Three successive wins to round off 2021 left Huddersfield Town firmly in play-off contention – and, intriguingly, the year ended with former chairman Dean Hoyle back at the helm.
Just hours before Town won at Nottingham Forest in their final Championship game of the year, the club announced that Mark Devlin had been replaced as interim CEO by Hoyle himself.
A 1-0 victory at the City Ground and Hoyle back in charge had fans dreaming of a repeat of 2017 when Town won the play-offs and were promoted to the Premier League.
The impossible happened before. Why couldn’t lightning strike twice? Travelodge Wembley here we come…
Before we get too carried away let’s ask why Devlin has gone. He was plainly Phil Hodgkinson’s man. Covid meant we probably didn’t see the best of an experienced football administrator and it’s only fair to give him the benefit of any doubt.
When a company CEO goes it usually means a change of ownership. Is Hodgkinson still the majority shareholder? Speculation says not. Administration for some of his other businesses meant he took a backseat and we know Hoyle has stepped in to pay the wages at least once.
So has Hoyle got 100% of the club back? Maybe but we don’t know for sure. If he has is the departure of Devlin a signal of a new Terriers owner incoming? Could be.
Is that new owner the old owner ie Mr Hoyle? Possibly. But hadn’t Hoyle fallen out of love with Town and his legacy been somewhat tarnished? Apparently so.
Why would Hoyle want to return? Once a Town fan, always a Town fan, of course, but he may already be the 100% owner again if Hodgkinson has handed over his shares and walked away. Hoyle is maybe King again almost by default.
He maybe didn’t have a choice in taking the club back to protect his investment. But if that’s the case he now does have a choice. Find a new buyer now – or have another crack at the Premier League and try to repair his tattered legacy.
Former Town commercial director Sean Jarvis would have been a popular appointment as CEO. Even though he’s now switched to cricket with Leicestershire, he’s retained all his Huddersfield links. He, however, appeared to rule himself out on social media.
So what about this from left field? Maybe Town could become the Hoyle family business. Eldest son Danny has been working in scouting and player recruitment at Norwich City for the best part of two years.
It seemed like an odd move at the time but has he been learning the ropes under highly-rated sporting director Stuart Webber, the head of football operations who helped build Town’s promotion squad of 2017?
Any ambitious young man would surely be soaking up all that experience and knowhow so could Danny become the new Town CEO with his dad’s guiding hand in the background? Absolutely he could.
We’re just speculating, of course. We don’t know anything that you don’t know. We’re putting two and two together and could be making a right hash of it. But we’re no different to thousands of other Town fans who are trying to piece together the clues.
The truth is out there. We just don’t know it yet…
On the pitch Town kept up their unlikely promotion push and went the whole of December unbeaten.
A disappointing draw at the start of the month to struggling Barnsley would be the only slight negative to what was a truly great month of results.
Another 1-1 draw to high-flying Coventry followed but it would have been a defeat if it hadn’t been for the imperious Lee Nicholls in goal.
Then came the three wins, first up was a trip to Bristol City. With what all Town fans expected to be our annual drubbing by the Robins, this time it was different. Not even in the beloved 2016-17 season did we see a positive result at City, now things are different – a 3-2 win in what was a good performance overall.
There was an early set back in the 2nd minute when Town went a goal behind and then a missed penalty by Danny Ward moments later. Those minutes left Town fans with that same old feeling. However, goals by Ward, Duane Holmes and Danel Sinani saved the day.
That same result in Bristol was replicated at the John Smith’s Stadium on Boxing Day v Blackpool. The Seasiders struck early and dug in but, once again, Town turned it around and were victorious with two late goals from Sorba Thomas.
The final game came away at Nottingham Forest, a team we hadn’t beaten at the City Ground before last season, since 2016. The game was scrappy and Town rode their luck but again came out with all three points after Holmes scored the only goal of the game and celebrated by sucking his thumb. He dedicated his goal to his newborn son Thiago.
Town sit in the play-off positions in the Sky Bet Championship following their recent good form and head into 2022 with huge positivity.
The January transfer window is now open and with things changing at the top of the club it will be interesting to see if any personnel is changed on the turf.
My player of the month for December is Lee Nicholls. He has put in some truly outstanding displays and if he keeps this up he’ll be on course for winning player of the season. Happy 2022, Town fans!