IIt’s the birthplace of Patrick Stewart and the site of the Sex Pistols’ last British concert in 1977, but this weekend the city of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire will be the center of the sports world like never before. Huddersfield has already established its place in British sports folklore: it is the place where the Rugby League was founded in 1895 and Huddersfield Town was once the driving force behind English football, the first club to win the league three times in a row, in 1924-26.
But a city nestled on the edge of the Pennines and in the shadow of Leeds and Manchester – geographically and metaphorically – has never known a time like this. On Saturday, the Huddersfield Giants will be looking to win the Rugby League Challenge Cup for the first time since 1953, when they faced Wigan in the final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
This in itself would raise the mood in an area that was once at the heart of the textile boom in Britain, but 24 hours later Huddersfield Town is aiming to return to the Premier League in the final playoff Championship at Wembley, with their rivals Nottingham Forest.
Sport plays a huge role in the mood of people in this part of the world and it has never been more evident than it is now. “I’m still getting emails from voters, and in the last few weeks they’ve all been about Giants and Town,” said Jason McCartney, a Conservative MP for Colne Valley.
His constituency covers most of the major suburbs of Huddersfield and the surrounding area, and as an ardent supporter of both clubs who will be present at both matches, he understands the size of this weekend for his hometown: on and off the field.
“I was in London last weekend and I saw Sunderland fans taking over Trafalgar Square, and it was clear to me how special a weekend it would be for our city,” he says. “It simply came to our notice then. It could kick-start the city’s wealth and take it to the next level in terms of economic growth. “
One of the most important local merchants is Ken Davy. He has owned a rugby league club since 1996 and was briefly chairman of the Town, which led the effort to save them in 2003. “It’s great,” he says of the clubs that share John Smith’s Stadium on the edge of the city center.
“Weekends like this sometimes happen in cities like Huddersfield?” I’m not sure so. There is a chance to make the dreams of tens of thousands of people come true in unique circumstances. Little Old Huddersfield will take over London. “
There are similarities between the clubs that represent this city with such pride. Both were given little chance of getting to this stage, with the Giants’ outsiders for the Challenge Cup and Town expecting even less to be in the mix for promotion. “It’s such a great club because the people around you follow you if you’re willing to put your bodies on the line,” says Jonathan Hogg, the city’s captain.
“We have a great bunch of guys who don’t complain or run, and that’s what this city wants.” Huddersfield is busy wherever you are. It will be a special weekend that you can attend. If your local team is doing well, everyone will start locally. There’s a huge difference in where people live, but having both teams in the finals is unheard of. “
The success of both clubs could even turn Huddersfield’s temporary position in the sports environment into a more permanent one, which could lead to more wealth for the city. You can see history at almost every turn if you travel through the center of Huddersfield or any of its suburbs, but the lack of serious redevelopment in recent years has left some frustrated. Sports success could be a catalyst for change.
“If Giants and Town win, it will help our case bring more investment to the area,” says McCartney. “The city’s participation in the Premier League brings huge opportunities that could bring parts of the city back to life. I often say that you don’t see any cranes in Huddersfield, there is no development there and the future of the city is at stake. But sport goes beyond what is happening on the pitch today, and success for both brings the economic benefits and improvements we need. ”
The Giants say Town’s progress to the playoff finals has boosted their support for Tottenham, with many fans of both clubs now extending their stay. Among them is the family of Town striker Danny Ward, the club’s top scorer this season. “My wife’s family supports both teams, so it will be a great weekend for them,” he says. “Everyone’s going all weekend.”
“It’s crazy, but it’s also great for the city.” Buzz was incredible. These things don’t happen very often, so it’s the same weekend for both clubs, it’s absolutely great. “
For the Town, the splendor and magic of the Premier League is one victory away, and for the Giants there is a chance to end the years of lingering in the shadows in a sport that was founded so close to where they play.
Perhaps the only people who could enjoy it more than the fans of both clubs are the local robbers, because in the next few days Huddersfield will be quite quiet and a large part of the population 200 miles along the M1 will take over the capital.