ROY ELLAM, the only ever-present during Huddersfield Town’s last two seasons in the top flight, will not be at Wembley on Monday.
Instead, as his extended family head south for what is the Terriers’ biggest game since the 1938 FA Cup final, the 74-year-old is content to stay at home and cheer his old club on via the TV.
“I am at the age where I want to have the best view,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “All my family are going, grandkids included. But I’ve been to Wembley before so will watch it at home with my wife.”
This indifference towards being at the Championship play-off final should not be misinterpreted as disinterest. Far from it.
Ellam, also an ever-present in the last Town side to be promoted to the top division in 1970, is a regular at the John Smith’s Stadium and desperate to see his old club go up.
“Just being in the final is incredible,” added the former defender. “There is so much money in football these days, even in the Championship where there are some big, big clubs.
Huddersfield supporters have had to a wait a long, long time to be so close to getting into the Premier League. If I am honest, I didn’t think this would be possible.Roy Ellam
“Little old Huddersfield Town didn’t seem to have a look in when it came to promotion but here they are, potentially just 90 minutes away from going up. I can’t wait for Monday to come round.”
Huddersfield knocking on the door of the Premier League will undoubtedly stir memories of the last time the club had a seat at the top table of English football.
The Terriers, managed by Ian Greaves, spent two years in the old First Division scrapping it out with Liverpool, Leeds United et al. A 15th place finish in that first season represented a solid return after 14 years away, a 2-1 victory over eventual double-winners Arsenal and a brief spell at the summit proving the big highlights.
With Ellam and Trevor Cherry forming a rock-solid defensive partnership in front of David Lawson, signed midway through the campaign, and Frank Worthington proving a hit on his bow at the top level, hopes were high of Town pushing on.
The reality, however, could not have been more different. Huddersfield endured a desperate 1971-72, and just six victories – the last coming in November – meant an end to their time in the top flight and the club has not been back since.
“It was an awful season and we lost so many times,” recalls Ellam, who moved to Leeds United a couple of months after relegation had been confirmed with a home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers. “We held our own in that first year and things went well.
“Unfortunately, the club didn’t invest that summer. We needed someone to support Frank up front. After our first year, teams had worked out how to nullify Frank and we were unable to change.
“It was such a shame because we had worked so hard to get into the First Division. We only used 15 players (in 1969-70, when Town went up as champions). Nowadays, there are more people on a team-sheet every Saturday.
“Seven of us played every game. It wouldn’t happen today, of course. Football has changed. But that was a special time to be at Huddersfield Town, even the relegation season.
“We lost so many games that year but there were some big wins along the way – including the day we beat that great Don Revie’s Leeds side at home.
“I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning but I can remember that game vividly. Jack Charlton scored for Leeds, Jimmy Lawson scored for Town and then I got the winner from a corner. A great day.”
That victory over Revie’s United came amid a run of four wins from five games that stretched into the first week of October. Then, though, the season collapsed, the club’s only win in those final 31 games coming on November 27 against a Derby County side destined to be crowned champions. As a vivid illustration of Huddersfield’s struggles, Greaves’s side scored just six times in the New Year – and two of those were own goals.
Cherry, Ellam, Worthington and Lawson all departed that summer, and by 1975 the Terriers were in the old Fourth Division. It has been a long road back.
“David Wagner has done very, very well,” said Ellam, who returned to Leeds Road in 1974-75 before ending his career in America. “It hasn’t always been pretty to watch in terms of playing a lot of football in their own half but it has been a really enjoyable season.
“Huddersfield supporters have had to a wait a long, long time to be so close to getting into the Premier League. If I am honest, I didn’t think this would be possible. Not with all the money in football these days.”
A windfall of £200m awaits, of course, the winners at Wembley on Monday along with that precious place in the global phenomenon that is the Premier League.
“If Huddersfield can go up, we all know it will be tough in the Premier League,” added Ellam. “But the club has a very shrewd businessman in Dean Hoyle who will make sure things are run properly. He won’t waste the money.
“You only have to look at the facilities to see what a good club it is these days. Canalside (the club’s training ground) is fantastic, a really good set-up. When I was a player, we trained on either the car park at the ground or on the playing fields further down Leeds Road. And even then, there wasn’t a pitch as such, just a running track.
“Let’s hope this is Huddersfield Town’s moment. When we were relegated in 1972, I couldn’t have imagined the club would not have been back in the top division all these years later. It would be great to go back.”