Huddersfield Town: Former hero Marcus Stewart backs Terriers to clinch place back in Premier League

BACK in the day, Marcus Stewart was as close as it got to a ‘superstar’ at Huddersfield Town.

There was a fair chance that his goals would have fired the Terriers to the big time in 1999-2000. He did eventually reach the top-flight that season, but in the blue and white of Ipswich and not Huddersfield.

Through no fault of his own, it has to be said.

It took the West Yorkshire club until the end of 2016-17 to reach the Premier League. It was a team who were greater than the sum of their parts – much like the present one who are gunning for a return to the top tier against Nottingham Forest tomorrow.

Former Huddersfield Town striker Marcus Stewart - pictured with the Championship play-off trophy Picture courtesy of Andrew Fosker/Shutterstock

In contrast, Stewart was the marquee player in an expensively-assembled line-up including the likes of Clyde Wijnhard, Chris Lucketti, George Donis and Dean Gorre who had Town followers dreaming of automatic promotion at the start of the century under Steve Bruce, only for the wheels to fall off after the striker was sold to Ipswich for £2.5m.

By contrast, the current Town squad has been assembled for a modest outlay. That it has the glorious potential to last the course is the key difference.

Stewart, who famously scored against Huddersfield in a play-off final for Bristol Rovers in 1995 ahead of joining the following year, said: “It’s ironic as they have not really spent any money in wheeling and dealing and Carlos (Corberan) has done a great job to get them to where they are now.

“I am sure at the start of the season a lot of fans were thinking: ‘Here we go again’. Not with a relegation battle but being sucked into one at some point.

THAT WAS THEN: Marcus Stewart, in action for Huddersfield Town at Wolves in September 1999.

“Now it is the total opposite and they will appreciate the fact that they have just got to Wembley.

“But I am not saying that in a negative way as I think they have a really good chance of winning.

“Forest are favourites, but by a small margin. They are not out and out favourites and anything can happen on the day.

“The Huddersfield team have been workmanlike and there’s togetherness. The fans have helped that and when I have watched the games recently, the fans have been behind them and that helps as well.

TERRIERS' HERO: Huddersfield Town's Marcus Stewart tussles with Port Vale's Anthony Gardner.

“There’s no real superstars and they find different ways of getting goals, like from set-plays and they keep clean sheets. The superstars get 30 goals per season and they have not got that – the top-scorer is on 14 goals.

“But they have that willingness to defend and win by the odd goal when it has to happen. They are a team who are willing to play and defend for each other.”

To this day, when talk turns to Stewart, Huddersfield fans utter a collective cry of ‘if only.’

His sale to Ipswich is widely cited as the catalyst for the descent of the club back in 1999-2000. Town unravelled and dropped down the divisions and eventually returned to the second tier in 2011-12.

Bristol-born Stewart remains close to Huddersfield, with his two sons based in the town.

Kian plays for Huddersfield RUFC, while Finn – who has come up through Huddersfield Giants’ academy – will be stepping out in the league code for Rochdale Hornets in 2022.

Stewart gets up to Huddersfield on a regular basis and it remains a bit of a home from home. Although when Terriers supporters speak to him, it is usually to wistfully lament what might have been in 99-00. He concurs.

He added: “They don’t remember I scored the goals for them, but just remember that time (when he left). But I don’t mind talking about it as I did not instigate it and don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed about it. I didn’t want to leave the club.

“It wasn’t really my doing because I never asked for a transfer. A bid was accepted and if a bid was put in, you are allowed to say no. But that wasn’t the case.

“In that season, we were in with a chance and both Ipswich and Huddersfield were up there. I believe if I had stayed, we would probably have had a chance.

“We had a real good chance of getting in the play-offs, that’s for sure. But if you get in them, luck plays a part getting into the final and the final itself.”

Stewart’s Bristol accent may be instantly recognisable, but this son of the West Country will always have a fond attachment to Huddersfield.

He continued: “It is home from home for me. (Although) Things have changed, I don’t now play football at all. I just don’t want to kick a football!

“When I go up there, the old folk recognise me, but the youngsters don’t, which is fine – I get that. But I am always well received and enjoy going back.”

Marcus Stewart was speaking on behalf of the EFL ahead of the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final on 29th May at Wembley Stadium.