Huddersfield Town 0 Swindon Town 0: Town match Chapman’s run as radical reform looms on horizon

WHEN Huddersfield Town achieved the magnificent feat of becoming the first team in England to win three successive First Division titles, all players were on the same wage.

That fact underlined the credentials of manager Herbert Chapman, the football revolutionary who left before the hat-trick was achieved and who sadly died before his new club, Arsenal, had followed suit.

During their second title-winning campaign in 1924-25, Huddersfield went on a 17-match unbeaten run.

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That club record was matched on Saturday as Huddersfield settled for an exasperating goalless draw against relegation-threatened Swindon Town.

Current manager Lee Clark is not and does not profess to be Herbert Chapman but he must be doing something right although it is going to be a tight call attempting to clinch the second automatic place as Peterborough and Southampton wait to pounce with games in hand.

It may also be the last chance for clubs such as Huddersfield and Southampton to capitalise on the largesse of benefactor owners.

Since the abolition of the maximum wage 50 years ago, football has not operated on a level playing field – would Sir Alex Ferguson have been able to persuade some of the best players in the world to ply their trade in Salford if it was?

Demands of the fans for instant success have often led to club boards spending money they simply did not have in pursuit of elusive dreams and trophies, which, if achieved, often turned to poisoned chalices.

Financial reality is slowly filtering through, however, and Town chief executive Nigel Clibbens spelled out the new scenario in Saturday’s match-day programme.

The player wage budget in League Two is already capped at 55 per cent revenue and League One clubs are shadowing the system.

“Under these rules, the HTFC turnover would give us a limit of around £2.5m-£3m. That is considerably less than we pay now. Like many clubs we will have to change the way we operate,” warned Clibbens.

“We are all seeing how it goes, refining and developing the rules. 2011-12 looks like being the ‘trial’ season with the full system coming for 2012-13 along with penalties (for breaches).

“There is a lot of detailed work to be done, especially around the rules during the transition period, but the feeling of clubs is that radical reform is coming.”

Even if promotion is achieved, Town will face a tighter financial wage structure as the Championship clubs are also looking at both the forthcoming Premier League and League Two models as they formulate their own plans, perhaps heeding the warning this month of Reading chairman Sir John Madejski, who said that unless a salary cap of some sort is introduced then “a lot of clubs will disappear.”

Despite having multi-millionaire Dean Hoyle at the helm, Town are fully behind the new initiatives, even though it would probably put an end to them bringing in high-earning loan players from the Premier League or Championship.

His manager appears satisfied with the squad at his disposal for the run-in and said that no-one will be leaving ahead of the closure of the emergency loan transfer window on Thursday.

Clark must have some concern, however, that none of the five strikers he employed against Paul Hart’s battlers managed a shot to test David Lucas, Town generally adopting the aerial route as a bobbly surface caused by the previous evening’s Super League game made it difficult to get passing movements going.

On another day, Town could have scored half-a-dozen or they could have succumbed to a smash-and-grab raid against opponents who are not a patch on the side which reached last season’s play-off final.

Their three-man spearhead of Billy Paynter, Charlie Austin and loanee Danny Ward have all gone with the latter being brought in on loan from Bolton by Town as a flank replacement for broken leg victim Anthony Pilkington.

Ward, making his home debut, whipped in the early cross which Jordan Rhodes met with a diving header only to see the ball strike the bar but Swindon’s biggest tormentor was Gary Roberts.

They got him booked for what they claimed was a dive as Mike Grella stuck out a leg and Roberts went down in the area after jinking past two players. That yellow card only spurred him on.

His free-kick to the far post brought a header from Peter Clarke which Jonathan Douglas headed off the line and Roberts had a shot blocked before Lucas went to his left to make the save of the day from him before the break.

Town were caught cold on the resumption, Matt Ritchie clipping the far post as he ran on to a cut back from lone frontman Calvin Andrew and Swindon were always dangerous on the break.

Town, however, upped the tempo but there was some great defending from Scott Cuthbert and Andy Frampton before Lee’s stoppage-time header landed on top of the bar and then Paul Caddis bundled the ball away after Lucas had fumbled the substitute striker’s header and Douglas again headed off the line from Jamie McCombe’s header to leave Swindon buoyed for their next test against leaders Brighton.

Huddersfield Town: Smithies, Hunt, McCombe, P Clarke, Naysmith; Roberts, Arfield, Kilbane, Ward (Lee 83); Rhodes (Cadamarteri 59), Novak (Afobe 73). Unused substitutes: Bennett, Ridehalgh, T Clarke, Gudjonsson.

Swindon Town: Lucas, Caddis, Cuthbert, Frampton, Sheehan (Jean-Francois 86); Douglas; Ritchie (Rose 76), Prutton, Timlin, Grella (Amankwaah 62); Andrew. Unused substitutes: Benyon, Smith, McGovern, Ferry.

Referee: C Sarginson (Staffs).