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An Open Letter To Huddersfield Town AFC

Dave Harris puts into words the pain we're all feeling but has words of praise for Monday's victors.

Huddersfield Town v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Just over 24 hours on from Christopher Schindler’s penalty, this is not easy to write. We’re devastated down here in Reading, we will feel the pain of this defeat for a long time. This is but another ghost added to the list of playoff ghosts we will need to exorcise. It is easy to get a bit sentimental in these circumstances, but the manner of defeat on Monday will never be forgotten in these parts, and with each passing playoff defeat the stigma and feeling of absolute despondency grows. To us, we were not just two kicks of a football away from the Premier League, but two kicks of a football away to ending our playoff misery. Six heartbreaking defeats in six playoffs now, four of which were experienced in finals.

It is only natural, when on the receiving end of defeat, to relive in the mind’s eye the key moments in the game for your own team, wishing (hoping?) that, with each reliving, the outcome will turn out to be different. Liam Moore’s penalty was the turning point which will go on a list alongside Stuart Lovell’s penalty in 1995, Barry Hunter’s clearance in 2001, Nicky Forster’s injury in 2003, Andre Bikey’s meltdown in 2009, and Jem Karacan agonisingly hitting the post in 2011. But no matter how hard we wish we could, we cannot change anything. Yesterday is history, and despite the world we live in today having so many people in power who wish to revise or erase certain parts of history, it cannot be changed.

Football in the grand scheme of things should be no more than an enjoyable sideline to the everyday trappings of life, but it isn’t. Football is unique. Football, and football clubs, mean so much to supporters, myself as a died-in-the-wool Reading supporter included, and that was evidenced perfectly in opposite polarity Monday as the realisation dawned on the massed Wembley ranks that Christopher Schindler had scored his penalty. Wild delirium at one end of Wembley, utter dejection at the other. Irrespective of the heartbreaking circumstances, though, you have to suppress any bitterness, resentment or despair that may be felt. It is always important to be gracious in defeat.

Huddersfield Have Earned Their Moment

They say it’s not so much where you finish that matters, but how you get there. Finishing fifth in the Championship and winning a playoff competition to win promotion to the Premier League is a noble feat under any circumstances, but the manner in which Dean Hoyle and David Wagner have transformed Huddersfield from a football club perennially in the lower reaches of the division, to one that at one stage of the season looked to be able to challenge Newcastle United and Brighton for automatic promotion is truly a superb accomplishment. With astute signings and tactical acumen, Wagner has installed an exciting, high tempo brand of football based on the principles of “Gegenpressing” that has been nothing but enjoyable to watch (except when you were playing us, of course).

Off the pitch, the players and management are testament to the sound principles and ethics installed from the very top of the club down, which we as Reading supporters understand only too well, the concept ringing so true with our own promotions to the Premier League in 2006 and 2012. The view of Huddersfield Town from Berkshire is of a proud and traditional West Yorkshire football club acquitting themselves on and off the pitch with aplomb in 2016/17, and it is clear that Dean Hoyle has installed a plan, and most importantly a manager, that the supporters have more than bought into, backing and trusting the club and manager and the decisions taken from within. A local, self-made man installing ethics and values into a club that is carried through the manager into the team and supporting staff – again, this rings very true to our own experiences here in Reading with Sir John Madejski, Steve Coppell and Brian McDermott. The plan has clearly worked thus far, and of course the supporters that have vocally backed you have received their just rewards for their loyalty.

Terriers Fans Are A Credit To The Game

Reading supporters have their detractors. We are known to be a fairly passive bunch all told, but that does not make us passionless. We know our football. As I have explained, we feel the pain of defeat in the playoffs harder than most with each passing competition, but despite our misery I believe there are very few true Reading fans who would begrudge Huddersfield players and supporters their chance to celebrate. They took it, as well they might, and nobody would deny them the opportunity, but the grace with which the supporters in particular took it is worthy of special attention. Before the game, they were knowledgeable, courteous and downright honest folk, easy to talk to, particularly the man and two sons who I spoke to pre-match for The Tilehurst End by the Herbert Chapman statue at the Emirates. But post match, when passions are raw and emotions are on a knife-edge, they were simply a different class. Very often, a defeat in a match and subsequent mingling with opposition support can induce some of the uglier side of football. Comments can be made, insults traded, “Mickey-taking” designed to provoke a reaction in the emotional heat of the moment, or worse can occur. On the contrary, my experience of Huddersfield fans yesterday, who were to a man, woman, boy or girl obviously ecstatic, was of nothing but magnanimity in victory, impeccably behaved before and after identifying me as a Reading fan, and for that reason I will personally always hold them in the highest esteem. They did not make an already desperate feeling worse by rubbing my nose in it, and they were an absolute credit to their town and club.

Good Luck

And so it is that the utmost respect and graciousness should be returned wholeheartedly. To the players, management, and to the supporters of Huddersfield Town AFC, not just the 38,000 or so Terriers who travelled to Wembley, but to all of those who parted with their hard earned cash throughout the season (and before) supporting their club, we at The Tilehurst End offer our genuine congratulations, and sincerely wish you the best of luck in the Premier League, both next season and beyond.

Until next time...