IN life, time sometimes stands still, as Huddersfield Town chairman Dean Hoyle can vouch.
One such occasion arrived in late afternoon on a bewitching, Spring Bank Holiday Monday at Wembley. A remarkable denouement in a stupendous year for Town produced a fitting storybook ending on May 29.
Hoyle will forever recollect those 30 seconds or so when Chris Schindler walked up to take the decisive spot-kick in Town’s play-off penalty shoot-out win against Reading.
The explosion of joy and relief from Town’s 38,000-plus contingent after the German converted from 12 yards to send them into the Premier League was something to behold.
For Hoyle, there was plenty of pure, unadulterated emotion. Thoroughly drained after an epic weekend, the tears flowed, but the pride was manifest.
Hoyle is the first to admit that for his beloved Town, May 29 was very much a case of now or never in their quest to reach the top flight – with the consequence of missing out likely to have been the exit of head coach David Wagner and several leading players.
But it was Town’s time.
Hoyle said: “When it got down to the (Schindler) penalty, I will tell you what was going through my mind: this was our moment in time, our opportunity. With a wage bill of £11m last season, we had no right to do what we did, but we got there.
“And I also knew that even though fans may have said (if we’d lost), ‘Dean, we can go again next season, we can have another crack at it’, realistically, with the way the parachute payments work and the amount of clubs that are spending a lot of money, I knew that when Schindler stepped up, it was now or never.
“When it went in, it was incredible. I had to get away from the cameras. I watch football and knew the cameras would be on me and the owners of Reading.
“I looked down and there was a void and I knew I just had to get out of the way. My wife Janet gave me a ‘good kicking’ when I got down there. I just needed my own space to reflect for 45 seconds. It was a real emotional thing, I still cannot believe I am the chairman of a club that has achieved Premier League football.
“On the evening after it, I said to Schindler, ‘Chris, why did you take the last penalty? I have never seen you take a penalty before.”
“Do you know what he said to me? He said, ‘you paid more money for me than you’ve paid for anyone else in this club, you made me the club’s record signing, so I had a duty to give a bit of value back to you’.
“And I started (crying) again. I just thought, ‘wow, what a man’.
“That just epitomises everything about the team spirit here, that sense of duty and togetherness. Amazing.
“The Monday was absolutely incredible. Myself and Janet did the bike ride down, and got to Wembley and slept in the hotel the night before. I hardly slept and I remember waking up at 7am and looked at the Huddersfield Town twitter feed and saw the fans leaving in their thousands on coaches and I was laying there in bed in tears.
“I am not an emotional guy, but tears were rolling down my face and my wife said, “What on earth? Get a grip.’ But it was just the emotion.”
Speaking at yesterday’s press conference to announce Wagner’s new two-year contract, Hoyle had plenty to savour from the recent past.
But after the joys of Spring, it is a renewed sense of anticipation about what lies ahead that now stirs Hoyle’s soul.
His belief that Town will be the country’s favourite underdog in 2017-18 rings true. As does his belief that the club’s aims of surviving and consolidating in the big time are attainable – with a combination of shrewd management and tactics, unquenchable team spirit and sound recruitment.
While loathe to make predictions, Hoyle does promise a couple of things; that Town, whose play-off final victory was worth around £170m, will give it a “real go” and that Wagner will be in charge for the duration, even if the club get relegated.
He said: “We are the underdog. Everybody likes an underdog and I think we will bring something different to the Premier League.
“Hopefully we can shock quite a few people and become established. If you look at Swansea, Burnley, Bournemouth – they are established Premier League clubs now. There is no reason we cannot follow their example.”
For Hoyle, his pride when he takes his place at Selhurst Park in early August to watch his beloved Huddersfield in the top flight will be akin to his feeling across the capital at Wembley in late May.
The self-made millionaire represents a throwback to a time when local figures made good ran their local clubs with a duty of care and while Hoyle has a modern outcome for his go-ahead club, his values are old school.
He added: “Being a fan who has been watching since 1979, this is the proudest moment of my life. I really can’t wait. This club will do Yorkshire and the Premier League proud.
“For me, I have been supporting this club for 45 years and we have hit the big time, the top flight, and we are going to give it a real go and we are going to enjoy going to all the big clubs.”