Huddersfield Town 2012-13: The Story So Far and What It Means for the Rest of the Season

After 11 years away from English football’s second tier, Huddersfield’s first month back in the Championship was always going to be interesting. Despite an underwhelming pre-season and the eventual sale of star striker Jordan Rhodes, Town have enjoyed an encouraging and entertaining start to life in the Championship. Here we attempt to outline some of our thoughts on Town’s fledgling season so far and what it means for the rest of the 2012/13 season.

Tactics, Systems and Flexibility 

Too often in recent years Town have been stuck in a rigid one-dimensional system with no ‘Plan B’. In the past if things weren’t going Town’s way, the team would often be sucked into knocking aimless long balls up field towards the strikers. Simon Grayson, however, has shown a refreshing flexibility in his tactics and a willingness to change games when things aren’t going Town’s way. So far this season Grayson has already used three different formations to good effect. Away from home Grayson has adopted a 4-5-1, which has allowed for fluent, counter-attacking football, as shown so impressively at Cardiff, and is a far cry from the 4-5-1 implemented by his predecessor. At Cardiff a central midfield three of Keith Southern, Adam Clayton and Oliver Norwood were able to effectively stifle Cardiff’s midfield but at the same time provide the forwards with service.

4-5-1 may well be the formation Town set up with on a regular basis away from home, however, in home games it seems that Grayson prefers a more orthodox 4-4-2 formation. How Grayson will fit Adam Hammill, Sean Scannel, James Vaughan and potentially another striker into the team remains to be seen, but it should lead to entertaining football at the John Smith’s Stadium this season. What is more, the signings Grayson has made give him real options off the bench to change, not just the personnel, but also the formation and style of play. For instance when Town have struggled, such as against Forest at home, Grayson didn’t just make like for like changes but instead switched to a style of play which brought Town back into the game. Bringing on an extra centre back gave Jack Hunt extra license to attack down the right hand side and this was the primary reason that Town were eventually able to earn an unlikely point.

Life After Jordan Rhodes 

After a protracted transfer saga Jordan Rhodes finally departed for Blackburn at the end of August in a deal worth at least £8 million to Town. As far as the transfer itself went, Dean Hoyle and Town would have been foolish to reject such a large fee for a player who was relatively unproven at any level above League One and – crucially – wanted to leave. Though James Vaughan has shown signs of real quality since arriving on loan from Norwich and should only get better as he gets more game time, question marks over his long-term fitness and the fact that Lee Novak and Jimmy Spencer are unknown entities at this level, mean that Town will probably require another striker in the loan window if they are to really push on this season.

It remains to be seen if a loan deal for Jermaine Beckford, or indeed any other striker, can be done. Despite his Leeds connections and the fact his career has somewhat stagnated in the last couple of seasons, Beckford would be a quality addition offering pace, strength and most importantly goals. Significantly, in Simon Grayson, Town have a manager who has previously got the best out of Beckford. Town currently have a squad with enough quality to keep its head above water this season, but bringing in a proven goalscorer at this level could make the difference between a top half finish and a finish in the bottom 8.

Stepping Up

Before the season started questions were asked as to whether any of last season’s squad would be able to make the step up to the Championship.

Despite being something of a Huddersfield Town legend and excellent for much of his Town career, there were doubts as to whether Peter Clarke would be able to perform in the Championship. Though Clarke is not the quickest or most comfortable on the ball he has started the season in good form and his partnership with Joel Lynch looks promising. Clarke’s form has undoubtedly been helped by the fact he has a settled and capable midfield in front of him, which will leave both Clarke and the entire defence less exposed. Furthermore, as his partnership with Sean Morrison last season proved, Clarke raises his game when playing with another quality centre-back alongside him, and, in Joel Lynch, Clarke has a partner who has shown real class and ability since arriving from Nottingham Forest.

Though Jordan Rhodes was unquestionably Town’s stand out performer last season, the hugely exciting Jack Hunt was in many people’s eyes the second best player in the squad. Lightning quick, skilful and a player who creates chances for team mates with his runs from deep; Hunt has the potential to become a top quality full-back. Though he is not yet the finished article, Hunt has made an encouraging start to life in the Championship. Hunt’s ability going forward has never been in question and due to his attacking prowess there was even talk of converting Hunt into an out and out winger, however, this would limit  his effectiveness as he is at his best running at defenders with pace from deep. If Hunt’s attacking play was not in question, the same could not be said about the defensive side of his game. Admittedly Hunt can still, at times, be somewhat naïve and occasionally caught out of position, but it is easy to forget just how far Hunt has come in the last two seasons. His performance against Craig Bellamy, one of the very best players in the league, in the opening game of the season proved that Hunt’s defending is good enough for the Championship and the more he plays at this level, the more he will continue to learn and grow as a footballer. Though some of the current squad will find the Championship a step too far, it is good to see some of the players, who excelled in League One, take their chance at a higher level.


In recent seasons Town’s midfield has been, at times, virtually non-existent. Despite a huge influx of central midfielders every year since 2008 – from Jim Goodwin to Tommy Miller – only Damien Johnson really came close to good enough. This summer, however, Grayson has brought in Adam Clayton, Oliver Norwood and Keith Southern and so far its all looked extremely promising.

There must be a greater emphasis on goals from midfield this season and Town simply cannot rely on a striker scoring so many goals this time around – Jordan Rhodes scored almost half of all Town’s league goals last season. Fortunately in Oliver Norwood and Adam Clayton, Town seemingly have players who will contribute goals from midfield. Norwood has been one of Town’s stand out players in the first few games of the season and though it is still early days, Norwood looks every inch a player who was brought up by Manchester United. Comfortable on the ball and a great passer, Norwood is one of the most technically gifted players Town have had in a long time. His ability to switch play and the protection he should get from the hard-working Keith Southern means that Norwood will almost certainly be one of Town’s most influential players this time around.

Though the season is still young, Town’s midfield already looks much better than it has at any point in recent years. Despite this, it is worth pointing out that Norwood and Clayton are both still young players and relatively inexperienced at this level. Though they undoubtedly have the potential to be great players, it would not be surprising if they struggle at times this season as it is incredibly hard for any player to maintain form for a full season let alone young players in the early stages of their career. Additionally, both Clayton and Southern are prone to picking up bookings and it should not be a shock if they are suspended for a number of games this season. Nevertheless, this season’s midfield is a source of great optimism and, given time, could be one of the most successful in recent history.


Though Town eventually won promotion last season, the football was often incredibly dour as Town inevitably scraped to victory or contrived to draw games they really should have won. If the first few games of the season are anything to go by then Town fans will be getting much better value for money this time around. Somewhat perversely, going to games may be more enjoyable this year even though Town will probably lose more games than last season. This was evident in the game against Nottingham Forest. Town were outclassed for much of the game but the quality of football on display meant that it was at least an entertaining game to watch. Players of international calibre and Premier League experience will regularly be on show at the newly named John Smiths Stadium and this can only be a good thing. What is more, Simon Grayson will invariably send his teams out to win games, which should see Town fans going home satisfied with the entertainment on display if not the overall result.


The monumental pressure that has been on Town for at least the last two seasons has been lifted and that should be evident in the performances this season. The players should be able to play with a freedom and without a fear of losing. In Simon Grayson, Town have a manager who sends his teams out to try and win football matches and his calm demeanour at the start of this season has won over many of the doubters. Though, realistically, Town probably cannot achieve a place in the top six, a talented, young squad and a calm and composed manager means that if Town continue how they have started this season, then they should be able to achieve a comfortable mid-table finish, which, in all honesty, should be deemed a successful season.

Ken Bates is on the ropes

Ken Bates is on the ropes

Ken Bates is on the ropes

Over the last few weeks, it has become increasingly clear that Ken Bates no longer holds any power at the club that he owns. This is a baffling state of affairs, and one that I seek to explore. Below is an explanation of how Ken Bates has found himself in this position, whereby his ownership is of little more value than the name on the door, and what this has resulted in at Elland Road.

Ken Bates has often spoken of the solvency of Leeds United since his second phase of chairmanship, i.e. the lifting of Administration and his retrieval of power in 2007. The manner in which Ken Bates re-established control of the club, eventually winning over other bids through the insistence of previously unheard of creditors, allowed Bates to put Leeds back on a firm financial footing. The chairman paid mere pennies in the pound, and would not have to pay any more unless Premier League football was achieved prior to 2017. This is of little consequence, as the cost of this additional fee is minimal relative to the windfall that Premier League football provides. (It is, however, interesting as an aside – agreements over who would have to pay this fee will likely have proved an annoyance in negotiations.) Bates then spent several years insisting that not only did he not own Leeds United, but that he was completely unaware of who owned the club. He even managed to purchase the club from these mysterious owners, still not aware of who they were.

It was at this point that Bates began to make decisions that brought Leeds United’s solvency into question. Whilst Leeds had sold players on over the years, for example Fabian Delph, the loss of Beckford at the start of our Championship return seemed understandable. After all, he simply did not agree to a new contract. It was, at that point, not a question of whether Beckford was being sold to fund Bates or anything of the sort – after all, we had rejected deals for him the previous January, losing him for free with the understanding that he’d get us promotion. It is also not worth considering the financial benefit of promotion offsetting the loss of a transfer fee; the manner in which the Football League operates means that the jump in central fund allocation between the two divisions is negligible. Where the Premier League represents a return to eight-figure television payments, the Football League is generally built around a reasonable understanding that funds are evenly split – there is obviously a divisional difference, but promotion does not bring the material gains that the hyped £90 million Championship play-off final does. So Beckford was retained, with the answer to the question of selling being not about the business side of Leeds United, but the benefits to the footballing side.

Why, one might reasonably ask, has there been a shift? Beckford was, over the course of an 18 month period, swiftly followed by Johnson, Kilkenny, Schmeichel, Gradel, Howson and Snodgrass. Of those mentioned, three of them are now playing in the Premier League, and one reportedly single handedly fired a Ligue 1 side to the Europa League in the latter half of 2011/12. Yet none seemed particularly keen to go. Ben Parker will remain a hero at Elland Road for his ruthless reporting of Howson’s transfer. At an event in the Pavilion, Parker revealed that Howson was forced out, a bid accepted and no attempt made by the club to retain him. It has been reported by the brilliant people at the Leeds United Supporter’s Trust that Snodgrass has a buy-back clause built into his contract. The fact that it was built into his contract, not the terms of the transfer, shows that this is a term he insisted on – he did not want to leave Elland Road, even if the club had no belief of ever bringing him back.

Why has this shift occurred? The reality is, ever since the paper transfer of the club into Ken Bates’s hands, astoundingly foolish decisions have been made, the most obvious of which is the building of the East Stand corporate section last summer. It is no coincidence that the supposed £7 million outlay on this development has coincided with our most regular period of player sales. As covered first on this site, Simon Grayson’s budget was horribly slashed last season. Every Leeds fan knows this, but for the last 18 months, football has no longer been the priority at Elland Road.

Why is this all important for the question we ask today, which is how has Ken Bates found himself in the position he’s in, and what does this mean for the takeover? Ken Bates, through incompetence and a stubborn belief that his personal philosophy on football club chairmanship (which also nearly led Chelsea to ruin) is the only right way, managed to place Leeds on a precipice between a takeover and future success, and financial frailty and ruin.

This is the situation at Elland Road. The loan taken to cover the building of the East Stand development has been offset against Season Ticket income for the next two seasons. The Square Ball covered this months ago. However, whilst this shows we have significant debts that cannot be easily serviced with standard income, leading to the selling of Season Ticket income, it also leads to another issue at the club – cash flow. Season Ticket income is dealt with in an odd manner. The club is not allowed to spend each portion of money until the good has been delivered to the fan – i.e. the match that each 23rd of a season ticket pays for. Whilst it gives the club guaranteed income over the course of a season, the money from a season ticket cannot be spent as a lump sum. Therefore it is incredibly beneficial to cash flow if retained. It provides a guaranteed payment every month that can be factored into budgets, giving leeway against any sudden costs. The selling of this income to the tune of £5 million to fund the East Stand means that at Leeds, there is no guaranteed monthly income. Should Leeds suffer a shock to the financial system, there is every chance that we will not be able to afford it. The safety net is gone, and yet we still have debts to service.

Alone, this would place Leeds United in a precarious financial position. Whilst player sales can cover this and even give Leeds a positive financial outlook at the end of a season, any other debts would make things difficult. Ken probably realised earlier this summer that the debt put him in a mildly untenable position. This issue of financial ruin can be combined with the fact that no one particularly likes him. Yes, there is a subset of fans who accept him, but as the summer has shown, this is easily eroded. There is a final reason Ken might wish to leave, that will have come into his thinking, that I do not wish to expand upon. It is a reason nonetheless.

So along came a takeover attempt. The Yorkshire Evening post has suggested that this has been agreed several times, as have LUST. Bates remains obstinate in his signing off of the documents, which has led to the Pen4Ken movement.

However, the signing off has to occur. The original issue of debt arising from the East Stand development (and the Pavilion) aside, the club has since been loaded with further debts that Ken is not in a position to fend off. There was an agreed fee that would be paid if due diligence occurred successfully yet the deal collapsed, which is why Bates has come crawling back to the negotiation table. Furthermore, the new owners funded Aiden White’s new contract, which the club would not have been able to afford otherwise – similarly, we cannot afford to pay back their involvement in this deal should the takeover collapse entirely. A similar agreement was in place, I have heard from sources, for Lee Peltier’s transfer – Warnock himself said he was surprised that we were able to afford him.

Should the takeover collapse therefore, the future does not look rosy. Administration is a very realistic possibility. Ken cannot afford for this to happen – in the event of administration, Bates would receive no money for the sale of the club, and the potential new owners would likely be able to snatch the club for a significantly lower price than if Bates sold to them directly. This is assuming debtors related to Bates (i.e. Astor) do not come crawling from the woodwork.

This has all led to the current situation at Elland Road. Bates needs to sell but is obstinate in his refusal to. Shaun Harvey, Chief Executive and previously bemoaned by Leeds fans, has taken the club aside and united it against its owner in a bizarre twist of events. “The club”, as alluded to by Gary Cooper, chairman of LUST, is now entirely separate in action from “Ken Bates”. There was no defense of Ken Bates on Yorkshire Radio last night when a caller named Steve managed to air grievances on the phone-in, merely the suggestion that Yorkshire Radio itself was not biased. An interview with Bates remained on LUTV for very little time – broadcast once in the ground well before kick-off against Wolves, with few in attendance, this was likely to appease Bates. Shaun Harvey appeared at an evening organised by LUST and the FSF, an incredibly unlikely event months ago. Harvey seems to have Cooper onside, at least with the mutually beneficial goal of ousting Bates, as, after all, Harvey understands that the only way Leeds United can continue (given debts and all) is with new owners who have the financial muscle to rectify the mistakes Bates has made over the last few years. Bates himself would never accept these are mistakes. He is a stubborn old man who believes his method of property development is the way forward for football clubs. He thinks he can still turn it around, that is why he does not sign.

He will have to though. The Bates regime cannot last much longer. He cannot afford it. It is sign or bust for Ken Bates, and signing will bring him untold riches. The Club itself is united against him, and Bates has no allies. He even went as far as attempting to get the Supporter’s Club on his side in the programme notes last night, which shows how far he has fallen. He is so weak that he needs help from those he has previously criticised repeatedly. There are no assets left to sell. He is all alone, trapped in an ivory tower as those below him ignore his demands.

Bates must sign and he will. The only question now is when.

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1).

On This Day: 22nd August 2012


In a shocking moment that has rocked the world, Mark Hughes OBE has gone against grain and decided to use significant amounts of money from the pockets of a foreign tycoon to purchase players he has presumably only ever seen on Sky Sports. Eschewing the modern manager’s delusional willingness to scout players from places that aren’t directly available on a convenient box on a weekly basis, pointed out as being of a decent standard by a series of ex-professionals, most of whom have failed as managers, Hughes has instead chosen to rely on the understanding that if he’s repeatedly heard of a player, he’s probably good.

Hughes, famous for his ruthless scouting endeavours in last year’s capture of 2004’s Djibril Cisse, has reportedly reacted badly to the idea of his team losing 5-0 against Swansea, a team who had the gall to sign an attacking midfielder who has never even played in God’s own Premier League. The manager is delighted to finally be able to implement his defensive blueprint on a team that featured a mere four Mark Hughes signings out of a possible five in the backline.

And so it has come to this. Hughes has agreed a double deal for Michael Dawson and Ricardo Carvalho with their respective clubs, guaranteeing that the Queen’s Park Rangers would have probably been quite a decent side if they played in 2007, back when Carvalho wasn’t 34 and Michael Dawson was a prospect and not a possibly injured cast off from Chief Executive Technocrat Andres Villas-Boas’s revolutionary revolution at the Tottenham Hotspurs.


In another move that goes completely against the grain, Sunderland, purchasers of Titus Bramble, Wes Brown and John O’Shea, part of Steve Bruce’s attempts to assemble the world’s slowest defence, have decided to splurge a large load of fun-bucks at the feet of the nomadic Wolverhampton Wanderers in exchange for Steven Fletcher. Relegation’s Fletcher is set to be a key asset in Sunderland’s now presumed battle against relegation.

Neil Lennon has stated that Celtic’s European Tie is not over, despite the first leg victory over Helsingsborg. Showing the sort of ability to point out the obvious that will serve well in a one-team league, Lennon is planning to follow up his clarification that two-legged ties involve more than one match with a thesis that humans need to eat food, the sky is blue and that Andy Reid is slightly portly.

Danny Welbeck has agreed a new four-year deal at Old Trafford, during which time he will probably be loaned out to whichever former Ferguson charge gets a Premier League managerial post next. Welbeck, who said that “playing for [Endorsement] United is all I’ve ever wanted to do” has apparently been guaranteed at least four starts in the League Cup each season from 2014 onwards, after his club recruit another twenty-seven strikers ahead of him.

Chief Executive Technocrat Andres Villas Boas has proven the difference between him and football’s favourite son Harry “we all love him, honest” Redknapp by signing Emmanuel Adebayor, who returns to Spurs an entire three months after last playing for them.