Huddersfield Town’s glorious history at Wembley epitomised by ‘Terrier Spirit’

“THERE were no ‘Big Time Charlies.’ It was a team of good lads who happened to click.”

Those comments were once made by former Huddersfield Town manager Neil Warnock to The Yorkshire Post to describe the Terriers’ revered promotion-winning class of 1994-95.

They could also easily be applicable to the other two Town sides who savoured play-off glory at Wembley at the end of 2011-12 and 2016-17.

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And also the present-day side who stride out on the hallowed turf on Sunday against Nottingham Forest, for that matter.

Huddersfield Town's Christopher Schindler scores from the penalty spot during the Sky Bet Championship play-off final at Wembley Stadium in 2017 (Picture: PA)

Town have found a way to win at the home of football on their last three visits. On both occasions this century, they have prevailed despite not scoring a goal in normal time or extra-time.

It says everything about their mindset and indomitable ‘Terrier Spirit’.

The last time they scored at Wembley was on May 28, 1995. But what a moment it proved to be for one Huddersfieldian.

The honour was bestowed to Chris Billy, who fired an 80th-minute winner following Iain Dunn’s cross to down Bristol Rovers 2-1 in the second division play-off final – to secure promotion for his hometown club.

Huddersfield Town's Alex Smithies (left) and Jack Hunt celebrate promotion to the Championship after beating Sheffiel;d United on penalties in 2012 League One final (Picture: PA)

Also factoring in a losing final against Peterborough in 2011 at Old Trafford and the Millennium Stadium finale in 2004 when Huddersfield won on penalties after a scoreless third division showpiece with Mansfield Town, Billy’s strike still remains the last occasion when Town have netted in a play-off final other than in a penalty shoot-out.

Earlier, an opener from another Huddersfield lad in Andy Booth was cancelled out by future Town signing Marcus Stewart.

But it was Town’s day as they claimed their first win at Wembley in five attempts.

That 1994-95 side was an ‘Everyman’ line-up of ex-miners, plasterers, window-cleaners and emerging local lads who were humble off the pitch, but rich in spirit, togetherness, organisation and quality on it, led by a master motivator in Warnock.

Huddersfield Town's Chris Billy was the last player to score for the club at Wembley back in 1995 (Picture: YPN)

A spot of Warnock psychology had helped Town book a Wembley date after a tense semi-final second leg at Brentford.

Spotting a crate of champagne near the home dressing room before the game, Warnock famously incorporated that into his final team-talk at Griffin Park.

The bottles were ultimately destined for the away players, who won in a penalty shoot-out when the heroes were Darren Bullock and Steve Francis.

The bonds between members of that side – who included irrepressible characters including the likes of Bullock and a big, burly former Staffordshire miner in the shape of ‘Rocket’ Ronnie Jepson – remain strong to this day with a special reunion dinner being staged in 2015 to mark the twentieth anniversary.

Huddersfield Town manager Peter Jackson celebrates promotion after beating Mansfield Town on a penalty shoot out in the Nationwide Division Three play-off final Monday May 31, 2004, at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (Picture: PA)

The club’s 2011-12 line-up was similarly resolute and mentally tough, their fortitude shown on a baking hot day in May 2012 against Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United.

It culminated in Town holding their nerve in the most dramatic of penalty shoot-outs after an eminently forgettable 120 minutes when the nerves were palpable in a goalless all-White Rose final.

Finals are for winning and performance does not matter.

Despite missing their first three penalties, Huddersfield were not cowed in a remarkable shoot-out.

It should come as no surprise that the person who stepped up to take Town’s next spot-kick and slot it home was their peerless on-pitch leader Peter Clarke.

It changed the narrative. Town converted their next seven –with Jordan Rhodes among their scorers – on an occasion when both goalkeepers took penalties. Alex Smithies scored his, only for Blades rival Steve Simonsen to fail to convert his own and the glory belonged to Town.

As an encore, the events of May 29, 2017 – the fifth anniversary is on Sunday – proved something even more momentous as David Wagner’s braves took their place in club folklore.

It was a true ‘Where were you when’ moment. Another immaculate figure of immense stature in Chris Schindler held his nerve in yet another shoot-out, this time against Reading, where the prize was much bigger.

While an emotionally-drained Dean Hoyle – and countless Town followers – dared not look, the classy German, following another goalless play-off final for the Yorkshire outfit, coolly slotted home a £170m winning penalty to seal promotion to the Premier League for the first time.

Sunday could well be another occasion of unremitting tension for the blue and whites of Huddersfield.

They have been here before. It is certainly nothing new. And don’t expect penalties to faze them. Not with their history.

Town have won six consecutive play-off semi-final or final shoot-outs and remain the only EFL team to ever advance through the divisions via penalty shoot-outs in finals, without scoring in normal play in all three games.

It’s a nice habit to have.