Why Leeds Road will always be ‘home’ for so many Huddersfield Town fans

TO say that Leeds Road is a special place does not tell the half of it.

Leeds Road memories. Image: Graeme Bandeira

Those words may well have been uttered many times over by those with the blue and white of Huddersfield Town in their veins, from the Colne Valley to the Spen Valley. But in this case, they came from a native of the Granite City.

A fair-haired Aberdeen lad by the name of Denis Law arrived in the mid-Fifties as a puny, bespectacled 15-year-old with an eye problem – he would later have surgery to correct a squint.

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Built up on a diet of chip butties on the orders of someone you cannae ignore in Bill Shankly, Law left Huddersfield as one of the most famous names in football. His £55,000 British record sale to Manchester City in March, 1960 also bequeathed Leeds Road with a parting gift.

The money was used to pay for floodlights. Or the ‘Denis Law Floodlights’ as they came to be known – even if two pylons would later collapse in a gale.

Many other shining lights would take centre stage and have a lot to thank Leeds Road for, just as Law did when his memories of the treasured place where he turned from a boy into a man appeared in the programme of Town’s final game there on April 30, 1994.

A similarly skinny and unassuming teenager called Frank Worthington, from much closer to home in Halifax, landed at Huddersfield in the Sixties. Leeds Road again was a life-affirming place for another player who became a legend.

He would provide footballing nourishment to the soul of those who came to idolise him in the Cowshed and East Terrace.

How those Town supporters used to dine out back in the day.

Maintaining the team standards of those glory years in the mid-Twenties under the command of that great innovator Herbert Chapman may have proved nigh on impossible, but the excellence of many revered players who regularly strode out at Leeds Road ensured that patrons were afforded sumptuous fare in the decades to come – if not necessarily the silverware.

Jimmy Glazzard, Vic Metcalfe, Ray Wilson, Kevin McHale, Law and his fellow Aberdonian Les Massie... Many others as well.

For fans of a certain vintage, the names roll off the tongue, as do those from a little bit further on among the feted Division Two title-winning class of 1969-70 – the time of Worthington, Jimmy Nicholson, Jimmy McGill, Steve Smith, Roy Ellam and of course, the late, great Trevor Cherry.

Much earlier, a veritable feast of players – a Who’s Who of post-war greats of English football – lined up for the hosts on a Wednesday afternoon in November, 1946 when Leeds Road staged England’s international with Holland.

That much is evident by the names of the scorers in that 8-2 rout. Tommy Lawton struck four times and Raich Carter netted twice, with Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney sealing the scoring.

The next day, many local children who had ‘bunked’ off school copped their punishment by way of a few hundred lines.

It will have been worth it as memories last a lifetime.

It was a grand day for Leeds Road, a discernible landmark from certain vantage points across Huddersfield if you had the right view. As iconic as the Emley Moor mast and Castle Hill and part of the town’s fabric.

One of many stadiums designed by famed architect Archibald Leitch, Leeds Road retained a charm of its own.

For ever and a day, it’s pièce de résistance will be the Cowshed.

It was not the biggest terrace, far from it, but it was unique in character with its barrel-shaped iron roof and was a venue where rites of passage took place.

Just as Southampton’s wedge-shaped Milton Road End at their old home at The Dell has entered folklore among ground aficionados far beyond Hampshire, so has the Cowshed.

The huge East Terrace – what a sight it must have been in its pomp – was also up there with the best ‘popular sides’ of the day including the Kippax at Manchester City, Longside at Burnley and Birmingham’s Kop.

Those present hailed a famous victory on the national stage in February, 1972 when Ian Greaves’s Town produced a dazzling display amid the gloom to beat West Ham – Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst et al – 4-2 in an acclaimed FA Cup win.

The commentary of Yorkshire TV’s Keith Macklin would add to the mystique of that winter’s day.

Sadly, the Seventies were the best and worst of times for Huddersfield, but it was still a decade bookended by glory, from early, if brief, highs in the top-flight to many Town followers renewing their vows in that Division Four title-winning ‘101 goal’ season of 1979-80 under the incomparable Mick Buxton.

It was a time when messrs Robins, Kindon, Brown, Stanton and others enthralled home audiences – with a ginger-haired striker with an unquenchable spirit called Lillis taking on the baton in the Eighties.

In its latter years, Leeds Road saw out its life fairly uneventfully, but it still threw the odd party.

Just under 29,000 attended a third-tier derby with promotion rivals Barnsley in early 1981. Dave Cowling got the only goal and the sight of a packed stadium alluded to more golden times.

It was a venue colonised by Geordies for the day on May 7, 1984 when an estimated 20,000 Newcastle United fans saw their heroes return to the top-flight.

Far fewer where there in the Dalton Bank End when Wimbledon’s ‘Crazy Gang’ headed to the big time two years later, but it was a similarly historic moment for the Dons.

Lawrie Sanchez struck the winner. It was not just his FA Cup final strike he was renowned for.

The history books will recall that a local boy in Simon Baldry and Phil Starbuck netted the home goals as Town, fittingly. signed off at Leeds Road with a 2-1 win over Blackpool.

It added to the medley of memories for the time capsule. And to many Town supporters , Leeds Road will always be home.

Those were the days, oh yes, those were the days.

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