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Monday, 31 August 2009

There used to be a football club over there

My assault on the bookies bank vaults didn't quite go to plan on Saturday, though through no fault of my own. Indeed, around fifteen minutes after the start of the Glovers away match at Huddersfield it seemed like my masterplan was working beautifully, with Yeovil already 1-0 in the lead through a Kieran Murtagh superstrike and Gavin Tomlin about to place the ball on the spot to take a penalty to put us 2-0 up and surely kill the game.... Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men; or, to put it another way, as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport. To put it a third and final (I promise!) way, it's the hope that hurts. Tomlin missed the penalty, 20 minutes later Huddersfield were level and, wouldn't you know it, sneaked an undeserved winner in the second half. Final score: Huddersfield 2 Yeovil Town 1. Grrrrr. Another fiver bites the dust, more importantly 3 more points go begging.

Still, by all accounts we played well and caused our hosts more problems than any other League One side they've faced so far this season. The Norwich debacle aside we've been competitive with everyone we've met so far and there are encouraging signs, but it all counts for nothing unless (a) we defend better and (b) score when we've got the chance. Easy this football lark, eh?

Tomorrow night we travel to local rivals AFC Bournemouth for the first round Piss-Pot Autopaint Windscreens Texaco Trophy tie, or whatever the hell the knock-out competition for L1/2 clubs is called these days. Seeing as it's the only trophy we have a realistic if unlikely chance of winning then hopefully we'll put out a strong side, though actually we don't really have the luxury of playing the reserves as of course we don't have a second string anymore. I would imagine that Skivo will make as few changes as he has to from the side that started at the Galpharm, but can I put in a request for Andy Welsh on the left wing and Nathan Smith at left-back please? Thank you.

Gambling corner: Yikes, this is getting serious now. The Cherries are 11/10 favourites, the draw is 12/5 and a Glovers win 21/10. I wish I could be more optimistic that we can get something out of a match against a side from the division below us, but I can't. Our record in this tournament is appalling, one good night against QPR in 2001 notwithstanding, and Bournemouth have had a good start to the season in League Two. For the first time ever I'm going to bet against a Yeovil side, my fiver's going on the home win. Ugh, I hope I lose. Running total: -£12.50p

There used to be a football club over there: The running joke and soap opera that is Weymouth FC is getting close to the punchline. A statement has been posted on the club's official site giving advance notice of the board's intention of calling in the administrators in 10 days time if investment of £50,000 is not forthcoming from someone - anyone - in the meantime. As the only people seemingly interested in investing in the Muff these days are fantasists then administration would therefore seem inevitable. And in the Muff's case administration could easily turn into liquidation, as their only asset is the crumbling wreck that is the Wessex Stadium, which is more-or-less worthless as the land and access surrounding the ground is owned by former chairman and property developer Malcolm Curtis, who coincidentally happens to be the club's biggest creditor - though it's never been adequately explained exactly how the former chairman who presided over the giveaway of the land surrounding the Wessex to, er, himself, spent the £250,000 the club apparently owes him, half of their total overall debt. Nice work though, if you can get it.

Whatever the rights and wrongs and whoever is to blame, what is undeniable is that Weymouth Football Club is in deep, deep trouble. This goes beyond what can be raised by bucket collections, race nights and bingo. It's not inconceivable that in 10 days time a club that means as much to its supporters as Yeovil Town FC means to us will cease to exist. And that will be sad. When my mate Tom rings me up from Bridport on a Monday morning to chat about the weekend's results who can we laugh at and take the piss out of if the Muff have gone? Dorchester? Bath City? Bournemouth? Exeter? Not the same, not at all. I'll leave the last word to the great and venerable Sage Seth:

On Weymouth beating Yeovil 1-0 in the F.A. Cup 4th qualifying round second replay 12th November 1973:

I was distraught, my child’s world crumbling around me. The thought of yet another season coming to an end on a wet Saturday afternoon in November, whilst having to endure Weymouth’s name being read in the first round results on Grandstand. The world was a dark and grim place and we were not famous anymore. Worse still, they might be. Yet the Green and White Guru’s words were uncannily prophetic. I have the programme before me now and can make out my pencil notes, oddly streaked with tears. But the Sage said;

"You’re all of a fluster now and they’re the top dogs, blowing their horns and ringing their bells up the Dorchester road. And you’re thinking that’s it but who knows in twenty years time, they’ll be playing in some down in the mouth league with a ground on the edge of a trading estate and wind blowing through rusty, metal stands and the sea peeling off their disgusting pale blue paint." The Sage took another sip from his oxo and added this philosophical twist. "And will you be glad? Maybe you’ll think you will. Maybe you think you’ll be leaping up and down. But is that what you want? Your most hated enemy to be so down in the heel that it’s not worth hating them anymore? In a rum kind of way you’ll feel sorry for them."

Wise words. Good luck Weymouth.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Bookies giving money away!

Just a quickie post today ahead of the Glovers 12am kick-off tomorrow morning at Huddersfield. The bookies have got to be having a laugh with their odds on this game, surely? I know, don't call me Shirley.

For the record they have Huddersfield as odds-on favourites at 4/7, the draw at a very tempting 3/1 and a Yeovil win at an almost irresistible 5/1. I sometimes wonder who it is who sets the odds for these games and do they look at anything beyond the facts of league positions/size of clubs and the plainly bloody obvious? I don't know why I'm moaning really, as this is one of those times that fans can take advantage of the bookies relative ignorance.

Doubtless the bookies will have taken note that it's that huge giant Huddersfield at home to tiny Yeovil. They'll have noted that the Terriers have won all 3 of their home games this season, scoring 13 and only conceding 3; and they've set their odds accordingly. What they are ignoring is that the Glovers record at the Galpharm is pretty good - we've played there 5 times in total, winning twice, drawing once and losing twice. Added to that Yeovil have had a week without a game and welcome back injured players who make a big difference to our side - the likes of Stefan Stam, Nathan Smith and Ryan Mason are all fit for Saturday.

Huddersfield on the other hand have lost their player of the season Gary Roberts (no relation to our ex) for Saturday's game, as well as midfielder Tom Clarke (no relation etc) and might also be without several others including former Glover Lee Peltier, who was concussed on Wednesday night. Ah yes, Wednesday night - while our squad had their feet up relaxing and preparing for this weekend, Huddersfield were slogging their guts out against Newcastle Utd's reserve team in the League Cup, losing 4-3 in an energy-sapping game and breaking their hearts in the process. Added to all that (if all that wasn't enough) this weekend the Huddersfield Giants rugby league side play at Wembley in the RL equivalent of the FA Cup Final and the majority of Huddersfield will have buggered off to London with them, leaving the Galpharm Stadium resembling the Marie Celeste, hopefully. Of course if we had demanded to have kicked-off at the normal time of 3pm then there might have been a chance of the away fans out-numbering the home fans which would have been a first, but that that's not going to happen now. Still, the 12am kick-off while disadvantaging the travelling Glovers also doesn't help the Huddersfield side's recovery from their midweek efforts, so it's all swings and roundabouts.

All of which taken together points to there being a very good chance that the bookies have got it horribly wrong, for once. The only question is should I bet on the draw, or the Yeovil win? Or both?! £2.50 on the draw and the away win returns either £7.50 or £12.50, minus the £5 stake - so a profit of either £2.50 or £7.50, depending on the result being a draw or an away win. Of course a straight fiver on the draw returns £15 and the same on the away win a (relatively) massive £25! You pays yer money and you makes yer choice.... Sod it, faint heart never won fair lady, as the saying goes. My fiver's going on the away win! Running total: -£7.50p

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Football's gone mad

It's a quiet week for YTFC, due to us being knocked out of the League Cup. And no bad thing that, either, though the club's accountants would doubtless disagree. It's been a busy fortnight since the start of the new season with 5 games in 14 days and no doubt both Skivo and the players are glad of a few days now without a competitive fixture to recharge the batteries before the circus begins again on Saturday at Huddersfield and a midday kick-off, of all the absurd times to be playing a fixture over 200 miles away. Bloody hell, that was a long sentence.

I don't do away games any more so it makes no real difference to me what time an away fixture kicks-off, but if I was a regular traveller I'd be more than a mite annoyed at the timing of the Huddersfield game. I note that the supporters buses are leaving Yeovil at 5am on Saturday to get oop north in time for kick-off, a ridiculous time to be up in the morning on a voluntary basis. I know that the reason for the early kick-off is due to the Huddersfield Giants playing at Wembley at 3pm on the same day and can certainly understand the wish of HTFC to maximise their crowd by not kicking off at the same time as the rugby; what I don't understand is why Yeovil are going along with it. Would it not be better for us to play them at the normal time in an almost-empty stadium with a few hundred away fans making most of the noise, rather than at midday in a rather fuller ground with only a handful of away fans present because a fair percentage of the regular travellers have decided not to bother due to the early start? Why are we helping our rivals out and disadvantaging our away fans? Answers on a postcard to M. Starnes, CEO, Huish Park, Yeovil, Somerset.

Football's gone mad, part 1: A 35 year-old footballer signed a 5 year deal (5 years!) with L2 outfit Notts County yesterday. Sol Campbell, a name very familiar to most football fans throughout the world over the last few years, will be plying his trade for County in League Two (division 4 in old money) and will be getting paid more for that than some offers he received from Premiership clubs, £750k a year according to his agent. At the same time County are paying ex-England manager Sven Goran Eriksson £2 million a year for 5 years (5 years!) to act as Director of Football and have signed Kaspar Schmeicel from Manchester City on a 5 year deal (5 bloody years!) and similarly exorbitant wages; all on gates that averaged around 4,500 last season. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out what will happen to the country's oldest professional club should the new owners tire of their new toy and the inevitable huge losses that will certainly follow. I've no idea how Notts County fans are reacting to events, but if their club is still around in a decade's time in it's current form I'll be surprised. Actually I daresay Notts County fans are just like the rest of us - hoping for the best and half-expecting the worst. Fans with their glasses half-full will point out that Chelsea's fans dreams came true when Abramovich and his billions took over their club and turned them into one of the most successful club sides in the world, who's to say the same can't happen at County, eventually? Those fans worried about what happens when it all goes tits up will all be shouted down, or told to bugger off and go start up AFC Notts County if they don't like it. Either way, things will never be the same again at Meadow Lane.

Football's gone mad, part 2: Depressing scenes in and around Upton Park last night with far too many fat men of my age re-living the 'glory' days of their youth. It would be nice to think that the FA will grow some balls and take real action against both clubs, but you just know they'll bottle it. Regardless of the sanctions applied to individuals found guilty of breaking the law both clubs should be kicked out of the League Cup competition and made to play league games behind closed doors. Why not? West Ham fans seem to have been the main instigators of most of the trouble last night, but Millwall fans were equally enthusiastic participants. Punish both clubs equally and punish them hard so the fans are hurt too. It's the only way to stop the nonsense in the end. But of course we're talking about the FA here, so expect a particularly stern telling-off followed by heavy fines of less than half of your average Premiership player's weekly wage, suspended for 2 years. The more some things change, the more they stay the same.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

That's entertainment!

There's good news and there's bad news following yesterday's home fixture v Leyton Orient. The good news is that Skivo's attacking football philosophy continues to bear fruit, the Glovers scoring 3 and could, maybe should have had a couple more. The bad news is that we still look horribly exposed defensively at times and let in 3, which could, maybe should have been a couple more. Final score: Yeovil 3 Orient 3. At least no-one can complain about the entertainment.

On a personal note I had a slight problem while trying to watch the game when, just after half-time, a couple of green room 'personalities' who'd somehow escaped from their usual haunts in the Westland Community Stand (or Main Stand in old money) came and sat next to me in the Cowlin, the kind of unwelcome distraction anyone could do without. I'll spare their blushes by not divulging their forum names, but 'Pinky and Perky' know who they are. Pinky, a well-known local orthodontical technician, was in good form, apparently due to his son (a) getting a job and (b) leaving home; but Perky was not quite his usual sparkling self. He was missing his usual partner in crime who apparently has refused to attend matches in August because it's still the cricket season, and also because he's lost his beret. I have every sympathy with the missing supporter if he has to put up with Pinky and Perky every match. If I had to sit next to them at every game I don't think I'd come back until the new year.

Anyway, despite the irritating babble coming from either side of me during the second half I was able to notice that Skivo made 4 changes from the Exeter game in the end, 3 of the changes forced by injury. We lined up as follows:

1. Alex McCarthy - 6/10: Let in three but not for the first time this season was left horribly exposed by some poor defending for all three goals. Unlucky.

2. Craig Alcock - 6/10: A curate's egg of a performance, or good in parts. Handy going forward and unlucky not to score, but lacking defensively at times. Should have stopped Andros Townsend's run for his wondergoal before he got started, even at the expense of a booking.

6. Terrell Forbes - 5/10: Solid most of the time, but was (jointly) at fault for a couple of Orient's goals. Distribution poor.

5. Steven Caulker - 5/10: Second-best in the air to striker James Scowcroft much of the time. Still looks class, even if this wasn't his best game.

3. Nathan Jones - 5/10: Didn't do much wrong but didn't do much right either. Didn't do much of anything to effect the game one way or another. Well, he shouted a lot, but that was it.

22. Danny Schofield - 8/10: Comfortably his best game of the season so far. A real threat on the right wing and scored a cracker. More of the same please!

7. George O'Callaghan - 5/10: Not his best game. Struggled to be involved except on the fringes.

8. Keiran Murtagh - 7/10: Good box-to-box display. Deserves a run in the side now.

11. Andy Welsh - 8/10: Another who put in his best performance of the season so far. Involved in all our goals and was unfortunate not to score himself. More of the same please!

10. Gavin Tomlin - 7/10: Can't fault his effort nor his guts. Not so certain about his goalscoring instinct. Just got the feeling that a natural goalscorer in the positions he gets himself into would be far more clinical in front of goal. He's working hard on the training pitch to improve, but does he have that natural instinct? The jury's still out.

26. Jonathan Obika - 7/10: Not much doubt about his goalscoring instinct however. Took his goal clinically, if anything would like to see him shoot more from distance.

Subs: 9. Sam Williams (80 mins for Gavin Tomlin) 16. Scott Murray (86 mins for Danny Schofield) 23. Danny Hutchins (90 mins for Keiran Murtagh)- N/A: None of the subs had the time to make an impression.

After 4 games then we find ourselves 9th in the table on 5 points having won 1, lost 1 and drawn 2. It's still very early days in the new season but I think we've already seen enough to know that we're competent enough going forward but slightly dodgy defensively. We need to tighten up at the back but at the same time don't want to lose our new-found attacking freedom - who'd be a manager? Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the early part of the season has been the poor home attendances - 4,349 v Tranmere, 3,860 v Norwich and 3,827 v Orient. Crowds are never at their best during August, nevertheless the numbers haven't been as low as these since our Conference days. It's to be hoped that they begin to pick up sooner rather than later, otherwise Skivo's budget will presumably be squeezed even further in the future.

Just watched: The Tudors (BBC2, 9pm Friday). New series of the costume drama based on the life and times of Henry VIII. Anne Boleyn's been and gone and Henry's moved on to Jane Seymour (as well as a new mistress) while trying to cope with an ulcerous leg and the Pilgrimage of Grace, while the Reformation continues apace. I really enjoyed the first two series of The Tudors, and this first episode of the 3rd series had a lot to live up to. It started slowly, and, sadly, got slower as it went on, not helped by the extra half-hour running length. I'll give it another chance next week, but I've already got the feeling that the producers should have stopped while they were ahead, at the end of that excellent second series.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Back to the future, part 2

Not content with having Kevin Gall and Paul Terry on trial in the summer as well as signing Andy Lindegaard for a month, Skivo's attempt to recreate the Yeovil side of 3-4 years ago continues apace with the news that Jean-Paul Kalala has now arrived at Huish Park on trial.

Kalala was one of Russell Slade's first signings, following the bald-headed boss down south from Grimsby. He only played one season for us, appearing in a total of 42 matches and starting 35 times. Despite him following Slade to Somerset and playing a decent number of games, I for one never felt he had Slade's complete confidence and to me it was no real surprise that he left us after only one season, going back up north to Oldham. He's had a mixed time at Boundary Park since, only making a total of 26 appearances for the Latics in two years, and he spent a fair chunk of last season on loan, back at struggling Grimsby. He was released by Oldham in the summer and hasn't been able to find a club since. He's an out-and-out defensive midfielder by trade and inclination, at his best sitting in front of the back four and rarely venturing very far beyond the halfway line.

I have two reactions to this news: One - I'm pleased that Skivo has recognised the need for a defensive midfielder. Two - I'm not so sure Kalala's the answer. One would have thought that with more professional footballers than ever before looking for clubs at the moment that there would be someone out there somewhere who could do a job for us with a better pedigree than J-P, but there again perhaps it's a case of the devil you know. Whatever, if Skivo decides that Kalala's worth a short or long-term contract then the best of British (or French) luck to him and let's hope he is the answer.

We managed to scrape a point away at Exeter on Tuesday night though by all accounts we were completely battered in the first half and were fortunate not to be more than 1-0 down at half-time. The second half did bring an improvement with Ryan Mason notching his second goal in two games to force a 1-1 draw. That's four points from a possible nine so far this season, carry on like that and we'll be safe by Easter. Well, we can but hope. I was interested to see that Skivo did make some changes for the Exeter game along the lines I had suggested, though he stopped short of playing 5 in the middle and 1 up front as a starting line-up at least, sticking with the traditional 4-4-2, with 2 forwards up front.

With a home game coming up tomorrow against Leyton Orient I don't expect the gaffer to deviate away from his preferred 4-4-2, and why should he when that formation worked well against Tranmere in our only previous home league game? I wouldn't be surprised to see some more changes in personnel however, aside from the enforced injury change which will see Terrell Forbes replace Stefan Stam at the back.

My team would be as follows:

Alex McCarthy
Craig Alcock, Steven Caulker, Terrell Forbes, Nathan Smith
Scott Murray, Kieran Murtagh, George O'Callaghan, Danny Schofield
Ryan Mason
Jon Obika

A 4-4-1-1 formation, with Mason playing behind Obika 'in the hole'. Unlucky again on the likes of Gavin Tomlin and Sam Williams, but the need to play the extra midfielder in my opinion means that having two out-and-out forwards is a luxury we can't really afford, even at home. Those paying attention will note that I've dropped Andy Welsh, and I feel that Skivo may do that in the real thing as well. To me Welsh has been very disappointing so far this season and I just wonder if his first half substitution at Exeter on Tuesday is a sign that the gaffer has run out of patience with the left-winger.

As I say, that's how I would line-up tomorrow. In real life I would think Skivo will stay with a traditional 4-4-2, which means one of my midfielders, probably Murtagh, will miss out, Mason resuming his partnership with O'Callaghan. Obika will almost certainly start, alongside either Williams or Tomlin. I would prefer Williams, I get the feeling Skivo will pick Tomlin. We'll see tomorrow.

Gambling corner: The bookies have a Glovers win at 11/8, the draw at 23/10, and an Orient win at 19/10. How can I bet on anything other than a home win? I can't, so that's where my fiver's going, returning a less-than-impressive £6.88p. I'm never going to get rich at this rate. Running total: -£2.50.

Just read: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. Or should I say, just re-read, about 30 years after I first picked it up. And it's as good now as it was then. Easily one of Heinlein's best books and full of his libertarian propaganda, but none the worse for that unlike some of his later novels. It's the story of a revolt on an inhabited Moon and the struggle for it's independence, but really the setting is incidental. It's a fast-paced adventure story for boys (and girls) of all ages and I'd recommend it to anyone.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Time for some changes?

The Glovers head of to deepest Devon this evening in need of getting something out of our latest and newest derby match, away to Exeter City. I say we need something - a draw will do, a win would be better, but after 2 successive losses then if we're still genuinely expecting to have a good season then we need to take more than hope for the future from this game, we need a point or three as well.

If it was me in charge I'd change things around a little. In defence it's time to give Craig Alcock a start at right-back and Nathan Smith on the left. I'd persevere with the Stefan Stam/Steven Caulker partnership at centre-back, but if Skivo was to replace either with Terrell Forbes I wouldn't complain overmuch at that.

I'd switch formation to a 5-man midfield. I'd play Andy Welsh on the left but tell him to stay wide, stop heading into blind alleys inside all the time and concentrate on crossing the ball from the by-line. Scott Murray on the right, same instructions. George O'Callaghan and Danny Schofield in the middle, O'Callaghan sitting deep, Schofield slightly further forward. I'd have Ryan Mason playing 'in the hole' as an attacking midfielder with Jon Obika on his own up front.

In short, lining up like this:

Alex McCarthy
Craig Alcock, Stefan Stam, Steven Caulker, Nathan Smith
Scott Murray, Danny Schofield, George O'Callaghan, Andy Welsh
Ryan Mason
Jon Obika

That's slightly rough on the likes of Sam Williams and Gavin Tomlin who haven't done a great deal wrong in the last couple of matches but in my opinion the absence of a midfield enforcer - a Mark Bircham or Gary Roberts type of player - is leaving us looking lightweight in the middle and exposing our defence and filling the midfield with bodies is my attempt at alleviating that. Playing two out-and-out forwards is nice if practicable, but with the personnel currently available in our midfield 2 forwards is a luxury we're struggling to afford. We need to tighten up. I would even think about playing Terrell Forbes as a defensive midfielder if needs be at the expense of either O'Callaghan or Schofield, but I think that may be a step too far for Skivo. Whatever, the gaffer has said that he's still looking to bring in another midfielder to the squad, sooner rather than later hopefully.

Edit - re-reading the above I realise I've completely forgotten about Kieran Murtagh, no-one's idea of a proper defensive midfielder I'm sure, but possibly the nearest thing we've got to one at the moment. Mind you, he's another who's been conspicuous by his absence so far this season. Maybe it's his turn tonight?

So much for my ramblings, I suspect in real life Skivo won't make many changes, if any. As far as my gambling career is concerned, tonight I could be going into the red for the first time this season. Hmmm, perhaps that's an omen - Exeter play in red... But no, my one unwritten rule is never to bet against the Glovers. Though it's not an unwritten rule anymore is it? Enough of this wordplay! The odds are 11/10 for the home win, 12/5 the draw, 5/2 the Glovers to win. My fiver, god help me, is going on an away win. Running total: +£2.50p.

Friday, 14 August 2009

No smoke without fire

Muffwatch: I was browsing through the Weymouth official site today, keeping half an eye on our old rivals as you do, when I came across the following gem, written on the blog section of the site, where the club's directors and webmaster post updates to fans. This was written by one of WFC's directors, Paul Cocks:

Thursday, August 13, 2009
Yes folks, its your very own dysfunctional football club soap opera.

We have a story which includes being shafted by an asset stripper; a club within 24 hours of extinction pulling back from the brink, and trying to do the decent thing by paying off its creditors rather than taking the easy option of administration; a young ambitious and highly talented manager trying to put a side together from scratch, overnight, on a shoestring.

These could all be great story lines, but fortunately the "fans" of Weymouth Football Club are discerning, and know a really important issue when they see one:- smoking!!!!

Yes folks, the real issue for today and no doubt weeks to come is the evil actions of WFC in allowing its own safety officer to do his job and comply with the requirements of the clubs safety certificates by requiring smokers to move a few yards for the duration of their fag.

Total bloody disgrace innit, never suppport them again.

PS this is not a joke.
Posted by PAUL COCKS at 11:05 PM

Apparently the problem is that the designated smoking area at the Wessex has been moved a few yards from its position last season, and, unsurprisingly, this has caused great alarm and confusion to the simple Dorset folk who call themselves Muff fans. Of course, football league supporters will be unfamiliar with the concept of smoking while watching football as the habit has been banned at proper grounds for a while now, but it takes a while for the customs of the civilised world to percolate down as far as deepest Dorset. What is particularly amusing is to see how seriously the Muff fans are taking the subject on their forum, with high horses being galloped all over the place and the infamous Matty (long-time Muff watchers will recall his "we'll wave at you when we pass you!" boast directed at the Glovers when the Muff had a multi-millionaire owner and (snigger) Steve Claridge as manager a few years ago) reinstating his self-imposed boycott of the Wessex. Mr Cocks (snigger) may have been undiplomatic at best in posting the above rant, but this interested observer can understand his frustration. With friends, fans and creditors like they've got, the Muff really don't need any more enemies. I mean, don't they have enough to worry about without kicking off about the position of a smoking area? Give it up boys.

Back to the normal world and the good news is that Spurs loanees Steven Caulker and Ryan Mason have extended their loan durations to 3 months each. I'll be happier still to hear they've extended them until the new year or better still the end of the season, but this is a good start and brings them in line with striker Jonathan Obika, who signed a 3-month deal earlier this week. Skivo is looking to make one more loan signing, a midfielder, not necessarily another Tottenham player. The bad news is that striker Dean Bowditch, so impressive against Tranmere and throughout the pre-season, could be out for as long as 4 months, though obviously everyone is hoping that he'll be back fit before then.

Colchester away tomorrow and it will be interesting to see if the Glovers can bounce back from their defeat at home to Norwich on Tuesday, the team that tomorrow's opponents mullered 7-1 last weekend. The bookies have the U's as odds-on favourites at 8-11, the draw is quoted at 11/4 and a Yeovil win at 7/2. Given Colchester's abysmal home form last season and the fact they lost at home again in the League Cup in midweek, I'm tempted by the 7/2 for the Glovers win, but in the end have decided to play safe - my fiver's going on the draw. Running total: +7.50p

Gunn but not forgotten: Norwich manager Bryan Gunn's reward for overseeing the Canaries 4-0 win at Huish Park has been... the sack. We are quite used to seeing opposition manager's bite the dust after being on the end of beatings by ourselves - at one stage while we were in League Two it seemed to be happening on a regular basis, almost as if being beaten by what a lot of long-established league clubs regarded as a pub team was an instant dismissal offence - but this is the first time that I can remember that a manager's been sacked after his team has thrashed us. Bad luck Bryan - you should have won 8-0, you might have been safe then.

Just read: Piece of My Heart by Peter Robinson. Part of the very readable Inspector Banks series. Two timelines, two different murders and both strands are cleverly brought together. The final revelations are genuinely shocking (well, I was quite surprised) and all in all a bloody good read.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Don't panic! Don't panic!

"You're not very good! You're not very good! You're not very, you're not very, you're not very good!" I thought at the time that the Blackthorn Stand's raucous greeting to last night's opponents Norwich City could be holding a number of hostages to fortune (not to mention counting canaries before they hatched) notwithstanding their 7-1 home loss to Colchester last weekend and so it proved; the visitors progressed to the next round of the League Cup with a comfortable 0-4 win. Ouch.

The fact is that the visitors were pretty good and we, a reasonable 20-minute spell in the first half aside, were pretty ordinary. Still, better to be ordinary in a cup competition that we have no chance of winning than in a league game, which is one of the few crumbs of comfort we can draw from what was in the end a dismal evening.

The team lined up as follows:

1. Alex McCarthy - 6/10: Don't think I would blame him for any of the goals. Had plenty to do and did most of it well, not his fault he was left horribly exposed at times.

6. Terrell Forbes - 4/10: Defended inadequately at best but unlike the previous game was nowhere to be seen going forward. A match to forget.

4. Stefan Stam - 4/10: Struggled with the physical presence of Grant Holt and too often caught in possession. A game to forget.

5. Steven Caulker - 5/10: The best of the defenders on the night, but that's not saying much. A game to learn from.

3. Nathan Jones - 4/10: Strangely subdued. Can't recall one stepover! If his first half free-kick had been on target with the keeper beaten then who knows what might have happened, but it scraped the wrong side of the post. A game to forget.

16. Scott Murray - 6/10: Best of the midfielders. Worked his way into a couple of good positions but firing blanks at the moment when pulling the trigger. More to come, hopefully.

7. George O'Callaghan - 5/10: Ineffective from the start and ultimately swamped. A game to forget.

22. Danny Schofield - 4/10: Took me 20 minutes to realise he was on the pitch. Twenty minutes into the second half, that is. A game to forget.

11. Andy Welsh - 5/10: Flattered to deceive in his approach play, but his final ball either from open play or the set-piece was poor. Couldn't score in a brothel, to coin a phrase.

9. Sam Williams - 6/10: Didn't stop trying all night despite a battering from the experienced Gary Doherty and suffering from some unsympathetic refereeing decisions. Won his share of long balls in the air despite that, just a shame we couldn't supply him better in the danger area from the wings.

10. Gavin Tomlin - 5/10: Tried hard and linked up well with Williams, but again missed his share of chances. With Obika now here must be worried for his starting place.

Subs: 26. Jonathan Obika (63 mins for Scott Murray) - 5/10: Asking a lot for anyone to spark a side playing poorly into life, especially on his first day back. Asking too much, in fact.

28. Nathan Smith (85 mins for Andy Welsh) - N/A: Not on long enough to make an impression.

Just as Saturday's win over Tranmere didn't turn us into promotion favourites nor should last night's loss mean we're nailed on for relegation. The truth hopefully lies somewhere in between. In the first half we looked more or less on a par with Norwich without ever being particularly convincing, but were shell-shocked by the first goal and got gradually worse as the night went on. It was surely right to bring Obika on after the opening goal but sacrificing our most effective midfielder for the striker was puzzling - still, in the end Norwich may have done us a favour in tempering expectations that were just beginning to stray into unrealistic levels. We are still the smallest club in League One with one of the smallest squads and operating with the smallest budget. Let's never forget that.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Obika's back!

Time for some humble pie from me and let me tell you, it tastes good. All summer I've been saying that we had no hope of getting Tottenham striker Jon Obika back on loan from Uncle Harry, that he'd be going to a Championship club or one of the bigger League One oufits. I was wrong, and am delighted to be wrong. Obika re-signed for us this morning, though there's no word as yet as to how long he's signed for. One assumes it's just for a month initially, to cover for Dean Bowditch's injury, but hopefully we'll have the option to make it longer should we wish to. Credit to Skivo yet again for recognising we had a problem and acting upon it - and credit to the board too for backing their manager. Regardless of the rights and wrongs about the events of last season and the treatment of Russell Slade, it's good to get the feeling that all sections of the club are, at last, pulling together.

Edit - it appears that Obika is with us for 3 months, with an option for longer if required. Happy days!

And while I'm in the mood for handing out praise, well done to the club for making Saturday's Tranmere programme available online for free. The club shot themselves in the foot a little on the day by pricing the programme at a one-off £1.50 as a loss leader, but seemingly neglected to print more copies and then were surprised to find they had sold out by 2.40pm, much to a lot of people's annoyance. So credit to them for at least taking this step. I've not personally bought a programme for a few years now as they simply were not worth buying for a long time, but judging by the content in the download above that has changed. They're not cheap at a full price of £3 per issue, but at least it now appears that you've got something approaching value for money rather than the complete rip-off they were a few years ago.

Thank you to everyone who bothered to contact me about my comments regarding the green room (Calm down, calm down). I seem to have struck a chord with most people, hopefully we'll see a difference in atmosphere on there in future. At the end of the day it's a hugely useful resource for the ordinary supporter and it is what we make it. Passionate and opinionated hopefully, yes; but without the aggression and hostility that has sometimes been present in the past.

Gambling corner: Glovers v Norwich City. Home win - 8/5, away win - 17/10, draw - 23/10.
I've got a feeling the bookies won't have us at odds-against for a home win for much longer, so while it's available I've got to take it, even if I do have a sneaking worry that the Canaries might bounce back strongly from their 7-1 mauling on Saturday. My fiver's going on the home win. Running total: +£12.50p

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Calm down, calm down

I don't think either us Glovers nor the visiting Tranmere fans really knew what to expect yesterday in the first game of the new season. What we got was a very comfortable Yeovil win, the Glovers getting past a dodgy first 20 minutes to dominate the remainder of the game, 2-0 winners at the end.

My merit marks first, as usual:

1. Alex McCarthy 6/10: Didn't have much to do in terms of saves to make, indeed he couldn't have wished for a nicer league debut. Did what he had to very competently.

6. Terrell Forbes 8/10: Won the battle for the right-back spot and was my man-of-the-match. Super-solid defensively and a threat overlapping going forward. Always available for a pass and appears to have a new zest for playing in a green-and-white shirt. Excellent.

4. Stefan Stam 7/10: Dealt with everything Tranmere threw at him with great competence. Already developing a good-looking partnership with Caulker.

5. Steven Caulker 7/10: As above. Have we extended his loan yet?

3. Nathan Jones 7/10: Continuing his great pre-season form. Nathan Smith is going to struggle to get his place back when fit at this rate.

22. Danny Schofield 6/10: Not completely firing on all cylinders creatively, but no lack of effort.

13. Ryan Mason 6/10: Occasionally anonymous but each time I was beginning to think it was time to swap him for Murtagh he'd do something special. So nice to see a midfielder not afraid to shoot!

7. George O'Callaghan 8/10: The pick of the midfield again. Obviously up for the game against his former club, but never let that passion go over the top. Very encouraging.

11. Andrew Welsh 6/10: As with his fellow winger Schofield, not completely firing on all cylinders creatively, but no lack of effort.

10. Gavin Tomlin 7/10: Does most of everything you'd want a second striker to do - holds the ball up, distributes it well, decent in the air, makes intelligent runs, has a good touch... But he misses some seemingly easy chances. Proved he's got guts by demanding the ball for the penalty. Just needs to become more clinical and he'd be a star.

14. Dean Bowditch 8/10: Already a star, just needs to keep fit! Took his goal beautifully, always looked a threat... and then did his shoulder and will be out for at least 4 weeks. Ugh!

Subs: 9. Sam Williams (52 mins for Dean Bowditch) 7/10: Possibly even better in the air than Bowditch but possibly not quite as good on the ground. A threat nevertheless and linked up well with Tomlin. Too similar a type to play with Bowditch? We're going to have to wait to find out.

16. Scott Murray (84 mins for Andy Welsh) 6/10: Showed enough in the few minutes he had to indicate that both wingers now have serious competition for their places.

32. Andre McCollin (90 mins for Gavin Tomlin) N/A: No time to make an impact.

There were plenty of positives for Yeovil: The defence looks extremely solid at the moment with a great mix of youth and experience, plus plenty of pace, height, and strength in depth, particularly in the full-back positions. In fact we look like a football team at the moment, in all positions. Skivo's got the players organised and working for each other, and Nathan Jones has got them fit. I don't recall seeing a fitter-looking Yeovil side since Gary Johnson's days. We're playing with two wingers, the full-backs have licence to push up and overlap, we have two central midfielders, two forwards. Everything's in balance and there's competition for places. It's good to watch and long may it continue.

Having said all that Tranmere were pretty poor. In fact they reminded me of us for the greater part of last season - lots of pretty passing in the middle of the park and out of defense but no cutting edge whatsoever. They still had to be beaten and we did that with relative ease in the end, but as an indicator as to how we're going to do for the rest of the season they weren't worth much. Tuesday night's League Cup game at home to Norwich (1-7 losers at home to Colchester yesterday! Welcome to League 1!) and next Saturday's away game at Colchester will give us a better idea.

A quick rant about the green room: One of the pleasures of the internet has been the ability to discuss games, the events in them and the issues surrounding them with fellow Glovers fans in a reasonable atmosphere of debate and argument. Sure, there are always disagreements and there's always idiots around, but lately it's got beyond a joke. Last night was sadly typical of the way the green room has degenerated on a Saturday night in particular over the last year or so, with one or two posters clearly having drunk more than they can handle and intent on confrontation and abuse rather than the usual give and take of debate and discussion. That wouldn't matter if they were ignored or if any of the moderators were taking any notice or pro-active action, the trouble is they're not and otherwise sensible contributors are then suckered in to take issue with the morons' provocations and before you know it you've got a forum full of abuse and hate and any prospect of a decent debate has gone, at least until the brain-dead's have logged off. And yes, I'm as guilty as anyone of rising to the bait and I apologise.

Just watched: The Football League Show (BBC1). On first impressions it's a big improvement on ITV's equivalent programme last season - not least because it should have a fairly settled timeslot following Match Of The Day on a Saturday night and has promised to show the goals or major incidents from all of the football league. One could never be certain that ITV's programme would be on when it was on the previous week, nor that they would show all the lower leagues goals. Another plus point for the BBC (or should I say two plus points :)) is the presenter Lizzie Someone-Or-Other and her email slot and the main presenter Manish Bhasin is competent enough. On the other hand IPATHLYK*, or Steve Claridge, as the rest of the world knows him, is on hand to provide his usual drivel in a dull monotone and the world record count of "y'know's"; and the more I see of fellow guest expert Ian Holloway the more pleased I am that he never did become manager of this club. Get past the warm Brizzle accent and the funny jokes and all that's left appears to be a warm Brizzle accent and some funny jokes. Can I change my predictions and put Blackpool down this season?

*IPATHLYK - I Used To Play At The Highest Level You Know

Friday, 7 August 2009

Mystic Taff's season predictions

Twenty-four hours before the big kick-off and it's time I did my Mystic Meg comic turn and made my predictions as to who's going to win what in the coming season. So without further ado, here we go, here we go, here we go...

Premiership (Division One, old money): Potentially one of the most interesting season's in the top-flight we've seen for a while; at least if you look outside the top three. Man City have thrown the cat amongst the pigeons by buying everyone and his brother, Arsenal at present look vulnerable to slipping out of the top 4, Spurs and Aston Villa have both strengthened and Everton have improved every season under David Moyes. I'm letting my heart rule my head by forecasting Tottenham to finish 4th, with City, The Arse, Villa and Everton scrapping it our for the UEFA, sorry, Europa places. Liverpool will finish 3rd, with Man Utd and Chelsea steamrollering everyone else.

Champions: Chelsea
Runners-up: Manchester United
3rd: Liverpool
4th: Tottenham Hotspur
Europa League: Arsenal, Manchester City
Relegated: Burnley, Hull City, Stoke City

Championship (Division Two o.m): Toughest division of them all to call. Who last year whould have forecast Burnley to go up and the likes of Charlton, Southampton and Norwich to go down? Not me! Newcastle are bookies favourites but nobody elses, I fancy Middlesbrough to bounce back up to the Premiership alongside last season bottlers Cardiff. As for the play-offs, the likes of West Brom, Reading, and Sheffield Utd should all feature. The Geordies could do anything, depending on whether or not Mike Ashley sells the club. They might be right up there, they might do a Leeds. Fingers crossed, eh?

Champions: Middlesbrough
Runners-up: Cardiff City
Play-off winners: West Bromwich Albion
Relegated: Newcastle United, Barnsley, Swansea City

League One (Division Three o.m): Hard to look beyond the big three here: Leeds, Norwich and Charlton should dominate the division and I'd expect all three to go up, though in what order may be debatable. Southampton will have to make do with mid-table mediocrity. The mighty Glovers will continue to defy gravity by finishing 15th and having a good run in the FA Cup. Well, I can dream.

Champions: Charlton Athletic
Runners Up: Leeds United
Play-off winners: Norwich City
Relegated: Exeter City, Swindon Town, Hartlepool United, Carlisle United

League Two (Division Four o.m): Are you the conference in disguise? It's looking more and more like it these days with the likes of Burton, Dagenham, Aldershot, Cheltenham, Accrington and Macclesfield making up the numbers. Who's going to win it? Not a clue. I suppose Notts County must now be favourites, along with Northamptonand surely Bradford City must go back up at some point, so why not this season?

Champions: Northampton Town
Runners-up: Notts County
3rd place: Bradford City
Play-off winners: Rotherham
Relegated: Grimsby Town, Accrington Stanley

Conference National (vauxhall conference o.m): Luton will inevitably be favourites to bounce straight back into the football league and looking at the quality of their squad it's hard to look beyond them. And yet they won't be the first so-called 'big' club expecting to piss this tinpot league (to coin a well-known phrase) and come unstuck. As usual most of the former league clubs will hope to challenge but I have a sneaking suspicion that another club yet to play in the football league may well surprise everyone this season by sneaking in via the play-offs: The question is are the rest of the football league ready for destiny to take over? Step forward Graham Westley and the DCB's aka Stevenage Borough.

Champions: Luton Town
Play-off winners: Stevenage Borough
Relegated: Salisbury, Eastbourne Borough, Ebbsfleet, Chester City.

Just a bit of fun anyway but of course if I do turn out to be right and by some miracle someone reading this has taken my predictions and put a couple of quid on an accumulator that turns out to win thousands then you will remember where you heard it first, won't you? Please?!

Talking of betting I'm going to be reprising a feature I used to include on the Ciderspace news page when I was co-editing the site. Again, just for a bit of fun I'm going to put a fiver on what I consider to be the most likely result concerning the Glovers whenever we play and keep a running total throughout the season. For tomorrow's game I'm going for a home win at 6/4 paying out a total of £12.50p. Come on you greens!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Squad shapes up for a challenging season

You can't beat this time of year. Just days before start of the season and all things are possible. The phony war of the pre-season is over and the real thing is about to kick off. Had a bad pre-season? Lost all your friendlies, signed a bunch of no-hopers and had your star striker carried off with a broken leg in training? No worries, everyone knows a bad pre-season practically guarantees a good start and the play-offs by Christmas. On the other side of the coin, had a good pre-season? Won all your friendlies, including the one against a middling Premiership side? Signed a good mix of seasoned pros and a couple of starlets everyone's raving about? Excellent! You should really be looking forward to the new season then! Everyone's a winner!

And then there's us, Yeovil Town. On balance I would say we've had a pretty good pre-season. Results have been more or less as expected but more importantly a style of play has developed which hopefully will become entrenched over the next few months. Skivo's team, it seems to me, tries to get the ball forward quickly, tries to keep it on the ground until it gets wide, and tries to close down the opposition fast when they've got the ball. We're playing the game with pace and trying to hit teams on the break, a sensible ploy if we're under the cosh as much as most pundits and bookies expect us to be this season.

As for the squad, this is how it looks (the squad that started last season in italics):

Goalkeepers: Alex McCarthy, Richard Martin (Alex Begovic, Josh Wagenaar). Begovic is clearly the outstanding keeper here, but we only had him for 3 months as it turned out. McCarthy has bags of potential and could be anything really. We've got him for 6 months, could be an inspired signing or could be a disaster. Martin we know less of, but he surely must be better than Wagenaar.

Fullbacks: Craig Alcock, Danny Hutchins, Nathan Smith, Nathan Jones, (Lee Peltier, Craig Alcock, Nathan Smith, Nathan Jones). Losing Peltier is a blow, but not an unexpected one. Gaining Hutchins permanently looked a real bonus at the time, but he's not enjoyed the best of pre-seasons. Hopefully he can get back to last season's form ASAP. Big things expected of Smith this season, if he can stay injury-free.

Centre-backs: Stefan Stam, Steven Caulker, Terrell Forbes, Terry Skiverton, (Terry Skiverton, Terrell Forbes, Rob Fitzgerald, Jordan Street). Stam looks quality, Caulker a wonderful prospect and keeping Forbes was another real bonus. Skivo will hope not to play at all, but he'll be lucky.

Wingers/wide midfielders: Scott Murray, Aidan Downes, Danny Schofield, Andy Welsh, (Danny Schofield, Paul Warne, Aidan Downes). An injury-free Murray will score and provide goals. Keeping Schofield was the third major bonus of the summer. Welsh is another quality provider.

Central midfielders: Kieran Murtagh, George O'Callaghan, Ryan Mason, (Marc Bircham, Darren Way, Kieran Murtagh). On paper last season's trio looks the stronger but of course events have taken two of those three out of the picture. Murtagh is gaining in confidence all the time and has plenty of ability, O'Callaghan has proven ability but needs to show consistency and Mason is another exciting prospect. Such a shame that Gary Roberts decided to play silly buggers with his career, with him involved the central midfield would have been a real strong point. It's pretty good anyway, with the likes of Schofield able to cover.

Strikers: Gavin Tomlin, Sam Williams, Dean Bowditch, (Gavin Tomlin, Andre McCollin, Lloyd Owusu). Tomlin has improved as he's been here, can he up his game further? The two new lads, Williams and Bowditch, are the target-men types we've been looking for. Can they play together? Will they score goals? We'll soon find out.

The squad is larger than this time last season and has more strength in depth. We've lost some good players, but we've gained some too. For what it's worth I think we unquestionably look in better shape than this time last year, but there again this time last year we looked in real trouble. Are we good enough to survive? I think so. Are we good enough to do better than survive, to push for the play-offs? I don't think so, but no-one other than a raving lunatic optimist would expect anything more. Final position: 15th, and arise Sir Terry!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

PSF - Yeovil 3 Tiverton 0

The Glovers finished off their pre-season friendly programme with a routine 3-0 win over Southern Premier League side Tiverton Town at Huish Park yesterday afternoon. 3-0 sounds good on the face of it but in truth it was something of an underwhelming performance against a side 4 divisions below Yeovil in the pyramid. Skivo would, I imagine, be somewhat less than impressed by his side's finishing in the match and in particular Gavin Tomlin's profligacy in front of goal - the former Fisher striker should have had at least a hat-trick though he was by no means the only offender in the Glovers ranks.

It sounds churlish to be moaning about a 3-0 win but really, it should have been more like 9-0. I don't propose to give my usual individual marks to each player in the side, we were so superior to Tiverton player-by-player as to make such marking pointless. No-one had a poor game and even the hapless Tomlin played well up to a point, that point usually being when he put in a shot on goal, when all his and his teammates excellent efforts up until then fell apart.

Good to see Scott Murray in a green-and-white shirt at last, and he showed enough in his brief cameo to suggest that he can give Skivo a different and worthwhile option to either Danny Schofield or Aidan Downes on the right. Interesting too to see Terrell Forbes picked at right back and to have a decent game there as well, overlapping with his right-winger like a 19-year-old at times and putting in some good crosses. Of course when Russell Slade picked Forbes as a right-back he was accused of being tactically inept and forever playing players out of position by some on the green room, but I doubt we'll hear any such claims made about Skivo from the same sources. And quite right that we shouldn't as well, it was nonsense then and it's equal nonsense now.

No, the interesting point to the Forbes selection is where that leaves recognised right-backs Craig Alcock and Danny Hutchins. Former Spurs loanee Hutchins finished last season as first-choice right back but since signing a permanent 2-year deal has been conspicuous by his relative absence so far in the pre-season, save a couple of brief substitute appearances in the left-back position. Skivo alluded to Hutchins' having injury and fitness problems in his after-match comments yesterday which would explain his absences, but Alcock is definitely fit, so it will be very interesting to see if Skivo sticks with yesterday's selection when the real thing begins on Saturday, against Tranmere.

It was good to see left-back Nathan Smith make his first appearance of the pre-season as well yesterday, albeit only for a 10-minute run-out towards the end of the game. Skivo seems to be getting his injured players back to fitness just at the right time, with the exception of the luckless Aidan Downes.

To change the subject completely we visited the club carvery today for our Sunday lunch. Didn't have to book, two courses for £7.95 each (a fiver for u-16's), a bloody good meal and great value for all you can eat. If you've not been before and are considering it then try it, it's well worth it.