Weekend Interview: Steve Kindon - '˜I never thought Huddersfield Town and Burnley would be a Premier League fixture'

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN were midway through their fifth season in the Fourth Division when Steve Kindon moved to Leeds Road from Burnley.

Effervescent forward Steve Kindon celebrating scoring a goal for Huddersfield Town

The Clarets, meanwhile, would drop into the third tier for the first time in their history just a few months after Kindon’s departure from the club he had served in two spells.

Worse was to follow for both clubs, as Burnley almost fell out of the Football League in 1987 and Town slipped into administration just a couple of years into the new Millennium following a dramatic slide down the divisions.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

For these two old Roses foes to today be going head-to-head in the Premier League is, therefore, quite a turnaround in fortunes – and one that Kindon admits to finding scarcely believable, even a year or so ago.

“What Huddersfield have achieved in 2017 is great for the game,” said the 67-year-old, who six months after joining in December, 1979, had helped fire Town to promotion.

“To see my two old clubs meeting each other in the Premier League is wonderful. It would be great if Wolves, my other old club, could join them both next season.”

Chances are Molineux, where Kindon spent five years in between those two stints in claret and blue, will be hosting top-flight football next season. Not only do the men from the Black Country enjoy an eight-point advantage over the chasing pack but they are, by some distance, the best team in the Championship.

So, providing Huddersfield and Burnley can stay up this term, Kindon will get his wish. Anyone who watched a man dubbed ‘The Tank’ and ‘Skippy’ during his playing days will surely not begrudge him that.

Steve Kindon tells a story at the reunion of the Burnley's 1968 FA Youth Cup winning team during their visit to Gawthorpe.

Kindon was a fan favourite wherever he played. Willing to give every last breath to the cause, he also did not shirk any challenge, no matter how fearsome the reputation of the opponent.

There is a great passage in the recently-released book celebrating Town’s 1979-80 promotion – The 101 Club, by Rob Stewart – that details one particularly ferocious tussle between Kindon and Billy Ayre. Basically, both men kicked eleven bells out of each other all afternoon before the final whistle blew and Ayre said: ‘See you in 20 minutes for a beer, Kindo’.

Kindon loved every second of that battle against Hartlepool United and Ayre, which was probably why his move to Huddersfield – something many had counselled against – proved such a success.

“I had only ever played in what today is known as the Premier League and Championship,” he recalls when speaking to The Yorkshire Post at his home in Lytham St Annes.

Steve Kindon tells a story at the reunion of the Burnley's 1968 FA Youth Cup winning team during their visit to Gawthorpe.

“Huddersfield were in the Fourth Division at the time. I asked the advice of several people I respected and every single one of them said: ‘Don’t go anywhere near Huddersfield’.

“These included Bill McGarry, who had played for the club in the 1950s, plus Brian Miller and Harry Potts. They were adamant I shouldn’t go.

“It wasn’t Huddersfield, but Division Four that they felt would not be right for me. They all warned me that, as someone who had played higher and whose game was based on physicality, I would be a target for opposition centre halves.

“I wouldn’t have joined without (the then Town manager) Mick Buxton. We knew each other well from Burnley. He put his arm around me and said: ‘Kindo, we need you’. When a manager says that, it is brilliant.

“Mind, my debut at Halifax did make me wonder. Grim isn’t the word for what I found there. I didn’t even know I was in the dressing room until someone told me. I thought we were in a cupboard, all white-washed walls and no facilities whatsoever.

“I remember thinking: ‘This isn’t quite the marble halls of Highbury that I have been used to’. But I quickly adapted and loved my time at Huddersfield, especially that season we won promotion.

“I started 21 games and scored in 14. Not a bad return.”

Not bad, indeed, and a big reason why Town were able to end those five years in the basement division with the title and a record-breaking haul of 101 goals.

Kindon played two more seasons for Huddersfield before injury ended a career that had begun with today’s visitors to the John Smith’s Stadium.

It was at Burnley as a 17-year-old with a speech impediment that the Warrington-born forward made his debut in the old First Division. It is also where he was taught what proved to be one of his most invaluable lessons in life by Clarets chairman Bob Lord.

“A lot of people don’t have a kind word to say about Bob,” says Kindon, about the man who ruled the roost at Turf Moor for a quarter of a century from 1955.

“The season when Burnley nearly went out of the League (1986-87) saw the club write to a lot of old players and ask for our memories, to raise money for the club from a book.

“A few of those who contributed were negative about Bob Lord but I loved the guy. I always remember being at Turf Moor for the local Schools’ Cup final.

“I was only 17 so in jeans and a t-shirt. A steward came over and said the manager (Harry Potts) wanted me to go home and change into a suit so I could present the trophy.

“What I didn’t know was the trophy was to be presented afterwards at the Town Hall. And I was expected to make a speech. I was terrified when I found out, especially as I had the lisp.

“Bob Lord, clearly realising this, had a few words with me. He reminded me that most of those present were boys. ‘You are their hero and they all want to be you,’ was basically what he said. I listened, stood up and my speech went down a treat. I got a standing ovation and, in terms of my life, a sense of confidence I wouldn’t have had without Bob Lord.

“Don’t get me wrong, Bob Lord was not a saint. He was autocratic, no doubt about that. He also did one or two things that were near the knuckle. But if a guy helps you 10 times and nine times you benefit then why focus on the one negative. I liked him.”

Another owner that fits the ‘local businessman made good’ model who will be in Kindon’s thoughts today is Dean Hoyle.

“Dean always says nice things about that Huddersfield team who won promotion,” he said. “He is a really nice guy who clearly loves his team.

“It is an awful thing to admit but, before this season, I did look up the lowest points total in the Premier League. I just didn’t see where the points would come from so it is great to have been proved wrong. I should have learned from last season when Huddersfield proved everyone wrong to win promotion.”

The Steve Kindon story...

Born in Warrington on December 17, 1950, Kindon joined Burnley as a youngster.

His first-team debut came as a 17-year-old in the old First Division, and he went on to score 28 league goals in 102 starts for the Clarets – who had been dubbed the ‘Team of the Seventies’ as the decade began.

“Jimmy Adamson gave us that tag but he ignored one big factor,” says Kindon. “The abolition of the maximum wage in the Sixties.

“After that, clubs from towns like Burnley couldn’t compete. Before, there was no need for Ray Wilson to join Everton because his wages would have been the same as at Huddersfield.

“Same with Tom Finney at Preston, Stanley Matthews at Blackpool. Twenty quid was twenty quid, regardless of where you played.

“But once the maximum wage was abolished, clubs like Burnley couldn’t compete with the big city teams who got 50,000 every week.”

Kindon joined Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1972, netting 28 league goals in 111 starts over five years before returning to Turf Moor. Two further years – and 18 more league goals – followed in claret and blue before Kindon joined Huddersfield Town in December, 1979. He retired two-and-a-half years later through injury and later forged a successful career as an after-dinner speaker.