Hoyle swaps saddle for Royal Box seat hoping for Town’s ascension

Dean Hoyle.
Dean Hoyle.
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WHEN Dean Hoyle catches his first glimpse this afternoon of the Wembley arch that has become such a familiar landmark on the North London skyline, he will breathe a sigh of relief.

Not only will it mean his gruelling 210-mile charity bike ride is almost at an end but a moment the Huddersfield Town chairman has dreamed about will also be that bit closer.

Tomorrow, the Terriers will walk out at the rebuilt national stadium for the first time as they prepare to take on Sheffield United in the League One play-off final.

Hoyle, a lifelong fan whose business acumen allowed him to realise his ambition of buying the club, will look on from the Royal Box with a sense of pride only bettered by the day of his wedding and the birth of his children.

“To see the team you support at Wembley is great for any fan,” says the Town chairman ahead of today’s final 83-mile leg of the bike ride that began in Huddersfield on Wednesday lunchtime.

“But for that team to also be the one you own and are chairman of, I am expecting that when the players come out will be an incredibly emotional moment.

“I have been (to Wembley) quite a few times since it re-opened but to see your own team there will, I imagine, be a totally different experience and one I can’t wait to happen – even if I will be taking my place in the Royal Box with two white goggle eyes from the sun.”

Town’s road to tomorrow’s final at Wembley may not have been quite as tortuous as the one endured by Hoyle, who spent Wednesday night in Worksop and last night in Peterborough.

But, nevertheless, it has been a turbulent and dramatic one for the club and their supporters with a record unbeaten run, collapses in form and a change of manager all having combined to test everyone’s nerves to the full.

If, however, Simon Grayson’s men can prevail against the Blades then 2011-12 will be judged as an overwhelming success – not least because it will realise a major ambition of the club’s chairman.

“Getting to the Championship is everything for Huddersfield,” says Hoyle. “We would rather be playing Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County, Wolves, Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers (next season).

“No disrespect to Walsall and people like that but there is definitely a step up. We have been out for 11 years now and we want to be back.

“It is where this club deserves to be but, equally, we have no right to get there. There is a lot riding on it, though I am certain if we are not successful then we will have another go next season, as will Sheffield United.

“I would imagine the neutrals are looking forward to an all-Yorkshire final. It has caught the imagination in Huddersfield and Sheffield because playing a local rival always brings an extra edge. I’d also imagine Leicester Forest services are looking forward to a busy day and takings doubling.

“The bottom line is Yorkshire is going to Wembley and there is a lot riding on the day. It is great for the county.

“Sheffield United probably believe they deserved to get automatic promotion but, at the same time, we felt very similar last year.

“We finished a long way in front of anyone else but it wasn’t to be. To get promoted, you have to earn that right and that is what both teams will be attempting to do.”

Town expect to be cheered on by more than 22,000 fans tomorrow as they look to make it third time lucky after losing in the play-off final to Peterborough United last year and Millwall in the 2010 semi-finals.

When the season kicked off, automatic promotion was the target at the Galpharm Stadium but a run of three straight defeats in eight days around Easter put paid to those plans.

Since then, the focus has been on reaching Wembley – something that was achieved courtesy of a 3-2 aggregate victory over Milton Keynes Dons in the semi-finals.

It was after the final whistle blew at the end of the second leg that Hoyle, fresh from a charity bike ride from Yeovil to Huddersfield that raised £250,000 for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, revealed his plan to get back in the saddle once again and pedal all the way to Wembley.

This time, underprivileged children in Huddersfield are the beneficiaries with the £50,000 raised being used to take one thousand to tomorrow’s final.

Hoyle says: “People did ask if I was mad to plan another bike ride so soon after Yeovil and I suppose it does seem a bit bonkers.

“But I want Huddersfield Town to be the very heart of this community and that means doing our bit whenever we can.

“I only live three or four miles away from the ground so I live in the centre of what we are trying to do.

“I am a local lad who built my business up locally. I have supported the team for 35 years and am true to my roots.

“To be able to take kids who would otherwise never get the chance to visit Wembley is great and a big thank you is owed to the people of Kirklees and Huddersfield for chipping in when times are hard and money is tight.

“To be honest, these kids might never get the chance to watch a game here at Huddersfield, never mind London. So, to be able to allow them the chance to see Wembley and all the magic that goes with it makes the effort worthwhile.”

As for Hoyle, taking on the challenge of cycling more than 200 miles to London has had an unexpected bonus in this most nervy and tense of weeks.

“It has taken my mind off the game,” he says. “It means I won’t be as nervous as maybe I would have been because my time will have been spent concentrating on cycling there.”