MARTIN SHAW has reported on Town since 1995. He travelled with the fans to Wembley and captured the anecdotes and emotions
7am: Arrive at Galpharm Stadium. Blue skies, sunshine and boundless optimism. What will today bring? I’m going to enjoy it whatever.
More used to long johns for football. Not sure about my skinny, hairy legs in shorts. Ah well. When in Rome ...
7.20: Spoke to Mark Stott, of Stotts Coaches, who runs Town’s official travel club. He’s co-ordinating 79 coachloads of fans. “There are no problems so far,’’ he said.
He started his planning weeks ago and stole a march on Sheffield United by booking up most of Yorkshire’s fleet of coaches.
He loved the story the Examiner published about it the other week and grinned: “Sheffield United were only taking 32 coaches and stopped selling on Sunday.
“They were caught with their trousers down!’’
Mark, a massive Town fan, was following his coaches by car. “I’ve only missed two matches this season,’’ he said.
7.32am: Great atmosphere around the Galpharm stadium. A trail of cars coming into the car park and fans – in full summer gear – wending their way to their coaches.
7.43am: I’m on Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Association Coach 98 and have a chat with drivers Mark Barrow, 43, and Simon Turner. Mark’s a veteran.
“I’ve been to Wembley with Leeds United, Man City and Leeds Rhinos,’’ he said.
“I went to the Leeds-Doncaster play-off game when Leeds didn’t turn up and lost. I enjoyed taking Man City to the FA Cup final best. There was some great banter.’’
Simon, 36, has only been in the job two weeks but is looking forward to it.
Mark said: “I don't like the new Wembley. Give me the Twin Towers any day.’’
He estimates it’ll take us four-and-a-half hours with a stop at Leicester Forest services.
7.58am: All 49 on our coach have arrived. Phew! Sian Patrick, our steward, counts them all again – and asks her uncle Michael Scott to double check.
8.02am: We’re off! In a four-coach HTSA convoy. We stop after 100 yards for the Look North cameraman on another bus to get on board.
8.13am: Town flags and banners hanging from windows in Flockton.
8.48am: Talk to Dave Goward on the seat across from me about his hopes for the day. He doesn’t want to tempt fate.
Dave, 26, of Dalton, said cryptically: “If we don’t talk about it, it might happen.’’ Deep and meaningful, Dave!
9.25am: Word filters through of accident on M1. Delays of up to an hour-and-a-half. Fun.
9.36am: Debate about the merits of keepers. Ian Bennett or Alex Smithies as Town’s No1?
Malcolm Brierley, 66, of Marsh, said: “Bennett for me. You can’t buy that kind of experience. If he’s got the physical fitness to still be playing at 40 he has the dedication to carry on.’’
Malcolm’s daughter Nicola, 36, said: “Benno for me. I like Smithies but he’s not the finished article.’’
9.42am: Nicola Brierley isn’t bothered that Town are taking fewer fans to Wembley than they did to the play-off final against Peterborough at Old Trafford last year. “The ones going to Wembley are the true fans. Not the day-trippers!’’
9.53am: Queue to get into Leicester Forest services, Town’s designated stop-off. Motorway speed limit down to 40mph. Trouble ahead.
9.58am: I decide to shun the 10-minute queue for the gents. The services is a mass of blue and white (fantastic sight) but there are some imposters.
A minibus of Sheffield United fans is parked up in the middle of the car park. I speak to Crazy Dave and Big Al who have had a can or two.
“We didn’t know it was Town’s services so we’re either brave or daft!’’ said Dave, who predicted a 2-1 win for the Blades with Porter hitting the winner.
I ask if they are afraid of Jordan Rhodes. “Who?’’ they respond.
Persuade passing Town fans Jason Spencer, 44, of son Lucio, 10, of Crosland Moor, to pose for a photo with the Blades crew. Good humoured fun. Big Al promises to come to Huddersfield on Monday to buy an Examiner! Not if you lose, mate!
10.09am: Make for a Town minibus this time. Scotsman Stuart Cairney, 42, of Copley, Halifax, is wearing a Pedal for Pounds Yeovil shirt – with a Kilmarnock top underneath.
Stuart raised £500 on the bike ride and is an adopted Town fan. “I still support Killy,’’ he said.
He mused on why the play-off final needed a trophy. “It’s not the silverware, it’s promotion that matters,’’ he said.
10.25am: Head back for coach, just as it started to move – 400 yards away. Are they trying to leave me behind? Hope my bladder holds out!
10.36: Leave services and we are heading for a detour because the M1 is closed further down. I notice a tweet from Colne Valley MP and big Town fan Jason McCartney suggesting the ref thinks about delaying the kick-off. Fans not too worried. Following all the traffic news on Twitter. “How would we manage without technology,’’ said Nicola Brierley. “We’d all be queuing for a phone box at the services.’’
10.53am: So far so good on M1. Just passed by white stretch limo of Blades fans.
11.07am: Hitting queues near Northampton. Slow moving traffic. More insight from Dave Goward. “One goal off someone’s backside could win it. And I’ll take it off Alan Lee’s.’’ Sky Sports beckons, Dave.
11.14am: Hardened Town fan and seasoned football traveller Michael Scott has seen it all before.
“When we went to Bournemouth for the play-off semi last year our coach broke down at the exit of Northampton services. We got there with eight minutes to spare!’’
11.26am: Twitter reports THREE-hour delay at junction 13 – and an accident on alternative route, M40. Nicola Brierley joked: “We might as well go home!’’
11.30am: Big queue off M1 for M40 so our driver pulls out and keeps going, heading for A1. Turns out A1 junction is blocked by police so we head through countryside and see signpost for the village of Moggerhanger which raises a few titters.
11.45am: Apparently kick-off is not going to be changed. Twitter is brilliant but also frustrating. Someone spots a house called Jordan’s and we take that as a good omen.
12.30pm: I chat to drivers Mark and Simon. Simon’s at the wheel. “I’m just following the coach in front,’’ he said laughing, as Mark mapped the traffic chaos on his iPad. “I couldn’t manage without this,’’ he said. He checked kick-off time and it was still listed for 3pm.
We get on the A1 at Sandy and Simon reckons our ETA is 2pm.
12.45pm: Sign on the A1 says London 40 miles. We hit queues again and traffic grinds to a virtual halt.
1.05pm: People starting to get restless now. Five hours after we set off from the Galpharm. Feels like a lifetime ago. Numb bums all round. The onboard loo is getting plenty of use.
1.16pm: Spirits starting to flag. “I didn’t want to run down Wembley Way,’’ said Nicola. “I just wanted to meander down.’’ Not sure we’ll get there in time to run down Wembley Way. Still nose-to-tail.
1.52pm: We are still half-a-mile from junction 7 of the A1 where the road is closed. “I’m pretty miffed,’’ said Nicola. “If there’s so many fans stuck they could delay kick-off for an hour to give us a chance.’’
2.10pm: Frustrations are growing. Nicola still suffering. “I can’t believe it. The M1, the A1 and the M40. How can they close every road into London?’’
2.30pm: The coach isn’t going anywhere fast. Martin Bottomley, 45, had already had one nightmare journey.
He’d come over from Preston the night before to meet family and was stuck on the M62 for three hours.
“It’s not been a good trip,’’ he said with massive under-statement. “We set off with great anticipation. We wanted to get there really early, get the flag out and have a great craic.’’
Michael North, 43, from Mirfield, said: “No-one feels sorry for the fans. It’s all about Sky TV scheduling.’’
Mark Branston, of Dalton, with 13-year-old son Marcus, said: “God help us when the Olympics start if this is what sport in London is all about.’’
2.50pm: We’re in the village of Knebworth and moving quickly but not quickly enough. The Blitz spirit was kicking in. “Get them to drag out the National Anthem a bit. Put your foot down, driver,’’ said a wag.
2.51pm: TalkSport Town commentary over the coach audio system is the only solution. Though one or two lucky fans tune in to Sky Go on their mobiles. “It eats my battery,’’ complained Dave.
2.55pm: The other coach we are following pulls up. So do we. Have they broken down? No, just had to change drivers as his hours were up. Off again.
3pm: Kick off. Still miles away. Grim faces.
3.24pm: “It has to be 90°F on the pitch,’’ said the radio commentator. “That will take its toll.’’ The temperature is rising in here too, mate, even with the air conditioning.
3.25pm: Hendon. First signs for Wembley. Big cheer.
3.28am: Nearly there. Dave says the quickest way out is the fire door. “It might set the alarm off but who cares?’’
3.36pm: Wembley! A mass exit (no alarm). We sprint/jog/hobble half way round Wembley and past Bobby Moore’s statue, find the turnstiles and, click, we’re in.
“Can I check your bag, sir? Do you have any bottles?’’ asked a steward. He replaced my plastic bottle of water with a plastic pint ‘glass.’ “It’s policy,’’ he said. Plastic swapped for plastic. The only difference is I can now spill the water as I run. Thanks, elf and safety.
3.45pm: A loo stop, then to our seats – 60 seconds before the half-time whistle. We haven’t missed much, apparently. Can anyone believe this journey? Shell-shocked.
3.51pm: The score’s 0-0. “Anything can happen. This is Town,’’ said a fan. This game could go either way.
4.25pm: The game is the tighter than the tightest thing, as Baldrick might have said. If the passion of Town fans counts for anything, the Terriers are going up.
4.37pm: Squeaky bum time. Tensions are palpable in the stands as we go into extra time.
5.07pm: Alan Lee introduced from the bench. The familiar chant goes up. Who’d bet against him scoring the winner? Maybe Dave was right about one off his backside?
5.15pm: Half-time in extra-time. Michael Scott is feeling the pressure. “If they keep playing like this both sides are staying down,’’ he said.
5.39pm: Penalties. Town’s entire season boils down to who can keep their nerve. Town miss the first three and it looks like curtains. Some fans can’t watch. At least the goal is right in front of us. A perfect view, for those who dare look.
Alex Smithies – legend. After Town missed the first three penalties who could have thought it would have gone to sudden death and be decided by the two keepers? Steve Simonsen – legend!
6pm: Great scenes. Town fans have waited forever for this. Chairman Dean Hoyle jumps around like a mad man. The fans chant his name. Gary Roberts is lovin’ it.
The Blades players do a lap of honour and applaud Town fans. Town fans return the compliment. Nice touch.
Time to celebrate. Loud and proud.
6.30pm: Still more drama. So where’s this coach of ours. Under Wembley Way and turn right, or is it left? We’re not that bothered now. Err, actually we are!
6.34pm: Spoke to a few Town fans coming out. Huge smiles, chanting, singing. A sea of blue and white in the sunshine. Red and white long gone.
Alan Wrigley, 49, from Lindley, said: “They always drag it out do Town but we had the better chances and deserved it. Then it’s anybody's game with penalties. I’m drained!’’
Alan’s partner Jillian, 54, added: “I daren’t watch the penalties. I had my eyes covered.’’
6.50pm: Find coach. Hidden away from the others because we arrived so late.
7pm: Heading out of Wembley and back on the road. What will this journey have in store?
7.24pm: The realisation of promotion to the Championship starts to sink in. No more Oldham, no Bournemouth, no Walsall. No freezing Christmas/New Year trip to Carlisle.
7.50pm: A rousing chorus from the cheap seats. “We’re the famous Huddersfield and we’ve BEEN to Wembley.’’ Going up, up, up.
8.20pm: Pass a car with Sheffield United fans. A little boy in the back grins and waves his Blades flag. A sympathetic cheer from the coach. The boy’s mum is stony-faced in the front seat, pretending she didn’t see us. That’s football.
8.29: England are 1-0 up in Norway. Commentary on as if we’ve not had enough football. “All we want is for Englebert to win Eurovision and it’s been the perfect day,’’ said Nicola. Town have been promoted. That’s enough miracles for one day!
8.40pm: Five Live say Town are promoted. More cheers.
8.52pm: Dave Goward noted how the modest Jordan Rhodes shunned the limelight in Town’s celebrations. “He stood back but this is his promotion,’’ said Dave.
8.58pm: Hit traffic again near Northampton. Haven’t we had enough?
9.35pm: Lowell Bamforth, 20, of Linthwaite, said his day was fantastic. “It’s just brilliant. I can’t believe it. This was better than Cardiff when Town went up before.’’
His mate Ryan Walker, also 20, agreed. “It’s better than anything. That’s how it is.’’
Lowell wasn’t impressed with the price of a pint – £4.70. “I gave them £25 and said how many can I have with that!’’
9.45pm: Back at Leicester Forest services for a 10-minute stopover. It’s busy again with both Town and Blades fans mingling. Coaches still coming in. Tip picked up from seasoned Town traveller Sian Patrick. If on northbound carriageway nip over the bridge to the other side (and vice versa). Beat the queues.
Oops. Plan slightly back-fired. Took longer than 10 minutes to get a takeaway Starbucks coffee and held up coach! Needed caffeine fix.
9.59pm: Back on motorway. Two hours to Huddersfield given a fair wind. Take nothing for granted.
10.02pm: Typing this on my Apple laptop and battery gives out. I know the feeling. My mobile also died ages ago. Feel mild panic. How did we manage without mobiles?
10.47pm: So to the future. Nicola Brierley says the Championship is going to be “weird.’’ She added: “We are going to be underdogs now.’’
Jane Fowler, 37, of Paddock, said the message to Simon Grayson was simple: “Just keep us up!’’ I question that apparent lack of ambition but Jane said: “It’s only one league apart but it’s a different world.’’
10.58pm: Meadowhall is illuminated in the darkness. We’re getting there.
11.02pm : Malcolm Brierley sums up the day. “It’s been a rollercoaster,’’ he said. “It’s been a long, hard season and we have suffered as Town fans over the years. It’s nice that it’s gone our way for once.’’
11.08pm: Jane Fowler spares a thought for former boss Lee Clark. “I feel for Lee Clark seeing his team go up. I wonder what he's thinking now?’’
11.11pm: A quick burst of Agadoo. As you do.
11.23pm: The verdict on the bus is that Jordan Rhodes is going nowhere. Jane said: “He would be daft to leave now. We’re in the Championship! He can stay for another year and learn his trade. Scotland won’t mind him playing in the Championship.’’
11.35pm: Hunger is now the main topic of conversation. A debate about the relative merits of fried chicken from Ryan and Lowell. KFC, Marstons or Chicken Cellar in Linthwaite (other good chicken shops are available). Never liked fried chicken myself (seeing as how you were wondering).
11.39pm: So how does it feel that you missed the first half, guys? “Who cares now?’’ retorted Nicola. “We got our money’s worth with extra time and penalties – and we won!’’
11.46pm: No hazards on the road. Drop off in Huddersfield town centre for the party to begin. I make my excuses in true journalistic fashion and return to the Galpharm.
11.57pm: Back at the stadium where it all began at 7am. Coaches and fans still arriving. Horns blaring, flags waving. It’s been a long day and it’ll be a long night of celebrations. What a journey and I’m not just talking about the coach. It could only happen to Town.