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Friday, 29 May 2009

Perceptions and season ticket sales

That was a relief! Barcelona did the business in the Champions League Final to stuff Man Utd 2-0 and give those who believe the Premiership is the be-all and end-all of the beautiful game some pause for thought. And they did it the best way, by completely outplaying Ferguson's men over the 90 minutes with intelligent, passing football. The only way the result could have been any sweeter was if Barca had scored the four goals their domination deserved, but I'll take the 2-0 quite happily. There was a time - before the arrival of the Premiership - when I would wish each and every English or British team good luck in European competition and hope they would win, but not any more, particularly the so-called Big 4. The disproportionate amount of money they take out of the domestic game is nothing short of scandalous and in fact the sooner the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal fuck off into a fully-fledged European Superleague the better off the rest of us will be.

Grrrrrr. Anyway, back on planet Earth and Chris Weale is the latest of our former loanees to find himself a new club, flying Uncle Gary's nest at last to sign for Leicester City. Good luck to him there. I think he was probably the most important of the loan signings we made over the last couple of months of the season. He dominated his penalty area and gave the defence a huge boost of confidence after Josh Wagenaar's less than commanding displays and without him I think we could well have gone down, even with the injection of goals the Spurs lads gave us. He deserves the chance to establish himself as the no.1 at a genuinely big club and now he's got it. Good luck Wealey! And good luck to us too, we're going to need it if Josh really is our main keeper next season.

No news on anyone else. None of the out-of-contract three have signed up as yet, with Terrel Forbes in particular moaning in the Western Gazette that he's yet to receive anything in writing from the club. At the same time and in the same paper Andy Welsh says that he's agreed terms with club but - as with Forbes - he's yet to receive anything in writing. Business as usual then! I did have hopes when Martyn Starnes took over from John Fry as chief executive that decision-making would be streamlined. I always vaguely assumed that the club's general procrastination in business matters was due to Mr Fry having too much on his plate as chairman and chief executive leading to delay and obfuscation (what a lovely word! Obfuscation, mmmmm), but what we are finding is another level of bureaucracy added instead with Starnes doing all the negotiating and then reporting back to Fry. Who in turn reports to Hayward. All this takes time and in the meantime the real world moves on and we lose players we thought were ours, because other clubs aren't paralysed by inertia and are capable of making quick decisions. The more things change, the more they remain the bleedin' same.

On the positive side, season tickets sales are well up, having just gone over the 2,000 barrier compared to just over 1,000 at this time last season. I'm frankly astonished at this. Fair play to the club on this issue, they've obviously got the pricing right and not even the board's biggest critic can argue that the replacement of Russell Slade with Skivo wasn't popular with the majority of supporters; even if the majority of supporters may be missing the fact that Skivo's results, if extrapolated throughout the season would have seen us relegated. Perceptions are what count, and the perception is that Skivo's team plays attractive, attacking football, whereas it was the opposite under Slade's tenure.

It's not a perception I particularly share. The only difference I've seen under Skivo is that the team are attempting to play at a faster tempo these days, the football otherwise is similar. Before the arrival of the Spurs boys and (for one game as it turned out) David Noble we were losing and occasionally drawing - 2 points from 19 I believe - and had slipped into the relegation zone. The loanees literally made all the difference, and of course Skivo deserves big credit for recognizing where we were weak and filling in those gaps. Nevertheless, without those players the football being served up was just as dull and uncreative as anything served up by Slade's teams - the difference was that at least Slade's team won now and then.

Still and all, hopefully my worries are unfounded and we'll start the season all guns blazing. Judging by the season ticket sales most fans apparently believe we will!

Currently reading: Quantico by Greg Bear. I've really enjoyed Bear's previous books, such as ,The Forge of God, Anvil of the Stars, Eternity, Eon, Queen of Angels, Darwin's Radio and Darwin's Children; so I was looking forward to this one. Quantico is science-fiction still, but sf set in the very near future rather than the far future. It's basically a spy thriller with a technological twist. It's a book that I nearly put aside on several occasions but eventually did finish, more out of a sense of duty than because I really enjoyed it. Can't really recommend it, it's not up to any of the above-named titles' standards.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

No Worthington, no way

Playerwatch: Another one bites the dust - Jon Worthington, who did a decent job for us on loan from Huddersfield for a couple of months last season has signed for Oldham. There were hopes that he'd be back at Huish Park next season, but in my view they were always going to be unfounded. The way he left us was unsatisfactory - he was sent back to Huddersfield with only around 24 hours of the loan transfer deadline left, not really enough time to find another club and I remember thinking at the time that if we were serious about getting him back we would have treated him - and Huddersfield - with a little more respect. Ho hum.

Formerplayerwatch: Chris Cohen has signed a new 4-year deal at Nottingham Forest. Not sure if we've got a sell-on percentage if he gets transferred or not, but with him signing a new contract it doesn't look like he's going anywhere anyway. Team-mate Arron Davies meanwhile appears to be becoming more and more peripheral to Forest's squad - it would be no surprise to see him either transferred or out on loan next season.

Meanwhile the bookies have begun putting out their odds for next season and yet again we're favourites for the drop. Or to be more accurate, we're rank outsiders for the title - 80/1, along with Stockport. I was mildly surprised to see the likes of Exeter and Gillingham being slightly more fanciable at 50/1 and my eyebrows were raised even higher to see Brentford installed at 33/1. To my mind the gap between the top of L2 and the bottom of L1 is a large one, and I can see all the promoted clubs struggling next season. It's a bit early to be making predictions yet however, let's see how the squads are built up over the next couple of months before saying too much. What is predictable is to see who the bookies are regarding as favourites - Leeds at 10/3, followed by Norwich at 13/2 and Charlton at 15/2. Actually, the way Charlton finished the season they may well be worth a small flutter...

Currently reading: Dammed Good Show by Derek Robinson. I read the author's Goshawk Squadron a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it and this is a worthy successor. It follows the travails of a bomber squadron in the first two years of the Second World War. It's got Robinson's trademark black humour in spades but never loses sight of the horror of war and what it does to otherwise ordinary people. Highly recommended.

Currently watching: Series 1 & 2 of
The Wire. First started getting into The Wire halfway through season 2 on the FX channel two or three years ago and have watched it semi-religiously since; so I was very pleased to see that at last one of the main channels had taken the plunge and bought it. BBC 2 are showing all 5 series back to back, 3 episodes a week. Overkill for an ordinary tv show, but The Wire ain't no ordinary tv show. It packs the same kind of punch as shows like The Sopranos or Band Of Brothers but exceeds both of them in terms of it's depth and extended storylines. If you ain't seen it, it's not too late to start watching now.

Currently playing:
Death Magnetic by Metallica. Let's raaaawwwwwkkk!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Southern bias?

Scunthorpe beat Millwall 3-2 in a cracking match at Wembley this afternoon to win the L1 play-offs and promotion to the Championship. I say it was a cracking match but I don't know for certain because, foolishly, I watched the F1 procession from Monaco instead. Seventy-odd laps and not one overtaking manouvre. Anyway, Millwall remain in L1, which leaves the division with a severe southern bias next season:

Leyton Orient
Bristol Rovers
MK Dons

That leaves the following clubs out on a limb oop north:


Funnily enough Carlisle and Oldham's chairmen just this week called for the re-introduction of regional leagues - the old Division 3 North and Div 3 South, as in years gone by. I always thought this would be a good idea when we were stuck in the Conference as I assumed it would provide an easier route to get into the football league, but I've changed my mind since. Who would want to swap fixtures against Leeds, Nottingham Forest or Leicester City for matches against the likes of Aldershot, Wycombe or Colchester (for example)? The chairmen argue that the costs of travelling long distances and staying overnight are prohibitive and that regional matches would mean more derby games and bigger crowds, leading to greater revenue, but I'm not so sure. Would Bristol Rovers (for example) sellout our away end each time if we played them 4 times a season instead of twice? Wouldn't familiarity lead to a certain amount of ennui, if not contempt? And the costs argument just doesn't add up. From memory the chairmen were claiming that travel and overnight costs came to some £80-90,000 per season - or around the average wage for one L1 player. If they are serious about cutting costs then the first place to start would be the wage bill. Clubs are still paying ridiculous amounts to quite average players - that's what needs to be addressed before far-reaching and radical changes such as regionalisation are even considered.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

In's, out's and maybe's part 3

Nothing much to talk about at the moment. We're in the dog-days between the end of the season and the beginning of the next. Those players who are to be released have generally gone, even if they are still being paid, and the rest are either going on holiday soon or have already gone away.

What news there is comes by way of the grapevine. And the grapevine is saying that Paul Warne and Andy Welsh have verbally agreed new contracts with the club, but are having difficulty in tracking our esteemed chief executive down to actually sign the things. It seems that memories of the debacle regarding Marcus Stewart's on-and-off contract offer last summer is not unsurprisingly fresh in the players minds and that they don't want the same problems happening to them and that if the contracts are not signed by the weekend then both players will begin looking elsewhere - and both have had informal offers from other clubs, allegedly. Watch this space.... No news - not even rumours - on Terrell Forbes position at the moment, but it would be a complete (though welcome) surprise if he was still here next season. I fully expect him to be a Brighton player by July.

In other news it seems that a new goalkeeping coach has been appointed, though no-one knows who it is as yet. An article in this week's Western Gazette tells us that the new guy has a degree in sports science and has also played Premiership football. It seems that in addition to his coaching role he'll also undertake some scouting. Doubtless if he sticks a broom up his arse he'll be able to sweep out the changing-rooms at the same time, or is that Stuart Housley's new job? Anyway, the smart money appears to be on former Cheltenham goalkeeping coach Alan Fettis, who ticks all the boxes inasmuch that he's a goalkeeping coach, has a degree in sports science and has played in the Premiership, for Blackburn Rovers, no less. Oldham keeper Mark Crossley has also been mentioned in despatches.

Playerwatch: Former loanees Jon Obika and Andros Townsend have finished their season at last, Spurs academy side losing 1-0 to their Arsenal counterparts in the academy league play-off final, or something. We've been linked in the press with Scott Murray (again) and Dutch defender Stefan Stam, a 29-year-old who's just been released by Oldham. Former loanee Danny Maguire is now a free agent after being released by QPR.

Sad news: Club president Norman Burfield has died, aged 90. I never met the man, but those who knew him only had good things to say about him. There's a nice little tribute on Ciderspace.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Another one bites the dust

Yet another departure from the club's backroom staff last night - and this one is a genuine surprise. Highly respected goalkeeping coach Len Bond has been shown the door. There's a brief article on the Ciderspace news page confirming the news.

Now I was told by a little bird to expect Bond's dismissal, as he was one of the 'Barnstaple 7'. The story goes that this group comprise the backroom and management staff who took the team on the pre-season tour of North Devon last summer, the tour that eventually was to lead to the sacking of former manager Russell Slade. It's said that some petty cash went missing on the tour, and couldn't be accounted for. As is now evidently common knowledge, the board used the missing cash as a pretext for getting rid of a manager they didn't want at the club anymore but who had a contract until 2011. It seems that all of the people who had some kind of access to the missing cash - the 'Barnstaple 7' - all closed ranks behind the former manager and refused to cooperate with the board's enquiries into where the cash went, regarding the matter as ridiculously trivial. However, the board didn't and doesn't regard the matter as trivial and the 7 are now paying for their lack of cooperation with their jobs.

Conspiracy theory, fanciful rubbish or merely happenstance? The facts are that 6 of the 7 have now been sacked by the club or have left. They are former manager Russell Slade, former assistant manager Steve Thompson, former physio Jim Joyce, former massuese Hannah Manton, former part-time fitness coach Lee Southernwood and now former goalkeeping coach Len Bond. Of those 6, only Jim Joyce has left the club voluntarily, and it was widely known that he was disillusioned with life at Huish Park following the club's refusal to follow recommendations made by him to improve the quality of the physio dept's services. Only one of the 7 remains at the club - youth team manager Stuart Housley. Looking over your shoulder yet, Stu?

With all the departures it's going to be a very busy summer for Skivo and his assistant Nathan Jones. Their entire staff at this point consist of the aforementioned Housley, who may well be on borrowed time himself. Not only do the Dream Team have to virtually rebuild an entire squad, they also have to rebuild their entire backroom staff - and with virtually nothing in the way of managerial and coaching experience themselves. We can only hope that all the changes have the Dream Team's complete approval and they already have some idea of who they're going to appoint as replacements. It's going to be a long hard summer for them otherwise.

Friday, 15 May 2009

In's and out's and maybe's, part 2

We have a little more clarity on the future's of the 3 players out-of-contract, though only a little. Skivo has announced that Terrell Forbes, Andy Welsh and Paul Warne will all be offered contracts 'in seven to ten days time'. Presumably all three are on their hols somewhere or otherwise unavailable, hence the delay. At least one assumes that's the reason for the delay. I do hope they're not twiddling their thumbs at home waiting for the club to contact them and wondering what the hell's going on, but judging by the club's procrastination over contracts in the past then I won't be holding my breath. And nor, perhaps, should they.

Further from that, it seems we might be seeing enfant terrible Gary Roberts in the hoops next season after all. It's been widely expected that the midfielder would be given the boot for disciplinary reasons after various misdemeanours during the season, mainly but not exclusively alcohol related, but Skivo has stated that he'll be expecting him back for pre-season training in July. For what it's worth I hope that he does stay. Whatever his off-field lifestyle there's little doubt that he's our most effective midfielder on the pitch and we missed him in the final few games when he was suspended and/or dropped. The daft thing is that his antics would have been nothing unusual for a pro footballer as little as 25 years ago. A friend of mine used to play for the Glovers in the mid-80's and the stories he tells of what went on involving the whole team pissing it up in those days would perhaps explain why we spent so long yo-yoing between the Isthmian League and the Conference, but I digress. These days footballers have to be atheletes as well as ball players and there's no tolerance for mavericks like Roberts. I hope that he can reign himself in and sort out his off-field problems - it would be a dreadful waste of talent otherwise.

Player watch: Chris Weale is a target for Championship bound Leicester City. Jon Obika and Andros Townsend both played for the Spurs academy side that beat Sunderland 2-1 to qualify for the final of the academy league play-offs - they face Arsenal next weekend. Veteran Bristol City midfielder Scott Murray, who will be released in June, has said he'd be open to offers from any club in the West Country, including ourselves.

Marching on (in League One) together

I fucking hate Leeds. More specifically I detest Ken Bates in particular for his crimes against football generally and for being a tax-dodging prick; and I thoroughly dislike the few ersatz Leeds fans that turn up on the green room, with their arrogant 'we're too good for this division because we're a big club' mentality, as if somehow they shouldn't be in League One because they get crowds above 20,000 on a regular basis. So it was very pleasing, no, immensely pleasing to watch them crash out of the L1 play-off's last night, losing 2-1 on aggregate to Millwall and condemning them to a third season (count 'em!) in hell, or L1 as the rest of us call it.

Not that I've got any great love for Millwall either, but while a rather large proportion of their fanbase may be violent thugs who'd slit your throat as soon as look at you (I may be exaggerating slightly for effect) at least they're not forever banging on about how they're too big for this league. From a purely selfish financial viewpoint it's preferable to have Leeds with us as well - they're certain to sell out the away end next season (and a fair proportion of the home stands) whereas most years Millwall usually don't bring down many more than 500-odd supporters. As a matter of fact the away end should be full more than once next season - Leeds, Southampton, Exeter, the Gas, Norwich and Charlton should all take their full allocations, which will please the accountants.

Anyway, well done the Lions. Bad luck Leeds, here's to another season down amongst the dead men. In their first season here their club shop thought it would be a good idea to produce a range of t-shirts with 'Where's Yeovil'? on the front. I think they know exactly where we are now. Ha ha ha!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Ins and outs and maybe's, part 1

The club announced its released list yesterday. No real surprises on there except maybe one - Aaron Brown hasn't been offered a contract and has gone, along with Jordan Street and Rob Fitzgerald. Andre McCollin evidently has another year left on his contract but has been transfer listed with offers invited - doubtless he'll be let go for the proverbial mars bar and packet of crisps if he can find another club.

Pretty much as expected then with the exception of Brown. I thought he was useful enough to keep on as a decent (and presumably cheap) back-up, but who am I to disagree with Skivo? Good luck to Aaron anyway, I wouldn't have thought he'd have much problem in finding an L2/Conference club somewhere who needs a tall defender with an eye for a goal - though his ground play wasn't really L1 in standard.

Off the pitch physio Wayne Jones has also been relieved of his duties with the club saying they have decided to "follow a different direction on the medical front" whatever that means. Perhaps all injuries in future will be treated with a couple of paracetemol and an appointment at the doctor's? It'll be interesting to see what this different direction entails exactly, but the club have now gone through 3 physios in the last 3 years so some stability in that department would be desirable sooner rather than later.

No news on most of the out of contract players the club presumably wants to keep, except one - keeper Josh Wagenaar has been offered another year's deal. As I said the other day, that's fair enough if he's being kept on as a back-up, but I'd be worried if he's to be our number one. He's a good shot stopper but doesn't command his penalty area well enough for my liking, seems prone to lapses in concentration and his kicking is generally poor. Apart from that, he's fine! With any luck he'll turn us down. That leaves the likes of Andy Welsh, Terrell Forbes and Paul Warne with their future's unclear. As they haven't been immediately released one assumes that they've been offered contracts but are yet to make decisions. There seems no doubt that in an ideal world Terrell Forbes would like to find a club in or around London and with Brighton releasing 12 players the other day it would not be a surprise to see him joining Russell Slade on the south coast before the new season starts. A little bird tells me unofficially that Warne has been offered another year but that the player is waiting to see if he gets a better offer from anywhere else - again, it wouldn't be a huge shock to see him playing at the Withdean next season. No idea what the situation is with Welsh, time will tell.

As players leave, so do the rumours about those who may be playing in the green-and-white next season begin to spread. Former loan player Jon Worthington has been released by Huddersfield as expected and is being mentioned in despatches, as is former Glover Anthony Barry, now playing for Chester. The Washington Post, of all sources, is claiming that the Glovers are in talks with Dan Stratford, a 23-year-old former Fulham trainee, who's just been released by American MLS outfit DC United.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

A profitable business

The club today announced it made a profit in the year ending June 2008, ending last season £28k in the black, down from the previous season's profit of just over £100k. The figures include monies from the sale of Chris Cohen and Arron Davies to Nottingham Forest and also the costs incurred in setting up the centre of excellence.

Good news on the face of it then, though one wonders what the loss would have been if it wasn't for the sale of Davies and Cohen. Still, the club's policy is to identify and then contract young players who they can sell on for a profit after a season or two at the club and in Cohen and Davies's case that's a policy that has worked. This season Lee Peltier is the willing sacrificial lamb but last season we sold no-one - next season's balance sheet will almost certainly show a considerable loss.

While it would be churlish to be ultra-critical, worries do persist. There are occasional warnings on the green room concerning the club's abysmal credit rating and word of mouth stories regarding local businesses reluctance to deal with the club on anything but a cash in advance basis. Attendances are down again, and the appalling state of the beer tent means the club's efforts to maximise matchday income are hamstrung before they've begun. The snack bars are uniformly dreadful, selling overpriced rubbish and running out of staples like chocolate bars before the game even kicks off in some cases.

I'm not moaning for moaning's sake here. A decent social club and well-run and well-stocked snack bars can make good money for any club -look no further than the examples of Walsall and Kidderminster for proof. At present the club has all it's eggs in the basket of player sales to enable it to operate in the black, and that's ultimately not a sustainable policy. No club can carry on selling off its best players year after year before eventually being found out, and that particular well will run dry sooner or later anyway. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's the board's responsibility to maximise income off the field and at present it's not doing enough.

Still, in these times of insolvencies and clubs going into administration any profit is cause for reasonable satisfaction. I just wish I could be confident that the club had a plan B in place for the day that plan A fails. We've been in the football league for 6 years now and are established on the pitch. Facilities off the pitch are still mired in the ICIS League.

Edit - For an in depth look at the state of the accounts, have a look at this excellent Ciderspace news page piece. It's also worth reading the following, Badger's self-explanatory follow-up post on the green room. I'll reproduce it below as the link above won't work once the message on the green room has been purged.

Accounting Comments a la CNP..
Badger Sun 10-May-2009 20:57:37
authenticated user: BADGER (id=8088)
[ views 44 ]
[ Message 668571, a follow-up to 668553 ]
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Some additional comments from those made on the CNP that I didn't include because I felt they were deviating into the realms of opinion and conjecture:

The claim was made that the 2007-08 playing budget was the "biggest ever". Based upon the accounts, wages have gone up by 1.95% but 10 additional staff have been employed to take on "management and administrative" roles, one of which will of course be the separation of the Chief Executive role which happened in December 2007. The clear inference was that the Cohen/Davies money had been piled into the playing budget. That bit clearly isn't true as the net increase in wages from the previous season is around 45K, of which the off-the-field increase in employment would swallow probably more than that. Certainly no evidence of any reinvestment back into the playing squad there. In fact in the club's own words, they state that the additional expenditure was to set up the Community Trust and CoE, so I'd guess that's where the Cohen/Davies money went. If so then I wish that had been stated more up front, as it's not controversial and does have a long term aim.

The second claim was that all of the Cohen/Davies money was spent inside one season. That obviously contradicted the 2006-07 accounts so was contentious anyway. But the fact that the increase in Trade Debt is roughly 50 percent of the net surplus figure given for the Cohen/Davies transfer, shows that the other 50 percent should have come in during the 2008-09 season. Hence I'd tend to believe the 2006-07 accounts statement rather than what was subsequently claimed.

Thirdly yep, it shouldn't be just about seeking to cut costs, as in cutting costs you can risk cutting quality. The club need to look at how to increase income - such as why beer supplies and tea bars run out before half time, or why a supporter trying to buy a season ticket was turned away for having slightly awkward payment terms to deal with.

Although it's great that the club have made a profit again, the obvious concern is that without the (presumed 50 percent share over two years) Cohen and Davies money coming in, it would have been a 300K shortfall. Hopefully the 300K "subsidy" will also apply to the 2008-09 accounts and that if Peltier gets sold, then another 300K would come in. But that's obviously a ticking timebomb and may show why they cut the playing budget by 25 percent last summer. What they need to do though is to bridge that 300K gap by other means, by additional income, as inevitably if it's the playing budget that is cut, then it's the quality of the squad and the punters who turn up that will get hit.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Mystic Taff's squad predictions

The first Saturday off the off-season and I'm missing YTFC already. Spent my Saturday afternoon watching the Spanish Grand Prix qualifying session (Button on pole) followed by Millwall beating Dirty Leeds in the first leg of the L1 play-off semi-final, followed by Spurs drawing 0-0 at Everton. Yawn. So in an effort to relieve the tedium I thought I'd think about our current squad, who's in and who's out of contract and who's likely to be here next season.... Here's the current situation:

Under Contract: Terry Skiverton, Nathan Jones, Craig Alcock, Gavin Tomlin, Keiran Murtagh, Danny Schofield, Darren Way, Aidan Downes, Gary Roberts, Lee Peltier.

Returning To Parent Clubs:
Danny Hutchins, Danny Maguire, David Noble, Jonathan Obika, Andros Townsend, Chris Weale, Ashley Hodgkinson.

Out Of Contract:
Terrell Forbes, Andy Welsh, Josh Wagenaar, Paul Warne, Andre McCollin, Jordan Street, Rob Fitzgerald, Aaron Brown, Nathan Smith.

Already Released: Luke Rodgers.

If we look at those contracted for next season then we can with some certainty take 3 names off that list: Darren Way, Gary Roberts and Lee Peltier. Weasel will do well to play any kind of football again following his horrendous car accident; Roberts, as good a player is he is, is so damaged and damaging off the field that he will either be sacked or sold; and Peltier will be sold to a Championship club, thus enabling the club to keep just-and-just in the black. Added to that Skivo and Jones have already said that they want to concentrate on their managing and coaching respectively and would be happy if they didn't play at all next season. Alcock, Tomlin and Murtagh are all worth their places and will stay, Downes has had a poor season but is presumably cheap in wages terms and will also stay. I fully expect an offer to come in for Danny Schofield (probably from Brighton) and he too will go.

Regarding those returning to their parent clubs, we are realistically in with a chance of signing Danny Hutchins permanently, if the board can countenance paying for 2 right backs now Alcock's signed a new contract - who needs strength in depth, after all? Of the rest, Weale is surely too good to be playing in L1, Townsend and Obika will go on loan to Championship clubs, Noble is apparently off to The Gas, and Hodgkinson - well, who knows about him? As he didn't even appear for the reserves or the youth team in his time here then one can only assume he's this season's James Brown. We may be in with a chance of signing Danny Maguire permanently if Skivo wants him, time will tell on that.

Of those out of contract I'd expect Fitzgerald, Street and McCollin to be released. The club has another year's option on Nathan Smith which will obviously be taken up. I'd expect contracts to be offered to all of the rest, but I'll be surprised if Terrel Forbes isn't in residence at the Withdean Stadium by July. I hope that Welsh and Warne will stay, but if it was up to me then Wagenaar would be released - though Skivo may decide he's worth keeping as back-up, if finances allow. Aaron Brown should be offered the security of a whole year, though whether he will want to stay is moot.

So who does that leave? The definite's, IMO, are: Craig Alcock, Gavin Tomlin, Keiran Murtagh, Aidan Downes, Andy Welsh, Paul Warne and Nathan Smith. And that's it. We might see one or two others remain, but I wouldn't bet money on it. We'll see how right - or wrong - I am over the coming weeks.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Hello, again

I don't know why I started this blog, only to stop again as soon as I started. Call it a false start, and this is the real start.

Okay, so we survived the drop into League Two, by the skin of our teeth. I don't propose to supply an exhaustive history of the last couple of months, the highs, the lows, the opportunities taken and spurned - have a read of the Ciderspace news page for all that. Suffice it to say that we survived, League One footy is ours to enjoy next season and we can look forward to entertaining the likes of Southampton, Norwich City and Charlton Athletic as opposed to dragging our sorry arses to the bleak hinterlands of Accrington, Macclesfield and Darlington.

We'll be favourites for relegation of course, we always are. With our (lack of) budget, that's inevitable. The cost-cutting has started already with Luke Rodgers leaving the club the day the season ended, closely followed by club masseuse Hannah Manton. Rodgers is no great loss to be honest, though he did score several important goals in the run-in. But on the whole he was never fit enough and evidently had a poor attitude off the pitch which was in danger of rubbing off on some of the dafter and more impressionable members of the squad. The masseuse, Manton, is another matter. She's been here since the days of Gary Johnson and did far more for the club than her job description implied. Apparently the board considered she was a luxury we couldn't afford, but given that we will be operating next season with the smallest possible squad we can get away with then I'd have thought that the priority would be to keep the few players we do have contracted as fit and healthy as possible. Her services in that regard would have been important and her absence throws even more pressure onto the now lone physio, Wayne Jones. But it's not as if we've lost a good physio lately because of overwork and the refusal of the club to make changes to working practices, is it? Oh.

To be fair it's easy to criticise the club for being penny-wise and pound-foolish, and they do make it easy to do so at times. It rankles when loyal employees doing above and beyond their job descriptions for a relative pittance such as Hannah Manton are let go without so much as a week's notice when others who are almost certainly paid far more to do rather less are apparently guaranteed jobs for life. Good luck to Hannah in her future career - she deserved better from YTFC than this. I hope Skivo fought to keep her, he as much as anyone will have known how useful she was to the squad.

Away from YTFC anyway and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Chelsea crash out of the Champions League last night after a 1-1 draw with Barcelona. The Blues went 1-0 up after 10 minutes and concentrated in the main on defending that lead for the rest of the game. The Norwegian ref refused 4-5 pretty strong Chelsea penalty appeals which another ref could easily have given and then Barca scored their equaliser in the last minute of injury-time which was enough to put them through on the away goals rule. Hilarious! The reaction of the Chelsea players at the end was as you might expect, surrounding the ref, haranguing him and with several players appearing to jostle him. Didier Drogba in particular covered himself in glory by lunging at the hapless official and telling the Sky Sports cameraman that the ref was a "fucking disgrace". The real disgrace of course was the Chelsea reaction, made even funnier by the fact that they were really correct, the ref did get it all wrong. I look forward now to UEFA showing that they too have a sense of humour by banning Chelsea from next season's Champions League. It won't happen of course, but wouldn't it be lovely if they did? Let's hope Barca can turn Man Utd over in the final, that would make my month.