Strangers in a Strange Land: the Tale of a Huddersfield Town Fan
Let’s get this out of the way early. I’m a Huddersfield supporter and have been since I was young. If we were in the same room, my voice would probably give me away, but we’re not, so I’ll let you know before we go too far.
For many years, as is the case for most Huddersfield supporters, I lived in the area. People tend not to become fans of England’s less glamorous clubs without good reason, and proximity is probably the best reason.
A one-club town
It is a big town, Huddersfield, and a one-club town. This is important. It means that if someone is talking about football within Huddersfield, it is more than likely to be about Huddersfield Town. I lived in Norwich for a time and the Canaries are every bit as dominant there. Sunderland is the same, and Gillingham, near where I live now, the same again. It is not unusual, although it can feel it sometimes.
Big town it may be, but Huddersfield folk are not prevalent worldwide. Those steeped in the land twixt Castle Hill, Holme Moss and Emley Moor (and even as I write those words, I recognise how utterly northern they sound) do not appear in the south of England in huge numbers.
In London they might, as everyone is in London. In my area of north Kent, not so much. When I first started to visit Medway, I used to frequent a social club on a Friday. Every Friday, an old man would stand at the bar with his mate Charlie. He was an outsider. Yorkie, they called him. He’d been in Kent for tens of years, but wore his history in his accent and his name.
He’s passed on now, Yorkie, sadly missed. During his time in Kent, he came to represent something to some people, and that baton is mine, too, in a way. When you come from out of town; you come to represent your home area to those that know you.
That is to say, people know me as a Huddersfield fan. I’m quite possibly the only one they’ve met, certainly the most regular. I’m not alone either. I’ve known Burnley fans, Bolton fans, Aston Villa fans, even a Peterborough fan. I see a man in an Ipswich jacket periodically.
All strangers in a strange land. All loners.
When you’re steeped in a town, and in a football club, you carry it with you
Wherever you go, your town and your team are a reference point, and no matter who you come across you don’t let them go.
I have become increasingly aware of this. Huddersfield have been involved in countless playoffs since I moved to Kent, had lots of hitherto unknown exposure. People tell me they want Huddersfield to win, they want to talk to me about the games, and the team. I’m a conduit for the town, and always will be.
Jerry Seinfeld used to do a bit about congratulating sports fans for their team’s achievements (“They won, I watched!”) but it still happens.
Its a pleasure to have it. This season is a peculiarity, but last season was more fun. One evening, I sat in a pub with maybe five others, waiting for the time my fiancée and I had booked a meal next door to roll around. It did, of course, eventually.
By then, that happy few had been enthralled by Huddersfield’s destruction of Brighton. Town were majestic that night, maybe the best I’ve ever seen them play. By the end, there was more people wishing the team well, and wishing me well, than the beginning. One of the five was there to watch the game as he knew someone from Huddersfield, but that was their only link. It’s missionary work in a way. I should add, however, that we missed our meal, but we’ve eaten since.
It is different for fans of big clubs. Kent is teeming, as is everywhere, with Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester Utd, Tottenham. To me, they seem an entitled bunch, large in number but small in respect for the game. Maybe because they didn’t (largely) grow up in an area where their team was the central obsession, they experience things differently. Maybe it’s because their clubs belong to the world, rather than their local area.
Crowds of southern-accented men in red replica shirts, huddled around a television screen showing their heroes cantering to victory. Maybe I’m jealous, maybe I’m just out of touch because I have followed a team who have stumbled between abject and acceptable since I first pinned my colours to their flag.
To enjoy watching them play is anathema – to want to gather with other people to share that malaise is utterly unimaginable
Misery drinks alone, and watches football the same. Mind, I’m a Yorkshireman, so it can be difficult to tell where I end and my disappointment begins.
That’s for the past, though, not the colourful present. Now in the Premier League, the town of Huddersfield is making a big deal of itself. Early in the campaign, the great and the good of the Terriers support were given pin badges of the letter H with the three famous stars, emissaries of the football club wheresoever they went. After a month or two they went on sale. I have one. I’ve earned it.
There is a small patch of England that, when they think of Huddersfield, have had their opinion changed. No longer is it an inhospitable mill town, churning out crap into the sky, and putting crap footballers on a field, it is the team that I support.
In other words, to some people I AM Huddersfield. That’s quite a thing.