Plummet towards trapdoor left Town in dread

Huddersfield Town chairman Dean Hoyle
Huddersfield Town chairman Dean Hoyle
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HALF an hour or so after Huddersfield Town had beaten Barnsley in November to return to the Championship play-off places, Simon Grayson was about to speak to the waiting media in the concourse behind the antiquated main stand when Dean Hoyle emerged through the big doors.

Earlier in the day, the Terriers chairman had walked from Huddersfield to Oakwell to raise funds for the Yorkshire Ambulance ‘Keep It Up!’ campaign.

A smiling Grayson, on spotting Hoyle, enquired as to whether he had suffered any blisters on the 19-mile trek and the pair indulged in the type of banter that illustrated vividly what good friends they had become since the former Leeds United and Blackpool manager had assumed the Town reins in February.

Chat over, Grayson turned back to the waiting triumvirate of Yorkshire pressmen to offer his thoughts about Huddersfield’s 1-0 win. Among the questions asked of him was whether the club were capable of sustaining a promotion push.

The Town chief, as was invariably his wont when in charge at Elland Road, attempted to play down those chances by pointing out that the season was only 16 games old, albeit with the caveat that should the club’s good run continue then nothing could be ruled out.

Standing close by with his family and friends, Hoyle nodded along while listening to his manager’s thoughts. At one stage, he did mouth the words ‘promotion’ when the Yorkshire Post asked Grayson what the target for the rest of the season was, but it was clear the words were said more in jest than seriousness.

Hoyle, like his manager, recognised there was still two-thirds of the campaign to be played and that Huddersfield’s first season at this level since 2001 was, above all else, about consolidation.

Eleven weeks on and that target has not changed, as has been evident whenever this correspondent has been chewing the fat with any of the powers-that-be at the John Smith’s Stadium, either before or after recent games.

That was why even after Town’s 4-0 defeat at Watford, a result that took the Yorkshire outfit’s winless run in the league to 12 games, any enquiries as to whether Grayson’s job was under threat were dismissed summarily.

Clearly, however, the loss at Vicarage Road proved to be a tipping point for Hoyle, who yesterday summoned Grayson to a meeting in which the 43-year-old was informed he and his coaching staff of Glynn Snodin and Ian Miller were being let go.

All three men, who had also been together for the best part of three years at Leeds, are understood to have been shocked by the decision, believing that more time would be given to turn round the current miserable run of form.

A loss of belief on the part of the Terriers’ board appears to be behind the decision to wield the axe. Relegation simply cannot be allowed to happen, not least because it would represent a huge setback in Hoyle’s pursuit of Huddersfield becoming a self-sufficient club in the long-term.

To get out of League One, the lifelong fan-turned-chairman had to dip into his own pocket to cover a loss of £5.7m in the financial year to the end of June, 2012.

The previous season – when Town had lost in the play-off final to Peterborough United – had brought a £4.1m deficit, a sum that Hoyle also covered.

Promotion has brought a significant rise in revenue from the £7.39m banked last term thanks to increased income through the gate and around £4m more in central payments from the Football League.

Clearly, the prospect of a return to the third tier was one that could not be countenanced.

For Grayson, yesterday’s turn of events will have come as a major blow. It is only a year since he was sacked at Elland Road and Huddersfield seemed a perfect fit for such an ambitious individual.

Last May’s play-off triumph and the superb start that Town enjoyed to the current season – they went second after a 3-1 win at Blackpool on September 24 and then returned to the play-off spots following the 1-0 triumph at Oakwell – merely seemed to cement that relationship.

That was, though, until the awful run that has since seen just six points taken from a possible 36 and, as of this morning, the 43-year-old is looking for a new job.

Grayson may want to take a break from the pressures of management after almost eight years on the treadmill.

But, when the time does come that he wants to return, it is doubtful that a manager with three promotins on his CV, plus a bright reputation, will be out of work for long with a possible return to former club Blackpool already having been mooted in the seaside town.

As for Huddersfield, the task of halting the current slide falls, at least in the interim, to Academy manager Mark Lillis and senior professional development coach Steve Eyre.

With Town facing three games in the next nine days, including two in the Championship, the pair are looking to make an immediate impact to ensure whoever the new man is – and Nigel Adkins seems to tick all the boxes for supporters and bookmakers alike right now – they are handed a club with a smile on its face.