The first of a three-part synopsis
April 2008 marked the start of a new phase in the history of Huddersfield Town.
On 10 April 2008, Dean Hoyle initially joined the Club as Chairman-Elect. Starting with an initial 30% shareholding as part of a phased hand-over, in June 2009 he was to become Chairman and have 70% majority shareholding, jointly owning Town with Ken Davy. That change in ownership started a ‘New Era’ at the Club.
To mark the anniversary, we have looked back and reviewed Huddersfield Town’s ‘New Era’ under the ownership of Dean Hoyle.
In a three part series of articles, htafc.com first goes back to April 2008 and looks at the Club back then, revisiting events leading up to Hoyle joining the Club and the inheritance he faced.
The second part tomorrow looks at the key football events during the ‘New Era’ over the last seven years covering firstly, the early days – Stan Ternent, the Centenary and then the quest for Championship promotion under Lee Clark and Simon Grayson. Also we will look at life back in the Sky Bet Championship over the last three seasons. Over all those years, we will spotlight the major milestones and memorable moments including the highs and lows.
Finally, in part three on Saturday we will look at how the Club itself has changed since 2008 both on and off the field, covering the key developments that have taken place.
Part One - The Inheritance
The period up to Hoyle joining in April 2008 was difficult as the Club battled to overcome and recover from the legacy of the Administration.
Almost starting again from the drawing board, Ken Davy had rescued the Club from a deeply damaging insolvency and Administration in 2003 and he faced a very difficult and long rebuilding job. Beginning the 2003/04 season in the bottom tier of the Football League for the first time since 1979, the only way was up!
After the joy of a Play-Off Final win at Cardiff in 2004 (click HERE
) securing an immediate return to League 1, by 2008 the Club had moved forward but was still faced with significant challenges which made life difficult for everyone concerned.
Long term instability had been suffered on the pitch, with seven managers in the previous 10 years. Andy Ritchie was appointed on 11 April 2007, taking over from Peter Jackson.
Attendances falling from 13,000 in 2005/06 down to 9,000 in 2007/08 (with a low of 6,000 against Brighton in 2007/08) brought financial pressures.
Legacy problems from the Administration and previous regime with large old debts still to clear and ‘new media’ rights signed away for the long term undermined progress for the owners after 2003. The Club staff of 29, with 17 full time staff off-the-field and 12 football staff (including Academy) was seeking to grow and develop all departments but the Football Operations infrastructure in terms of recruitment, medical, IT and analysis was outdated and basic.
With no stadium shares, training ground or players of value, the physical assets of the Club were minimal, mostly comprising trophies and memorabilia after the damage suffered in the Administration of 2003. Crumbling Academy infrastructure (Storthes Hall and Syngenta complex, Leeds Road) were well below standard and under increasing pressure for improvement and investment, but very well led by Gerry Murphy. Plans were afoot for a facility on leased land at Storthes Hall to address the need to invest in infrastructure.
On the field, Town was struggling in its fourth League 1 campaign since promotion and facing the longest ever period outside the second tier. With no shareholding in its home stadium and reduced to tenant status, there was conflict between Owner, Board and supporters that attracted fan demonstrations and national media attention.
With very few saleable playing assets and a reliance on Academy players for core squad and trading only just starting to recover from Administration, the burden for investment was heavily weighted towards the owner. Led by Andrew Watson as Vice Chairman (part-time) with a part-time Club board with shared management and operations with KSDL and Huddersfield Giants, the management task was a tough one.
As the 2007/08 League 1 season drew to a close by the end of March 2008, Andy Ritchie’s team lay 14th and had suffered a 4-1 away defeat at Oldham. On April Fools’ Day he was sacked.
Meanwhile, in the background, Dean Hoyle was negotiating to buy the Club.
On 10 April 2008, the announcement of a change in ownership was made and a new chapter began as Dean Hoyle was appointed Chairman-Elect with a 30% shareholding as Ken Davy remained Chairman and plans were readied for the Centenary Season. At the same time Ken Davy and his Board agreed a deal to appoint Stan Ternent (above) to start at the end of the season, leaving Gerry Murphy to lead the Club to a positive finish and 10th place.
Turnover in 2007/08 was £4m (plus £0.7m from cup runs). With £0.7m going on stadium rent after operating costs of £2.8m, that left £1.2m for players’ wages. Extra shareholder support allowed a £1.9m playing budget. Operating from leased training pitches at Storthes Hall and without any legal interest in the stadium or Leeds Road Barn, the total value of the assets of the entire club was £1.9m compared with liabilities of £2.8m and a further £1.9m owed to Ken Davy. With a squad founded mainly on Academy players, the value of players under contract on the first day was £100,000 and of the entire squad inherited only Academy players Michael Collins (below) and David Mirfin were ultimately sold for transfer fees, bringing in £400,000.
Whilst the Club faced a number of challenges, it had a loyal fan base, new ownership and investment and a new manager. With the Centenary celebrations ahead, 2008/09, building on the post-Administration work, offered the opportunity to look and move forwards with renewed optimism and impetus.
Tomorrow in Part 2 we look at the ‘New Era’:
- The early days – Ternent and the Centenary
- The Quest for Championship promotion under Lee Clark and Simon Grayson.
- Life in the Championship
2015/16 Season Cards are on sale now - click HERE for info!