Posts Tagged 'terry yorath'

The Great Escape: Season 1997/98

Note: The following is based on an article I wrote a while ago that has been turned down for publication not once, but twice. I’m sure seeing the article on here makes the people involved feel somewhat akin to Dick Rowe, the legendary A&R man at Decca Records, who turned down signing The Beatles and uttered the immortal words “Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein”. Then again, maybe the article is toilet.

This article is dedicated to the chairman during this incredible season (and lifelong Huddersfield Town fan) Malcolm Asquith, who died earlier this year.

Great Escape DVD Cover

End-of-season review videos usually follow one simple format: a dry narrative over chronological footage of the goals, interspersed with league table graphics showing how the team is placed throughout the season. In the pre-YouTube days, this was all a fan of a lower-league team desired, as the alternative method of revisiting all the goals would have required staying up until 1.30am every Monday evening to tune into Nationwide Football League Extra.

It was, therefore, rather fitting that a season as exciting as 1997/98 should have a season review like no other. Loosely based around the film of the same name (the opening sequence features the team jogging along the banks of the River Calder to the strains of, predictably, Elmer Bernstein’s famous theme), The Great Escape charts a season where after nine games the team had failed to win once and sat rooted to the foot of the table. Chairman Malcolm Asquith sacked Brian Horton and in came former Huddersfield player Peter Jackson and his assistant, former Wales boss Terry Yorath. The two knew each other well¬† (Yorath had previously managed Jackson at Bradford) and together, they set about engineering Huddersfield’s eventual sixteenth place finish.

The plot centres on ‘Jacko’ and ‘Taff’, as they are known throughout, utilising three ‘escape plans’, named after certain key players (reliable defender Jon Dyson, big target-man Wayne Allison and hard-as-nails defender Kevin Gray). There are also interviews with other players and short cut-scenes featuring club mascot Terry Terrier.

It is usually a good indicator how troubled a club is by how many players it uses in one season, and Huddersfield used no fewer than thirty-seven. Jackson seemed to make mostly the right moves, however, bringing in experienced midfielders Barry Horne and David Phillips (Yorath’s Wales connections no doubt playing a part in attracting them), skilful midfielder Lee Richardson, goalkeeper Steve Harper (on loan from Newcastle) and the aforementioned Allison. Midfielder Paul Dalton, a Horton signing, was also given license to roam from his left-wing position and he weighed in with 13 valuable goals. The team’s undoubted star was talismanic striker Marcus Stewart who bagged 16 goals. Unsuccessful signings, such as hopeless defender Alex Dyer and ropey goalkeeper Vince Bartram are mentioned only briefly.

One facet of the season that is worth mentioning is the exorcising of the spectre of Manchester City. In addition to Horton’s dismissal, exactly 10 years to the day since the notorious Malcolm ‘Supermac’ Macdonald-led rabble collapsed 10-1 at Maine Road, City fan Rob Edwards steered home a superb volley after a 7-man 16-pass build up in front of the Sky cameras to hand Town a 1-0 win. As if that wasn’t enough, Town’s home 4-0 capitulation at the hands of Port Vale on the final day of the season effectively relegated The Citizens into the third tier. Ouch.

Widely regarded as the most entertaining and well-produced Huddersfield Town season review, The Great Escape is fondly remembered by Town fans. This was Jackson’s first wide-eyed foray into management and there was a genuine feeling of optimism and hope for the future. The subsequent takeover by Barry Rubery and sacking of Jackson at the end of the following season are looked back on with a sense as to what could have been, had he been given the same backing as successor Steve Bruce.

Huddersfield Town РThe Great Escape was written & directed by Simon Normington and produced by Perfect Pitch. It is currently unavailable to buy, except here where it appears you can purchase the VHS video for £10. If you need a video recorder to play it on, try your local tip.


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