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Sunday, 31 January 2010

L1: Yeovil 0 Huddersfield 1

Well, that was pretty dismal. A cold, cold day; a sticky, lumpy pitch which made passing the ball on the ground difficult; and a referee and linesman (on the Cowlin side) who seemed to have no feel for the game whatsoever and whose pernicious whistling and flag-waving stifled at birth any attempt at getting any kind of flow to the game. Chances for either side were few and far between. Huddersfield took one of theirs, Dean Bowditch's penalty attempt would have missed two goals, one stacked upon the other. The atmosphere from the home fans was flat and it was one of those days when you looked around the stands at the end of the game and asked yourself why you bothered.

We lined up in what I thought looked like a 4-2-3-1 formation, with new loan signing Owain Tudur-Jones in the middle alongside JP Kalala, Shaun MacDonald and Dean Bowditch on the left and right respectively and Ryan Mason in the hole behind the lone striker Sam Williams. Later in the game this turned into a 4-3-3, with Macdonald, Tudur-Jones and Kalala in midfield and Andy Welsh and Gavin Tomlin either side of Williams. We looked more threatening after the change but it was too little too late, both Welsh and Tomlin missing presentable chances late on.

Individual merit marks:

1. Alex McCarthy: 7/10 - Unlucky with the goal. Collided with Caulker going for the same ball, recovered to make a very good save but could do nothing when the rebound squirted unkindly straight to the eventual scorer. Apart from that one moment looked comfortable all match.

2. Craig Alcock: 5/10 - Bit of a nothing game. Gave the ball away too often, didn't really get forward enough and when he did get forward didn't do much. Why is he captain?

5. Steven Caulker: 6/10 - As said above, collision with McCarthy led to the Huddersfield goal. Decent defensively otherwise.

4. Stefan Stam: 7/10 - Came in for some criticism for his performance on the green room but I'm not sure why. Thought he had a very solid game, dominant in the air and on the deck. Led by example, why isn't he wearing the armband?

3. Nathan Jones: 4/10 - Just not very good on the day. No lack of effort, but even less effective than Alcock on the opposite flank. When both of your fullbacks are having bad days and you're relying on them to provide your width then you've got problems.

21. Jean-Paul Kalala: 4/10 - Probably his least effective game since his return to the club. Just couldn't get into it, no matter what he did. Dare I say the enforced 2 game rest he has coming up may do him some good.

20. Owain Tudur Jones: 6/10 - Decent enough debut without setting the world on fire. He's a big old unit alright, but I thought may have been carrying a little too much weight. Got forward well on occasion and at least had a go at shooting, even if he wasn't particularly accurate. More to come as he regains match fitness.

25. Shaun MacDonald: 5/10 - Wasted out on the left. I suppose he added some defensive solidity but virtually nothing going forward, but he's not a winger so no surprise there. Square peg in a round hole.

13. Ryan Mason: 6/10 - Quiet game for Ryan. Conditions won't have been to his liking I'm sure, but he never seemed able to get close enough to Sam Williams to provide much in the way of support to the lone striker. On one of the few occasions he did get into the box with the ball he won a penalty, another time should have done better with a free header in front of goal.

14. Dean Bowditch: 4/10 - Wasted out on the right. Will doubtless be bitterly disappointed with the penalty miss, but he's a striker. Play him as one or don't play him at all. Square peg in a round hole.

9. Sam Williams: 5/10 - Too isolated up front on his own. Got no change out of a strong defence. Ineffective.

10. Gavin Tomlin (69 mins for Dean Bowditch): 7/10 - Looked lively when he came on, one of the few Yeovil players to give the defence any kind of trouble. Created chances for himself and Welsh.

11. Andy Welsh (77 mins for Ryan Mason): 6/10 - Barely had time to influence the game, but probably should have scored when put through on goal by Tomlin.

The result leaves the Glovers in 14th position on 31 points after 28 games, 5 points away from the relegation zone. There's no doubt that the unscheduled midwinter break has done us no favours, but equally it must be said that Skivo's current insistence on playing strikers and central midfielders as wingers isn't helping the team's cohesion either. However, as things stand we are still well on course for a lower-mid-table finish, which most realistic Yeovil fans would have been more than happy to accept at the start of the season. The obvious worry is that the manner of this home defeat, taken alongside the ugly win over Exeter last Saturday and the miserable performance at Tranmere on Tuesday evening, could be the precursor to a bad run that includes home games. We're used to doing badly away from home this season, if we start losing at Huish Park as well then we could yet find ourselves in real trouble sooner rather than later. No panic yet, but some consistency in both team selection and tactics might help steady the good ship YTFC and all who sail on her. Play left-wingers on the left wing! Play your striker as a striker, not a right-winger! Put your central midfielders in the centre of midfield! It's not rocket science, but it might just work.

Monday, 25 January 2010

The Welsh connection

I forgot to update the blog before Tuesday night's game at Tranmere. Forgot, or couldn't be bothered, in the sure and certain knowledge that an away game could only mean one thing - another defeat. Let's be charitable and say I forgot, what's not in doubt is that we lost again, 2-1 this time, in a performance best described by one who was there, as follows:

"Start to finish, front to back we were terrible. Tactically wrong, exposed down the wings and clueless all over the pitch. Midtable will soon turn into relegation if we don't improve quickly. I hope the players to a man, and the management, are embarrassed by tonights showing. I know I am."

The words belong to the green room poster known as Blackthorn Stand, who, as most green room aficianados will know, is usually a reliable witness to these things and not prone to hyperbole, sweeping statements or hysteria. If he calls an object a spade then you can be pretty sure it's not a bloody shovel. The fact is that our away form is now causing serious concern to everyone - fans, players and management. To be fair to Skivo he's not trying to hide from it - in his post and pre-match comments he talks of little else - but as yet he's not come up with a cure for it either.

What he has done is signed a couple of players, Welshmen Arron Davies and Owain Tudor-Jones. We all know Arron from old of course. Since we sold him to Nottingham Forest he's done little of note, flattered to deceive somewhat and otherwise failed to live up to expectations, unlike his fellow transferee at the time Chris Cohen, who's now being talked of as a target for Premiership clubs in the summer. Wonder if we've got a sell-on clause? Arron's recently spent a little time on loan at Brighton, but didn't do enough to earn a permanent deal. He's an attacking midfielder, can play on either flank or 'in the hole', and he's signed on a permanent contract until the end of the season. Where his signing leaves the likes of Scott Murray, the fit again Aidan Downes and Andy Welsh in Skivo's thinking, only the gaffer can say. Hopefully I'm being harsh and Davies's signing will prove a master-stroke, but I personally believe we have enough flair players at the club to be going on with. It's a bit of grit, the ability to get stuck in and something in the way of leadership qualities that's really needed. Go on Arron, prove me wrong.

EDIT - Just seen that Davies's contract has been cancelled, as he falls foul of the rule that says you can't play for more than two clubs in one season - and he's already played for Forest and Brighton. What a farce!

Tudor-Jones is here on loan for a month, at least initially. As we now have 6 loan players at the club, one will have to drop out of the matchday squad each week. Received wisdom says that's liable to be Ryan Mason this Saturday at least, to give his poorly leg a chance to heal. Skivo will doubtless be relieved to know that I am pleased with the Tudor-Jones signing, despite the awkwardness of having to juggle loan signings in the matchday squad. Tudor-Jones, formerly of Swansea and now of Norwich City, is as I remember him the same type of box-to-box midfielder as Shaun MacDonald and will be a step-up from the likes of the now departed George O'Callaghan. You can't have too many midfielders who can run around a lot, can pass the ball and are good in the tackle.

The interesting thing will be to see where and how Skivo fits the pair into his team. High-flying Huddersfield visit Huish Park this Saturday and will be a big test of our home form. If it was me I'd play a 4-3-1-2 formation as follows:

Alex McCarthy
Craig Alcock, Steven Caulker, Stefan Stam, Nathan Jones
Owain Tudor-Jones, JP Kalala, Shaun MacDonald
Arron Davies
Sam Williams, Dean Bowditch

And pray.

The bookies make Huddersfield favourites at 5/4, a Glovers win is 9/4 and the draw is also 9/4. My unwritten rule means I have to put my fiver on the home win, but I fear I'm going to be wasting my money this week. Running total: +£2.50p.

Away from the football and it seems that the club has managed to shoot itself in the foot again. We all know the beer tent at Huish Park is inadequate at the best of times. We know it's damp, draughty and more often than not it takes far too long to get served if there's more than a few people in there. We know you can't get anything to eat in there and we know that it's basically a shithole; but what we always thought prior to Saturday's match against Exeter was that we knew all these things about the tent and more, but at least we knew that it's OUR shithole, at least home fans have somewhere to go to chat and try and have a drink before the game.... Wrong.

It seems that due to the club's failure to ensure stewards/security were in place at the time of the tent's opening on Saturday, those fans arriving at the ground early enough were able to access the tent with no hindrance. And the vast majority of those fans arriving early happened to be away fans, which meant that by the time home fans got there and tried to get in the tent was already full and they were denied access. Now I gave up using the tent and the snack bars at Huish Park a long time ago as I realised a long time ago that the club couldn't care less about me as a fan or my whether I enjoyed my matchday experience or not; now it seems that the penny has dropped amongst rather more of the faithful.

What can we do about it? Not a great deal singly. But if everybody who used the tent and snack bars boycotted them in future then perhaps even the current board might be embarrassed into some sort of positive action. We've been promised stadium improvements/a social club/a permanent supporters bar (delete as applicable) for so long now that it's not even funny anymore, but no-one really believes this board has either the will or the nous to deliver even the smallest fraction of what's been promised. Apathy and ennui rules. Boycott the beer tent, the club doesn't deserve your money.

Muffwatch: I don't know what former Glover Jerry Gill has done to deserve this, perhaps he was a mass-murderer in a previous life or something. But the new manager of the less-than-mighty Weymouth is... ba-doom-tish! Former Glover Jerry Gill! The best of luck to Jerry in his new role, with George Rolls as his chairman and the Muff fans all queueing up behind him to stab him in the back as soon as he puts even one foot wrong, Jerry will need a miracle to survive until the end of the season, never mind save the Muff from the drop to the Southern Premier. If he can do both then he ought to have a go at ending poverty in the third world or tackling climate change - either would be simple in comparison to the challenges awaiting him on the south coast. All isn't quite lost yet however - if Gill can instill in his new charges even a small fraction of the professionalism the he showed throughout his career then just maybe the Muff will be in with a fighting chance of avoiding the drop. It will be fascinating to see how it all works out.

Just read: House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds: I've read and enjoyed the author's previous trilogy of novels, Revelation Space, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap; but this stand-alone book eclipses all three. Reynolds has always been a great ideas man, and as an astronomer in real life his speculations have always had a solid scientific grounding behind them. What he wasn't quite so good at was the craft of the novelist, the telling of the story and getting you to care about the character's involved. In House of Suns he's cracked it. The clunky prose has gone and the story just flows, effortlessly and naturally. It's science-fiction of the highest quality and thoroughly recommended.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

L1: Yeovil 2 Exeter City 1

What a strange, but compelling match. Yesterday's visitors, roared on by 2,000-odd travelling fans, had rather the better of 75% of the game but were undone by a mixture of offensive profligacy and defensive naivety. The Glovers, in contrast, rode their luck and took their fewer chances to earn a priceless 3 points. Such is the compressed nature of the division 3 table that was enough to take us back up to the giddy heights of 12th position on 31 points, a whole 5 points away from the relegation zone.

Yeovil took the lead with their first attack of any consequence on 6 minutes, Stefan Stam just getting enough on the ball with his header to divert it past the already committed Exeter keeper following a freekick from out wide. The visitors dominated the opening half thereafter, Marcus Stewart, Ryan Harley and Alex Russell catching the eye in particular and being at the heart of the Grecians most threatening moves. Former Glover Adam Stansfield scored a deserved equaliser on 22 minutes following good work by Harley on the left, well done to Lisa for refusing to celebrate in front of the home terrace. Skivo's new formation of 4-2-1-3 wasn't really working as intended, the 2 wide strikers Obika and Bowditch becoming more and more peripheral as the game went on. The Glovers were pumping too many long balls upfield more in hope than inspiration, and the home crowd were becoming increasingly restless, taking their frustration out on the hapless Jonathan Obika in particular. Then, with Exeter dominating, out of nowhere the Glovers fashioned their first real passing move of the half, keeping the ball on the floor and eventually moving it out wide to an overlapping Nathan Jones. The full-back's cross found Sam Williams in the box, whose shot was cleared off the line by a combination of a defender and keeper before rebounding to an unmarked Ryan Mason, who slotted home to give the Glovers a somewhat fortuitous lead. There was just time for Marcus Stewart to miss an open goal before the half-time whistle. 2-1 to the Glovers at the break.

And that was the way it stayed. The second half was more even and the longer it went on the further up the field the visitors pushed which left more gaps exposed to the home side's counter-attacks. The Grecians still had more of the ball and more of the pressure but without every really worrying Alex McCarthy overmuch in the Yeovil goal. The substitution of Keiran Murtagh for a struggling with injury Ryan Mason added more of a physical presence to the Glovers midfield, and Andy Welsh's introduction gave the Glovers genuine width for the first time in the match and an outlet on the left, which they exploited to the full. Exeter continued to have most of the ball, but with the Glovers defence standing firm and the midfield pair of Shaun MacDonald and JP Kalala mopping up everything in front of them, the real threat in the final 15 minutes was to the visitors goal, with keeper Paul Jones making several high quality saves to keep the score as it was. Goal's apart, the first half was something of a non-event. The second half had no goals, but was utterly compelling and thoroughly entertaining.

Merit marks as follows:

1. Alex McCarthy: 7/10 - Usual solid display. Maybe not quite as dominant in his box as we've seen, but coped pretty well with the vast majority of efforts Exeter were able to throw at him.

2. Craig Alcock: 6/10 - Got off to a bad start and looked out of sorts throughout the first half. Came back strongly after the break however.

4. Stefan Stam: 7/10 - Started well with the opening goal and looked more and more at ease as the game went on. Can't recall him losing a header all afternoon.

5. Steven Caulker: 7/10 - Lost track of Adam Stansfield once which led to Exeter's goal. Aside from that didn't give the Grecians a sniff. He seems to be trying to get forward with the ball on occasion, a little like Mark Shail used to, for those with long memories.

3. Nathan Jones: 7/10 - Given a bit of a torrid time defensively in the first half in particular but still had enough about him to get forward and supply the cross for the Glovers eventual matchwinner. The introduction of Andy Welsh helped him on the left after half-time, and the two combined well down the flank after the break, both defensively and in attack.

21. JP Kalala: 7/10 - Battled away manfully with partner-in-crime MacDonald despite being outnumbered in midfield. The introduction of Murtagh in the second half helped his cause.

25. Shaun MacDonald: 6/10 - Same comments as applied to Kalala. Didn't threaten the opponents goal as much as we're used to seeing from him, but that wasn't his job on the day.

13. Ryan Mason: 6/10 - Marked him up a point for scoring the winner. Showed his usual touches of class, but was a little bit peripheral to much of the action a lot of the time. May have been hampered by a slight injury and was indeed subbed on 60 minutes.

14. Dean Bowditch: 5/10 - Played as a wide striker, but didn't look particularly comfortable in the role and indeed ended up being pushed further and further back until he was more of a wide midfielder. No lack of effort from him of course, but I'm not sure we're getting the best out of him if he's not playing directly in front of goal

9. Sam Williams: 6/10 - Lead the line well, without looking particularly threatening. Too isolated most of the time, but that wasn't his fault.

26. Jonathan Obika: 4/10 - Same comments as applied to Dean Bowditch, except that his languid style could give the impression of a lack of effort, which certainly seemed to be the case to some in the crowd. Improved after the break, but rightly replaced eventually.

8. Keiran Murtagh (60 mins for Ryan Mason): 7/10 - Had the crowd cursing him when he chose to pass rather than shoot when in a good position shortly after coming on, but that disappointment apart did well. Added some much needed energy and presence to the midfield.

11. Andy Welsh (67 mins for Jonathan Obika): 7/10 - Added genuine width on the left and an attacking presence as well as covering Nathan Jones in defence. Strong case to start the match next time.

28. Nathan Smith (90 mins for Dean Bowditch): N/A - Not on long enough to make an impression.

I said in my preview of the Exeter game that an improved performance was the most important outcome of the match following the insipid display at Leyton Orient last Tuesday. In the event we did get that improved performance, even if most of it came later on in the second half. But I was wrong anyway. An improved performance is all very well, but at the end of the day it's points that matter. Especially when you win them against your local rivals in the division. This was the first competitive league match against Exeter we've enjoyed at Huish Park, and enjoyed is the right word. Let's hope there's many more to come in the future.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Exeter preview

Tomorrow afternoon we welcome Exeter City and their supporters to Huish Park for what is, in the absence of Weymouth from the football league for the forseeable future, our local derby. Around 2,000 away fans will make the short journey up the M5 or the A30 on Saturday, let's hope that at least double that number turn up to support the home team, it could be embarrassing otherwise.

Mind, it wasn't that long ago that we would have taken 2,000-odd supporters on an away trip, ticket allocations permitting. These things tend to go in cycles. Four or five years ago we were on a roll - the FA Trophy win, the Conference title and then the division 4 title; and all on a diet of entertaining football fed by a charismatic manager. Exeter themselves have won 2 promotions in as many seasons, surprising themselves, one suspects, with their successful campaign last season. No wonder then that that they've sold their allocation tomorrow and an extra 600-odd tickets besides - let's see if they can do the same in 4 years time, when the novelty of division 3 football has worn off.

After the disappointment of last Tuesday's defeat at Leyton Orient it really is imperative that the Glovers bounce back with an improved performance at the very least tomorrow. It's still too early to be talking about 'must-win' games, but our appalling away form has so far not mattered inasmuch that our generally decent home form has papered over the cracks. However should our home form take a turn for the worse then we could find ourselves in real problems very quickly, hence the need for keeping up the momentum at Huish Park. What won't help the team right now is the likely state of the pitch. If it's anything like my back garden then it's going to be extremely spongy and wet and liable to cut up badly at the drop of a hat; none of which will help our passing game. The only crumb of comfort is that it won't do anything for Exeter's passing game either.

The bookies make the Glovers narrow favourites at 6/5 for tomorrow's game. The draw is priced at 23/10 and an Exeter win at 9/4. My head is telling me to put my money on the draw, but one of my unwritten rules is that whenever we are odds-against for a home win then that's what I've got to bet on. Accordingly my fiver's going on the home win. Running total: -£9.50p.

It'll be nice to see two former Glovers back at Huish Park tomorrow. Both Adam Stansfield and Marcus Stewart are expected to start for the Grecians tomorrow and both will, I'm sure, get a very good reception from the home fans. 'Lisa' was a popular member of the side that won the FA Trophy and then promotion to the football league and distinguished himself not only by scoring in the final at Villa Park but then going on to have a good swear in the post-match interviews, live on Sky TV. Marcus more recently was instrumental in being part of the side that consolidated our place in division 3 and of course scored THAT goal in that incredible night at the City Ground to win the play-off semi-final against Nottingham Forest. There's not much doubt (speaking in hindsight) that both players were released in error by the club and could and should have stayed with us longer than they did. Welcome back boys, please don't make us pay for past mistakes! Exeter's manager Paul Tisdale is of course also a former Glover, but no-one would pretend that the few games he played for us in the Conference over 10 years ago really made much of an impression on either him or us. Let's hope he continues in the same vein tomorrow.

Just read: The Gabble - and Other Stories by Neal Asher: Cracking selection of short stories set in Asher's Polity universe. Fills in nicely some of the gaps left in his longer fiction and fleshes out what we already knew about other characters, particularly the eponymous gabbleducks. This collection is actually a pretty good starting point for anyone not familiar with Asher's work - if you like these short stories you'll love his longer books.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Orient preview

All things being equal and the weather gods permitting, the Glovers might be able to play a football match tomorrow, their first game of 2010. It's still a tad early to be talking about 6-pointers, nevertheless tomorrow evening's opponents Leyton Orient are currently propping up the rest of L1 in the fourth relegation spot and are only 4 points behind us as I type - a win at the Matchroom Stadium would be worth it's weight in gold, particularly as it now looks pretty certain that Stockport and Wycombe are doomed, leaving only 2 relegation places for the rest of us to worry about.

It will be interesting to see Skivo's team selection tomorrow night. It's fantastic to welcome Shaun MacDonald back to the club after he re-signed on loan for the rest of the season, and presumably he'll resume his partnership with JP Kalala in central midfield. I don't mind admitting that I didn't give us a snowball's chance in hell of securing MacDonald's services for the rest of the season, so huge credit to Skivo in getting him back, particularly as a club currently in a play-off place - so either Charlton or Leeds then - were said to want to sign him. Fair play, we must be doing something right if we can compete with the likes of those two clubs for class players on loan. On the debit side we will definitely be without both Sam Williams and Terrell Forbes who both sit out the game following a one-match ban. As usual there's no news from the club regarding injuries or niggles to anyone else.

The bookies make the O's 11/8 favourites for tomorrow's game, the draw is priced at 23/10 and the Yeovil win at 19/10. My fiver's going on the draw. It's been so long since I last had a bet on a Yeovil game I had to look up the running total: -£4.50p. Grrr.

MacDonald's willingness to return to Huish Park contrasts sharply with the attitude shown by another of our former loanees who we could have been facing tomorrow night had he not buggered off elsewhere. I'm talking about Andros Townsend in case it's not obvious. The Spurs left winger has been on loan at the Orient since the start of the season and as you might expect given how well he did for us last season has proved a big hit for the Eastenders this time around as well. His loan ran out after Christmas and he returned to White Hart Lane amidst much protestations of his regard for the O's, saying he wanted to impress Harry Redknapp and try for a place in the Spurs 1st team squad, otherwise he'd have liked nothing better than to stay at Orient and help them away from the relegation zone blah blah etc etc.... So it came as something of a surprise when after a whole day back in the Spurs fold impressing Uncle 'Arry he then signed for the MK Dons on loan for the rest of the season. Classy.

Away from the Glovers but staying with League One and it was interesting to see Norwich avenge their 7-1 opening day defeat at home to Colchester with a 5-0 away win in the return fixture on Saturday. There's a good blog on the BBC site by Paul Fletcher which is well worth reading regarding the events of the day. Norwich are rightly given plenty of praise for the way they've turned their season round and with 5 L1 games won in a row there's plenty of time left in the season yet for them to force their way into the automatic promotion places. So why am I banging on about them? Mainly because the Glovers came within a minute of taking all 3 points off them not so long ago in a pulsating match at Huish Park, the last time there was anything like a setback in a league game for the Canaries. And it occured to me that if we can come as close as that to upsetting the odds against one of the best sides in the division then - touch wood - we ought to be okay ourselves at the end of the season.

Muffwatch: After a relatively quiet Christmas it's all kicking off again amongst our friends on the South Coast. A week after verbally agreeing a contract to the end of the season with popular management team of Ian Hutchison and Andy Mason, new chairman George Rolls has done an about-turn and sacked the aforementioned pair. The news has gone down like a lead balloon with the Muff fanbase who are now revolting. Well, they've always been revolting, but now they're really revolting, with talk of boycotts, demonstrations and other alternatives to going along to support their team in the air. Judging by past revolts this one will last just as long as it takes for Rolls to appoint a new manager with halfway decent credentials whereupon the Muff fanbase will then start talking about league football in 3 years time and waving at us while they pass us by. There's nothing as fickle as a Muffer.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Water shame, another game off

If it ain't snowing then it's raining, either way we're not playing football. I was all set to do one of my famous (or more likely infamous) previews ahead of this Saturday's away game at Tranmere when the news came through on the green room - the Tranmere game is off, waterlogged pitch. If anyone has ever wondered what a midwinter break would be like, well, wonder no more. If it seems to have been a long time since our last game (that shocking 3-1 defeat at Swindon, lest we forget), that's because it has been a long time - 19 days today since the Glovers last kicked a ball in anger. If this coming Tuesday night's match at Leyton Orient goes ahead it will be just over 3 weeks between games, unheard of really these days, though of course we grew quite used to postponements for one reason or another a few years ago.

If Tranmere's pitch is anything like my back garden then it's no surprise that the game is off. The snow has now melted away leaving the ground completely saturated and at the moment usable by neither man nor beast. Every time the dogs go out they come back in filthy and leaving muddy pawprints on the carpet so they've now been banned from the back garden until it either dries out or freezes again, whichever comes sooner. My money's on the latter.

Apologies for the lack of updates on here lately anyway. There's a couple of reasons for that: Firstly the lack of on-field activity obviously. Secondly in the absence of any real-life footy I've got back into playing Football Manager again, and anyone who's familiar with that particular series of pc games will know exactly how much of a time-waster they can be. You will doubtless be fascinated to know that as manager of Yeovil I started the season in exemplary fashion, winning my first 5 games and not losing until November, when we crashed out of the FA Cup in the 1st round. Who said these games aren't realistic?! Since those heady days my season has taken a turn for the worse and the Glovers have gone from promotion favourites to relegation candidates in a mere 3 months. With approximately a dozen games left in the season we haven't won a game since Christmas, the fans are revolting and the squad's morale is 'very poor', to a man. I've tried different formations, different tactics, different personnel, even different training routines: Nothing works. If anyone has any tips for turning round a sinking ship I'd be grateful for any help. As things stand my Yeovil side is going down.

Apropos of nothing I've joined Twitter. I know, I'm a sad bastard. Haven't a clue how it works or what I'm supposed to do with it, I'll just be making it up as I go along. If you're interested you can find me here:, or click the button on the side of the blog.

Just re-read: Excession by Iain M Banks. Must be the 4th time I've re-read my favourite Culture novel now by my favourite science-fiction author and I'm still finding things in it I missed the first few times. Space opera on the grand scale, it really doesn't get better than this. Funny in parts, frightening in others and imbued with an immense sense of wonder and grandeur. Brilliant stuff.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Snow joke for anyone

So much for global warming. It's now officially the coldest winter for 30 years. We've already had one game postponed (Leyton Orient away, last Saturday) because of the cold, and with temperatures forecast to stay below zero for the rest of the week and snow forecast for tonight, tomorrow and the weekend the chances of Saturday's home game against Colchester taking place are negligible.

Still, never mind. Next winter we won't have these problems as the football league, in it's infinite wisdom, is insisting that all member clubs must provide a set of pitch frost covers and/or undersoil heating to prevent the postponement of games due to a little bit of snow and ice. I'm not sure how much a set of frost covers will cost but presumably it will be a fair wedge, otherwise most clubs would surely have already invested in them. Added to that I always thought that global warming meant that we'd be enjoying a Mediterranean-type climate in this country in years to come, enabling us to grow grapes on the slopes of Ben Nevis and go on our summer holidays to Cleethorpes and that kind of thing; which would make frost covers somewhat superfluous one would have thought, but obviously the football league know better. Anyway, judging by the amount of snow forecast for Somerset over the next few days then it's not so much frost covers that the club needs as a roof over the entire stadium. And even then the match would still be called off as the surroundings to the ground would be considered too dangerous even for consenting adults by the health and safety junta. Perhaps the club should consider the possibility of building a dome over the ground and the surrounding area, taking a leaf from the latest Stephen King book or more precisely The Simpsons Movie. If they do then I'd be very grateful if they would make it a couple of hundred yards bigger than necessary to include my humble abode. At least I might be able to get into my bloody back garden then.

So, goodbye and good luck Andy Lindegaard and George O'Callaghan. In my new version of Football Manager 10 O'Callaghan is a pretty useful box-to-box midfielder with above average stamina and strength who weighs in with a goal every 4-5 games and averages 7.something per game and is one of the mainstays of my currently 5th-placed Yeovil side (it's November in the 1st season in my alternative universe). In real life O'Callaghan was, well, none of the above unfortunately. Sadly, he tended to flatter to deceive somewhat, passed the ball sideways or backwards a lot, never really showed any signs of strength or stamina and didn't trouble the scorers once, to throw in a cricketing term. In contrast the makers of FM10 got it pretty much spot on where Lindy was concerned. He began my game in the reserves and even when given a chance in the first team never did anything to justify a regular place in the matchday squad - just like in real life, sadly again. I say sadly because Lindy is something of a Yeovil legend as far as I'm concerned. A genuinely local lad who came up through the youth team and the reserves in the Western League to become a first team regular, firstly in the Conference and then in the football league, right up to being an important part of the team who played and beat Nottingham Forest at the City Ground in that never to be forgotten play-off semi-final. I said at the time he re-signed for us that it was hard to understand why he came back with the likes of Craig Alcock, Danny Hutchins and Scott Murray all ahead of him in the pecking order, and in the event a record of 2 starts and 3 substitute appearances and only featuring once on the bench since the start of November tells its own story. It kind of begs the question why exactly he was offered another contract when nothing had changed, but all credit to him for recognising the hard facts of his situation and choosing to look for a new club where he can play some football in front of a crowd rather than exclusively on the training pitch in front of no-one. The best of luck to both players in the future but especially to Lindy - still a something of a legend in my eyes, even if he should never have come back.

Just read: The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell: The 5th book in the 'Saxon' series of historical novels, following the fortunes of Uhtred of Bebbanburg; a Danish warrior in the service of the man who would come to be known as Alfred the Great. If you've read any of the author's historical fiction then you'll know what to expect. Blood, guts, swords, spears and shield-walls in a land where man were men and women were chattel, unless they were the king's daughter in which case they had their own armour and people did what she told them to do. Cornwell does this kind of thing very well and The Burning Land is a good read, but to my mind nowhere near as involving as his excellent 'Warlord' trilogy or indeed last year's 'Azincourt', a fictional account of the events leading up to the famous battle of of 1415. The Burning Land, in contrast, is Cornwell-lite, but still worth a few hours of anyone's time for all that.