Peter Jackson’s account of Town’s Great Escape season
- Look back at Huddersfield Town’s Great Escape season
- Comments from former Manager Peter Jackson
- Watch some clips from the memorable 1997/98 campaign
A season Huddersfield Town supporters will never forget… the 1997/98 Great Escape.
The Terriers began the season under the management of Brian Horton but got off to the worst possible start. Without a win in the first nine games, Horton’s tenure ended in early October.
He was replaced by former player and 36-year-old Peter Jackson. Jacko was immensely popular among Town fans and was welcomed back to the Club with open arms after being appointed by then-Chairman Malcolm Asquith.
“As you can imagine my feeling were unbelievable that day when I was asked for an interview to be Huddersfield Town Manager,” said Jacko.
“Loads of emotions ran through my head like what questions will the Chairman ask, what should I wear, silly things run through your mind. It was the first ever interview for me.
“I knew I had a chance because all the people in the room knew me and what Peter Jackson was about. I went in full of confidence and when the interview finished, they said they’d give me a call.
“I went home, relaxed and at 7pm, the phone rang, and they asked me if I wanted to come for another chat. I drove back over to the Chairman’s house and he said I got the job.
“What a fantastic feeling that was. To go out the room, get in my car and drive home new Manager of Huddersfield Town – what a fantastic feeling that was.”
The Manager’s first game in charge was at home to Charlton, which the Terriers lost 3-0.
“What a welcome I got; you know when I walked out on the pitch. To come out before a game as Huddersfield Town Manager was a wonderful moment.
“But we realised after the Charlton game that we had a massive job on. The players we had weren’t good enough to get us out of the situation we were in.
“You must be proud and honoured to wear the shirt, I was when I was a player, and I tried to instil that into our players.”
One player Jacko had an instant impact on was Paul Dalton. The midfielder went on to score 13 goals for Town that season and was influential in the side’s eventual upturn in form.
“We could see that Paul had exceptional talent,” explained Peter. “Talking to him, it seemed to have been knocked out of him.
“When he did something, we never got on his back, even if he lost the ball, and let him do what we wanted. He could do things in training no other players could do.”
After reviewing his playing squad, Jackson wasn’t afraid to ring the changes. He brought in Welsh international Barry Horne from Birmingham, Lee Richardson from Oldham and Huddersfield-born striker Wayne Allison from Swindon to name a few.
Then in December he brought in keeper Steve Harper on loan for the season from Newcastle United – an inspired move.
It wasn’t until November, however, until Jackson and his Huddersfield Town side found their first win. The Terriers ran out 3-1 winners at the McAlpine Stadium against Stoke City.
“It was an absolutely wonderful moment – a sporting great. When the whistle blew it was a fantastic feeling. I could see light at the end of the tunnel.”
After that win, Town went on to win six of their next nine, which moved the Club off the foot of the table and towards safety.
That run included a memorable win and goal at Manchester City’s Maine Road.
“Wherever you go, whatever you see, you’ll not see a better goal than the one that night by Rob Edwards,” exclaimed Jacko.
“The escape was well and truly on after that Man City game. The floodlights were on, the barbwire was out, and we were digging, digging fast!
“All of a sudden we had a couple of good results, the performances were coming together, and we were off the bottom of the league.”
Results and performances kept coming together and even though the Terriers were teetering around the relegation places, Jackson’s side had only lost five games between the end of December and mid-April.
“To get out of that situation we were in, we needed everybody behind the Club, not just the players, the staff or the fans.
“We didn’t want any negatives at Huddersfield Town. We wanted everyone to be positive and think we could get out the trouble.
“We (Terry and I) knew we could get out of it and wanted everyone to believe with us.”
Then came the infamous game against West Brom at the McAlpine Stadium – Town’s penultimate home game of the 1997/98 campaign.
“We went through every emotion and you could feel it in the crowd.”
Town took an early lead through Simon Baldry and managed to run out 1-0 winners securing safety and completing the Great Escape in Nationwide League Division 1.
“When the final whistle went, we knew that we’d done it! The joy we felt at the final whistle was fantastic.
“Everyone from the backroom staff and played the part. To turn the season round like they had done was fantastic; it was a great feeling.
“If the league table had started since me and Terry took over, then we’d have been seventh!”
During that season, Jackson, of course, had to play one more match in the blue and white stripes.
He played for the Reserves in their final home game of the season against West Brom and scored a penalty in a 5-1 victory!