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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

A man for all seasons

Best not to say too much about Monday's 3-1 defeat at Swindon, just put it behind us and move on. Those that were there called it a piss-poor display at best and certainly the goal highlights on the BBC site don't make happy viewing, especially for the defence. A shame to end what has easily been the most successful decade in the club's history on such a note, but to look on the bright side at least it's a defeat against the likes of Swindon that we're all moaning about. Our final game of the '90's was a 3-0 loss at Forest Green Rovers which maybe puts that Swindon result in perspective. We may still not be very good, but at least we're not very good in the football league rather than the wilderness of the non-league game. And we don't have to go to The Lawn anymore! I still did away games in those days and I can remember being colder at The Lawn one Boxing Day than I've ever been in my life before or since. I hope never to be that cold again.

Annyway, it's my final blog of the year and indeed of the decade, easily the most successful ten years in the history of this great little club. We're very lucky really, those of us who have supported the club at this time in it's history. We've seen so much success, so many good players and marvellous games and we forget that for most of this club's existence fans have endured, well, mediocrity is perhaps a little harsh as a description, but it's certainly been more famine than feast, with only the odd Southern League or Isthmian League title and occasional giant-killing in the FA Cup to keep us warm. That was up until the start of the decade anyway.

Dave Webb started the whole thing off with his full-time revolution in the final couple of months of the 99-00 season, which laid the groundwork for the success that followed. Colin Addison so nearly took the club into the football league in the one season he was allowed, just falling at the final hurdle to a Rushden side that literally had money thrown at it to guarantee success. Gary Johnson took over from Addo and the rest, of course, was history. The FA Trophy in his first season, the Conference title and promotion to the holy grail of the football league a year later. Two years after that we were League 2 champions and it seemed like the sky was the limit. Sir Gary moved on to bigger though not neccesarily better things at Bristol City and after a hiatus Russell Slade took over, in his first season leading us to that never-to-be forgotten night in the play-off semi-finals against former European Cup winners Nottingham Forest at the City Ground, when in front of the live tv cameras the Glovers came back from a 2-0 1st leg deficit to beat Forest 5-4 on aggregate - in my humble opinion the finest single result in this club's long history.

Through all that time one man, Steve Thompson, was a constant at the club. When Dave Webb was appointed manager in March 2000, he took over from Thommo, who had been acting as player/coach since the resignation of Colin Lippiatt earlier in the season. Thommo became Webb's assistant and then in turn assistant to Addison, Johnson and finally Slade, as well as having most of a season being manager in his own right after Sir Gary left, successfully keeping the Glovers in L1, when most were expecting him to fail. His loyalty to the Yeovil cause never wavered even when he could have joined Johnson at Ashton Gate, and he was finally rewarded with the sack alongside Russell Slade in February 2009, 11 years after he first came to Somerset. Sad to say that Thommo was not only let down by the Glovers but also by Slade himself - it became common knowledge that Slade subsequently broke a promise to take Thommo with him when he took over at his next club, Brighton.

All the more pleasant to report then that Thommo has, at last, got a new job - manager of ambitious Zamaretto Southern League Premier Division side Truro City. Not the easiest of appointments for Thommo, but he must be delighted to be back in work at least. The very best of luck to him there, let's hope he can firstly stabilise the club and then get them moving up the pyramid. There surely can't be anyone better qualified for success plying his trade at that level.

Back to League One and next up for the present-day Glovers are Leyton Orient away, on Saturday. It all looked fairly rosy in the Glovers garden following Boxing Day's 4-0 win over Wycombe, but a weekend is a long time in football never mind in politics, and the loss at Swindon plus other results in the division means that a further loss next weekend could see us only 1 point away from the relegation zone. Not exactly a must-win game then, but certainly an important match not to lose. The bookies make Orient narrow favourites at 11/8, the draw is priced at 12/5 and a Glovers win at 15/8. My fiver's going on the draw, again. Running total: -£4.50p.

Finally I'd like to wish everyone who reads this blog a very happy new year. I hope you all get exactly what you deserve in 2010. Cheers!

Just read: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larsson. The final part of the acclaimed Millennium trilogy and every bit as satisfying an ending as one could hope for. The sadness comes with the knowledge that with the author's untimely death this is the last novel in the series and there'll never be a sequel. Come to that I doubt there'll ever be another heroine to match the author's creation, Lisbeth Salander. I sat up to 2am and gone finishing this book and could no more have stopped and left it to the morning than I could stop breathing. Original, stunning and addictive writing; literally unputdownable. Brilliant.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

L1: Yeovil 4 Wycombe 0

And a merry Christmas to you too! The Glovers gave a decent Boxing Day crowd of just over 5,000 the best possible Christmas present with a 4-0 win over relegation threatened Wycombe, even if the scoreline did flatter us slightly. In the end the difference between the teams was that we took our chances at one end while at the other keeper Alex McCarthy made a couple of world-class saves to deny the opposition and to ensure the 3 points remained in Somerset.

We lined up as follows (4-4-2 diamond):

1. Alex McCarthy: 9/10 - Superb display of goalkeeping craft. Will take the plaudits in particular for the 2 second-half saves that kept us in a 1-0 lead at the time, but made several other crucial saves as well as dominating his penalty box throughout the 90 minutes. I watched Asimir Begovic look completely at home in the Portsmouth goal in the Premier League on tv the other day, but even though Begovic impressed me enormously in his time here last season I never saw him play as consistently well as McCarthy does. We've been perhaps understandably focussing on the likes of Ryan Mason and Steven Caulker when talking about possible stars of the future, but on this performance McCarthy will be the best of them all.

2. Craig Alcock: 8/10 - Solid defensively and a threat going forward, the quintessential modern fullback. One block he made in particular after McCarthy was (for once) left stranded saved a certain goal. Excellent.

4. Stefan Stam: 7/10 - Brought back into the team to presumably add more strength in the air - and it's paid off.

5. Steven Caulker: 7/10 - The usual solid display we've come to expect. Amazing to think he's only just 18 - he plays with the maturity of someone twice his age.

8. Keiron Murtagh: 8/10 - Shaun MacDonald's replacement and the best compliment I can pay him is that we didn't miss our Swansea loanee at all. Scored the opener, could and perhaps should have scored another and put in the kind of shift that someone with his physical attributes should be putting in. If he can keep up this standard of performance and get a run of games under his belt then maybe at last his considerable potential will start to be realised. It's up to him.

13. Ryan Mason: 6/10 - started on the right of the diamond but seemed to be interchanging with Gavin Tomlin as the furthest forward attacking midfielder throughout the game. Not a bad performance from Ryan by any means but maybe not quite up to the very high standards he's set himself lately.

21. JP Kalala: 8/10 - Usual position at the base of the diamond and his usual all-action, terrier-like performance with the added bonus of a well-deserved goal. Top-class.

28. Nathan Smith: 7/10 - Not quite back to his best yet, but he's getting there. Needs games, and Skivo seems keen now to give him his chance. Made several good breaks forward and looked more solid defensively, though still inclined to lose position at times. Still, promising.

9. Sam Williams: 8/10 - I said the other week that the only thing missing from his game was one thing - goals. Well, that's 2 scored in 2 games now and if he carries on leading the line like this for the rest of the season then we're going to have a big asset on our hands. We know about his strength and ability in the air, yesterday he began to show us a little more of his repertoire with some canny flicks and tricks. They didn't always come off, but it's good to see he's got the confidence to try.

10. Gavin Tomlin: 7/10 - Started at the tip of the diamond but tended to swap positions with Mason as the game went on. More effective in the more attacking position for my money, but well worth his place in the team anyway. He's really come back strong after his injury break and looks a more confident player now he's away from the front two and we're not relying on him or expecting him to score goals. More to come.

14. Dean Bowditch: 6/10 - Had one or two dangerous moments but a touch subdued otherwise, in comparison with his last couple of appearances anyway. Made one stunning break in the first half which was stopped by a last ditch tackle. Seemed to be limping a little when subbed, so I just wonder if he was playing with a bit of a knock? Always a threat nevertheless.

11. Andy Welsh (81 mins for Ryan Mason): 7/10 - His first few minutes on the pitch for a while, and good to see him looking so up for it and indeed providing the cross that led to Sam Williams goal.

16. Scott Murray (75 mins for Gavin Tomlin): 6/10 - As with Welsh above, his first few minutes on the pitch since the Walsall debacle at the beginning of the month.

26. Jonathan Obika (67 mins for Dean Bowditch): 8/10 - The Wycombe defence simply couldn't live with his pace and he took full advantage to notch his 3rd goal this month. Unlucky not to start, but when you have 2 strikers in the form that Bowditch and Williams are in then someone has to miss out.

As said above, the 4-0 scoreline perhaps flattered us slightly. The first half was very even in terms of chances and we were a shade fortunate to be going into the break leading by Murtagh's strike. The first half of the second half (if you see what I mean!) was again fairly even but Wycombe could consider themselves unlucky not to have at least equalised, McCarthy producing 2 stunning saves to deny the visitors. Yeovil's second goal through Kalala on 71 minutes was the crucial moment in the game - after that Wycombe poured forward in search of taking something from the match and left huge gaps at the back which the Glovers counter-attacked against superbly. Another thoroughly entertaining afternoon at Huish Park anyway - let's hope the 1000-odd extra home fans who turned up were encouraged to return another time. This team deserves their support.

The result leaves the Glovers in 13th position in the table, on 28 points; 7 points away from the relegation zone and 7 away from the play-offs. Up next, tomorrow, are Swindon away. The bookies make the Robins favourites at 4/5, the draw is priced at 5/2 and a Yeovil win at 5/2. My fiver's going on the draw. Running total: +50p. Woo-hoo! Back in the black!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Draws are not enough

The good news after the Glovers 1-1 draw at Hartlepool on the weekend is that we're now unbeaten in the last 3 games. The bad news is that in every single one of those 3 games we have been unable to go on and win the game after first taking the lead, and that's something that must be a concern to Glovers boss Terry Skiverton as we enter the busy Christmas period.

It was a familiar tale in the north-east on Saturday. Sam Williams put the Glovers in front with a very welcome goal after 20-odd minutes, his first strike since September and only his second of the season. We couldn't hang on however and in icy and snowy conditions Hartlepool equalised through a somewhat scuffed (judging by the BBC highlights) Andy Monkhouse effort. Both teams had chances to win the game thereafter but the consensus seems to have been that the draw was a fair result. The club handed out free away shirts to all 85 away fans at the game as a thank-you for making the effort to go such a long way in such difficult travelling conditions - a great gesture and one doubtless appreciated by the away support at the match.

The weekend's results saw the Glovers slip down to 17th in a very tight table on 25 points, 5 away from the relegation zone. Yeovil have the somewhat unusual record of having drawn more games than anyone else in the division - 10 in all, 5 home and 5 away. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that if just a couple of those drawn matches had been won then we would be relatively comfortably ensconced in mid-table on 29 points; and if say half of those drawn games had yielded 3 points instead of 1 then we could even be right up there challenging for the play-offs at this moment.... But of course if my auntie had balls then she'd be my uncle as the saying goes and we are where we are precisely because we haven't been able to hold onto leads and haven't won enough games because of that.

Next up are strugglers Wycombe on Boxing Day, and if ever there's a team that we really have to win against then Wycombe are them. They've been stuck in the relegation zone all season more or less, but just lately have started to put a few results together since former Aldershot manager Gary Waddock replaced the sacked Peter Taylor. The bookies make the Glovers evens favourite for the home win, the draw is 12/5, and a Wycombe win 11/4. Given the stats above I perhaps ought to be betting on the draw for the rest of the season and would doubtless have been a couple of hundred quid better off If I'd been doing that right from the start. As it is my fiver's going on the home win. Running total: -£9.50p.

Today's the day we're supposed to be informed as to what the situation is regarding those players out of contract at the end of the month. Terrell Forbes, Jean-Paul Kalala, Andy Lindegaard and George O'Callaghan are the players concerned; plus there's uncertainty about the status of loan keeper Alex McCarthy, following the sacking of former Reading manager Brendan Rodgers 5 days ago. It had been assumed that McCarthy's loan at Huish Park was to be extended for the rest of the season, but any new incoming manager at Reading may now have something different to say about that. As for the above-mentioned four, the rumour-mill says that Forbes is already signed up for the rest of the season, Kalala will sign up, O'Callaghan will leave and Lindegaard no-one knows, or cares, given that he's barely featured except on the bench. Finally there's still a faint possibility that we haven't seen the last of former loanee Shaun MacDonald, who has now returned to Swansea, though I doubt we'll hear any more on his situation until after the Christmas period now.

Will the rumour-mill be right? I certainly hope that it will be regarding Forbes and Kalala, both have proved themselves as key members of the first team and we would miss them very badly if either were to leave. Lindegaard and O'Callaghan's possible absence I'm rather more relaxed about. Lindegaard has barely made any impression on the first team since his return and while he may be a useful utility player to have on the bench covering several positions at once, to my mind anyone not pushing for a place in the first team is a luxury we cannot afford. Similarly O'Callaghan has never really justified his place in the first eleven, flattering to deceive on too many occasions and proving rather lightweight in the rough and tough world of League One. Having said that, I wouldn't want either player to leave if the board were to refuse Skivo the means to replace them, so it's all going to come down to money, or the lack of it in the end.

Just read: Polity Agent and Line War by Neal Asher. The final two books in the Cormac series, set in Asher's Polity universe. Superb space opera, every bit as good as anything produced by Banks, Hamilton, or anyone else writing in the genre. Thoroughly recommended.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Hartlepool preview

Just a quickie post today - Christmas is coming, turkeys to slaughter, trees to decorate, presents to wrap etc etc; no time to waste.

Hartlepool away tomorrow, one of the longest trips of the season for our hardy band of away travellers and with the forecast as it is it would not be surprising if a combination of freezing temperatures, ice and snow saw the game called off. The Glovers will hope it goes ahead however, if ever there's a good time to play the Monkey-Hangers it's now, with at least 7 of their already small first-team squad hors de combat through a mixture of injury and suspension, and with them having lost 4 out of their last 5 games. In contrast the Glovers should pretty much be at full strength numbers-wise and on a bit of roll after decent results against the MK Dons and Norwich City.

A good chance to get one over on the bookies then? Let's hope so. Hartlepool are evens favourites for tomorrow's match, the draw is priced at 11/5 and a Glovers win at 11/4. Lump on boys and caution be damned! My fiver's on the away win. Running total: -£1.50p.

Tomorrow's game is notable for the fact that it's likely to be Shaun MacDonald's last outing in a green-and-white shirt for the forseeable future. My fellow Welshman with the Scottish name returns to parent club Swansea City after tomorrow's match with his future uncertain. It seems unlikely that Swansea will want to keep him permanently, and with his contract expiring in the summer they may well be looking to make what money they can from him in the January transfer window. It would be nice to think that Yeovil would be far-sighted enough to make some sort of bid for him - sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate and it's easy to see Shaun following on in Chris Cohen's footsteps to a bigger club in year or so's time - but we all know that's just not going to happen. There's a chance that we might be able to get him back on a long-term loan deal in January if he's not sold, but I'm not holding my breath. Hawddamor Shaun a diolch, you'll be missed.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

L1: Yeovil 3 Norwich City 3

I'm still gutted 24 hours later. The Glovers were within seconds of a famous win over giants (in comparison with ourselves) Norwich City when in the final minute of injury-time Darel Russell's speculative shot took a touch off teammate Gary Doherty to squirm its way past Glovers keeper Alex McCarthy and into the net. Ah, football. From elation to utter dejection in less than a minute.

Still, let's be positive. I think most Glovers fans would have settled for a point beforehand against a team who beat us 4-0 back in August and with all the resources average crowds of over 20,000 can provide. The Glovers began the match with the same team and diamond formation that worked well against MK Dons last week, and took the game to the visitors, pressing them back. We went 1-0 up on 21 minutes, Dean Bowditch helping on a bullet header by Steven Caulker from a corner - a corner that I thought should never have been awarded by the way, but it's about time we had an official's error work in our favour. 1-0 at half-time and so far so good, in a half punctuated by Norwich's constant petty sniping at the ref and his assistants.

The visitors should have gone down to 10 men just after the break, left back Adam Drury sliding in late on Gavin Tomlin and leaving his studs in the Yeovil player's chest. As we've seen too often lately however it always seems to be the opposition that gets the benefit of any doubt no matter who the referee, and Drury escaped with a yellow card. The visitors equalised on 60 minutes, Grant Holt's sheer physicality proving too much for Nathan Smith and providing Chris Martin with a tap-in for the equaliser. The Glovers could and from my vantage point should have had a penalty almost from the re-start, Bowditch seemingly being bowled over in the box by Gary Doherty, but of course the official disagreed. Two minutes later and Doherty was in action at the other end, nodding home a free-kick with the Glovers defence AWOL and keeper McCarthy in no-mans-land to give Norwich a somewhat fortunate lead. Back in August perhaps heads would have dropped, but Yeovil are made of sterner stuff these days. The excellent Shaun MacDonald made it 2-2 with a shot from the edge of the box on 67 minutes and the match see-sawed back and forth, chances being made and missed at both ends. An enthralling match reached it's climax in injury time. Substitute Jon Obika headed in at the near post in front of an exultant home terrace to put the Glovers 3-2 up before the Canaries last-gasp Doherty reply. 3-3 the final score and terrific entertainment for all those privileged to be present.

Yeovil team (4-4-2 diamond):

1. Alex McCarthy: 6/10 - Marked him down a point for Norwich's second goal, when he came, hesitated, got lost and ended up out of position. Usual solid display otherwise.

2. Craig Alcock: 8/10 - Good going forward, sound defensively, all-round excellent.

5. Steven Caulker: 6/10 - What a footballer this lad is. Directly involved in our first goal, and one run in the second half saw him dribbling through what seemed like half the Norwich side before he lost control when on the verge of pulling the trigger. But, primarily he's a defender, and we are conceding too many headed goals from set-pieces and crosses for which he is partly responsible.

6. Terrell Forbes: 5/10 - The same criticism as for Caulker - we're conceding too many headed goals from set-pieces and crosses for which he is partly responsible.

28. Nathan Smith: 6/10 - Getting closer to the Nathan Smith we remember from early last season but not quite there yet. One or two promising forward runs which came to nothing, and defensively was responsible for letting in Grant Holt to provide the cross for Norwich's first goal. I hope Skivo perseveres with him, he needs games to get back to his best - and at his best he'd be a huge asset to us.

21. JP Kalala: 8/10 - Fine, battling performance at the base of the diamond. Didn't give the highly-rated Wesley Hoolahan a sniff all afternoon.

25. Shaun MacDonald: 8/10 - Possibly his last appearance in a Yeovil shirt at Huish Park and one of his best. All-action box-to-box display culminating in a well-deserved goal. Would love to see him return after Christmas but the chances are that a club with money will snap him up. Super player, reminds me of Chris Cohen. I wouldn't like to say who is better.

13. Ryan Mason: 8/10 - Began the match on the right of the diamond and ended at the tip. Equally effective in both positions. Always seems to have time on the ball and is stronger than his appearance suggests. Excellent.

10. Gavin Tomlin: 8/10 - Started the game at the tip of the diamond and caused the Norwich defence plenty of problems from there. Less effective when swapped with Mason after the break and after being shaken up by Drury's studs in his chest, but never stopped running and making himself available.

14. Dean Bowditch: 8/10 - Has that rare knack of always being in the right place at the right time. Scored one, probably should have scored another when one-on-one with the Norwich keeper and in my view should have been awarded a penalty. Let's hope he can keep fit for the rest of the season.

9. Sam Williams: 7/10 - Just like last time against Norwich, battered from pillar to post by an aggressive defence but kept bouncing back. You'll never meet a more whole-hearted player, my on-going worry about him is that as a striker he ought to be scoring more than he does.

26. Jonathan Obika (81 mins for Dean Bowditch): 8/10 - Didn't have long on the pitch, but long enough to score what we all thought was our winner with a brave header.

What a game! The first half didn't have the non-stop goalmouth action we enjoyed after the break, but in it's way was just as satisfying inasmuch that we took a deserved lead and looked very comfortable holding that lead against what was obviously a very decent side. The second half was encouraging for the way we bounced back against adversity and didn't let our heads drop as perhaps we have in the past. And let's not sell ourselves short - Norwich looked to be every bit as good as their form suggests they should be and were as physically imposing and cynical as any team I've seen at Huish Park. Yet we stood toe-to-toe with them and refused to be intimidated or bullied despite some weak refeering, which was very encouraging to see. And one of the best things on the day was the return of something called an atmosphere at Huish Park. Even the Cowlin Stand began singing at one point, something I haven't heard for a couple of season's now. It was all very reminiscent of past years, dare I say it almost Johnson-esque. It was bitterly disappointing of course not to have won the game, but as has been said previously we won't be judged this season by our results against the likes of Norwich. Any points we can get from the biggest clubs in this division are a bonus, and we thoroughly deserved the 1 we gained yesterday. With a little luck we could so easily have had all 3 on offer.

The only disapppointing aspect of the day was the size of the crowd - or the lack of it. A total of 4,964, with around 1,000 making the trip from East Anglia. This team deserves better support than it's currently getting. If you missed the game, you missed a cracker. A Christmas cracker, no less.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Bah, humbug.

Tomorrow we welcome one of the biggest club's in the division to Huish Park for what is the last home game before Christmas. I'll say that again, the last home game before Christmas. Bloody hell is it really? Are we that close to Christmas? Have you done your Christmas shopping yet? You'll have to forgive my smug look - I finished my Christmas shopping yesterday with the exception of one or two small bits and pieces. I can relax in a self-satisfied warm glow of contentment which will naturally be replaced by sheer blind panic on Christmas Eve when I realise I've either bought entirely the wrong thing or duplicated something I bought a couple of years ago instead; followed by a mad dash to the shops to join the last-minute rush. I hate bloody Christmas, bah humbug.

So, Norwich City, at home, for the second time this season. They gave us a bit of a thrashing in August, in the 1st round of the League Cup, so it will be instructive as well as fascinating, not to mention possibly painful, to see if they can do it again. The bookies don't give much for our chances, for what that's worth. A home win is a 10/3 shot, the draw is priced at 5/2 and a Norwich win the odds-on favourite at 5/6. I suppose the sensible bet is the away win, but how can any Glovers fan resist 10/3 for a home win? Not this one at any rate, and that's where my fiver's going this week. Running total: Back in the black! +£4.50p.

Team selection: Will Skivo keep faith with the diamond formation which picked up a very useful point at MK Dons last week, or will he revert to the 4-4-1-1 that was effective at home right up until the defeat by Walsall? Will we see the return of wingers Andy Welsh and Scott Murray? Will he play 2 out-and-out strikers? I haven't a clue, and if us fans can be kept guessing then presumably Norwich won't have much idea either. What we can be sure of is that after what seems like weeks of wet and windy weather, tomorrow's game will be played in calm, settled and cold conditions - which should suit our passing game. If I was in charge I would stick with the team and formation that played last week, with the possible exception of replacing Terrell Forbes with Stefan Stam at the back. Norwich are a big side and good in the air, and in my view Stam would be a safer bet than Forbes in dealing with that threat.

Let's hope we get a decent crowd in tomorrow. In this case I would say decent would be around 6,000. The weather's going to be okay, Norwich will surely bring their full allocation and it's the last home game before Christmas. If we can't attract 6,000-odd in those circumstances then something is surely very wrong.

Good news: Darren Way was spotted this week out jogging on the streets of Yeovil. From the brink of death to out jogging, who would bet against Weasel playing football at some level again at some point in the future, however impossible it may have seemed at one time? The man's an inspiration to us all.

Just read: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson: Wonderful sequel to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Another complex, gripping thriller set in Sweden and featuring one of the most unlikeliest yet compelling heroines in fiction. It's another long book, but I galloped through it in a couple of days, rarely putting it down. Can't wait to read the final part of the trilogy now, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest.

Monday, 7 December 2009

L1: MK Dons 2 Yeovil 2

The Glovers came away from their endeavours at stadium:mk on Saturday with a point following a 2-2 draw with the MK Dons. I'd never normally moan about an away draw and I'm not going to start now, especially as I got back 18 quid after putting a fiver on that very result. Nevertheless there's a teeny tinge of regret that after going a goal ahead twice during the match the Glovers weren't quite able to hold on to those leads and take all 3 of the points on offer. Credit where it's due though, after a bad run of results this was in the end a very welcome point away from home against a side in the play-off places before the start of the match.

Skivo rightly changed things around at the start, abandoning the familiar 4-4-1-1 in favour of the 4-4-2 diamond as advocated by a certain very shrewd judge before the game. In addition both wingers were dropped and Gavin Tomlin and Nathan Smith returned to make their first starts for some time, again as advocated by the same very shrewd judge before the game. Modesty forbids me from identifying that shrewd judge, suffice it to say that who needs UEFA coaching qualifications when the Football Manager series of pc games is available to all. The game turned on a couple of refereeing decisions that managed to enrage the Yeovil camp. Firstly Dons defender David McKracken escaped with a yellow card after fouling Dean Bowditch thus preventing a goalscoring opportunity with the Glovers already 2-1 up, when a red card seemed the more appropriate punishment - a decision even Dons manager Paul Ince admitted could have been overly lenient. Secondly was the award of a penalty to the home side when Terrell Forbes was deemed to have dragged over Aaron Wilbraham in the Glovers box when tv replays suggested it was the Dons player that committed the first offence before Forbes's reaction. Skivo's come in for a bit of criticism for his anguished reaction to the referee's performance after the match, but I don't blame him for speaking out. Referees seem to get away with mistake after mistake with it seems no public sanction and yet again errors by the officials have cost us points. The received wisdom is that such mistakes even themselves out over the course of the season, but does it? I suspect it may do for the Leeds United's and Charlton Athletic's of League One, it's the smaller clubs like ourselves that always seem to end up holding the shitty end of the stick. Good for Skivo for not just rolling over and accepting it.

The result moves the Glovers up 1 place in the table to 13th, on 23 points. However we are now only 3 points away from the relegation zone and even with 7 other teams between ourselves and the 21st placed club, Brighton, we could, theoretically, if all the results went against us, end up in the relegation zone ourselves next week should we lose at home to next Saturday's opponents Norwich City. But it's not likely!

Just read: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett. It's funny but these days it's quite fashionable to admit to liking Pratchett's books whereas a decade or so ago he was more widely regarded as just another fantasy writer, albeit a fantasy writer with a sense of humour. And yet I far prefer his earlier work in comparison with his output in the last few years. The good news is that Unseen Academicals, the latest in the Discworld series, is something of a return to the man's early form - I even found myself laughing out loud in several places, something I haven't done to a Pratchett book for a long while now. You either 'get' the Discworld with its wizards, witches, trolls, dwarfs, vampires, werewolves and various other weird and wonderful creatures, or you don't; and if you don't then Unseen Academicals is unlikely to change your mind about the series as a whole.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Franchise preview

MK Dons next up for the Glovers, or to give them their full name, the Milton Keynes Dons. To me, that still sounds wrong. The club formerly known as Wimbledon are the only football club in England and Wales to have been allowed to pick and choose their location and to have been given a place in the football league, with the vast majority of their former fans choosing to start again from scratch rather than follow the new club. A franchise, nothing more and nothing less. I used to be a bit of a fan of American football and can remember raising my eyebrows when the Baltimore Colts moved lock, stock and barrel to Indianapolis and again when the Cardinals moved from St Louis to Arizona. What happens to the fans when teams move like that? Did Baltimore Colts fans still follow their team from hundreds of miles away? Do St Louis supporters fly down to Tempe, Arizona for Cardinal games? Do Colts fans go to watch the new(ish) franchise in their city, the Ravens, or do they regard them as interlopers? It's all a bit strange, a bit foreign, a bit un-British damn it.

Be that as it may we are where we are. In the early day's of the Dons life away fans would regularly boycott trips to Milton Keynes and the nickname Franchise FC became common currency, but it's got to be said that slowly but surely the Dons are putting their difficult birth behind them and these days are now more-or-less regarded as just another team. Sad but true. The Glovers travel there tomorrow more in hope than expectation having never won at stadium:mk (all lowercase) as it's trendily known, nor at it's predecessor, the National Hockey Stadium. We also travel there in poor form, having lost 4 out of our last 6 games. The one ray of light comes with the knowledge that the Dons are on a run of even worse form, having lost 5 out of their last 6.

The bookies certainly don't expect us to get anything out of the game. The home side start as 7/10 favourites which stops me putting my fiver on them as I never bet odds-on on anything. The draw is priced at 13/5 and a Glovers win at 4/1. My fiver's going on the draw. I didn't bet on Tuesday night's game (just as well as I would have gone for the home win) so the running total remains at -£14.50p.

It will be very interesting to see who is picked for tomorrow's team and the formation chosen. Skivo has acknowledged that changes need to be made and that all places are up for grabs so we may see the return of Gavin Tomlin and Nathan Jones for example. It wouldn't surprise me either if both Scott Murray and Andy Welsh found themselves surplus to requirements tomorrow, but above all else I hope the gaffer plays two out-and-out strikers, whoever they may be. For what it's worth I would be inclined to shake things up fairly radically, as follows:

Our away form has been so poor I would go back to basics, to what worked well for Russell Slade's team at times last season: My formation would be a 4-4-2 diamond:

Alex McCarthy
Craig Alcock, Stefan Stam, Steven Caulker, Nathan Jones
JP Kalala (at the base of the diamond)
George O'Callaghan, Shaun MacDonald (left and right of the diamond, respectively)
Ryan Mason (tip of the diamond)
Jon Obika, Dean Bowditch (if fit to start, Gavin Tomlin otherwise)

Subs: Richard Martin, Danny Hutchins, Kieran Murtagh, Sam Williams, Gavin Tomlin (or Dean Bowditch), Andy Welsh, Scott Murray.

What isn't an option for me is persisting with what we know now doesn't work, especially away from home. Whoever plays and whatever formation is used we really need to get something out of tomorrow's game, to instill some belief for the rest of what is a tough month to come.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

L1: Yeovil 1 Walsall 3

I couldn't resist it in the end. The forecast was for wet and cold weather, Spurs were on the box and I fully intended to stay home to watch that instead, but at 6.30 last night my better half told me in no uncertain terms to stop moping around, get my waterproofs on and get to the bloody football. So I did. There's some habits you just can't break.

The forecast was spot on for once. It was wet, it was cold and it was fairly windy, not as bad as against Charlton the other week, but still significant. Walsall won the toss and elected to play with the wind in the first half and this was fairly crucial inasmuch as it enabled them to put us on the back foot straightaway, and they took full advantage, going 2-0 up after 20 minutes with 2 identical goals. Both of them crosses from the left and both of them unchallenged headers giving Alex McCarthy no chance in the Yeovil goal. The Glovers pulled one back on 30 minutes, Jon Obika converting after a bursting run from Craig Alcock split the Saddlers defence, and that led to the home side's best spell of the game with some excellent passing football being played but, alas, with no end product.

The second half was a non-event. Yeovil completely failed to take advantage of the conditions now in their favour and failed even to show any urgency until the final 10 minutes when they belatedly seemed to realise they were losing the game and began to get more men forward. Not that this increased our goal threat in any way and only really assisted the visitors who scored their third on the break with 2 minutes left. The resulting exodus saw around half the 3,500 hardy souls who turned up on a filthy night leave the ground before the final whistle. In more ways than one, it was a miserable evening.

Line up (4-4-1-1) and merit marks:

1. Alex McCarthy: 6/10 - Did nothing wrong but left hopelessly exposed by probably the worst defensive display of the season.

2. Craig Alcock: 5/10 - I've marked him up 1 point for his crucial part in our goal but apart from that did nothing of note, other than give the ball away too often.

5. Steven Caulker: 5/10 - Comfortably his worst display of the season. It's asking a huge amount of someone of Caulker's age to be the rock on which the defence depends and for the first time this season (that I've seen) he wasn't able to live up to those expectations.

6. Terrell Forbes: 5/10 - What's happened to the Terrell Forbes who was playing so confidently a few short weeks ago? Looked a shadow of his former self last night.

23. Danny Hutchins: 4/10 - No lack of effort, but perhaps is now being caught out playing as a right-sided full-back on the left. Both first half goals came from crosses from his side of the pitch.

16. Scott Murray: 5/10 - One or two decent runs and shots in the first half which came close, but ultimately no cigar. His lack of pace nowadays was very evident after the break. Set piece delivery provided nothing. Disappointing.

7. George O'Callaghan: 4/10 - He's been banging on the gaffer's door to play more apparently, but this performance will have done nothing to persuade Skivo to pick him again. Most passes went backwards or sideways. No invention or energy. Very disappointing.

25. Shaun MacDonald: 7/10 - In contrast to his midfield partner full of energy and running. Did his best to take the game by the scruff of the neck but couldn't do it on his own. One of the few Glovers prepared to have a shot at goal and was unlucky in particular with one effort that looked to be going in until it deflected wide off Ryan Mason. If only all our players had the same energy and commitment.

11. Andy Welsh: 5/10 - Same comments apply as for Scott Murray. Too peripheral too often. Disappointing. I see a few on the green room are moaning because he was subbed yet again, but I had no problems with the decision. Scott Murray looked marginally more effective at the time, though effective is perhaps not the right word.

13. Ryan Mason: 6/10 - As with Steven Caulker in defence, it's expecting a lot to rely on an 18 year-old to spark your attack game after game. Walsall clearly knew Ryan was our main threat and marked him accordingly. The few times he got free on his own he looked as dangerous as ever and indeed should have been awarded a penalty after the break. No lack of effort but not quite his night.

26. Jonathan Obika: 6/10 - Took his goal well enough at the second attempt but not a huge amount of threat from him otherwise, though to be fair the supply to him was very lacking.

9. Sam Williams (70 mins for Jonathan Obika): 5/10 - Was quite puzzled by this substitution at the time and am still puzzled now. Unless Obika was injured or otherwise running out of steam of course. Whatever, Williams on his own up front was even less effective than Obika had been, so it didn't work.

14. Dean Bowditch (61 mins for Andy Welsh): 4/10 - I've said it before and I'll say it again: Making your best striker play on the left wing is like trying to teach a pig how to sing - it wastes your time and it annoys the pig. Bowditch is a striker, a goalscorer. Play him as one, please.

28. Nathan Smith (77 mins for Danny Hutchins): 3/10 - Another strange sub, unless of course Danny Hutchins was injured/knackered and had to depart. Again however, it didn't come off with Smith looking like Bambi on ice for the 15-odd minutes he played and Walsall's final goal coming from a cross from his side of the pitch.

So much for optimism about the play-offs. If defeat at Gillingham last week was a reality check, then this was a reality check and a half. Walsall are a tidy enough side with some decent players, but they're hardly world-beaters and won't IMO be anywhere near the play-off mix at the end of the season. Yet they saw us off with relative ease, by working hard all over the pitch, closing us down fast when we were on the ball and by using the conditions intelligently - in other words they did all the things we didn't do.

Such is life. The good run we were on is now most definitely over and with 2 tough games coming up against Franchise FC and Norwich City then the bad run we've recently embarked upon may well continue for a little longer yet. I think perhaps that Skivo needs to think carefully now about how he uses the assets he has in future. The 4-4-1-1 formation that served us well up until the Leeds game may by now have been sussed by our rivals and it could well be that it's time to tweak it. I've already said my piece on an earlier blog as to how I would change things, and Skivo himself has admitted that he needs to think again in regard to away games in particular. Let's hope he gets it right. The result last night moves us down 1 place in the table to 14th, 9 points away from the play-offs but only 5 away from the relegation zone. There's no room for any complacency.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Should I stay or should I go?

I've come to the conclusion that this blog has become a little formulaic lately. I mean, you know what's coming next under normal circumstances: A mini-review of tomorrow evening's home match v Walsall, an examination of the bookies odds followed by a recommendation of where to place your hard-earned cash, finishing with my idea of what the team should be. Well, I'm feeling rebellious today. Sorry, but I can't be arsed with the mini-review, no-one in their right mind would be taking my advice when it comes to betting (-£14.50 for the season so far!) and Skivo never seems to listen to me when selecting his team; so I think I'll take a different approach to blogging today.

The fact is I find myself very ambivalent in my attitude towards tomorrow's game, so much so that I'm considering whether to go or not. Perhaps I'd better explain further: Everyone who knows me knows that as well as supporting the mighty Glovers I'm also an armchair Spurs fan. And tomorrow evening the match against Walsall coincides with Tottenham's League Cup quarter-final tie at Old Trafford against Manchester United, live on Sky TV.

Now a few years ago there would have been no question as to what I'd have done. A YTFC home game took precedence over anything else, no matter what. But these days my attitude has changed. Nowadays the attraction of Huish Park on a cold December night has waned considerably when compared to the advantages of staying home in the warm and dry, in the company of my loved ones. It's not as if the club will be missing anything in the way of financial input from me. I've already bought and paid for my season ticket so the club will count me as attending whether I'm actually there in person or not. I don't buy a programme or use either the snack bars or the beer tent so the club won't miss my money there. The linesman on the Cowlin side may well miss my well thought out constructive criticism when he gets an offside call wrong but apart from that gentleman I don't suppose anyone else would even notice my absence; so why do I feel guilty for even contemplating missing the game in favour of watching Spurs on the box?

The truth be told I'm not feeling at all guilty. Life's too short to do stuff you don't particularly want to do and it's not actually compulsory to attend if you have something else you'd prefer to do instead. It's just that this feeling of ambivalence is something new and strange to me. When does attendance become a habit, and then a chore? It's not as if the team are boring to watch these days, or I live miles away - I'm about 500 yards away from the ground as the crow flies. But as things stand today I have little or no enthusiasm for even making that small effort, not when the weather forecast is for cold and wet conditions and I've got the choice of watching live football on the telly in the warm instead. If that makes me a bad supporter then I guess I'm a bad supporter. Along with all those other missing fans from 3-4 years ago. Who knows, if Huish Park boasted a proper supporters bar or social club instead of a tent then the attraction of going to meet up with friends or family before and after the match for a drink and maybe something to eat would make the effort of going to the game and braving the cold and wet worthwhile, but alas, that's just a pipedream.

I haven't completely made up my mind yet. It might be that come 7.30 Tuesday evening I say 'sod it' and make the short journey to Huish Park after all. But equally, I may not. Sorry.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Reality bites

We all had something of a reality check on Tuesday evening. Hopes were high before the away game at Gillingham that the Glovers would be able to put their frankly dreadful away form behind them at last, but there's many a slip twixt cup and lip as the old saying goes and it was the same old story in the end. The team started poorly and got worse, going 1-0 down to a Simeon Jackson penalty that was in the end the difference between the teams. I was going to have a mini-discussion with myself regarding what Skivo could do about our away form, but Badger has beaten me to it, so I won't re-invent the wheel here.

Our good home form has up 'til now disguised our failings on our travels, but until or unless Skivo can come up with an answer to our away woes then all thoughts of the play-offs can be discarded. Indeed, should our home form start to falter then we could yet find ourselves in trouble at the wrong end of the table again, so let's hope that however the gaffer decides to change things that his changes are effective.

Sigh. As I type I'm watching the Northwich Victoria v Lincoln City 2nd round FA Cup tie on the tv. 2-1 to the Imps at the moment but the Vics are piling on the pressure. It's nice to see a team in green-and-white hoops live on the box but it's also a reminder of our own abject failure in the competition over the last few years. Oops, Lincoln score another on the break - 3-1 to them now.

Muffwatch: Time for yet another new era for our, er, friends on the south coast. This time last week it looked as though a consortium led by yet another property developer and an undischarged bankrupt was going to take over the reins at the Wessex. A week is a very long time in Weymouth club politics however and that consortium has now gone the way of so many others. Liquidation looked the odds-on bet at one point in the last couple of days but literally with 10 minutes to go until the club's self-imposed deadline for serious bidders to come forward, cometh the hour then cometh the man. And that man is George Rolls, former chairman of Cambridge United, who left that club in unusual and acrimonious circumstances earlier this season. Some might say that takes the Terras out of the frying pan and places them firmly into the middle of the fire, but not this blog. Regardless of Mr Rolls previously chequered history I wish him the best of luck in dragging the Muff, well, into the 20th century will do for now, the 21st century can wait for a while. The only alternative to Rolls would appear to have been liquidation and no-one would want that. At least we've still got someone to laugh at for the time being.

Just read: Under the Dome by Stephen King. Another monster of a book (800+ pages) and very much a return to form from the master of the horror genre. I've read most of King's stuff over the years and enjoyed most of it too but while his later novels have been very readable they've not quite hit the heights of his earlier works - until now. Under the Dome - the story of what happens to a small Maine town when it's cut off from the rest of the world by an unbreakable barrier - bears comparison with The Stand, It, and The Talisman to name but a few. King is back, long live King.

Monday, 23 November 2009

New kid on the blog

I've been moaned at by several different people lately for only updating this blog twice a week. Never let it be said I don't listen, two updates in two days now, I'm too good to you. And when if you get fed up with my words of, er, wisdom there's somewhere else to go now for your Glovers fix with the appearance of another YTFC blog - Vyse's Green and White blog. You can't have too many Glovers blogs as far as I'm concerned, good luck to Vyse and I hope he enjoys doing his blog as much as I enjoy doing this one.

It's a funny old week this week. A rare Tuesday night game tomorrow (at least, Tuesday night games appear rare this season, probably because we've been knocked out of all cup competitions in the 1st round) followed by an even rarer free Saturday, followed by a home Tuesday night game next week.

The Glovers travel to deepest Kent for tomorrow evening's match, away to Gillingham. And a fascinating match it should be. The Gills are 18th in the table, 4 points behind ourselves and are coming off the back of a 2-1 loss away to Bristol Rovers. On the face of it this is the kind of bread-and-butter game that we have to fancy getting something out of, certainly if any vague play-off aspirations are to be fulfilled. However, let's not kid ourselves - Gillingham have an excellent home record this season with 5 wins out of 8 games played and are nobody's fools at the Priestfield Stadium. The bookies make them 11/10 favourites for the win, the draw is priced at 23/10, and a Yeovil win at 5/2. Despite the Gills good home record I honestly fancy us to get something out of this game, but will err slightly on the side of caution. My fiver's going on the draw. Running total: -£9.50p.

As for the team tomorrow night I said in my last blog that I think Skivo needs to try to find a way to play Ryan Mason, Jon Obika and Dean Bowditch in the same team without exiling any one of the above on one of the wings. To that end I would be inclined to tweak the formation slightly. I'd keep the flat back four and the two holding midfielders, but I'd lose one of the wingers, either Scott Murray or Andy Welsh, keep Mason in his floating position behind Obika and let Bowditch join Obika up front. The remaining winger would then play as a winger but would swap sides as and when to keep the opposition guessing. So a kind of 4-3-1-2 if you like, but in effect swapping a winger for an extra striker. My team then, assuming all are fit:

Alex McCarthy
Craig Alcock, Stefan Stam, Steven Caulker, Danny Hutchins
Scott Murray, JP Kalala, Shaun MacDonald,
Ryan Mason
Dean Bowditch, Jon Obika

Easy this management lark! By the way, hands up who else picked this weekend to put Jermain Defoe into their fantasy premier league team! Luvvly jubbly!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

L1: Yeovil 1 Charlton 1

A tale of two halves in which the weather was the ultimate winner - that's the verdict on yesterday's entertaining 1-1 draw at Huish Park. The Glovers played with the elements in the first half and dominated early proceedings, assisted by Sam Sodje's dismissal on 30 minutes for a professional foul on Ryan Mason. The home side went into a deserved 1-0 half-time lead following Jon Obika's strike 2 minutes before the interval. We thought the wind and rain had been bad enough in the first half but if anything it got even worse after the break and now the boot was on the other foot. Charlton used the conditions intelligently - dare I say it with rather more goal threat than Yeovil showed when they had the wind and rain in their favour - and bombarded the Glovers goal with shots and crosses from all angles before another Sodje - Akpo this time - equalised with an unstoppable 25-yard effort. The Londoners put the Glovers goal under siege for the rest of the game but a combination of superb goalkeeping and heroic defending kept the Addicks at bay. Another thoroughly entertaining afternoon at Huish Park and a good point for both sides in the end in dreadful conditions.

Line up and merit marks as per usual:


1. Alex McCarthy: 9/10 - Unquestionably the Glovers man of the match for his second half performance alone. Made any number of vital saves and blocks in the face of a howling gale and driving rain. Outstanding.

2. Craig Alcock: 8/10 - Committed and gritty performance exemplified by his brave charge-down of a Charlton shot right at the end. Excellent.

4. Stefan Stam: 7/10 - Strong in the air in particular. Sometimes you just wish he'd HOOF the ball clear rather than always looking for the clever pass, but that's a relatively minor criticism.

5. Steven Caulker: 7/10 - Another first-class display, particularly during that backs-to-the-wall second half.

23. Danny Hutchins: 7/10 - Danny's back! Ran out of steam towards the end and was rightly subbed, but the promise he showed at the end of last season is back.

16. Scott Murray: 6/10 - Not a bad performance by any means but one would have hoped for a little more goal threat from our most experienced player in the first half particularly. Faded right out of it after the break and was rightly subbed.

25. Shaun MacDonald: 6/10 - Not one of Shaun's stand-out best performances. Never stopped running but somehow didn't see as much of the ball as usual.

21. Jean-Paul Kalala: 7/10 - Usual all-action game. I remember being lukewarm concerning his return at the time, but in fact he's turned out to be one of our most important permanent players.

11. Andy Welsh: 5/10 - As the least physically-imposing player in the squad Andy was always likely to struggle in yesterday's conditions. Never really came to terms with the wind from his set-pieces. Disappointing.

13. Ryan Mason: 8/10 - As the second least physically-imposing player in the squad Ryan was always likely to struggle in yesterday's conditions - except class will out. Ran the game in the first half, caused the visitors to go down to ten men and provided the pass for our goal. My only criticism would be that he should have taken the opportunity to shoot on goal more during the first half - Sodje showed after the break what might have been if Ryan had given himself the chance more often rather than trying to find that killer ball all the time. A wonderful player to watch however and one can only guess where he might be in a few years time. Spurs first team? At the very least, I would say.

26. Jonathan Obika: 7/10 - I said a couple of weeks ago that Obika needs to start upping his game and I'm pleased to say that he did that yesterday. Has a good understanding with Mason and took his goal clinically.

6. Terrell Forbes (69 mins for Scott Murray): 6/10 - Came on as an emergency extra-defensive midfielder - and did okay in an unfamiliar role.

14. Dean Bowditch (60 mins for Andy Welsh): 5/10 - Bowditch is a goalscorer and if he's going to play he must surely play as a striker. As it was he barely saw the ball stuck out on the left. Skivo must in my opinion find a way to accomodate Mason, Obika and Bowditch in the team, without exiling any of them on the wing.

28. Nathan Smith (85 mins approx for Danny Hutchins): N/A - Not on long enough to make a real impresson, but nice to see him back at last.

The result leaves the Glovers down one place in the table from last week in 13th position and on 22 points. The biggest talking point of the weekend was the crowd, or the lack of it, with around 3,600 home fans making the effort on what admittedly was a foul day. I'm afraid that I can't see things improving in the short-term at least, regardless of the attractiveness or otherwise of the football on display.

The board and their apologists would like you to believe that crowds are down because of the effect of what they call the 'Slade years'. They would have you think that the previous manager's pragmatic tactics and way of playing football is solely responsible for the decline in home crowds over the last few years, but of course that is simplistic rubbish. The club has squandered the feelgood factor that saw us averaging just over 6,000 a few years ago and with the board's lack of forward planning, their seeming complete indifference to the needs and desires of the ordinary supporter, and their almost total lack of communication with the ordinary supporter I'm honestly surprised that home crowds haven't dropped even lower than they already are. The supporters bar is an embarrassing disgrace, the tea bars are worse, and the match-day experience at Huish Park generally dismal, the football on show apart. Floating supporters are positively discouraged with a £2 surcharge on matchday admission. You can't buy a ticket at the turnstiles anymore even if you're willing to pay the surcharge, but have to go all the way around to the ticket office and brave the queues there. The club should be making it as easy as possible to go to Huish Park, but instead seem to delight in putting petty obstacles in the way of fans. I could go on (and on), but it's a rant I've made too many times before already and no-one at the club is listening. One suspects that crowds will have to slip to pre-Conference levels before anyone will.

Friday, 20 November 2009

How green was my Valley

One of the biggest games of the season to look forward to tomorrow: Charlton, at home. Who'd have thought that one day little old Yeovil would be in the same division as Charlton? For someone my age Charlton are a big club and always will be and of course one of the heroes of my youth, Dick Plumb, left Yeovil to play for Charlton before making the return journey home a few years later. I always had a soft spot for Charlton, maybe because of the Plumb connection, but also because a lot of the players in their team in the 70's had beards, which seemed to me at the time to be a good thing. Another thing I liked about them was the huge side terrace they had at The Valley, not that I ever saw it in the flesh, capable of holding a completely ridiculous number of people and quite out of keeping with the rest of the ground, at least as far as I could tell from what I could see from viewing ITV's 'The Big Match'. And it was always The Big Match with Brian Moore commentating that Charlton appeared on because for some reason they never used to be on Match of the Day. Why was that? Another of life's little mysteries... I even like their name: Charlton. It's a satisfying, solid name, a name to relish and mispronounce with a silent 't' and of course you're irresistibly reminded of those 60's icons the Charlton brothers, Bobby in particular, even if they had nothing to do with the club itself (as far as I'm aware) and just shared the coincidence of the name, Charlton.

As befitting a club of their size they're bringing down a good lot of fans tomorrow, 1700 altogether, so let's hope the weather gods look kindly on us and the game goes ahead. The forecast is for rain of biblical proportions on Saturday, so fingers crossed that the drainage system will be able to cope. Charlton are currently second in the league and looking good for the 2nd automatic promotion spot and are indeed the first club from the top half of the table we've played at home this season so tomorrow's game will give us a pretty good indication of exactly how well-placed Skivo's team is to kick on (or not) as Christmas approaches. I've seen enough already this season to be very confident now that we will not be involved in a relegation battle at the end of the season, but do we have enough about us to do the unthinkable and push on to try and get into the scramble for the play-offs? I'm getting carried away here, aren't I? Let's get real once more - it's not games against the likes of Charlton that will define our season, it's the bread-and-butter of Stockport, Gillingham and Swindon that does that. Anything we can get from tomorrow is a bonus.

So here's hoping we have a right go at them tomorrow and enjoy ourselves. I'm not even going to try and second-guess Skivo's team, the lack of information coming out of Huish Park these days regarding injuries or illness renders such attempts almost meaningless and every week there are absences which may or may not be explained after the match and more often than not the rumour mill is left to fill the gap. The team will be what it will be. The bookies not unreasonably have the visitors as favourites to win the game at 5/4, the draw is priced at 11/5 and a home win at a tempting 23/10. A very tempting 23/10. An utterly irresistable 23/10 in fact, and that's where my fiver's going this week. I didn't manage to get my usual bet on last week thanks to my encounter with the surgeon's knife but I would certainly have gone for the home win against Southend which would have left my weekly running total in a much healthier state than it actually is at -£4.50p. Life isn't fair at times.

The Irish would certainly concur with that pithy observation. This week's big talking point has of course been Thierry Henry's Hand of God Maradona moment, which resulted in France beating Ireland 2-1 on aggregate in a World Cup qualifier play-off to go through to the Finals in South Africa next summer. The controversy isn't about whether Henry cheated to put the French through, that's a verifiable fact. The controversy is that everyone knows Henry cheated, yet nothing is done about it, to put things right. In this day and age it is simply absurd in my opinion that at the highest level instant tv replays are not employed by the 4th official off the pitch to make instant calls so that the right decision can be made. Everyone watching the game on tv on Wednesday night knew within 30 seconds of the incident that Ireland had been cheated by the odious Henry and that the hapless referee had made the biggest blunder of his officiating life. And because of the archaic laws surrounding football everyone also knew that Henry and France would get away with it. How many more times will the authorities allow cheats to prosper before doing something? Other sports have successfully integrated tv replays into decision-making at the highest levels, it's ludicrous that in the year 2009 football has never even tried.

Just read: Careless In Red by Elizabeth George. I didn't realise this was part of yet another detective series when I picked this up, but indeed it is, the Inspector Lynley series. No matter anyway, it just means another set of books to get around to reading one day. Thoroughly enjoyed this one anyway, a murder mystery set in the thinly disguised Cornish town of Bude. Contains as many red herrings as you could want and a particularly nice twist at the end. Good stuff.

Monday, 16 November 2009

L1: Yeovil 1 Southend 0

The Glovers bounced back from last week's FA Cup disappointment with a 1-0 win over Southend United on Saturday. Your humble scribe unfortunately missed what by most accounts was a very good performance, but I did have a reasonable excuse for my absence - 24 hours earlier I was having a rather large collection of stones removed from my bladder at Yeovil District Hospital. Keyhole surgery has much to recommend it - it meant I could have the procedure in the morning and be home by 6-o-clock that evening - but on the other side of the coin there are some holes that one would rather not have surgical instruments inserted into, even under a general anaesthetic. I'll draw a veil over the precise details and the aftermath, suffice it to say that it was an experience.

Anyway, I was fully intending to go to the Southend game but in the event didn't feel up to it. Why do we always play well when I can't go? By most accounts we thoroughly deserved the 3 points and indeed were unlucky not to score 4 or 5 more than the 1 we managed, but the curse of the returning ex-keeper nearly struck with Steve Mildenhall putting in a man-of-the-match performance to frustrate both crowd and players. That was until the return of Dean Bowditch, nearly a month ahead of his injury schedule, who scored with the proverbial deflection off his arse. Well, his shoulder really, but that doesn't sound quite as apt, even if it was the shoulder he injured at the start of the season that provided the goal.

It was interesting to read the respective manager's comments after the match, both of whom appeared to have been at different games. For Southend boss Steve Tilson denial is evidently not just a river in Egypt. Taking a leaf from the Sir Alex Ferguson school of constructive criticism he accused the officials of "ruining" the game by sending off Shaun Morrison when a yellow card was all that was justified (it wasn't) and gifting the Glovers the winning goal by awarding a free-kick that wasn't (it was) and adding insult to injury by allowing Bowditch's goal when he clearly handled the ball into the net (he didn't). All this after "Yeovil had run out of ideas". A fine display of sour grapes from a manager doing an excellent job of deflecting attention away from the fact that in 90 minutes of football his side didn't manage to get 1 effort on target.

Skivo by contrast was not unnaturally rather more upbeat, and why not? After 16 games his side now lies comfortably mid-table, in 12th position and on 21 points. Cup disappointments aside, things are looking pretty rosy currently in the Huish Park garden, at least on the pitch. Despite that it seems that not all in the home crowd understands and appreciates what Skivo and the team is trying to do. As he put it: "I think that sometimes our supporters don't realise the way that we are trying to play football. We're not just going to lump it in the box and go long. We're going to play a technical game, which is to move people about, and when that final ball is ready, it will present itself. We're not going to try and force it."

To ram home the point Skivo added: "There were a few people shouting put two strikers on. That's not the way we play. We're going to play my way and if we keep doing it my way and it works, then fair enough. If it doesn't work, then we're still not going to change it! People will have to lump it! But that's the way that we play, that's the way that we stay in games, and that's the way that I feel we create our best chances. It's also the best way to have someone like Ryan Mason playing in the team, who if I'm not mistaken got the man of the match."

So there we have it. We're going to pass the ball until it kills us, or at any rate it kills those in the crowd who get impatient unless the ball is in the opposition's penalty area, or at the very least in the air and heading towards the opposition's penalty area. For what it's worth while I applaud his general sentiments I hope Skivo isn't going to be too dogmatic about our style of play. When it works, as it evidently did against Southend, then it works, and to change would be crazy. But if it ain't working, as it equally clearly wasn't working against Oxford the previous weekend then not to change would be just as self-defeating. As Emerson put it: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Muffwatch: The good folk of Weymouth have found the answer to their self-inflicted wounds. Having been brought to the edge of extinction by one property developer they're now going to be saved by another, you guessed it, property developer! And a property developer whose spokesman is an undischarged bankrupt at that! What could possibly go wrong? You just gotta love the Muff.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

FA Cup R1: Oxford 1 Yeovil 0

The biters were bit. The giant-killers giant-killed. The Glovers poor recent run in the FA Cup continued at the Kassam Stadium on Saturday, Conference leaders Oxford United beating a surprisingly lack-lustre Yeovil side by a single goal to nil. I watched the entire game (for my sins) on a Polish tv stream on the net, so just for a change feel qualified to comment more fully on an away game than I usually do and to give my usual marks to the players. To sum up: We were fairly shit.

The team lined up as follows in a 4-4-1-1 formation:

15. Richard Martin: 7/10 - Possibly my MOTM, apart from letting in Oxford's goal. Made several good saves to keep us in the game otherwise.

2. Craig Alcock: 2/10 - Oh dear. Craig's hate affair with the FA Cup continues unabated. At fault for Oxford's goal when with plenty of time to clear the ball he dithered, called the keeper to come for it when it was his ball to clear, dithered a bit more and then let Jack Midson in to lob the ball over the now oncoming keeper and into the empty net, for one of the softest, stupidest goals it's ever been my displeasure to witness. As Alan Hansen might say, Alcock's indecision was final. Shocking defending, Gary, just shocking. Added to that he seemed incapable of beating the first defender when crossing. You can just imagine the furore on the green room if Nathan Jones had played like that...

5. Steven Caulker: 7/10 - Actually coped with the dangerous James Constable pretty well and kept him quiet most of the time. Possibly my other MOTM.

6. Terrell Forbes: 5/10 - Not one of Terrell's better games. Managed to look like a headless chicken in both penalty boxes, defending and attacking, where he fluffed chances to score and to clear with monotonous regularity.

3. Nathan Jones: 5/10 - Didn't do much wrong before his substitution but on the other hand didn't do much at all, right or wrong.

26. Jonathan Obika: 4/10 - Oh dear. Spent most of the game out of position on the right wing and was as effective there as you might expect for someone who's played most of his career as a left winger/striker. Resembled a fish out of water, in other words. His first touch was abysmal and his passing worse than that, at times it was almost embarrassing to watch. Marginally more effective when moved up front alongside Williams in the second half but contrived to get in the way of one goal-bound MacDonald effort and then shot weakly at the Oxford keeper when in a good position in injury time. Needs to up his game considerably.

25. Shaun MacDonald: 6/10 - Not at his most effective best, but at least tried to put himself about and impose himself on the game, even if he didn't really manage it much of the time.

8. Keiran Murtagh: 3/10 - He's got all the physical attributes to make a successful football league career for himself, but one wonders about his mental strength. Just when we needed an all-action, box-to-box midfielder prepared to run his bollocks off for the cause, Murtagh turned up instead. The only surprise was that he wasn't subbed at any point. Needs to up his game considerably.

11. Andy Welsh: 6/10 - Not his most effective game by any means, but was one of the few players in the green-and-white to provide any kind of attacking threat. Which made his 62nd minute substitution all the more incomprehensible.

13. Ryan Mason: 6/10 - As above, not his most effective game by any means, but was one of the few players in the green-and-white to provide any kind of attacking threat. Somehow became too isolated from the rest of the midfield and from Williams up front and ultimately ran up too many blind alleys. At least he looked like he cared.

9. Sam Williams: 4/10 - I like Sam, I really do. He gives it a go, gets battered from pillar to post and never gives up. But a striker simply has to provide a goal-threat or at least make chances for other people to score, and yesterday (and too often in other games) that just didn't happen. Another who needs to up his game considerably.

7. George O'Callaghan (62 mins for Andy Welsh): 6/10 - In hindsight and fitness permitting should have started instead of Murtagh. By no means the best midfielder in the world nor even the club, but at least got involved and looked like he wanted to be on the pitch.

23. Danny Hutchins (56 mins for Nathan Jones): 6/10 - Good to see Danny back at last and - considering his lack of playing time this season - not looking out of place either. Let's hope there's more to come.

There's been a lot of criticism of Skivo's tactics and team selection on the green room since Saturday, but in my opinion a lot of the criticism can be classed as being wise after the event. Given the players he had available I thought he picked the right team and formation initially, where I think he was at fault was for being too slow to recognise that what we were doing wasn't really working in an attacking sense. Defensively we looked reasonably comfortable for most of the game and in the end Oxford only scored because of one man's error. The match stats show parity between the sides in pretty much all areas, but for me that's where the real disappointment lies. We were the team from 2 leagues higher, we should have stamped our authority on the game and imposed ourselves on our opponents.

Specifically, it was clear from very early on that Obika on the wing wasn't working and that Williams had too much on his plate as the sole striker. Murtagh was having a 'mare in the midfield and the obvious change to make as I saw it was to go to a 4-4-2 replacing Murtagh with O'Callaghan and pushing Mason out wide, with Obika up front alongside Williams. Instead for some reason Skivo took off Welsh, who had been one of our few attacking threats and Murtagh was left to carry on doing what he was doing before - nothing. The midfield became more congested, Ryan Mason was left more isolated and frustrated and with no-one now providing any width now Welsh had been withdrawn we were relying on the fullbacks to get forward which they didn't really do consistently - and when they did get forward the crossing rarely went beyond the first defender. Despite all that we still created enough chances in the last 15 minutes to score, but when your luck's out it's out, and so were we.

It's not the fact that we were knocked out of the cup by a lower league club that was so disappointing, after all we've done it to enough higher league sides over the years to know how easily it can happen. No, it was the manner of the defeat that rankles. We went out with a whimper rather than a bang. It wasn't what we've come to expect from a Terry Skiverton side. Let's hope we see a reaction this coming Saturday at home to Southend, a reaction that will enable everyone to put this defeat behind us. It could be an uncomfortable month otherwise.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Up for the Cup

There was a time once when the likes of Oxford United would have been terrified at the thought of playing Yeovil Town in the 1st round of the FA Cup. That was in our non-league days of course, when the Glovers would regularly beat football league sides. We still regularly beat football league sides these days, but as a football league side ourselves those wins don't have quite the same impact as they used to. The boot is on the other foot now at any rate, and it's ourselves worrying about going to the non-league club and being giant-killed.

It was good to see Skivo talking enthusiastically about playing in the Cup this week. In recent years our record in the competition has been less than inspiring, the nadir reached two years ago when we were dumped out 4-1 by then non-league Torquay United, in a match televised live on BBC1, thus ensuring our humiliation was visible nationwide. The season before that we were also knocked out in the first round, 3-1 at Rushden; and last year we improved by almost 100% inasmuch that we didn't lose in the 1st round. No, we lost in a 1st round replay, a 5-0 thrashing at Stockport. So there's an awful lot of room for improvement in our recent cup record. Fairly or unfairly one always had the vague impression that former manager Russell Slade saw cup matches as something of a distraction from league survival, so it's nice to see Skivo talking tomorrow's game up and to get the feeling that we're actually going to have a go at winning the match.

We've been helped by the news that Tottenham have not only given permission for Steven Caulker, Ryan Mason and Jon Obika to play in the FA Cup, they're also allowing us to keep the players until the end of the season, an excellent piece of news that will allow a modicum of continuity for this season at least. Just as encouraging is the news that Swansea have given permission for Shaun MacDonald to play, which makes one wonder whether a similar announcement regarding his long-term eligibility will be forthcoming shortly. Fingers crossed! Interestingly (well, I found it interesting) Spurs have refused permission for former Glover loanee Andros Townsend to play for Orient in their cup game. Whether this is because the left-winger is closer to Tottenham's first team or is likely to loaned out to a Championship club in the near future is open to conjecture, either way it doesn't help the O's. Probably of more interest and indeed relevance to ourselves is the fact that Reading have refused to allow on-loan keeper Mikkel Anderson to play for Bristol Rovers in their cuptie, opening the way for our own on-loan Reading keeper Alex McCarthy to play for us tomorrow, with any luck. Life was a lot simpler for managers when loan players were rarities rather than the rule, but such are the realities of modern-day football.

Skivo will have to make at least one change tomorrow because of the suspension of JP Kalala. If it was me in charge I would be inclined to bring in Kieran Murtagh to sit alongside Shaun MacDonald in the centre of midfield, and I would go with the 4-4-1-1 formation with Ryan Mason in the hole behind Sam Williams, but the great thing about the squad Skivo has built is that it is flexible and he has options to change things if things aren't quite going to plan.

The bookies can't split the sides in their odds for the game. Oxford are priced at 8/5 for the home win, the draw is 12/5, and a Glovers win at 8/5. My fiver is going on the away win. Running total: -£0.50p.

Extended highlights from the match are being shown on ITV at 10.50pm on Saturday evening. Those who are internet savvy and not going to the game may, if they're lucky, be able to pick up a live stream of the match on Saturday afternoon, not that I would condone such a practise. Oh no.

Just read: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. A dense, multi-layered crime thriller and also the first part of a trilogy. Not an easy book to read inasmuch as the complex storylines and Swedish names and setting take some getting into, but it's well worth persevering with. Unfortunately the author died after completing the final book of the three, so this and two sequels are it. A gripping read anyway and I'm looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Premiership Giants 4 Plucky No-Hopers 0

Too optimistic for my own good again this weekend. After 6 games unbeaten I hoped that the Glovers might come away with a point from Elland Road this weekend and after 42 minutes it was all going to plan. Unfortunately the mighty Leeds sneaked a somewhat lucky goal just before the break and that was that: Three more followed after half-time to make the final score Leeds 4 Yeovil 0, a repeat of last seasons thrashing.

Not that it matters a jot. Leeds are so far ahead of the Glovers in terms of stadium size, fanbase, budget, squad size - you name it, in every measure they dwarf us. One of their hospitality suites holds as many people as the entire Cowlin Stand for god's sake! They have more police and stewards on duty at every home game than our average crowd! Come to that they have more people arrested at every home game than our average crowd! They've probably got more burger vans than our average crowd! Their wage bill for a week is probably as large as ours for the whole year! They are a Premiership club in all but name and have under-achieved appallingly over the last 3 seasons, so to lose to them means nothing in the great scheme of things. Our season will be defined by how we do against the likes of Carlisle, Bristol Rovers, Brentford and Hartlepool; not against a team whose striker is worth more money than our entire club - land included - combined. I just hope that Leeds have their inevitable promotion back to the Championship confirmed before the return fixture at Huish Park on April 6th next year. Their fans are arrogance personified as it is, to have to watch them celebrating promotion at Huish Park would be more than flesh and blood could bear. And the thought of that tax-dodging prick of a chairman of theirs taking the plaudits for having 'guided' Leeds back to the Championship (when it was on his watch that they were relegated to L1 in the first place) on the back of ripping off countless creditors (including the St Johns Ambulance Service) is truly a nauseating one.

Er, where was I? Oh yes, so to lose against Leeds is no big deal. The result means we drop 2 places in the table to 14th, still on 18 points. Next Saturday we have a break from league action when we travel to the Kassam Stadium to meet Oxford United in the 1st round of the FA Cup. We really do need a good cup run this season to boost the finances if nothing else, it might be that a cup run is the difference between us being able to sign (or even re-sign) players in January or not. Let's hope that the gap between the Conference and League One is still as big as I remember it from a few years ago. More on this game later in the week.

Away from the Glovers and in other news former rivals Weymouth are continuing to limp along on the verge of liquidation. I know, you've heard it all before. How many times have innumerable other clubs seemed to be going under only to be rescued by a last-minute deal? Well, the Muff may just be the exception to that general rule. Even would-be administrators appear reluctant to take the club over and when those vultures are fighting shy then you know there are real problems. Never say never, but it really doesn't look good for this present incarnation of Weymouth FC.

And finally, former Glovers manager Russell Slade got the boot from Brighton yesterday. He did it in slightly more conventional style than when he left Huish Park, after a run of bad results rather than four wins in a row. I've no doubt there'll be more than a few Glovers fans pleased to see Slade's downfall, but I'm not one of them. Speak as you find, as they say, and the odd occasion I met Russell left me with a good impression of the man. I felt he did a decent job for us under trying circumstances and deserved far better support from the board than he received, particularly in his last season with us. That's not to say I wish he was still here, I'm very content with the job Skivo is doing and wouldn't want to change that at all. Nevertheless I hope Slade gets himself sorted with a new club soon. It didn't work out for him down at the Withdean, but he's too good a manager to be left permanently on the shelf.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Hayward back on board

Norman Hayward, officially co-owner and majority shareholder in the Huish Park Partnership, the company that owns the good ship YTFC and all who sail in her is set to take a more active role in the running of the football club. The official site announced yesterday that Hayward is to return to the board as a director and will be directly involved in the board's decision-making processes. There's no point in me trying to re-invent the wheel on here, check out the official site's statement and the Ciderspace news page for the full details.

So, Norman's out of the closet, so to speak, at last! Not before time either. It's been an open secret that he's been the man calling the shots in the background for some time now and has been the driving force behind all the major decisions taken at the club over the last few years. At the same time he must also be held accountable for the drift the club has suffered off the field during the same period. His appointment is the precursor to some as yet unspecified changes at the club in the near future. I await further developments with interest and fingers crossed, and the fervent hope that whatever is going to happen that the club communicates it's intentions to supporters in an open and timely fashion. We're all supposed to be on the same side after all.

Back to the footie, and two players have gone out on loan. Striker Andre McCollin and new signing Louis Laver will be plying their trade at Dorchester in the Conference South for the next month. Good luck to them.

As for the first team, it's the small matter of Leeds United, away, that concerns them this weekend. Everyone's favourites for promotion this season are also runaway favourites to win tomorrow's Elland Road clash at 2/5 on, the draw is a tempting 10/3, and a Glovers win priced at a frankly insulting 15/2. I mean, what the hell are the bookies playing at? Haven't they noticed we've just gone six games unbeaten? Yes, Leeds are top of the league and beat us 4-0 at their place last time out but surely current form should come into the equation? Okay, sensible hat on. The home win's not worth betting on, an away win may be a bridge too far even for the most optimistic Glover; my fiver's going on the draw (again). Running total: +£4.50p.

Just read: Henry: Virtuous Prince by David Starkey. Having read a lot of praise for this latest biography of Henry VIII (though it concerns itself only with his early life and has just as much to say about his father, Henry Tudor, as it does about Henry himself) I was looking forward to browsing through it. Unfortunately it doesn't live up to it's advance billing. It's dull and repetitive and gives no real insight into the characters of the major players of the time. I enjoyed and admired Starkey's recent tv series of the same name, but this book (there's another to follow) doesn't live up to it. Disappointing.

Monday, 26 October 2009

But it's alright now, in fact it's a Gas!

There's something about playing Bristol Rovers that brings out, if not the best in Yeovil Town, then something not far off the best. We've faced the Gas in nine football league games now and won four, drawn four and lost just the once. If we could play them every week then promotion would be pretty much guaranteed at that level of success. Rovers' one solitary win came in last season's game at the Mem, when they beat by 3-0 a Glovers side shell-shocked by Russell Slade's dismissal two days earlier. That loss was well and truly avenged this weekend, a 2-1 scoreline memorable in particular for Terrell Forbes first football league goal in 370-odd games. The result leaves the Glovers in the dizzy heights of 12th position in the league table, on 18 points. That's six games unbeaten now and we really couldn't be going into one of the most difficult games of the season - Leeds, away - in better heart.

The other matter of any import this weekend was the 1st round FA Cup draw. As anyone reading this will now know, we were matched up with Oxford United, away. The U's are currently top of the Conference, or Blue Square Premier as it prefers to be called these days, and will doubtless be up for the cup as any self-respecting non-league team always is. There was a comment made on the green room which made I laugh, as we say in Zummerzet, and that was that Oxford were giving thanks for the postal strike, as half of their team would have extra time for training. Geddit? Non-league side comprised of postmen and the like... Oh, please yourselves.

Their fans have been understandably getting quite excited about playing a proper football league team anyway and have INVADED the green room just as I remember us doing when we were a Conference side and were drawn against the likes of Reading and Cardiff City in the 90's. Those were the days! Us internet warriors flooded the oppositions message boards and mailing lists, telling them how we'd be turning up in our thousands and that they shouldn't under-estimate us and how we were really good 30 years ago; and doubtless we were treated then with the same amused condescension that we are now exhibiting in our turn towards the Oxford fans. The wheel of life really does turn full circle in the end.

In all seriousness it's a nasty draw for us. As we know full well any team flying in the Conference will be a decent side and difficult to beat at the best of times. They'll have home advantage, a large-ish crowd behind them and no pressure, as they will officially be the underdogs. Added to that we don't as yet know if any or all of our loan signings will be allowed to play. Let's be honest, if our loanees are permitted to play then I'll be very confident of going through, even if it takes a replay. Without them, we might just struggle.

Just read: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It's the supposedly true story of an Australian bank robber and heroin addict who ends up in India and his life there. I say supposedly because it honestly beggars belief that one man can pack so many experiences into one part of his life and even at 926 pages long there's still another book of memoirs to come next year. It's a wonderful story whatever, well-written and it certainly sounds authentic. Some of the descriptions of life in the Bombay slum have to be read to be believed and at one time it felt like I was reading a fantasy novel, such is the completely alien world the author describes. It is a real world though, and it's right here on this planet right now. As I said above, the book is 926 pages long and in small type at that, so it's not a book to be taken lightly; but I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. It'll open your eyes.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Glovers on a roll

It's local derby time! Well, local-ish. Bristol Rovers v Yeovil Town doesn't quite have the same tradition attached to it as Everton v Liverpool, Spurs v Arsenal or even Wrexham v Chester City; nevertheless it's the nearest thing that we've got to a derby match now that Weymouth are evidently doomed to disappear into a black hole of their own making, so we might as well make the most of it.

At least you would hope that we'd make the most of it, however it appears that we're not even going to come close to selling out our 1300 ticket allocation for the match, which is disappointing. Not that I can criticise anyone for not going to an away match, the last time I travelled away for a league game was to Kidderminster 4-5 years ago and that was only because I fancied a curry from their excellent snackbar. I didn't even go to Wembley for the play-off final three years ago, so no-one can accuse me of being a glory-hunter either. Going to away games is a vastly over-rated occupation in my humble opinion. More often than not you have to get up ludicrously early on a Saturday morning for the doubtful privilege of getting stuck in an horrendous queue of traffic for hours at a time on an anonymous motorway somewhere in the midlands, or worse still, up north. When you eventually reach your destination you can never find a pub selling decent beer and decent food, at best you may find one but never both. And then at the match itself, after running the gauntlet outside the ground of intimidating home yobbos intent on kicking the living shit out of hapless away fans you settle down in your seat (right next to another bunch of intimidating home yobbos intent on kicking the living shit out of hapless away fans) and watch your team put 11 men behind the ball in an effort to grind out a 0-0 draw; while all the time getting soaked in steady rain and deafened by a cretin with a drum who sits right behind you. Away games? You can stick 'em.

My Saturday routine when the Glovers are away is now well established and genuinely enjoyable. It consists of one window on my pc open on the best possible internet stream on which the Spurs match is featuring, another window open on the green room and another on the Sporting Life site. At the same time I have Jeff Stelling and chums on the tv and I'm as well-informed and entertained as it's possible for one football fan to be. I can have a drink and a smoke when I want, I'm warm and dry and I don't miss a goal. If all that makes me a bad fan then I'll hold my hands up. I don't miss a home game and thoroughly enjoy watching live footy. I just wouldn't go further than a mile or two these days to see it.

Anyway, I digress. Back to Saturday's match and the bookies have the Gas as favourites at 4/5 on, the draw is tempting at 5/2 and a Glovers win is priced at 7/2. Rovers started the season on fire but have had a blip over their last couple of games, losing them both. Yeovil are 5 games unbeaten now and while I can't see us winning at the Mem on Saturday I can see us not losing - my fiver's going on the draw. Running total: +£9.50p.

Skivo's got another decision to make regarding his team selection for Saturday, and it's the same conumdrum he had to solve last Saturday - namely, six loan signings into one matchday squad won't go. He surely will not change a winning team so I would expect Jon Obika to miss out once again and for the team to be unchanged from last week.

Finally, a curious little story to end the week with and illustrate, yet again, the club's unerring ability to shoot itself in the foot and alienate fans while at the same time push out someone who's given the club many years of loyal service. It emerged on the green room earlier in the week that the Glovers on a Roll burger van run by a gentleman known to one and all as Choppy was to close for good, and Choppy given the boot. The van was to be found on the top pitch car park week days and served the local community and factories/businesses around, as well as supporters on match days. It seems that the local council's licence charges of £350 per month, plus Choppy's wages, was enough to push the whole operation into unprofitability and the club, perhaps understandably, pulled the plug. So far so unfortunate, especially for Choppy, but that's life, eh? After all, there's a recession on and plenty of people are losing their jobs. The club even put a small tribute to Choppy on the official site, which was nice, and more than the likes of Stuart Housley and John Flatters ever got. What wasn't so nice however was this advert that the club placed in the Western Gazette at the same time this week:

Catering department: require Full or Part time Catering wagon staff to work Monday to Friday. Please contact Clive Robinson at Yeovil Town Football club for further details. 01935 423662 Extension 222 or 215.

So with one hand the club waves goodbye to an old employee popular with supporters and regular customers on the grounds that they can't afford to keep him; with the other they're trying to recruit someone new, to do the same job in the same van they've previously refused to pay the licence for. Something doesn't quite add up. There's a nasty taste left in the mouth. And it's not Choppy's burgers that's causing that.

Just watched: Masterchef: The Professionals. (BBC2). Talking of food, I enjoy cooking programmes generally but this one is the pick of the bunch, though Saturday Kitchen on BBC1 runs it close. Always interesting to see what food the contestants produce but the real stars of the show are the two judges, Michel and the ex-football hooligan, Greg. There's something very sensual about the way both men eat their food, the way they load their forks (or spoons) with huge portions and then oh so slowly push them into their gaping maws and masticate thoroughly, and then lovingly identify every single ingredient used to make the dish. I've even caught myself doing the same thing now at home at mealtimes which doesn't half piss off my better half when she plonks a plate of sausages, fried eggs, baked beans and chips down in front of me, but that's another story. Nice to see the right chef win the thing anyway and roll on the next series.