Soccer AM/MW - the home of lively and humorous discussion from the Football and Non Leagues

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fan Files: Yeovil Town

You might be under the impression we actually know what we're talking about. Sometimes we do.

However, there's no substitute for first hand experience, so, once more, it's time to delve into the Fan Files and ask those in the know about what's really happening at their club.

On this occasion, we turn the spotlight on League One strugglers Yeovil Town.

Glovers fan Ben Barrett has been following the fortunes of his side since 2001.

So Ben, what's the best moment been following Yeovil?

Actually, it came during the first season - not to say I haven't had more. To be at Villa Park to watch us win the FA Trophy against Stevenage was pretty special.

I was in the front row and the late Adam Stansfield ran straight into our section of supporters after scoring. That was the moment I was hooked and a fan for life.

The whole day showed me what supporting Yeovil can be like - the fun of an early morning pounding up and down motorways, an incredible atmosphere, and seeing Gary Johnson's men triumph was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

What about the worst moment?

I've been very lucky. I began supporting after the horrible season in the mid-1990s which saw us relegated from the Conference - so I have seen nothing but a rise through the leagues.

I've seen us win the FA Trophy, the Conference a year later, and then League Two not long after that.

I was convinced a couple of years ago that we were destined for the drop from League One - but even that had a happy ending when a returning hero, 'keeper Chris Weale, scored against Hereford to ensure our survival.

On a personal note, the worst day for me was in 2004 when I missed the Yeovil/Liverpool FA Cup game just a day after my birthday.

Gary Johnson was the architect of Yeovil's rise up the divisions

I've been unfortunate to miss that, and the epic FA Trophy semi final against Doncaster - which some fans speak of as a better day than the final itself.

I'm a generally positive supporter and can honestly say that we might not always win or play particularly well, but I can usually find some positives.

Losing 4-0 and 5-0 to Leeds and Brighton within a few days of each other during Terry Skiverton's first season was about as depressed as I have ever been.

How's this season going then? On the face of it, lower mid-table and keeping your head above water looks just about par-for-the-course for Yeovil?

It's probably been the hardest season to comment on. We've played out of our skins against sides like Huddersfield, Southampton, and Sheffield Wednesday.

Then there have been howling performances against Exeter and Hartlepool - who are teams we should consider beatable.

Being a lower mid-table side is pretty much spot on for a club of our size, value, and budget - although that's probably not in the hearts and minds of our supporters and the biggest of them all is Terry Skiverton.

At the start of the season the key word was 'progression.' We wanted to get ourselves safe and secure as quickly as possible and push on.

Most pundits would have us favourites to finish rock bottom and slowly wither away back into Non League where we belong. I don't think that's in Skivo's script.

On a tiny budget we have brought together one of the best squads I have ever had the pleasure of watching.

Dean Bowditch is a key man up front for the Glovers

I have fallen in love a bit - okay, quite a lot - with Adam Virgo who, despite not being the quickest, has filled filled the gap Skiverton created by taking the step into management.

We've got some great wingers for this level and Dean Bowditch - who has the ability to finish a chance off at the drop of a hat.

If everyone is honest, to still be talking about League One next season would be nice. To be playing sides dropping out of the Championship rather than the ones getting promoted out of the Conference is always preferable.

I genuinely think there is a belief in the squad that we can cause some teams whose size, fan base, and history suggests they should finish above us problems, and push towards the top half of the table. Beyond that - who knows?

You famously defeated Nottingham Forest on the way to play off final heartbreak against Blackpool in 2007. Could you see the Glovers ever hitting those same heights again in League One?

That night in Nottingham is tattooed on the inside of my eyelids - I see it when I sleep, I remember it as if it were yesterday.

You just don't go to Nottingham Forest and put five past them, you just don't. Will we ever see that day again? I would love to think so. The club certainly thinks so.

I was lucky enough to spend some time at the club a couple of years back and staff, supporters, and players that I spoke to were 100 per cent sure that Yeovil are a Championship club in the making. They didn't know when it would happen, they were just sure it would.

Putting things into perspective, for Yeovil to go up would be another story much like we have seen with Scunthorpe and Blackpool.

We haven't a young squad, one with some key players that we would have to keep hold of for a while yet - players like Bowditch, Virgo, and Paul Huntington.

Russell Slade guided Town to the play off final in 2007

Ones we've also had for a while like Nathan Smith and Craig Alcock would have to turn transfers down and remain loyal for things to really move forward.

We all need to remember that Skiverton and his management team are learning as well, so a few mistakes might well creep in from time to time.

I am convinced we can, and will, take the 2007 experience, build on it, then better it. It might not be this season, or next, but it will happen.

Of course, your boss Terry Skiverton stepped up to be manager after many years as a player. How has he found it, and how have the fans had to adjust to now criticising a much-loved figure?

Terry is Mr Yeovil. He arrived at the club in 1999 as a bit of a squad booster, but he has never looked back. He has done it all at the club - from cleaning boots, to lifting trophies, to running the side in the space of ten years.

That meteoric-level of rise can bring the odd mistake, but supporters were made aware of this by his own honesty and pleas to bear with him and assistant Nathan Jones as they mould the club the way that they want it.

At first, people doubted his contacts book and there were concerns that we were in for a line of Non League nobodies and Gary Johnson's 'hand-me-downs.'

Credit to him though, he is out most weeks of the night watching football somewhere, whether it is Bristol City's first team or a Tottenham under-18's you can find him or one of his team out.

He might not always be scouting, sometimes he just wants to learn or add another number to his phone book.

Fans trust him because he loves Yeovil. Nathan Jones still plays occasionally, while Darren Way is another legend, and Ben Roberts has come in and bought into the idea. When everyone sings from the same hymn sheet the result is usually much better.

Skiverton and Jones are the young managerial team at Huish Park

Supporters have voiced their concerns on some things - like why Virgo has played up front or why we don't have a permanent goalkeeper on the books.

It seems we all agree, though, that the club has someone at the club who feels every loss as much as we do and so wants to get it right. In Skivo we trust.

How about your early impressions of this season's League One? Any surprise packages at either end, or is it, like most divisions, increasingly becoming a case of the haves and have nots?

It has been an odd season. Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday stuttered while Exeter and Bournemouth flew out of the traps. Plymouth can't buy a string of results while Brighton lead the way.

It is the cliche of the season to say: "Anyone can beat anyone." It's true though. Our recent form has been nothing short of shocking - we rarely win away from home and often we don't take many fans. To beat Walsall and Rochdale on their own patches then was incredible.

The sides will probably begin filtering out into their rightful positions by Christmas and it'll be interesting to see which clubs remain where they are.

Getting a run of six or seven games unbeaten together could be the difference between 5th and 15th come May - so it's hard to predict.

What I saw of Huddersfield and Southampton recently suggests they have enough to go up. I fear for Tranmere though.

Yeovil have had some success over recent years loaning youth players from Premier League sides like Tottenham. Do you think this is the way forward for smaller clubs in the lower divisions?

Personally, I love having these young loanees. Tottenham recently gave Steven Caulker his first start in a white shirt and he deserved it for the way he played at Yeovil last season.

It's that sort of impression that has led Arsenal to send us Luke Freeman and Manchester United send down Cameron Stewart.

Steven Caulker impressed at Yeovil before being given his break at Spurs

Players like Owain Tudor-Jones and Shaun MacDonald have not just come on loan once, but sometimes two or three times.

It is becoming more and more evident that these teams are seeing Yeovil as a perfect place to give these young lads a taste of proper football. It is then up to the gaffer to find the right mix, something which I think he has got right this time around.

Would we prefer Gavin Williams to be ours rather than Bristol City's? Of course. The same applies to others. I know some people don't like it, but I do.

To finish with then, what's the best thing about being a Yeovil Town

There are many good things about supporting Yeovil. My personal favourites are that it is never boring - we are always doing something interesting.

Mostly though that other clubs come to us and go home with or without three points and say stuff like, "Yeovil are a credit to the Football League," or, "I can't wait to go back there next season."

To see our fans clap Nottingham Forest supporters out of the City Ground the year after the play off game was incredible.

Forest had secured promotion by beating us, yet Glovers fans lined up along their coaches clapping, shaking hands, and enjoying Forest's moment just as they had allowed us to do 12 months previously.

That is what makes Yeovil one of the best clubs in the League, that and Adam Virgo's enormous shorts.

Ben, thanks for chatting with Soccer AM/MW.

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