I DIDN’T know it at the time, but the Leeds Road stadium was a disaster waiting to happen.

The team were near the bottom of the third tier of UK football, the club had no money and there was talk about a new Premiership happening – and I was loving it. Every day I just couldn’t wait to get to work, each morning driving past the farm that Ken Wild owned in the middle of the M62 motorway as the Pennines levelled off on Saddleworth Moor – a great example of Yorkshire grit and determination (or stupidity). The department of transport made him a good offer for his farm, but he refused to move so they diverted the M62 around his land, he’s still there today farming his sheep over 30 years later.

On taking the commercial manager’s job I insisted I wanted nothing to do with the ‘new stadium’ the board had been talking about in the press. I avoided it for two years then, after a change of chairman, new chairman Graham Leslie walked into my office one day and said, ‘It’s now your job to build us a new stadium. You’ve now been promoted to chief executive.’

Graham was a true visionary and had a pharmaceutical business. He invented Calpol, the most wonderful drug for kids with a fever, we’d used it lots of times on our young’uns.

During my early period at Huddersfield Town two significant tragedies happened within the football industry.

Firstly in 1985, 56 people lost their lives in a terrible fire at a football match at Bradford City.

Then four years later in 1989, at a time when there were extensive crowd problems in UK football, 96 people lost their lives at a semi-final at Hillsborough.

The Bradford fire sent a shiver down my spine as my wife and small kids had sat in that stand and watched me play at Valley Parade on a few occasions.

And I felt a sense of guilt as I’d been one of the apprentices at Burnden Park who would sweep all the waste paper in between the railway sleepers which acted as the floor of the Manchester Road stand – of course, never for one moment realising the potential dreadful implications should a stray cigarette ignite the paper – all we wanted was to get off early to get to the golf course.

A tragedy like the fire at Bradford could have happened at any stadium in the UK.

Things had to change, and they did. The government got involved and passed legislation following the Lord Justice Taylor report in 1990.

Although there was a long list of new laws the most significant ones (from which we still benefit today) were: All football stadiums had to be ‘all-seater;’ Each club had to appoint a full time ‘safety-officer;’ and the one that made the most difference: ‘The board of directors would be held liable’ if any of the rules were broken causing death or injury.

This really shook things up and looking back we now have the safest stadiums on the planet.

Now, fans are allowed to stand in seated areas and the Premiership League that followed in August 1992 was to become the biggest and most lucrative sports business on earth.

So, let’s again go back a little. It’s still the early 1990s and there’s only been one new stadium during the last decade, at Walsall FC. This was nothing to do with government legislation, their old stadium was falling apart.

It was announced that there were going to be Ground Improvement grants available and the Leeds Road capacity was going to be reduced down to 8,000 capacity and I was sat in my new office in an old club shop on Leeds Road pondering my future. I’d insisted on moving out of the Leeds Road stadium to concentrate all my efforts on this new stadium.

I’d argued that the old secretary George Binns had to come to work alongside me on the stadium.

He was in his mid 60s, grumpy, irritable, short tempered but as honest and reliable as the day is long. On day one we didn’t think we’d get on. We are still great friends today, I called to see him only last week.

But we did have one great stroke of luck there in West Yorkshire, which at the time we did not realise the significance.

There was a 50-acre empty site 150 yards away from the Leeds Road stadium. (Compare this to Bolton’s Middlebrook stadium which was located seven miles from Burnden Park!).

We had some architectural plans drawn up and building costs calculated by a QS, a Huddersfield fan who was happy to work for free. It was looking like the costs of this new 20,000-seater stadium would be around £20million. So, George came up with one of his famous Yorkshire plans, he said: “I’ll find a new architect to draw some better plans – and you concentrate on raising the £20 million!

At this time, the club was struggling at the bottom of the Second Division and were only weeks away from going into administration. George organised a collection amongst the supporters in exchange for some shares in the club. I bought £500’s worth but still, to this day, have never seen the shares.

Again, I’ll cut a long story short. Eventually we raised £30million via a number of initiatives and the stadium cost £32million. In our first year at the new stadium it was voted the RIBA ‘Building of the Year’, an incredible achievement for a building which was incomplete and only had three stands on opening day.

And yes, it’s great to see Huddersfield Town today yo-yoing in and out of the Premiership, with lots of money in the bank.

During the completion of the stadium, we had lots of visits from other clubs watching our progress and one of the visits was from the board of directors at Bolton Wanderers, led by director Graham Ball.

This was around six years after I had joined Huddersfield Town and I knew quite a lot about stadiums at this time as I’d made many, many big mistakes.

Within the next six months, the two directors responsible for Bolton’s new stadium had made a number of visits, on the last occasion offering me a job as chief executive at their new venue planned at Middlebrook, Horwich which I’d heard about in the press. By the end of that summer, after three fantastic sell-out concerts featuring REM, The Eagles and Bryan Adams.

I said my goodbyes to my friends in West Yorkshire to proudly return to my birthplace, Bolton, as CEO of the new stadium, home of Bolton Wanderers Football Club.

In June that year, on a lovely summer’s evening at around 7pm a couple of days before my official start date, I drove up to the new site at Horwich to meet project manager Dave Murphy of Birse Construction.

The project was well underway, the land had been purchased, construction was ready to begin, and Dave took me to look at a wonderful grass pitch, which had been laid four months earlier and had an 8ft fence around it.

I remember thinking, ‘This location could be one big mistake.