In 1997 Huddersfield Town appeared doomed to relegation amid a disastrous campaign which mirrors the struggles of this season.
Back then the Terriers were hoping for a miraculous turn around – and got one when they appointed rookie boss and former Town favourite Peter Jackson.
Affectionately known as Jacko, the then 36-year-old inspired what became known as The Great Escape and an end to a season that no supporter of a certain age will ever forget.
Current boss Neil Warnock is writing a very similar type of storyline at Town after lifting the club out of the bottom three for the first time since August.
Under Warnock’s wizardry, Town have picked up 11 points from a possible 15 and with five games to go they are in the driving seat to survive. Jackson, who played under Warnock back in 1994, is confident the 74-year-old can pull off The Great Escape 2.0.
Jackson said: “When he got a result against Birmingham I was really pleased, but then he lost a few games and I wasn’t sure. However, after the recent run he has been on with the team I believe 100% he will keep us in this division.”
The interwoven story between Jackson and Warnock is fascinating. Back in 1990 Jackson had arrived at Town from Bradford City. He quickly became a fans’ favourite and captain of the club under the then manager Eoin Hand, and later Ian Ross.
Neil Warnock arrived at Leeds Road in 1993 and was soon to put his stamp on the club. The 1993-94 side got to the Autoglass Trophy Final, a first appearance at Wembley since the 1930s.
Warnock decided to leave Jackson out of that fixture despite Town fans hoping he would be involved. Town lost the match to Swansea and Jackson left the club in the summer of 1994. Warnock would depart a year later.
It would only be three years until a return for Jackson was in the offing in 1997 when he was appointed manager after the departure of Brian Horton.
Jackson recalled how he was left out of the Wembley line-up and said: “That was obviously disappointing, and me and Neil didn’t see eye to eye.
“In fact he mentions me in his book, saying when he first came to Town there wasn’t room for me and him. I left in 1994 but at that point I didn’t know I’d be back quite so soon.
“Neil and I have met countless times since then and I have a lot of respect for him. To go over 1,000 games as a manager is a remarkable achievement.
“I spent seven years as Town boss in my two spells clocking up over 400 games so I know how difficult that milestone is to get to. Neil gets what the players are about, he knows the club and fans and so put all that together – along with his personality – and I just can’t see us going down.”
Back in 1997, Town had picked up only four points from the first eight matches and Brian Horton was sacked. Jackson, then playing part-time at Halifax Town, recalled: “I met with the Town board and didn’t really have an interview because when I walked in I knew most of them from having played at the club so it was more like a chat.
“I went to the chairman’s house and was offered the job. I was ecstatic to be the manager of Huddersfield Town. Although at 36-years-old you don’t know what’s involved in the job. It’s more than just about the football side of things so I had to learn quickly. There were many problems to solve.”
Jackson shrewdly brought in ex-Wales manager Terry Yorath as his No2 but the upturn wasn’t immediate. After 13 matches Town were bottom of the table with just five points – eight adrift of safety.
The players’ confidence was on the floor and Jackson had to get the squad believing in itself. He had to instill his own passion for the club into the players.
“We had to get the players to enjoy training and enjoy playing again,” said Jackson. “Even though we were getting beat, we had to make them positive and make them still believe they can do it. If you can do that and give everything, give 110%, the fans will always be right behind you.
“We got our first win when we beat Stoke 3-1. What a moment that was, it was unbelievable. I was so proud that day. Driving home I knew we’d stay up. We eventually did it but it took some incredibly hard work from myself, the staff and the players.”
It was still a rollercoaster after that first victory. The win over Stoke set the tone for an excellent run of form. Town lost their next game away to Tranmere Rovers but that was to be one of just four defeats in 14 games from the beginning of November through to the middle of February.
Town were out of the relegation zone but five defeats in six games plunged the club back into the bottom three with just 10 matches remaining.
Thanks to a change in formation and three goals in four matches from striker Marcus Stewart, Town’s form turned around again and they climbed out of the drop zone. A home win over West Brom finally sealed The Great Escape and Jackson’s place in Town folklore.
Jackson added: “It was a fabulous day for everybody for all the commitment they’d put in and it’s a privilege to have been a part of what they call The Great Escape.”
The momentum continued into the following season and Jackson said: “A year to the day since I took over the club, we went top of the Championship which was an amazing feeling.”
Jackson was controversially sacked in 1999 by new owner Barry Rubery. Jackson’s successor Steve Bruce wasn’t in the hot seat long either.
Jackson returned to the club as manager for a second time in 2003-04 (picture above) after the Terriers had gone into administration.
He would win promotion that season as the Terriers beat Mansfield Town on penalties in the play-off final in Cardiff to take the club into League One. He left the club in 2007 after chairman Ken Davy relieved him of his duties.
Since then he has managed both Lincoln City and Bradford City. He’s still a regular at the John Smith’s Stadium as he works in hospitality on match days.
Jackson will return to the touchline for the first time in a while when he takes charge of a Huddersfield Town Legends team at the fourth annual Match For Heroes fundraising game, again taking place at Golcar United’s Skye Direct Stadium on Sunday April 23. More than 1,200 attended the fixture last year and hopes are high for an even bigger crowd this time around.
So far over the last three events organisers have raised £34,000 for ex-servicemen’s charities. The games take place in memory of Meltham soldier Tom Wroe and Sgt Gareth Thursby who were killed on duty in Afghanistan in 2012.
Once again a team of Huddersfield Town Legends and stars will take on a team from Golcar United. The Terriers will consist of familiar faces such as Matt Glennon, Chris Billy, Delroy Facey, Andy Holdsworth, Ian Lawson, Stephen Payne, Joe Skarz, Lee Duxbury, Mick Midwood and Mark Kelly.
On being involved in the event Jackson said: “I was supposed to take part last year but couldn’t in the end so I’m really looking forward to it this time around.
“It is brilliant how we can get a game on with so many of the former players, some I played with and managed. It’s nice to see them and raise funds for what are some great causes. It’ll be great to mix and chat with the fans too. It should be a great day.”
Tickets for Match for Heroes 4 are available HERE.