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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A Run For All Seasons

Jordan 'Rhodes of Goals' Rhodes

Quite a big thing managed to sneak under the radar this week, presumably as the radar itself was either straining to measure superluminal neutrinos, or joining the rest of the football universe in providing repeated shots of England’s Brave John Terry either falling over or looking contrite. What was happening, in actual fact, was that Huddersfield Town were putting the finishing touches to the most unlikely run since Adam Bushby went for a run.* A shining and magical apple obscured by all the oniony inadequacies of Super Sunday and Gary Neville’s David Luiz/Playstation joke. Well, no longer.

Jordan Rhodes scored twice as the Terriers beat Notts County at the Galpharm on Saturday, making it 43 league games unbeaten and moving them ahead of Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest (so presumably even the County fans didn’t mind too much) in the all-time not-being-beaten list.** And this, in case you hadn’t noticed, is pretty remarkable stuff. When was the last time you did something 43 times without messing it up at least once?

You reckon you’ve put your socks on flawlessly on 43 consecutive occasions? Don’t think so. You made a brew 43 times without once thinking ‘this tastes a bit shit, this one’? Dream on. You’ve enjoyed success every time you’ve tried to catch a hamster the last 43 attempts? Seamlessly opened a bag of crisps 43 times? NO YOU HAVEN’T. NO ONE HAS. STOP LYING.

Huddersfield have made it through 3,870 minutes of league football (excluding injury time) without losing once. This not only breaks Clough’s 33-year-old record but moves Lee Clark’s side to within six games of equalling Arsenal’s Invincibles record of 2003-04, which should Huddersfield reach it will probably see Steve Claridge mumbling incoherently and irrelevantly about how great Old Big’ead was and another few pieces churned out about Wenger’s former greatness and future departure.

Now admittedly, Huddersfield aren’t top of League One as a result of this remarkable run and it’s almost as if that, along with racking up 18 draws on the way, is somehow not quite as big a cause for celebration. They might not be the most fashionable side – and we speak as fans of Macclesfield Town and York City, before you all go off on one – but this achievement deserves the utmost respect. And for some reason it has had precious little. Maybe it's because Huddersfield’s run has come over consecutive seasons unlike the season unbeaten that Arsenal achieved. But as Clark himself acknowledges: “It’s a phenomenal achievement in any team sport to go so long without losing and it shows we have something special going on here.”

Following a 4-1 defeat at Southampton on December 28 2010, these 43 unbeaten games have taken in 25 wins in regular league matches, as well as the aforementioned draws. They have also unearthed a gem of a manager in Lee Clark, as well as a young Scottish striker called Jordan Rhodes whose scoring record is – and get a load of this – 48 in 98 for Huddersfield since 2009 and six in six for Scotland’s under-21s THIS YEAR.

And if ever there was a case for a blend of youth and experience, then look no further than the inclusion of, for a start, forgotten 10-club man and former ‘next big thing’ Danny Cadamarteri (remember him?!), now 32. Fellow journeyman Joey Gudjonsson (ex-Villa, Wolves, Leicester and Burnley, 31) and former Scotland international Gary Naysmith (46 caps for Scotland, 33) also give the side a very early-noughties Premier League feel.

While Clough and Wenger received plaudits and column inches aplenty for their achievements, Huddersfield’s phenomenal run was marked quite unfairly, given that it hasn’t even ended yet, with what looks to us like quite a shit little plaque. And should the run now come to a halt, this takes the heat firmly off us for drawing attention to it and places it firmly onto Npower for commemorating it in plaque form. Nice one, Npower.

If Clark and his players wish to receive another more momentous plaque in a few games’ time by chasing down the Invincibles’ record then first they must overcome perhaps their sternest test of the run yet; Charlton away on Monday. The fixture at the Valley pits first versus second and Charlton are in fine form themselves, racking up two 4-0 wins in the league in October, as well as spanking Preston 5-2 a few weeks ago. However, it would be worth considering Huddersfield won this fixture 1-0 back in April thanks to a goal from Gudjonsson.

Should Huddersfield keep the wolves from the door until at least the end of the season and manage to keep hold of the much-coveted Clark, then promotion to the Championship is a very real prospect. Consecutive play-off defeats in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 seasons (semis and final respectively) haven’t knocked Clark’s confidence or diminished his belief in employing an expansive and attractive style. Hopefully in seven games’ time Clark and Huddersfield will have beaten the odds and be awarded the exposure their truly remarkable achievements deserve.

Please note: this piece is a precursor to yet another series set to launch soon imaginatively entitled ‘The Runs’.

*April, 2002 since you were wondering.

**Not its official title

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