Huddersfield Town AFC 1960 – 64.
I began my time at Huddersfield Town as a fifteen year old amateur player, this entailed training twice per week and playing a game on Saturday mornings. I also turned out for my local team at Silsden on Saturday afternoons, and for good measure I played for a Keighley Pub team (Shoulder of Mutton) on Sundays. At Huddersfield Town I came under the influence of two of the experienced first team players, Bill McGarry and Brian Gibson. This, alongside training with the best young players in the district, improved my game dramatically.
Bill McGarry was an early influence on me.
Within a short space of time I was able to establish myself in the Huddersfield Town Youth team which participated in the ‘Under 19yrs Northern Intermediate League’. This League consisted, in the main, of Yorkshire teams such as both the Sheffield clubs (United and Wednesday), Leeds, Barnsley, Rotherham, Middlesbourgh, Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue. However, the main test for us was when we came up against the Geordie clubs, Newcastle and Sunderland, as their teams always contained several young professionals.
Huddersfield Town Juniors in the early 1960’s. John Oldfield, Alan Gilliver, Bob McNab and John Rudge went on to much greater things.
My performances for the Huddersfield Town Youth team earned me selection for the ‘West Riding of Yorkshire’ Youth team, which contested in the National County Championships. Unfortunately, we were knocked out of this competition in an early round; however, my disappointment was short lived, as I was informed that I had performed well enough to be invited to the final trial for selection to the England Youth team.
Initially the trial match was set to be played at Peterbourgh United, but because of adverse weather conditions the game was postponed, rescheduling it to be played at Reading’s home ground at Elm Park.
This was the first time that I had travelled away from home on my own, therefore, it was with a certain amount of apprehension that I boarded the train to London, en-route to Reading. After negotiating London’s busy underground network, where the Cockney porters seemed to speak a foreign language, I finally made it to my Hotel in Reading, on the Friday evening, in preparation for Saturday’s match. I spent a sleepless night in my room mainly due to the warmth of the central heating system, which I couldn’t find a way to switch off.
The next morning I met up with Rod Johnson, an apprentice professional from Leeds United, so it was a welcome relief to have a fellow Yorkshire man to hang out with until the rest of the trialists arrived from London.
Heading the party of players from London was the ex-England and Wolves captain, Billy Wright. Wright had been one of my childhood heroes of the 1950’s where, apart from his England duties, he had participated for Wolverhampton Wanderers in those epic matches against Moscow Dynamo and Moscow Spartac. Those games had done so much to restore England’s waning football reputation, which had suffered from two defeats by the magnificent Hungarian team of that era.
Ex England and Wolves Captain, Billy Wright.
The trial match itself was a ‘let down’ for me as I didn’t feel to do myself justice in the game. On reflection, I think I could put it down to my lack of worldliness in comparison to the cocky confident Londoners, who seemed to dominate the scene. When the England team was announced I missed out on selection, but I was pleased for Rod Johnson who made the final selection. We caught up with each other on a few occasions when Huddersfield Town and Leeds United met in Central League games, however, Leeds transferred him on at some stage and we lost touch.
My selection for the England Youth trial seemed to prompt Huddersfield Town to offer me professional forms, and despite the warnings of Town’s manager, Eddie Boot, of the uncertainty of a career in football, I couldn’t wait to start the 1962 pre-season training sessions as a fully-fledged professional footballer.
A young professional at Huddersfield Towm.
Commuting from my home town of Silsden for daily training sessions at Huddersfield proved to be quite a chore, and in hindsight I should have gone into ‘digs’. Fortunately, two of the first team players, Peter Dinsdale and Dennis Atkins, took me under their wing by inviting me to travel by car with them from Bradford to Huddersfield. This I was able to do on most days.
Dennis Atkins and Peter Dinsdale (in action) took me under their wing.
In the early 1960’s, Huddersfield Town featured in the Second Division of the old Football League, averaging crowds of between eight and twelve thousand people for home games. When the team was doing particularly well this could increase up to just under twenty thousand.
The five years which I spent at Huddersfield Town, as an amateur and professional, were spent in the Junior or the Reserve teams and I never made the breakthrough into the First Team. However, I gained invaluable experience, particularly playing in the Central League, which meant visiting stadiums such as Old Trafford, St James’ Park, Anfield, Goodison, and Villa Park. Competing against teams such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Newcastle, Liverpool, Everton, Blackburn, Bolton, WBA and Aston Villa was an excellent learning curve for me. These highly ranked clubs would usually contain a sprinkling of older International players to combine with their upcoming youngsters, thus making it a fertile educational ground for promising players.
Playing against Internationals such as Peter McParland was great experience for me.
In one of my first games I came up against the wily Irish International winger Peter McParland. McParland was renowned for his clash with Manchester United keeper Ray Wood in the 1957 Cup Final which ended in United playing with ten men and ultimately losing the game. By the time that I came up against Peter McParland he was in his mid-thirties and playing for Wolves in their reserve team. As a youngster of eighteen years I must have been handing out some overzealous tackles because McParland; with an ironic smile on his face told me, “you young un’s aren’t allowed to kick us old un’s, so cut it out.” This caught me off guard for a few minutes until I realized that he was winding me up, and normal service resumed.
Allan Gilliver also made the transition from the Youth team and went on to a career in the Football League.
Bob McNab moved on to play for Arsenal and England.
Along with me several of my teammates were elevated from the Juniors into the Central league team. John Oldfield, Alan Gilliver, Bob McNab and John Rudge all made the transition from the Juniors, joining the ‘older pro’s’ such as Ray Holt, Stuart Holden, John Milner, John Bettany, Oliver Comney, Harry Fearnley among others.
As Wellington Captain; I met up again with John Rudge when he toured NZ with Bristol Rovers.
Huddersfield’s first team contained some excellent players of which the ‘stars’ were England Internationals Ray Wilson and Mike O’Grady. Other first teamers included, ex Manchester United keeper, Ray Wood, Les Massie, John Coddington, Kevin McHale, Derek Stokes, Chris Balderstone, Ken Taylor and my travelling companions Peter Dinsdale and Dennis Atkins.
The Huddersfield Town playing staff in the early 1960’s. Ray Wilson and Mike O’Grady are missing. I’m sat at the front in the middle with John Rudge to my left.
Taylor and Balderstone enjoyed the best of both worlds by playing professional football in the winter and representing Yorkshire at cricket in the summer. Ken Taylor was particularly good to me allowing me to ride in his Volkswagen, when we trained away from the main ground. I think he knew that I would ensure that I cleaned my boots before getting into his car. As a Yorkshire cricketer, I got the impression that he was quite particular, well educated, and a cut above the normal professional footballer.
Huddersfield Town’s World Cup 1966 winner; Ray Wilson.
Although the first team and the reserves were segregated from each other by means of using separate changing rooms, I never had the impression that the first team players considered themselves superior. Ray Wilson and Mike O’Grady were always approachable; Len White would offer advice from his vast experience, the other players were also amicable and despite the occasional ‘flare up’ at training, I found the atmosphere welcoming and agreeable.
Some of Huddersfield’s promising youngsters of this era (I didn’t like to show off my hairy chest).
In hindsight, after more than forty years as a Coach and Coach Educator, I now realise that the training methods at Huddersfield left much to be desired. Many of the training sessions comprised purely of running laps of the pitch and finishing off with a game. The English Coaching Scheme was in its infancy at this time, and many of the clubs were using training methods which could be dated back to the pre-war era. Despite this, there were many excellent players in the Football League, which I think this mainly be put down to the amount of time the players spent, as youngsters, playing in the backstreets, schoolyards and recreation grounds. Unfortunately, there was a definite lack of an organised Development and Youth policy at Huddersfield; as youngsters we seldom received any genuine coaching. Our neighbours at Leeds United, who were also in the Second Division, showed what could be achieved when efforts were made to train and educate their young players. Under the guidance of Don Revie, Les Cocker, Sid Owen and Maurice Lindley players such as Bremner, Reaney, Cooper, Lorimer, Gray, Madeley, Sprake and many others all came through their ranks, serving Leeds United with distinction for more than a decade.
Don Revie’s Youth Policy paid dividends for Leeds United.
At the conclusion of the 1964 season, after five years at Huddersfield Town I received an official telegram telling me that I had been released by the club; thus placing me on the Free Transfer List. This was a devastating blow, as I had expected to be at the club for at least a further term, however, it was something that I had to accept as part of the setbacks of life in professional football….