Former Huddersfield Town chairman Graham Leslie sums up the transformation under Dean Hoyle in one succinct sentence.
“We’ve always been in the shadows but now we’re the only Premier League club in Yorkshire, how fabulous is that?” says the new CBE.
Leslie – a prime driving force behind the project to build what is now the John Smith’s Stadium – is better placed than most to quantify the size of the promotion achievement.
He joined Town’s board in 1989, helped stave off a financial crisis in the early 1990s and then made sure the stadium was pushed through to replace the crumbling Leeds Road.
“I never thought I would see Town playing in the Premier League in my lifetime, never in my wildest dreams,” said Leslie, the man who founded Galpharm International in 1982 and sold out to the Perrigo Group for $88m in 2008.
“When I first joined the Town board they were trying to raise £10,000 to patch up the old Cowshed roof and then not long after, the bank were threatening to foreclose on us – so I sat down and said we had to change things.
“You can imagine the thought process when I talked about the stadium – ‘we can’t raise ten grand so how are you going to build a stadium?’ – and when we had a meeting of fans in the Town Hall, they wanted a new left-back, a new keeper and a new centre forward, not a new stadium.
“But we had to have the vision, and we had to have the drive and the determination and, fortunately, with the excellent support of Sir John Harman, who was then leader of Kirklees Council, we made sure there was a legacy – and that was vital.”
Leslie, who in 2011 became the University of Huddersfield’s first ever non-academic resident professor of enterprise and entrepreneurship, says the influence of current chairman Dean Hoyle should be celebrated and commended.
“To bring it forward to where the club is now from where it was when I took over from Keith Longbottom is just incredible,” said Leslie, who was born in London in 1946 before moving to Middlesbrough at the age of five.
“When I was chairman, I said to everyone ‘don’t ever think we will get in the Premier League’, because at that time the big clubs were all talking about forming a European league, and I could only ever see us being pushed further down in terms of opportunities to get to the top flight.
“So the fact it has now happened is incredible, and Dean Hoyle is in the very highest classification in his running of the club.
“To have fairytales and dreams coming true it takes some money, but more importantly it’s a combination of things topped off by bringing in an excellent coach – one of the very best who is only going to get better and better.
“If you look at our history, we’ve only ever once before head-hunted a coach, and that was Herbert Chapman, who set up the teams at both Huddersfield and Arsenal which won three titles on the trot.
“Dean works away very quietly but he’s right up there with the best – that’s the strength of a man making the right judgments and the right choices in his team leaders.
“The backroom staff have remained very, very loyal and that’s a great sign, because you are not having to change things every six months or 12 months, and that’s indicative of a superb, wonderful guy at the top.”
Leslie added: “To have a chairman who is a fan is good, but to have a chairman who is a wealthy fan but also very intelligent, bright and successful is a miracle – and we’ve got a miracle.
“We have always been in the shadows but now we’re the only Premier League club in Yorkshire, how fabulous is that?”
Town kick-off their Premier League campaign at Crystal Palace, before home games against Newcastle United and Southampton.
Leslie says the prospect of the whole season is to be savoured.
“I have travelled around the world and people have always asked ‘where are you from? Where is Huddersfield?’ and you’ve always had to say ‘between Leeds and Manchester’.
“I’ve been around the globe twice in the last six months and, suddenly people do know where Huddersfield is and the team, well they’ve put us on a whole new level.
“It’s about branding, commercial opportunities for local people, for history and for the community.
“I’ve got a Huddersfield Town flag on my car and it won’t come off. I will just keep changing it as long as we are in the Premier League!
“That passion has always been underlying in this area, but now it’s come to the fore.
“Yes, we will have 25,000 ‘managers’ in the stadium next season and everyone has an opinion, but this is pay-back for our fans who are very, very fortunate to be able to see their team in the Premier League – and they should grasp every aspect of it and enjoy it, because it’s tremendous.”