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Friday, 31 July 2009

Gary Roberts ain't our friend

Midfielder and enfant terrible Gary Roberts has played his last game for the club. The end came on Sunday apparently, when Roberts turned up to training either still pissed from the night before, or merely smelling of alcohol, depending on who you want to believe. Whichever, he's blown his last chance with Skivo, who's beginning to show he's nobody's fool when it comes to dealing with, well, anyone - the players, the press, the board, or the fans.

Roberts was one of one of our more effective players last season but for every good thing he did on the pitch there were stories and rumours surrounding his questionable behaviour off it. The frustration for all concerned is that he undoubtedly has the talent to play at a higher level than League 1, but very likely none of the self-discipline required. What a waste.

On to players who do want to make the most of their careers: Dean Bowditch has signed a one year contract following his excellent display against Bristol City on Tuesday. Not counting the transfer-listed Andre McCollin who will presumably be either loaned out or given away before the transfer window shuts, this means we now have three recognised strikers at the club - Bowditch, Gavin Tomlin and Sam Williams. In addition we also have Ryan Mason and Aidan Downes, both of whom are very familiar with playing up front though Skivo sees the latter 2 more as midfielders judging by their pre-season appearances so far. That's not necessarily the end of the attacking options up front however. Speaking in the Western Gazette this week Skivo has indicated that he'll be looking to bring in another out-and-out striker, either permanently or on loan, to give himself 4 striking options to choose from.

What a contrast from last season! Russell Slade began last term with 16 professionals plus the likes of Jordan Street, Rob Fitzgerald and the then 46-year-old Steve Thompson to pad out the squad. Whenever he wanted to bring a player in, even on loan, he had to ship someone already in his squad out first. As of today, Skivo has 18 professionals with squad numbers and able to play, plus back-ups in the shape of himself, Nathan Jones and Ben Roberts. As mentioned above, he intends to bring in another striker and presumably will be allowed to replace Gary Roberts when he eventually leaves. Carry on like this and not only will we be able to name the full complement of 7 substitutes for most matches, we'll even have cover for injuries, probably. In terms of numbers it's a far healthier situation than this time last year, whether the sheer quality is there we won't know until the real stuff begins in 8 days time. But we can hope.

We can also note the backing Skivo is apparently receiving from the board and wonder what might have been had his predecessor received the same. On the other hand we can speculate that it might just be that Slade spent too much of his budget on one or two big names and then had none left for the journeymen that always make up the bulk of anyone's squad, and it was his own fault that he started the season with 16 professionals. It might be that Skivo has spread his budget thinner in a wiser fashion and that the board were ultimately right to take the action they did last season, albeit wrong in the way they went about it. It's all if's, but's and maybe's and whatever may or may not have happened last season has gone now. All we can do is look at what we're left with, wait to see what happens next and get behind the team. Roll on Tranmere. Can't wait.

Just read: Kirinya by Ian McDonald. One of the author's earlier novels, a sequel to Chaga. Not up to the standard of his later stuff like River of Gods or Brasyl, but still, McDonald could write a shopping list and make it sound beautiful. Worth reading for the sheer quality of his writing and his ultimately utopian view of the future.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Yeovil 3 Bristol City 2

I enjoyed that. The Glovers played some cracking stuff at times. You could see that Skivo's preferred style of play - a fast open style, getting the ball forward quickly and keeping it on the ground - is beginning to gel with the team and become second nature. Anyway, without further ado, it's time to do a DNB and give my marks for last night's performance:

1. Alex McCarthy: 7/10. Let in 2 goals (one a pen) but neither could be blamed on him. Dominated his box, good in the air, one excellent one-on-one stop and a cracking last minute fingertip save. Only his distribution occasionally let the rest of his game down. Overall, very promising.

2. Craig Alcock: 6/10. Started badly but improved, especially defensively, as the game went on. Tends to give the ball away too easily for my liking, but never stops running.

4. Steven Caulker: 7/10. Partially at fault for City's opener but a great presence at the back after that. Don't delay Skivo, get this lad signed up for the season ASAP!

5. Terrell Forbes (Capt): 7/10. Also partially at fault for City's opener but much more the player we're used to seeing after that. A big improvement on last weeks cameo against Derby.

3. Nathan Jones: 6/10. Another good performance from Jonesy, notwithstanding the shockingly bad moment when he gave away a penalty out of nothing. Otherwise defended well and got forward to support Welsh on the left. Nathan Smith will have to be on top form to win his place back when fit.

6. Ryan Mason: 7/10. Competed extremely well in a crowded midfield. One of those players who always appears to have time to pick a pass out. Unlucky not to have scored. As with Caulker, get him signed up for the season please Skivo!

7. Danny Schofield: 7/10. A much more committed and whole-hearted performance than his last run-out against Derby. Started on the right and looked the pick of our two wingers until he ran out of steam. Scored as well to cap an encouraging display.

8. George O'Callaghan: 8/10. The pick of the midfielders for me. Took a lot of responsibility onto himself. Always available for a pass and kept the pace of our game at a high tempo. Very promising.

9. Andy Welsh: 6/10. Another who improved as the game went on. Tends to duck out of 50/50 balls, which lets the rest of his game down. Toughen up Andy!

10. Gavin Tomlin: 8/10. That's more like it. Held the ball up well, always looking to get into the box and scored a well-deserved winner. Huge improvement in both effort and his final product since the Derby game.

11. Dean Bowditch: 8/10. A revelation! Just as fellow striker Sam Williams took the game by the scruff of the neck against Derby, so did Bowditch last night. Always a threat both in the air and on the deck and scored a screamer. What's not to like?

16. Paul Terry (71 mins for Danny Schofield): 5/10. The threat from the right posed by Schofield I'm afraid largely disappeared once Terry came on. Solid enough defensively at a time when we were under the cosh, but added little going forward.

17. Andre McCollin (50 mins for Dean Bowditch): 4/10. Last chance saloon time one suspects for Andre, but he did nothing to convince anyone he has a future at the club. His main asset was always his pace but if anything appears to have lost some of that. Reminds me of Keize Ibe, but not as effective.

I know, I know, it was only a friendly. Even so, it was very encouraging to see a somewhat experimental side pass the ball as well as they did and with a minimum of hoofing too. Indeed one might argue that a little more hoofing from some defensive positions might have been in order at times, but that could be construed as being churlish! What was particularly encouraging was seeing chances being created and then taken, though yet another penalty was wasted. That's 4 pens awarded since Skivo became manager and 4 pens missed. Where's Phil Jevons when you need him?

I've been accused of being overly negative in some of my posts on here and on the green room lately. I don't apologise for that as I believe a certain amount of pessimism over the coming season is justified. After all we will have one of the smallest squads in the division (though it appears already to be larger than last season's squad) working under the most inexperienced management team in the division, who'll be handling probably the smallest budget in the division. On the face of it everything seems stacked against us. And yet, and yet.... If we can play football of the standard we saw last night, take our chances and defend as strongly throughout the season, then you never know, we might just surprise a few people.... Oh hell, here I go again, waxing lyrical after one good performance in a pre-season friendly. Let's see what happens when the real stuff begins before going overboard. If nothing else it does appear that the football will be more entertaining this season and that at least is something to look forward to.

Monday, 27 July 2009

In's, out's and maybe's part 6

We're getting down to the business end of the pre-season now. Only two more friendlies to go and then the real thing begins at home to Tranmere in twelve days time. Bloody hell, that's less than a fortnight!

The friendly match at Dorchester on Saturday seemed to clarify a few things in Skivo's mind and evidently helped him to make final decisions on some of the trialists (happy, Mr Gleave?) we had left as well as the odd new face to turn up. A poor first half performance evidently confirmed the fate of several players, the Glovers going into the break 2-0 down to the Conference South outfit with the best player on the pitch being the Magpies ex-Glover, Nick Crittenden. Many substitutions later saw Yeovil turning things around, winning 3-2 eventually. In the aftermath winger Dean Morgan, utility player Ross Stearn and former Glover Kevin Gall were all shown the door marked 'exit'. It later emerged that Paul Terry will remain at the club to get fit but won't be offered a contract or take any further part in the friendlies left. I'm not going to say I'm glad Gall and Terry are out, I have too much respect for what both players achieved in their previous spells at the club, but at the same time I am sure that Skivo's made the right decision at this time. Good luck to them anyway.

In for a while, probably, is attacking midfielder George O'Callaghan. I say probably because although the club's official site has announced his imminent signing, there's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip, as the saying goes. Veteran official site watchers will recall the Les Afful saga with particular fondness in this regard. And I say 'for a while' because O'Callaghan is only due to sign a 'short-term contract' according to the club, presumably when his international clearance comes through. Edit - it's being claimed on the green room that the Irishman has now signed up, but there's been no official confirmation at the time of writing.

Also in, probably, are two I thought were out, but am happy to be wrong about. Danny Schofield and Terrell Forbes are the pair in question. Schofield has evidently withdrawn his transfer request after failing to attract any interest from Brighton settling down at last in the Yeovil area; and Forbes's contract extension I have on good authority is substantially longer than the very short time frame I originally guessed at, though not quite as long as the year extension as touted on the green room and he's also failed to attract any interest from Brighton. Obviously there's still a risk that offers for both players will come in before the end of the transfer window in August, but on the face of it we will have the services of two players that most L1 clubs would be pleased to include in their squads for the season, and that's got to be a good thing.

This leaves three trialists about whom there is still some uncertainty. Striker Dean Bowditch has attracted generally good notices from supporters who've watched him in the friendlies so far, but Skivo's public courting of last season's loan star Jon Obika may mean Bowditch's efforts are eventually fruitless. Unless the board allows Skivo to go for both players? No, let's not be silly.

The other two trialists are a mystery centre half, Konrad Schmidt, though Schmidt is an alias and nothing is known about him apart from that; and keeper Richard Martin, whose status (or lack of it) is well-documented but still not finalised. Tomorrow evening's home friendly against Bristol City will doubtless provide more grist for our collective mill.

Out for a while is the unfortunate Aidan Downes. The former Everton midfielder/striker has not enjoyed the best of luck since he signed a permanent contract at Huish Park, missing a large chunk of last season with various injuries, and he's out again for a while now, going into hospital for a shoulder operation as well as a knee scan. He's not really lived up to his billing as one for the future since he signed, mainly because he's never managed to put a consistent run of games together and once again he's now sidelined for a while. Let's hope he enjoys better luck when he does return.

Friday, 24 July 2009

And then there were none

The last of the Barnstaple 7 has left the club. You won't find anything about it on the club's official site as yet because that's not how this club does it's business, but it's true, Stuart Housley has finally left the building.

According to Ciderspace Stu has left Huish Park to join Wessex League side Shaftesbury, though in what capacity we're left to guess at. Stu had been acting as kitman recently at Yeovil, after he'd lost his job as youth team manager following the reorganisation of the youth set-up into a centre of excellence. There have been rumours recently of a bust-up behind the scenes between Stu and someone in the club hierarchy (not, it must be emphasised, anyone on the management/coaching side) but as usual with Yeovil the truth about what actually has happened is hidden behind a veil of secrecy, guesswork and rumour.

Whatever, this is football and people do move on. I first remember watching him at the old Huish in the Southern League-winning season in 1971. Stu was a pocket-battleship type winger on the right, small and low to the ground, a good dribbler with a decent cross. Of course he had to have a decent cross as he was always kicking the ball up the slope, at least when we were attacking the Brewery End. Those were the days! Housley on the right, Johnny Clancy on the left, Myers and Thompson in the middle, Dick Plumb (for a while) and Chris Weller up front, Len Harris, Bev Dixon, Mike Hughes and Paul Smith at the back, Tony Clark in goal.... That was a team that should have taken us into the football league, and if there was any justice they would have; but of course the old boys club and re-election conspired to keep us out until justice was finally done 30-odd years later. Stu was an integral part of that excellent side anyway and remained with us until '76 when, in a move that I personally, as a 15-year-old fan who ate slept and drank Yeovil Town, found hard to forgive - he transferred to Weymouth! I think that was the first time that my 15-year-old self realised that my heroes, the players in the green-and-white, didn't really think as us fans did and that to them playing football was a job, not necessarily a labour of love. It was a chastening moment.

I got over it anyway, and so did Stu, who eventually returned to Huish from the seaside scummers 4 years later. And he hasn't really left since, until now. As youth team manager he began the revolution that saw a regular supply of youth team players come through into the first team, something that has continued up to the arrival of the centre of excellence this season. He's been at various times a player, a coach, a manager, a kitman and, apparently, a superstar DJ. He's always been approachable and friendly towards ordinary supporters and our loss is Shaftesbury's gain. The best of luck to him there, he'll be missed by most of us.

Some news you will find on the official site: We've got a goalkeeper at last! Skivo has signed the 19-year-old Reading keeper Alex McCarthy, who impressed against Derby on Tuesday evening, on a 6-month loan deal. It's not completely clear as yet if McCarthy is set to be first-choice keeper or back-up, though Skivo did say last week that he would be offering former Man City youngster Richard Martin a contract as the back-up keeper, with a view to him pushing on to becoming the no.1 eventually. There's been no word yet as to whether that contract has actually been offered or if it's been accepted. If Martin does sign then what is certain is that, whoever is first-choice, we'll be relying on two very young and inexperienced goalkeepers, not an ideal situation in such a crucial area in my humble opinion. Still, hopefully McCarthy and/or Martin will go on to have excellent seasons and make me eat my words. Fingers crossed.

Just read: End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood: Part contemporary thriller, part sci-fi romp; two parallel stories with one connecting character that comes together by the end and even makes a kind of sense. Clever. Worth reading.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Yeovil 0 Derby County 2

The Glovers went down 2-0 to Championship outfit Derby County at Huish Park last night. It was a decent enough game, reasonably competitive for a pre-season friendly, and I guess both managers would have been encouraged by some of the things they saw. As for me, I thought I'd do a DNB, which as regulars on the green room will know does not necessarily entail walking around with a whippet on a piece of string, or mumbling 'trouble at t'mill' or 'hey oop' at odd intervals (though all those things are possible); no, doing a DNB in a green room context means awarding marks to the players, as follows:

1. Alex McCarthy - 7/10. Big tall fella, good shot stopper on last night's evidence and a massive kick, though his distribution wasn't always accurate. Worth another look.

2. Craig Alcock - 6/10. Typically average performance, some good things, some not so good. Solid enough.

4. Steven Caulker - 7/10. Bloody hell, this boy's a monster! If he's that big at 17 god knows what he's going to be like in 10 years time. Very impressive anyway, good in the air and on the deck and a good range of passing. Seemed to strike up a decent partnership with Stam.

5. Stefan Stam (Capt) - 6/10. My first glimpse of our new team skipper and I was reasonably impressed. Another tall defender as you might expect, did his job at the back and marshalled the defence well. Perhaps tried one ambitious pass too many at times for comfort.

3. Nathan Jones - 7/10. Played well. Combined nicely down the left with Andy Welsh and was a threat going forward. Great back-up to have for Nathan Smith and an example to the rest of the team in terms of fitness and enthusiasm.

8. Aidan Downes - 5/10. Bit of an up-and-down performance on the right. Provided one cracking chance which Tomlin should have taken, but too many crosses didn't get past the first defender. Didn't beat his full-back once that I remember, and didn't look awfully fit either, though that might be just his body-shape. More to come, hopefully.

6. George O'Callaghan - 6/10. Long, lanky streak of piss in central midfield who looks like a puff of wing would blow him over - but appearances can be deceptive. Put himself about well, stronger than he looked and competed well even though he and Murtagh were outnumbered in the middle. Good on the ball and always looking for that killer pass, even though they didn't quite come off last night. Definitely worth another look.

7. Keiran Murtagh - 6/10. Lots of energy, put himself about and tried to get forward, much more so than last season. Decent performance.

9. Andy Welsh - 6/10. Quiet at first, gradually came more into the game as time went on. Biggest threat came from set-pieces. More to come.

10. Gavin Tomlin - 5/10. Not his best game. Missed one sitter as provided by Downes and didn't seem on the same wavelength as Williams. Early days yet for that partnership however.

11. Sam Williams - 6/10. Marked him down a point for missing a penalty, but apart from that I was impressed. Good in the air, strong, led the line well and (cliche alert!) a good touch for a big man. Looking forward to seeing more of him.

Subs: 13. Richard Martin (60 mins for Alex McCarthy) - 5/10. Couldn't really blame him for either of the goals, but didn't have the same sheer presence in goal as his predecessor. Harsh to judge on one 30-minute appearance, but on this performance no better than Wagenaar. Yikes.

14. Paul Terry (82 mins for Craig Alcock) - N/A. Not on for long enough to make an impression.

15. Terrell Forbes (60 mins for Steven Caulker) - 5/10. Didn't look hugely interested in proceedings and distribution from back went downhill after he came on.

16. Danny Hutchins (60 mins for Nathan Jones) - 5/10. Didn't look entirely comfortable on the left, more to come from him I'm sure.

17. Gary Roberts (60 mins for George O'Callaghan) - 7/10. Typical all-action performance. Worked hard from box-to-box and put himself about as we've come to expect. Could be a very important player for us this season, if he can control himself on and off the field. Fingers crossed.

18. Danny Schofield (46 mins for Keiran Murtagh) - 4/10. Wants a transfer, and it showed.

19. Ryan Mason (46 mins for Gavin Tomlin) - 5/10. Tried hard but didn't quite get into the game, mainly because the supply from midfield had dried up by the time he got on. Good with the ball at his feet, obviously a lot more to come from him.

20. Dean Bowditch (60 mins for Sam Williams) - 5/10. Same as applies to Mason really, except he looked better in the air. Worth another look.

Kevin Gall (77 mins for Aidan Downes) - N/A. Not enough time to make an impression.

Ross Stearn (77 mins for Andy Welsh) - N/A. As above.

All in all a good workout for the squad. Disappointing that Scott Murray still isn't fit, let's hope he's not this season's Mark Bircham. We were competitive with Derby in the first half and could easily have gone into the break in the lead if Tomlin had made more of a very good chance made by Downes. We lost our way however after the substitutions on the 60 minute mark and in the end Derby could have scored a couple more than they did. As far as our style of play was concerned we appeared to be trying to play at a faster tempo than last season and were getting the ball forward quicker. The defence didn't seem as deep and the midfield as a whole looked to be getting forward more. Gavin Tomlin seemed to be playing further forward too, as a genuine second striker rather than as an attacking midfielder.

As for the opposition, I wasn't hugely impressed. Obviously as individuals certain players looked a cut above ours, but you would expect that from a club a division higher. Derby were solid and efficient enough, but didn't look to have that much creative spark about them. I'd be surprised to see them doing anything better than mid-table next season.

And having said all that, one should never read too much into what happens in friendly matches. They bear no comparison to the real thing and players that can look like world-beaters in the pre-season can just as easily fade away to nothing when the proper stuff comes along. Still, any football is better than none. Dorchester away are up next this Saturday, followed by TBCUTR at Huish Park next Tuesday. Hopefully by then the squad will be more or less settled for the coming season. It will need to be.

Monday, 20 July 2009

In's, out's and maybe's part 5

With less than 3 weeks to go before the new season kicks off with a home game against Tranmere, we still don't quite have a goalkeeper. That's the bad news. The good news is that the contract offer made to Josh Wagenaar has been withdrawn by the club, with Skivo saying that the Canadian stopper hadn't responded to the club's offer in the time frame specified. Talk about shooting himself in the foot - If Josh manages to find another football league club I'll be surprised, an L1 club or better and I'll eat my season ticket. I was critical of the decision to offer him a contract in the first place, so I'm not going to pretend I'm anything other than relieved he won't be here now. To be fair to him he did have one or two very good matches for us and is young enough to improve those areas of his game that are currently lacking, but we need someone who can do a job for us now, not someone with the potential to be good in a few years time. Good luck to him and thanks, but no thanks.

Anyhow, it seems that the rumour-mill has got it right for once. Over the last few days ITK's on the green room have been talking about Aldershot keeper Nikki Bull as our new no.1 and Skivo has today confirmed that he is indeed interested in signing the glovesman with a girly name. Skivo has also confirmed that he's offered a contract to triallist keeper Richard Martin, who'll be the back-up keeper if he accepts. The other triallist keeper, former Muffer Arran Lee-Barrett, has been released.

Another triallist who hasn't made the cut is Niall McArdle, the former Sunderland defender. This presumably leaves the likes of midfielders Kevin Gall and George O'Callaghan, plus strikers Dean Bowditch and Hamdi Razak still trialling at the club; though the latter two in particular may be wasting their time as Skivo has offered fellow striker Sam Williams a contract. As well as Williams, the gaffer has also not given up hope of signing last season's loan star Jon Obika on another long-term loan. We could be looking at a forward line consisting of a choice of Williams, Obika, Gavin Tomlin and Ryan Mason next season - a very young line-up to be sure, but also a potentially very exciting one. Pah, who am I kidding? Williams will turn us down, Obika will go to Millwall, Tomlin and Mason will get injured and we'll end up with Andre McCollin and someone else from an obscure Isthmian League club leading the line. I should know by now, it's the hope that hurts.

The last bit of news from Huish Park today perhaps throws some light on Terrell Forbes future at the club - or lack of it. Skivo has announced that Stefan Stam will be team captain next season and Scott Murray club captain, meaning no formal position of responsibility for last season's captain and long-serving senior professional Forbes. The Londoner signed an extension to his contract earlier this month, today's news would suggest that the extension will only last as long as it takes for another club to make him an offer. A shame if he does eventually go, Forbes has shown himself to be a solid, consistent and dependable performer at this level.

Finally, it was sad to see the South West Challenge Cup descend into farce and chaos following the Glovers defeat against Grimsby on Friday night. The Mariners subsequent withdrawal from the final of the tournament on Sunday after their successful semi-final win on the Saturday bore all the hallmarks of expediency and showed no regard whatsoever for either the tournament organisers or supporters. A poor show from a so-called professional club which knew the schedule of the tournament and its implications for them from the start. Everyone involved deserved better.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Challenge Cup giving grounds for concern?

The Glovers were beaten 3-2 by L2 outfit Grimsby in their latest - and now last - South West Challenge Cup match at Torrington yesterday evening. There's another full match report on the official site should you be interested. The result means that the Glovers are now out of the tournament and will be returning home, something that will be a relief to Glovers boss Terry Skiverton going by comments he made in the regional press yesterday, when he criticised the fact that, should we have won last night, the team would have had to play again less than 24 hours later in the semi-final and potentially again 24 hours after that, should they have progressed to the final. Grimsby boss Mike Newell made much the same points the day before. Mind you, it's all very well the respective managers moaning now, they were both well aware of the competition schedule before the tournament started, the time to complain should have been then.

All in all one begins to wonder if the club will enter the tournament next year. There are obvious benefits in taking the squad away from their familiar surroundings after a fortnight of hard training, but when games are then played on poor quality pitches and apparently officiated by referees more used to controlling games involving amateurs rather than professionals, added to the problems of an inflexible and potentially damaging schedule then perhaps the cons begin to outweigh the pros? At least the petty cash float appears to have returned home with no controversy this time around.

There's been no official word as yet as to which of the triallists have made a good impression on the week away. Posters on the green room who've been to the games have praised in particular the two Spurs lads, Ryan Mason and Steven Caulker and also the striker Sam Williams, for what their opinions are worth. The first home friendly of the season is on Tuesday night against Derby. I'll be there and am looking forward to getting my first glimpse of the new faces.

Well, I'll be there if I can buy a bloody ticket, that is. I was moderately surprised this morning to roll up to Huish Park to try and buy tickets for the Derby and Bristol City friendlies only to find the ticket office closed. I know, I should have checked the ticket office opening times first and if I had I would have realised that they don't open on a Saturday morning normally, but it never occurred to me that they wouldn't be open on the one day of the week when most people aren't at work. Stupid of me I know, and stupid of me to think that the club might be open when their customers want it to be open. I wasn't the only punter disappointed this morning by the way. While I was there a couple of other fans turned up to buy tickets only to go away grumbling. But why should the club worry? It's only money.

Ex-playerwatch: Paul Warne has re-joined Rotherham. Good luck to him.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Season review - October '08

After a mediocre and winless September the Glovers begin October stuck in the L1 relegation zone. And there's more bad news on the way with utility man Lee Peltier and left-back Nathan Smith both requiring operations on groin injuries. Added to that Aidan Downes is ruled out for 6 weeks with knee ligament knack and Mark Bircham for an unspecified time with severe ankle gah!..... Former Glover Jerry Gill leaves Cheltenham to become assistant manager at Forest Green Rovers..... After missing out on the likes of Kevin Kyle, Gifton Noel-Williams and Stuart Fleetwood, Yeovil boss Russell Slade is given permission by the club's board to bring in a striker on a month's loan - providing he can balance the books by losing someone off the payroll for a similar amount of time..... Keeper Josh Wagenaar is called up for world cup duty by Canada.... The Glovers slip to their first home defeat of the season, going down 2-1 to Southend. To make matters worse both Danny Schofield and Gary Roberts are sent off.... Lee Peltier and Nathan Smith go under the knife. They'll be out until mid-November.... The club appeals against Danny Schofield's red card and subsequent 3-match ban - the appeal is upheld and the ban rescinded.... The club announces a four week consultation period for supporters to submit their views and suggestions on the implementation of a Membership and Loyalty Card scheme.... Blink and you'd have missed him - James Dayton returns to Crystal Palace at the end of his loan spell..... More fallout from the Southend defeat: Russell Slade is charged with "improper conduct" by the FA in the aftermath of the red cards shown to 2 of his players. Slade will request a personal hearing..... Experienced striker Wayne Andrews plays for the reserves, but no deal is forthcoming and he's off to try his luck at Luton.... Two players come in on loan, enabling the club to name a full bench for the trip to Northampton. They are Gareth Owen, a central defender from Stockport; and Scott Rendell, a striker from Peterborough.... The results are still not getting any better however, Yeovil going down 3-0 at Sixfields to stay rooted in the relegation zone. Cobblers! To add insult to injury Terrell Forbes receives a red card for violent conduct but this time there are no grounds for an appeal. He's banned for 3 games.... No time to dwell on the defeat however as fellow strugglers Crewe arrive at Huish Park for a 6-pointer - and the Glovers get their first home win of the season, beating the Railwaymen 3-2 in a pulsating game watched, unfortunately, by only 3,536 - the first time in the Glovers football league existence that the crowd for a league match has dropped below 4,000.... Midfielder Gary Roberts, currently still officially on loan, is reported to be on the verge of signing a permanent contract with the Glovers.... There's another potential 6-pointer against another struggling side in the shape of Leyton Orient, but in the event neither side are pleased with a 0-0 bore draw.... There is a god! Yeovil get drawn at home for a change in the 1st round of the FA Cup, to fellow L1 outfit Stockport.... In an interview in the regional press, manager Russell Slade attacks unnamed individuals at the club, slamming their "negativity". Who can he mean?.... A point at home to Orient was disappointing, a point away at Huddersfield pleasing - the end result the same, another 0-0 draw, with on-loan keeper Asmir Begovic in outstanding form.... Despite being currently sidelined by injury Nathan Smith is attracting interest from Championship and Premiership sides, according to Russell Slade.... Gary Roberts signs a permanent 2.5 year deal with the Glovers, selling club Crewe get a 'small fee plus a sell-on percentage'...

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Plucky minnows almost cause a shock

Congratulations are due to plucky minnows Weymouth. The Conference South outfit came within 45 minutes of recording a real upset at the Wessex Stadium last night when their first team went 2-0 up against Yeovil Town u-18's by half-time. Unfortunately the brave part-timers couldn't sustain their challenge against the football league side's youngsters, gradually allowing the Glovers back into the match. Doubtless the fact that the Yeovil side contained nine 16-year-olds unfairly meant that they could run around faster than their grown men counterparts on the Weymouth team and the Yeovil goals were lucky too, probably. The final score was 2-2, but the 350-strong, er, crowd went home happy secure in the knowledge that if the Terras can push a centre of excellence football league side so close to a defeat then a mid-table spot in the Conference South is there for the taking. Possibly.

Fair play, it's easy to laugh at them now, and young Yeovil supporters (anyone aged under 30, basically) won't remember this, but at one time Weymouth used to be quite good. When I say quite good I mean they were roughly on a par with the mighty Glovers. We used to be in the same league for a lot of the time and the rivalry between the sides and both sets of supporters was pretty intense. It may seem hard to believe now but some derbies in the '50's attracted crowds of over 10,000 to Huish, and even in the '60's and '70's an attendance of 6,000+ was nothing unusual whenever the Terras came to town. Have a look at HHH's potted history of the rivalry between the club's for a flavour of the history involved.

Things are different nowadays. We're still getting crowds of 6,000+, but that's against the likes of Leeds United, not the Muff, or the seaside scummers as we jocularly called them. We are football league, they are conference south and the only time we ever play them - unlikely FA Cup ties apart - are in pre-season friendlies. It's sad to say it, but they're not our rivals anymore. They're a joke club now, fit only to be laughed at.


More on the Lee Peltier transfer: A very, very good source close to the board has come up with the info that the up-front figure the club received from Huddersfield for Peltier was (drum-roll) £150,000. For what it's worth I'm more inclined to believe this figure than the previously reported £250,000 which a certain friend of the chairman was pushing on the green room recently as being the real fee. The daft thing is that £150,000 up front without having to wait for any installments isn't an unreasonable deal for a player out-of-contract in 12 months time who was (apparently) attracting no interest this time around from any other club, so again, why not tell us that? Give the supporters the facts, what am I saying? What a radical idea, it'll never catch on.

Just read: Gridlinked by Neal Asher. Superior space-opera, nothing more, nothing less. I know a lot of people turn up their noses at any kind of science-fiction but that's their loss. Sheer escapism of course, but nothing wrong with that now and then. Recommended.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Just like London buses...

... You wait for ages for news of even one new player and all of a sudden there's nine to talk about!

The Glovers week away in North Devon started well last night with a 5-0 win over Belgian outfit RRFC Montegnee. There's a good match report on the club's official site for those who haven't seen it yet.

More interesting and relevant than the score against the Belgian equivalent of Team Bath however is news of the identities of the various new players/triallists/loanees currently looking for contracts at Huish Park, though before I start on them it appears we've certainly lost at least one face from last week and possibly another two or three as well: Dan Harding has moved on after training with us for a week and is now on trial at Brighton. Doubtless that's the last we shall see of him. Added to that Paul Terry and Andy Lindegaard were conspicuous by their absence from last night's teamsheet. That's not conclusive proof they've moved on of course, but it would be surprising if they were to play any more of a part of the pre-season build-up than they already have, for the reasons discussed last week. No mention of keeper Darren Behcet last night either, though no news doesn't necessarily mean he's moved on either. One player who most definitely is still playing a part is Kevin Gall, who started as a right winger last night.

So who has come in? The good news is that we've got a couple more Spurs lads on loan, though we don't as yet know how long the loans will be for - I suspect that Skivo will be quite rightly keeping his options open on that by taking them for a month initially with a view to a longer deal if the pair work out, as I sincerely hope they will. The players concerned are attacking midfielder/striker Ryan Mason and defender Steven Caulker. I'm delighted in particular with the Mason signing. Loath as I am to blow my own trumpet I was suggesting we should go for him on the green room last season and indeed on this very blog a couple of months ago. He scored a lot of goals for the successful Spurs youth team last season and plays as a second striker or as an attacking midfielder in front of two main strikers. A very exciting prospect and I'm looking forward to seeing him play. I know less about the other lad but by all accounts he's highly thought of at Tottenham and has a good future ahead of him so we'll see. It appears that Mason in particular trained with us at some point last season with a view to joining us this season so kudos to Skivo - he evidently knows how to identify good young players and has the trust of no less a character than Harry Redknapp to develop them properly. The relationship that has sprung up with Spurs could be very important to us in the future, long may it continue.

Edit - it's now been confirmed that both loan deals are for one month initially.

As I said above, there was no mention of Darren Behcet on last night's teamsheet. Two goalkeepers did feature however, Richard Martin was released by Manchester City in June; and Arran Lee-Barrett, a former Muffer who left Hartlepool at the end of last season. Josh Wagenaar is still on international duty with Canada at the CONCACAF Gold Cup at present, though he is yet to start a game in the tournament.

That leaves 5 other triallists to report. They are strikers Dean Bowditch, Hamdi Razak, and Sam Williams; midfielder George O'Callaghan and defender Niall McArdle. All played at least some of the game at Appledore last night. It's pointless for me to provide more biographical detail on all the above here, see the Ciderspace news page here and here for more information.

Next up for the Glovers are Grimsby at Torrington this Friday, followed by a possible semi-final on Saturday and maybe even the dizzy heights of the final itself on Sunday, be still my beating heart. We'll have a better idea of who's in Skivo's plans for the new season this time next week, when Derby County visit us for the first home friendly.

Away from news of new players and triallists I was amused to see that our former local rivals Weymouth are describing tonight's friendly at the Wessex Stadium against our youth team as Weymouth v a 'Yeovil Town XI' and are saying on their official site that we will be playing our reserve squad against their first team. Earth calling Terras, Earth calling Terras: It's the youth team lads, in fact it's likely to be a mixture of the u-18's and u-16's. Good luck to the Muff anyway, if their first team can't beat our yoofs tonight then perhaps we'll send the u-14's next time. Remember when we used to be in the same league as them? Seems an awful long time ago now.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

The summer of silent speculation

I thought that when pre-season training started that we would be awash with speculation about incoming players, possible triallists, sightings of Premiership starlets and their WAGS in ASDA and much more besides, but instead there's been, well, not a lot really. I'm not sure if that's because we're genuinely not looking at anyone in particular, or because we're being much more succesful than usual in keeping our targets secret; either way it's very quiet. Just as well perhaps then that it's that time of year again, the time of year supporters pack their buckets and spades and head on down to North Devon for the South West Challenge Cup. I went on the trip myself last year for the inaugural tournament and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but once was enough and I'll be staying home this time around.

The Glovers play their first match against Belgian outfit RRFC Montegnee at Appledore's Marshford ground on Monday evening, 6pm kick-off. Marshford boasts a welcoming clubhouse, a metal rail running around the entire pitch and, er, that's it really. The pitch itself has a bigger slope than the old Huish at one end, running from one side to the other; but is fairly flat at the other end - a football league stadium it ain't.

The second game is on the following Friday, against L2 side Grimsby, at Torrington. I haven't been to this ground, but seeing as they play in the same league as Appledore would imagine it's of a similar size and standard.

As far as the squad is concerned, it will be interesting to see exactly who is and who's not on the bus. Speaking to the Western Gazette on Thursday, Skivo said that he was going to take a squad of 20 to North Devon, though he was still looking for another defender, striker and goalkeeper. Given that we have only 16 contracted players at present, including Skivo and coach Nathan Jones, then that would suggest that the likes of Kevin Gall, Paul Terry and Dan Harding will still be with us and presumably Darren Behcet too, otherwise we'll be going to North Devon with a goalkeeping coach but no actual keeper. There's no use in speculating too much at the moment however, best to wait until Monday, when presumably we'll know more.

Just read: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. A terrific fictionalised account chronicling the rise of Thomas Cromwell, architect of Henry VIII's Reformation. It's a long, multi-layered book but a very satisfying read which really brings the period to life. My only criticism would be of the author's habit of using the pronoun 'he' whenever referring to Cromwell, which sometimes leads to confusion in the narrative. But that minor quibble aside I've no hesitation in highly recommending Wolf Hall to anyone, whether you're interested in that period of English history or not. It's a book that stays with you for a long time after you've put it down.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Back to the future

After the fun and frolics of Skivo's testimonial game we're back to the reality of pre-season training, and reality is the right word with the news that three former players who took part in the weekend's festivities are still with us. There's no word on whether the three - Andy Lindegaard, Paul Terry and Kevin Gall - are training with a view to staying permanently or merely getting fit before trying out elsewhere.

For what it's worth I would be slightly concerned if we took any of them on permanently. Taking them one-by-one, Lindy is a right-back by preference though of course can play virtually anywhere on the pitch except centre-half, but we already have 2 versatile right-backs in Craig Alcock and Danny Hutchins, so one really can't see a space in the squad for him.

Paul Terry is perhaps the most consistent player of the three but we're not currently short of central midfielders, with Kieran Murtagh, Gary Roberts and Danny Schofield all contracted (three central midfielders? Luxury! But you try telling the kids that today...), though there are question marks over both Roberts and Schofield. But Terry has been linked very heavily with Conference side Luton lately and of course originally left Somerset to move nearer his London home. He played in most of Leyton Orient's games last season and is a proven, ball-winning centre midfielder of the type we could always do with, so I wouldn't entirely rule him out of Skivo's possible thinking. But I wouldn't start crying if he was gone by the weekend either.

Kevin Gall is the last of the old-timers. Ah Gally. Gally, Gally, Gally. As much as I like my fellow Welshman I have to say I'll be quite dismayed if we sign him up. Lovely fella, good turn of pace and couldn't hit a barn door from two feet away. Since leaving us for Carlisle in 2006 he's played for the Cumbrians and gone out on loan to Darlington, Lincoln and Port Vale; 74 league games in total and 9 league goals to show for it. He hasn't scored on a consistent basis since he formed his league-winning partnership with Kirk Jackson in the Conference back in 2002-03 and the suspicion must be that that was his best year and it's been all downhill since. There must be hungrier, younger, faster, better players out there who'd like to play for us? Please?

Aside from the former three there's one new face training at the club this week, and this one is something of a surprise. Former Ipswich Town left-back/left-sided midfielder Dan Harding is that man and on the face of it he's far too good for us and probably far too expensive in terms of wages too. So why's he here? Keep your fingers crossed, hope for the best and expect him to sign for a bigger club imminently. Imagining anything else will just lead to disappointment, or madness. Or both.

Good news (on the face of it): Terrell Forbes has signed a contract extension! I would be more enthusiastic about this news if it weren't for the fact that Lloyd Owusu did exactly the same thing this time last season, only to jump ship a month or so later for Cheltenham. The official site gives no details as to how long the extension is for and the suspicion must be that it's a short-term deal. Very short-term. Very, very short-term. Very, very, very short-term indeed. We'll see.

Finally, one player we've been linked to in the press would now appear to be out of our reach. Peterboro have accepted an offer of £150,000 from an unnamed club for striker Rene Howe, according to Posh DoF Barry Fry. Of course you never know with Barry, he might be telling the truth or talking complete bollocks, but if that is the kind of money Peterboro are looking for then we presumably have moved on to other targets by now.

Currently watching: The new series of Top Gear on BBC2. I refused to watch this programme for years, mainly because of frontman Jeremy Clarkson, who I always thought was probably the biggest prick on television. Not only that, but a former girlfriend used to insist we put the programme on and she'd sit on the sofa and literally laugh herself silly at his antics which used to irritate me immensely. She had to go and so did Clarkson. I hated the bloke with a passion and swore a mighty oath that whenever he came on my tv I'd either turn over to another channel or throw a brick through the screen. And for years that's exactly what I did, which began to get expensive, especially when plasmas came along. Anyway, one day I was at a friend's house watching the box as you do, when along came a repeat of an old Top Gear, the one when they had to turn ordinary vehicles into working boats and drive them to a lake, and then into the lake, sink or swim. To cut a long story short I watched the programme and was hooked. I laughed and laughed myself and thereafter began to watch all the re-runs on Dave. And I realised eventually that it doesn't matter that the main presenter is one of the biggest pricks to ever have walked this earth and the other two are public-school non-entities with nothing very interesting to say because together they become a sum much greater than their original parts. Top Gear works precisely because Clarkson is a prick, the little one an enthusiastic prat and the hippy a bit of a ponce. Together, they have a chemistry that works, that makes for entertaining tv. It took me a long time to realise this, but I'm there now and am thoroughly enjoying the new series. I'd just like to apologise to my ex for not getting the Top Gear appeal back then. Mea culpa! I get it now.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Skivo's game's a good 'un, part 2

Following on from last night's brief post I'd just like to reiterate what an enjoyable day it was at Huish Park yesterday. It was great to see a decent crowd turn out for Skivo and especially good to see so many ex-players wearing the green-and-white (or the green-and-black) once again. Match details can be found here and here; and some photo's taken from the back of the Blackthorn Stand are online here.

Things I enjoyed in particular: The return of Gary Johnson. You don't know what you've lost 'til it's gone, as the song says, but I think we all knew exactly what we lost when Gary went up the road to Bristol City - not only the finest manager this club has ever had, but also a strong character, a charismatic leader and a genuinely nice man to boot. The Blackthorn Stand's reaction to him was spot on - beginning with the 'Hey, Gary Johnson, (ooh ah!) I wanna know, do you love the Town' chant; followed by 'We hate City and we hate City, we are the City haters' immediately after his acknowledgement. Well, you probably had to be there, but it was funny at the time. Very funny also when the great man put himself on as a player late in the second half and performed an outrageous dive in the box, followed by his pantomime air of injured innocence as the Blackthorn Stand chanted 'Same old City, always cheating!'. All good knockabout stuff.

Smashing too, to see the likes of Lee Johnson, Super Gavin Williams, Adam Lockwood, Kirk Jackson, Kevin Gall, Gareeeee, Andy Wallace, the mighty Paul Thorne, Andy Lindegaard and Warren Patmore amongst others all back on the Huish Park pitch. My own personal favourite moment came in the second half with Wazza rising at the near post like a 'leaping salmon' as Ciderspace described it though he reminded me more of a jumping spermwhale, to power a header into the net. That brought back a few memories.... Very nice to see former manager Colin Lippiatt yesterday as well, good to see he doesn't hold any grudges after the somewhat unsatisfactory way he left the club all those years ago. The moment of the match came right at the end however, when Darren Way came on for a very brief cameo, his first appearance since the car accident which so nearly cost him his life last year. The reaction of the crowd and his teammates was very moving, a real lump in the throat moment.

A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon then, and a fitting tribute to Skivo. I know in this day and age that a lot of people disagree with the very idea of testimonial matches, arguing that players are handsomely rewarded as it is and why should they get even more? I would probably agree with this point of view when it's applied to the bloated millionaires of the Premiership, but I hardly think a man who's been plying his trade in the Conference and the lower levels of the football league is going to be able to retire for life at the end of his playing career, whether or not as in Skivo's case he goes on to have a career still in the game. Playing football for a living is a precarious business even at the top, the truth is that whoever you are you're only as good as your last match and careers can be finished by one misplaced tackle at any time. Ten years as a first-team regular at one club in the modern age is rare, much rarer than it was when I began watching football in the 70's, and it deserves to be celebrated. And celebrated it was, and in style. Congratulations Terry, here's to the next 10 years!

Edit - more photos of the day are online here; and Seb White's excellent blog on what the day meant to him is here.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Skivo's game's a good 'un

Just a quickie tonight, but what a terrific event at Huish Park this afternoon. Just over 3,000 turned up for Skivo's testimonial game and if you missed it for any reason you missed a good one. Not a properly competitive game obviously, it could hardly be that with the bare minumum of physical contact, but a tremendous event nonetheless, as well as a real laugh at times. So good to see so many familiar faces play football in Glovers colours again, and the piece-de-resistance of Darren Way's cameo at the end was genuinely moving, even for a hard-bitten cynical bastard like me. Congratulations to all involved and to Skivo himself, he deserves all the plaudits he's been getting. More tomorrow!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

SP on the wing again

Yes, it's true. Our favourite ex-player and Scotland B-international Michael McIndoe is on his bike again, Sheffield Utd the latest lucky club to sample Macca's talents. To be fair he's got a decent chance of getting into the Premiership with them, more so than with Uncle Gary's mob at any rate. Enough of former players anyway, we've got our own Scottish B-international winger to talk about. Scott Murray has signed on the dotted line for the next season. Or is it two? The official site couldn't make up it's mind yesterday, firstly reporting it as a two-year deal before changing its mind later and scaling back to a single year. Whatever, let's hope he lives up to the hype and is as good as Bristol City fans seem to think he is. One good thing about his arrival is that it's pissed off Exeter fans who up until yesterday were very confident he was going to sign for them. Up yours, Grecians! You're playing with the big boys now.

Ahem! The squad reported back for pre-season training yesterday and the best of British luck to them in these temperatures. 30 degrees C may well be acceptable in Spain or Portugal but it's too bloody hot for me. Interesting to see who turned up for training anyway: Terrell Forbes for one. Last year's club captain is officially out of contract now, there's still been no word as to whether he's even been offered a deal or not, but the fact that he's out there sweating with the rest of the squad is hopefully a good sign. No sign of Steve Collis but we do have one ex-keeper back for at least a couple of weeks on trial: Darren Behcet is that man. Better known as Steve Mildenhall's understudy, Behcet's been scratching around at various non-league clubs since leaving us a year or so ago. No offence to him, but unless he's drastically improved in the meantime then I can't see him offering the solution to our problems now.

Other interesting sightings at training include former midfielder Paul Terry. He's been released by Leyton Orient and the story goes that he's here to get fit before Skivo's testimonial match on Saturday (for which I've now got my ticket!). Gary Roberts is also back, as is Danny Schofield. Someone who won't be coming however is David Noble. Skivo has now ruled out any offer to last season's loanee, reading between the lines it appears that concerns about the ex-Bristol City midfielder's refuelling habits has influenced that decision, and fair enough too: One pisshead at the club is more than enough.

Other bits and pieces: We've been linked in the press to Peterborough striker Rene Howe, who's a fairly useful big unit by all accounts. Former player Paul Warne is currently training at L2 outfit Rotherham. Er, that's it.