Harrogate memories of Huddersfield Town and England footballing legend Alf Young

Stuart Holberry, the affable MD of Holberry Signs, is well known on the local sporting scene.

His billboards are a prominent feature at both Harrogate Town and Knaresborough Town grounds.

Pictures courtesy of the Holberry family (s)

Pictures courtesy of the Holberry family (s)

But this season Stuart’s visits to both the CNG Stadium and Manse Lane will be more limited.

Together with his brothers and his son, Toby, he is also a season ticket holder at Huddersfield Town.

Huddersfield. Birthplace of Rugby League and Harold Wilson. Star supporter Sir Patrick Stewart is from nearby Mirfield and Jodie Whitaker, the new Doctor Who, can travel back in time to Skelmanthorpe.

Stuart’s grandfather, Alf Young, was a Huddersfield Town legend in the 1920s and 1930s.

Pictures courtesy of the Holberry family (s)

Pictures courtesy of the Holberry family (s)

For much of the twentieth century Huddersfield Town were a First Division Club (the equivalent of the Premier League), winning the First Division Championship in three successive years in the 1920s, a feat only three other clubs have been able to match.

They remained at the top level of the game until 1972. Alf Young made nearly 300 appearances for Huddersfield between 1927 and 1945 and was captain for several seasons.

He was capped by England on many occasions, three of them as captain.

That is remarkable in itself but Alf Young’s story has much more to it.

Pictures courtesy of the Holberry family (s)

Pictures courtesy of the Holberry family (s)

It is contained in what surely must qualify as the most extraordinary football scrapbook in existence. A young Arthur Pearson, living in London, developed an obsession for all things Huddersfield Town.

From 1930 onwards until 1981 when he emigrated to New Zealand, he kept a scrapbook with every newspaper cutting he could find in relation to Huddersfield Town.

His particular hero was Alf Young. The scrapbook is now in the Holberry family’s possession.

It is an extraordinary sporting and social document.

Pictures courtesy of the Holberry family (s)

Pictures courtesy of the Holberry family (s)

There are other particularly poignant features of this story. In 1938 Alf Young was at the peak of his powers.

Captain of Huddersfield and an automatic choice for England. On April 30 he captained the losing Huddersfield team in the first televised Cup Final at Wembley.

Huddersfield lost in dramatic circumstances.

Two weeks later, on May 14, he was the centre half in one of the most famous matches in English football history.

England v Germany in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin in front of 110,000 spectators.

Some of the biggest names in English football history were involved.

Pictures courtesy of the Holberry family (s)

Pictures courtesy of the Holberry family (s)

The FA Secretary was Sir Stanley Rous (later President of FIFA), and the team included Stanley Matthews (Knighted for services to football), Cliff Bastin (Arsenal’s leading scorer for the next 60 years), Eddie Hapgood and Stan Cullis (legendary manager of Wolves in later life).

The English players were required to give the Nazi salute before the start of the game and did so under protest.

But it should also be remembered that the team insisted on everyone in the stadium standing for “God save the King.”

The date is significant, May 14 1938, four months before the famous “peace in our time” conference in Munich.

The Foreign Office at the time insisted on the salute, with Sir Neville Henderson, British Ambassador to Germany in the dressing room.

Hindsight, of course, shows that the peace efforts were futile.

Happily, what was supposed to be a propaganda coup for the Nazi regime was another flop to go alongside the 1936 Olympics. England won comfortably 6-3 and Goering, Goebbels and Hess left before the end, the German team comprehensively defeated.

Alf Young was born in the North-East.

His daughter, Shirley Holberry, Stuart’s mother has lived in Harrogate since 1962.

Her pride in her father’s achievements is undimmed.

The scrapbook bears witness to the universal admiration both for his skill and unblemished record.

He was as well-known for his exemplary attitude as he was for his footballing prowess.

Alf Young was paid £7 a week in the winter, reduced to £6 in the summer.

Another time another era. On retirement he had a successful career coaching, in both Britain and Europe.

Stuart has graphic memories of accompanying his grandfather on scouting missions. Like so many others Alf Young had to sacrifice some of the best years of his football career because of war. He was at his peak when war broke out. Alf Young joined the RAF and served with distinction throughout the war.

The players in this “new” Huddersfield era will build on the legacy of their distinguished predecessors, including Alf Young.