THREE managers, seven coaches, 32 players (including 11 new signings and four loans) and 68 points are among the numbers which sum up Town’s centenary campaign.
But nine is the one which really matters to the supporters.
That’s where Town disappointingly finished in the League I table and including next season, it’s the length of time the club have been out of English football’s top two divisions.
It’s not quite the worst spell in the wilderness – there were 10 seasons between relegation from the original Second Division under Ian Greaves in 1973 and promotion from the Third under Mick Buxton in 1983.
But incoming chairman Dean Hoyle – he officially replaces Ken Davy on May 22 – won’t want to contemplate equalling that particular club record.
This, of course, was to be the season when Town finally slammed the door on League I firmly shut, and at this time last year, everything seemed in place.
Town had finished the season with four straight wins and unbeaten in six matches under the caretaker stewardship of Gerry Murphy (of whom more later), had, in Stan Ternent, a new and experienced manager promising to bring in the players capable of winning promotion, and had launched a bold season-ticket initiative which promised the highest average home crowd since the heady days of top-flight football at Leeds Road in the early seventies.
That didn’t quite materialise, because despite final sales of 16,265, a new club record, the average crowd for the 23 league fixtures at the Galpharm was 13,276, less than the 14,029 figure for the Division I (now Championship) campaign of 1999-2000.
The hoped-for attendance figure wasn’t the only thing which didn’t quite happen.
To be fair to Ternent, he warned that success doesn’t always come immediately, saying in his eve-of-season Examiner column: “Winning promotion isn’t like going into a chip shop and ordering a takeaway.”
But having to wait five games for a first league victory (2-1 at Cheltenham on September 6) was hard for everyone to stomach.
Ternent had signed eight new players – Andy Butler, Ian Craney, Jim Goodwin, Chris Lucketti, Michael Flynn, Keigan Parker, Gary Roberts and David Unsworth – plus long-term ‘project’ Tom Denton – but it was a loan arrival, Derby’s Liam Dickinson, who was to have the biggest impact in the early stages of the season.
The lanky former Stockport striker bagged six goals in 13 appearances, but Town’s inconsistency prevented a climb into the top half of the table, and as far as the manager was concerned, the warning bells were ringing after the 4-0 trouncing at Peterborough on October 25.
“We play Carlisle on Boxing Day and I’d prefer to spend Christmas Day travelling up there as manager of Huddersfield Town,” he said. “But if not. I’ll have my Christmas dinner at home.”
Ternent, as he suspected, was to have turkey and all the trimmings in his house on the hills above Burnley rather than at a hotel off the M6 after parting company with Town on November 4, just six months after his appointment.
His reign, during which he also brought in Burnley striker Steve Jones on loan, yielded four wins and 17 points from a possible 45, an average of 1.14 a game, and departing alongside him, with Town 16th in the table, were coaches Ronnie Jepson and Mick Docherty, physio Ian Liversedge and vice-chairman Andrew Watson, who resigned having been instrumental in Ternent’s appointment.
Trusty director of football development Murphy, ably assisted by academy chief Graham Mitchell, stepped in for a third stint as caretaker manager – and maintained an admirable record at the helm.
His sole defeat in six games was the 4-3 home FA Cup first-round setback against Port Vale (one of Ternent’s few high spots had been the 4-0 Carling Cup first-round destruction of Bradford at the Galpharm), while among his four wins was the sweet 2-1 triumph at Leeds on November 15, when Michael Collins grabbed a dramatic stoppage-time winner.
Murphy’s last spell as manager (he was to retire in February) ended with 12 points from a possible 15, an average of 2.4 a game.
Former Newcastle, Sunderland and Fulham midfielder Lee Clark left his job as assistant to Glenn Roeder at Norwich to take on his first managerial post at Town on December 11, bringing with him coaches Derek Fazackerley and Steve Black (he was later to appoint Terry McDermott as his right-hand man and bring in Paul Stephenson as development coach) and a promise to push for the play-offs.
The early signs were highly promising, with Town rising to eighth place after the 2-1 home win over Swindon on January 17.
In the week that followed, Clark splashed out a reported £750,000 on widemen Anthony Pilkington, from Stockport, and Lionel Ainsworth, from Watford.
Also brought in during the transfer window were Everton striker Lukas Jutkiewicz (on loan), German defender Dominik Werling and French frontman Jonathan Tehoue.
However, Jutkiewicz failed to find the net in six starts plus one appearance from the bench, Werling figured only three times, all as a substitute, and because of a registration wrangle Tehoue, who had previously been playing his football in Turkey, didn’t feature at all.
And despite the boost of completing a rare double over Leeds, who were beaten 1-0 in front of 20,928 at the Galpharm on February 14, a dip in form kiboshed Clark’s bid to break into the top six.
It was eight more matches before Town won, 1-0 at Hereford on March 8, and while that success sparked a major upsurge, it came too late.
At least fans had the consolation of seeing Andy Booth, who returned from back surgery then announced his decision to retire, net five times in the final four matches to take his overall club tally to 150.
That helped Town, whose final loan capture was versatile Liverpool defender Martin Kelly, close the campaign with 17 points from a possible 24 to take Clarks’s overall record to 39 from 78 (1.5 a game).