a Championship force for years to come. After years of searching, we appear to have a manager who can truly develop us as a club, a Chairman with the club’s best interests at heart, and fans who can finally forget the mistakes of previous years. We must take this opportunity to develop a team, identify a playing style and enhance our reputation as a team who give youth a chance.

To move forward we must not forget our past, but we can finally leave it there, and move forward unencumbered by ifs, buts, and maybes.

See you next season

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