How The Terriers Threw Away The Chance To Be The Greatest Team Of All Time

As part of a new venture I am aiming to get the view of fans on their club’s worst ever decision. The baffling boardroom choices, appalling signings, bizarre appointments or commercial nightmares, there’ll be plenty to choose from.

 To kick us off, the brilliant Marco Jackson tells us the worst decision that Huddersfield Town ever made. He had a lot to choose from, but it’s hard to argue with the moment he chose. This is as bad as decision making gets, so enjoy. 

There can come a point in a football club’s existence when they have a choice to make between success and failure. It might not appear to be such a big decision at the time, but looking back, it marks a definite fault line between what has been and what might be in the future. This is the story of one of those decisions.

The early 20th Century was a glorious time for Huddersfield Town. They might not have hit the highs quite so much since then, but the club were still able to be relatively big hitters after World War II, finishing as high as third in 1953/54. That was very definitely a high watermark of the time though, and was followed by almost immediate relegation.

By the late 1950s, Huddersfield Town were bobbing along in the Second Division, showing occasional flashes of brilliance, but also flashes of incompetence, like the famous 7-6 at Charlton. There was such names in the team by 1959 as Denis Law, Les Massie and Kevin McHale, and they had a manager was passionate and driven towards success.

To that end, he went to watch a game in his native Scotland in 1959 and came back to the club with the names of a couple of players he’d like to sign – one a powerful forward, and one a giant centre-back. He went to the chairman, Steven Lister, and told him the names of these players, and was informed that, much as the club would like to back him, they couldn’t. There was a bit of discussion, a bit of bargaining – the manager reluctantly acceded to just the defender – but, eventually, the board refused both signings.

Seeing that the club was unable, or unwilling, to match his ambition, the manager resigned his post on 1st December 1959, a few days after a victory against Liverpool that lifted the Terriers to 5th, and was able to walk into a job at another run-down, ramshackle club in the Division 2 almost immediately. He began to stamp his authority on them pretty quickly and, as a result, that club took his advice, backing his belief, and the two Scots moved down to England at his behest. With Bill Shankly in charge, after the installation of Ron Yeats and Ian St. John into Liverpool’s first team, Liverpool FC went on to become one of the greatest dynasties in club football over the next forty years. But for Steven Lister’s unwillingness to bring the formidable St John and the giant Yeats to join the likes of Law, it might have been Leeds Road rather than Anfield Road that saw the glory.

As it was, after Shankly moved on, Law moved on, and the club were doomed to being, at best also-rans, and at worse after-thoughts in the story of English football after that date. Yet, for that one moment, it could have been so different.

Follow Marco on twitter @Marco4J I strongly suggest that you do.

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