Former Huddersfield Town player Keith Hanvey has had a bigger influence on the modern day Terriers than many younger fans might think.
Hanvey, who played for the club between 1978 and 1984, won two promotions with the Terriers in a rollercoaster period at the club. He then went on to become the club’s commercial manager in 1987, a role he held for four years.
During his time as commercial manager, Hanvey had big plans for a new stadium for the club. However, disagreements with the club’s board at the time meant that plans for a new stadium didn’t fully evolve until a year after Hanvey had left his role.
On that time at the club, Hanvey said: “I did really enjoy that role at the club. I loved it. After I finished my playing career I was a salesman for a bit, selling plastic applications such as handles for doors etc and it was good. I used to go up and down the motorway and loved it.
“When the job came up at Town I said I would like to go and do it and the company I had been working for, although they didn’t want to lose me, realised my history with the club and actively said it’s not something I could turn down.
“I used to walk around the ground and fans would tell me this and that was crap about the stadium. Also I was fascinated with how Scunthorpe United had sold their land and built a new stadium on a green belt site. I thought there was no reason we couldn’t do that.
“I got really engrossed in the whole process, so much so I travelled up to Scotland to see what clubs up there were doing.
“I secured a deal for the club whereby we could have had a new four-sided stadium for £12 million which for a new stadium was nothing.
“There was no money to pay out to redevelop Leeds Road and the club had £700,000 in the overdraft which was a lot of money back then. So really I thought a new stadium was the way to go.
“I was promoting it left, right and centre to various people including the fans. A big supporter of mine was board director Geoff Headey who liked the idea.
“However, the chairman Keith Longbottom and secretary George Binns were against it. One day I took them around the ground because most of them didn’t know what state it was in.
“I said to them ‘this is what we have for a stadium.’ Trees growing at the back of the stand, crumbling toilets and terrible terraces. The Taylor Report had just come out at that time and there was a big bill to pay running into the hundreds of thousands to get Leeds Road right.”
The Taylor Report looked into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 97 Liverpool supporters died. It suggested that football grounds be made into all seated venues.
Hanvey added: “We got to the stage where we could have a stadium which would cost us nothing. It would be a community asset but any money made would come to us and our overdraft would be wiped out. I was so excited that we were starting to talk to developers.
“We went into a board meeting to have a vote on it all and they turned it down. I stood up, threw my books across the table and stormed out. I resigned from my role in 1990.
“I was offered a job at Bradford City to redevelop their stand behind the goal as chief commercial executive. I thought: ‘sod you Town, you haven’t got the ambition I have.’ It really hurt me at the time and so I went to Bradford.
“Graham Leslie then became chairman of Town and asked me to come back. He said he’d support me in all my plans. However, I was enjoying my time at Bradford and they’d looked after me and I wanted to show them loyalty so I turned Graham down.
“He asked whether he could have my plans for a new stadium. I went through them with him. He said he was going to take it on. This is where Graham deserves a hell of a lot of credit because he and Paul Fletcher, who replaced me as commercial manager, got it through. Albeit not on the same deal I had secured, but at least they showed ambition for the club and for that they deserve a lot of credit.”
Over 30 years on the same idea Hanvey had will finally become reality at the end of this season when Town gain operational control of the stadium. This has pleased Hanvey but he insists if he had been listened to back in 1989 it could have saved the club a lot of money.
He said: “I’m pleased the club will now get control of the stadium. My plan was always that Town would control the revenue and let the council and rugby club use the ground when needed. A lot of money could have been saved if I’d have got my deal through but it wasn’t to be.”
Current Town owner and chairman Phil Hodgkinson has recently revealed plans for the stadium including building a hotel on the site.
In an interview Mr Hodgkinson said: “The deal is agreed. What that looks like is that the football club will take over the running of the stadium. The stadium will be put into trust and the football club will be given a 25-year rolling lease. The Giants will become a tenant of the football club and pay rent.”
Hanvey’s dream did become reality – eventually – and the 69-year-old should be remembered for the important part he played in the history of Huddersfield Town and where it is today, not only for his contribution on the pitch but off it too.