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Why Huddersfield And Reading Have More In Common Than You Realise

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It's not just twitter love that links Huddersfield and Reading.

One of the good things about football is visiting places you would never normally go to. The average football fan will be far more travelled and know more of England than those (un)lucky souls who don't watch the beautiful game.

The only problem is that you often only see the bad areas. Reading is a good example. Fans arriving by train will see a big smart new railway station, but are greeted by Station Hill. For years this was the most rundown area of the town centre and even now is just a big hole waiting to be built on.

Getting to the ground involves catching a bus which goes along the ugly IDR. The fields south of Coley are pleasant enough if you don't see a shopping trolley in the Holy Brook. After that you'll see bland new housing developments, a tip, a brownfield site which used to be a greyhound stadium but is now a car park and fly-tip.

You get the idea. Just visiting the Madejski Stadium would not create a good impression of Reading. It would be very easy to miss some of the fine listed buildings, such as the Abbey, Prison or Town Hall.

So as odd as it first may sound, I have enjoyed visiting friends in Bournemouth, Burnley, Derby and Huddersfield, as it has given me a chance to get to know better places I had only ever visited for football.

I have learnt that the coast aside, Bournemouth is nothing special to the extent that when my friend from there visited Reading he said it was nicer. Burnley is widely derided but has some great Victorian architecture and is in a stunning location.

What I discovered most was how similar all those places, bar Burnley due to its size, were to Reading. There can be a bit of a stereotype that Reading is uniquely middle class.

Yet moving away and visiting as a non-resident has made me realise how untrue that is. Comparing it to Huddersfield on my visits has only reinforced that.

If you have ever wondered what the northern version of Reading is then Huddersfield is your answer. And vice versa the southern version of Huddersfield.

You'll see few differences between the locals in both towns. They're well off without being as posh or close to the middle class stereotype you'll find in place like Henley and Harrogate. There are also poor areas and sizeable ethnic minorities.

There are other similarities. For a start both towns claim to be the biggest town in the country with populations around 160,000 (though Reading's is really more like 230,000 if you include suburbs like Earley and Woodley which strangely are outside the Borough of Reading). Both are close to major cities. For Reading it's London, for Huddersfield it's Leeds and Manchester.

That closeness means both towns have big commuter populations, though more people actually commute into Reading than out.

They both have 90s shopping centres that dominate their town centres and a perhaps surprising number of famous people associated with them. I'll let you decide whether Huddersfield's list (including Patrick Stewart, Harold Wilson, James Mason and Herbert Henry Asquith) beats Reading's (Kate Winslet, Ricky Gervais, Kenneth Branagh and Chris Tarrant).

There are differences of course. Huddersfield elected a Labour MP in 2015, whilst Reading elected two Conservatives. Labour though currently has two thirds of the council seats in Reading, but under half in Huddersfield. So even politically they aren't as different as you may think.

Perhaps what links them most though is their football clubs. Until the 1990s such a statement would have been ludicrous.

In 1921–22 Huddersfield won the FA Cup and between 1923 and 1926 became the first club to win the League Championship three times in a row, an achievement matched only by three other teams. Up to the 1970s they spent most of their history in the top division. So tinpot they are not.

They moved to their new ground in 1994, but unlike Reading the move hasn't transformed them. In some ways Huddersfield have maybe come down to their natural level whilst Reading have finally reached theirs.

The excitement I witnessed in Huddersfield in February was similar to that felt in Reading in 2006. Only since beating Leeds in March have Reading fans started to get excited and reveling in reaching the playoff final at the expense of "bigger and more historic" clubs.

Now they face a club that is hard to dislike, simply because disliking Huddersfield would be disliking so many characteristics which make up Reading.

We're both defined by our locations to bigger cities that turn their noses up to us. We're bigger and not the backwaters some think, but ultimately Huddersfield and Reading are just normal places.

Too big to be irrelevant, but too small to be considered big players. Just like their football clubs.