“If you’ve nothing nice to say, then please don’t say it." Were these words spoken to you by your parents? Maybe you say them to your own children?
Don’t you find yourself saying this to football pundits whose default position is to be critical, negative and occasionally downright rude? Don’t you sometimes crave to hear something ‘nice’? Wouldn’t it be a joy to hear Alan Green say something positive about referees or Mark Lawrenson take that sulky tone out of his voice speaking about ANYTHING? They’d both have got short shrift from my parents!
So I’m going to be ‘nice’. I’ve put aside any niggles and I’ve only been pondering what has pleased me most about Town this season.
But I’ve settled on the improved full-back position for top spot. Not the right back; not the left back. I mean the pairing.
Why is it such a pivotal position? From a defensive perspective, if you prevent opposing wingers getting to the dead ball line to pull the ball back, you’re going to restrict scoring opportunities.
And since 1966 and the advent of ‘the overlapping full-back’, getting up and down the flanks has become a key attacking option.
It’s fair to say that finding a quality pairing has been a problem for Town for many years.
Post-War, the most successful period for Town as a team was the 60s and early 70s. It’s no coincidence that both full back positions were sorted. I don’t quite go back as far as seeing Ray Wilson play left back for Town in partnership with Dennis Atkins at right back but that indeed was a formidable duo in the early 1960’s.
We all know what Ray Wilson went on to achieve playing for England. My own start point (1964) saw Dennis Atkins partnered by Bob McNab, not a bad replacement for Ray Wilson as McNab was later signed by Arsenal for whom he played 278 times at the highest level.
Atkins & McNab were followed by my all-time favourite duo – Derek Parkin and Chris Cattlin. So good were they that, in 1968, Wolverhampton Wanderers paid a British record transfer fee for a full back (£80,000) for Parkin, and shortly afterwards Cattlin went to Coventry City for £70,000.
Both Wolves & Coventry were First Division sides. Town had been knocking on the door of the First Division for a number of seasons; clearly Parkin & Cattlin weren’t convinced that Town would get there.
How wrong they were! 1969/70 saw Town easily top the division. And they had found another excellent full back pairing – Dennis Clarke & Geoff Hutt. Clarke had been signed from WBA, Hutt was home-grown. They continued being the first choice pairing in the top flight.
Tommy Smith and Chris Lowe compare favourably to these stand-out pairings and probably amongst the first names on Wagner’s teamsheet. After many years of looking vulnerable on one flank or the other, the present pairing is a good omen.
There might be some negatives about Town but today you won’t hear them from me; today I’m going to please my parents and stay positive.
Simon Thackray is Huddersfield born and bred but has been exiled to the south of England since 1975.
A solicitor by profession, now CEO of Law South Group Ltd, Simon's first game was back on August 22 1964 against Bolton Wanderers as a 10-year-old in a game which finished 1-1.