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Monday, 30 August 2010

It's the hope that hurts

Catch-up time. This blog is a Holdingsgate-free zone, at least for today. We've seen a couple of unexpected new signings since the last time I blogged as well as the confirmation of longer-term loans on a couple more; added to which the rumour-mill, fuelled by no less a source than Skivo himself, has gone wild with the possibility of one more big signing before the transfer window shuts at 6pm tomorrow. Oh, the possibilities! If one was of a cynical frame of mind then one might conclude that the Glovers Board had relaxed the purse-strings somewhat in order to distract attention away from Holdingsgate, but we're not that cynical are we? Hell, no. Oh, I nearly forgot, we also earned a good point away yesterday against a decent Oldham side for which we were full value and were evidently somewhat unlucky not to come away with all three points after having what seemed like a perfectly good goal disallowed as well as a cast-iron penalty refused, again. What is it that referees have against Yeovil Town?

The two loanees who have penned longer-term deals are the expected ones: Millwall keeper John Sullivan and Watford midfielder/defender Rob Kiernan will remain at Huish Park until at least January 3rd 2011. Good news there, but the really good news came on Friday. In hindsight everyone and his dog and cat could see after the Hartlepool debacle that the weak link in the squad was the central midfield, especially when JP Kalala was missing. That has now been addressed, firstly with the arrival of Welsh international Owain Tudur-Jones from Norwich City, back for a second month's spell at Huish Park after his month long loan deal last season; and secondly with the massively welcome news that Shaun Macdonald is back and on a reasonably long-term basis too, also until January 3rd. We won't actually see the Ginger Ninja in action until the September 11th home game v Tranmere as he's off for the next week on Welsh u-21 international duty, but the news that both he and Tudur-Jones have signed was a huge boost on Friday after a pretty dismal week. Welcome back boys, with so many Welshmen back on the playing staff how can we go wrong?

And then there's the possibility that's got the rumour-mill in overdrive. Speaking after the Oldham game, Skivo stoked the fire: "I am still trying to add one more and I am not going to say who it is yet, but I am still trying and I think if we get this one that I am looking for we will be very strong this year." ITK's suggest the mystery man is none other than Gavin Williams. The Welsh international is out of favour at Bristol City, barely appearing on the bench so far this season under former manager Steve Coppell or current boss Keith Millen and is set to go out on loan. According to the rumour-mill L1 rivals Southampton were thought to be keen on signing Super Gav, but with the shock sacking of manager Alan Pardew - who signed Williams from Yeovil when in charge at West Ham United - that move must now be in doubt, which may just leave the Glovers in pole position. It might be a case of 2+2 equalling 5, but there have been whispers all summer about the possibility of the player returning to Huish Park at some stage, and it might just be that this time the rumour-mill's got it right. Fingers are very firmly crossed.

The thought occurs to me that if Gav did sign (I know, I know, let's not count any chickens, but I can't help myself and it's my blog so I'll say what I like), but if he did sign then not only would we have three Williams's in the squad, we'd have a grand total of six (count 'em!) Welshmen as well, if you count Andy Williams as being Welsh which I do seeing as he was born in Hereford. Six Welshmen! Plus one with a surname of Welsh! That's more sons of Wales than Cardiff City and Swansea City combined managed to name in their first team squads this weekend! Cymru am byth!

Ahem! Back to reality. The Glovers entertain Exeter City in a Football League Trophy 1st round match at Huish Park tomorrow night, a game I'm hoping to get to if my sodding electric wheelchair can be fixed before then. My back wheel fell off as I was taking the dog for a walk today, not an experience I want to repeat in a hurry. To add insult to injury it happened at Huish Park as I was foolishly going to see if the ticket office was open so I could buy a ticket for tomorrow night's game. The ticket office open on a bank holiday? What was I thinking? The bookies make the Glovers 6/5 favourites for the win, the draw is priced at 12/5 and an Exeter win at 15/8. My fiver's going on the home win. Running total: +£3.25p.

Just read: Time's Arrow by Martin Amis. Life starts at the moment of death and winds backwards in this Booker Prize-winning novel. Our sympathy is with the protagonist as he gradually gets younger until we realise that his present life hides an appalling past as an assistant to Mengele in Auschwitz. A clever, very readable novel which horrifies and amuses in equal measure. I finished it nearly two weeks ago and I still find myself haunted by the scenes set in the concentration camp, as time inexorably flows backwards, with all that implies. Frightening and absorbing.

Friday, 27 August 2010

The Slowest Drip

The Slowest Drip - by Cruncher

Even the slowest drip of information is welcome. Although it importantly highlights an issue that previously was all too quiet, it doesn't add to the knowledge we have, with the one piece of detail that the ground will remain with the club having already been let out of the bag by Digger. Have we been told that because it is already known information? Indeed maybe not, but telling us the one thing we know is not going to boost confidence that the club might be completely endeared with the need to enlighten us.

Words though are now being spoken, a giant step forward - just how significant a step we shall judge over the next few days as we hope for a big increase in detail. Though also welcome to hear, comment about a lack of future rent obligation on the club is optimistic intent more than detail, at this stage. And at least we have the plain words now that confirm that it is about borrowing money to create revenue streams that go to the stadium and football budgets, a definite improvement on gobbledygook about 'facilitation of the brand' and suchlike.

I hope the club now turn the drip into a flood of information, as well address questions however awkward. Martyn Starnes's reference to "extensive consultation over the last few years" lets us know that the club has had this project in mind for a long time. It also increases belief that it has been a long term objective to avoid other investors because they also would want the right to have a say on policy and direction.

Now is the time to be bold and sell the plan to the entire support with the same purpose that undoubtedly they have applied during those years of research and planning. Twelve acres of commercial security will appeal both to speculators and to advisers who can match the club up with financiers.

One thought about 'advisers' does strike me - with the experienced and renowned football-industry specialist Stephen Allinson on the Board, why does the club seek advice elsewhere?

The club needs investment to compete and grow, financiers deserve their profit but safeguards will be a key issue, both in general and in eventuality of future events such as the passing of ownership. With the club now admitting (as I see it) to a long term preferred policy of seeking out experienced commercial development backers, they would do us and themselves well to send a signal that the club will not have to yield too much of its value for the privilege.

I refer to this post from Das Boot on the Achieve by Unity forum: a plain-speaking plea for clarifying detail that will pave the way forward. As he concludes: "Once and for all Mr Fry and Co tell us all about your plans in full!"

Else, even the slowest drip such as myself will inevitably conclude that 'Achieve by Unity' is one of the assets to be sold off. But I don't want to sound a miserable git, because the club have begun to respond and credit to them for that.


Thursday, 26 August 2010

Club offers crumbs of comfort

After criticising both the club and the local press last week for the deathly silence over the Holdingsgate issue, it's a pleasant surprise to note that the entire back page of this week's edition of the Western Gazette is given over to an interview with Chief Executive Martyn Starnes regarding the club's plans.

As far as I can see at first glance two questions have been addressed, sort of. Firstly it's confirmed that the Huish Park Stadium itself is set to stay under the control of the football club and not the new Holding Company; secondly Starnes states that the Holding Company has 'no wish' to charge any rent to the football club for use of the remaining land. One might hope for something more substantial in writing then a vague claim of having 'no wish' to charge a rent, but it's better than the complete silence that we had before today.

Indeed, much detail is missing and the whole piece still has that patronising 'papa-knows-best' feel that Yeovil fans have unfortunately become accustomed to with its communications from the Board over the last few years. No mention is made of any valuation of the land, nor does the piece detail where the rights to any income generated on and from the site reside. Neither is there any mention of any safeguards to protect the club when, as is inevitable at some point in the future, control passes from the current main shareholders into other hands. Starnes does claim that the Board have undergone 'extensive consultation over the last few years' regarding the issue. Nice to know, but what a pity they didn't see fit to consult with the supporters during that time, either through the Achieve By Unity Fans Partnership (ha!) or the Customer Charter Meetings. As usual the club pay lip service to the idea of transparency whilst conducting their real business through a veil of secrecy.

Still, at least the Board has finally said something, at last, and at least the main local paper has raised the issue publically, at last. They haven't said enough and many questions still need answering but it's a start. Interestingly it seems that a 'detailed response' has been made to Guardian journalist Matt Scott's articles from last week, but as yet there's been no acknowledgement from the paper. I await Digger's next column with bated breath.

Back to the football and it occurs I'm still to provide my usual report on last Saturday's 0-2 home loss to Hartlepool United. So here goes: We were shit. There, that covers that. Okay, I'll expand a little on that. We were out-thought and out-fought. Hartlepool correctly identified our midfield as the weak link and swamped us there. We never got our passing game going, our wingers became more and more peripheral to the game and long before half-time we were already resorting to the long ball simply because we had no other options. It was a depressing and toothless performance, probably the worst I've seen under the current manager. He knows it, we know it and the players know it. I don't see any point in saying any more at this late juncture, suffice it to say that if we play like that again we will lose again. Hopefully it was a one-off and our triumphant march to an eventual 9th place as forecast by yours truly will resume this Saturday, away at Oldham. The bookies make the home side 5/6 favourites, the draw is priced at 5/2 and a Glovers win a tempting 10/3. Tempting, but not tempting enough. My fiver's going on the draw. Running total: -£9.25p.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

All Quiet On The Western Front (and the back)

[As much as I enjoy and appreciate Cruncher's contributions to this blog, it sometimes takes me a while to 'get' his punning headlines. This one is no exception, but I got there in the end. Hopefully it won't take you as long as me to g(az)et it! PS, if you're looking for my usual review of yesterday's debacle against Hartlepool it'll be along either later this evening or some time tomorrow, if I can be arsed. The team didn't seem to make too much effort yesterday so why should I bother? In the meantime can I point you towards Vyse's Green and White Blog where you will find a comprehensive and excellent match report. - Taff]

All Quiet On The Western Front (and the back)

I soon can get to some games and talk about the football, which I am still very much looking forward to doing despite yesterday's great disappointment. I tried to resist a ramble last week about the restructuring plans, but couldn't hold out - sorry to inform that this compulsion has occurred again. This time it is as a result of Taff's balanced and fair look at the local media blanking the wide concern at-large, about what he has christened 'Holdingsgate'. I did start to reply with a comment on his blog, but it became too long when I tied it in with the theme of inevitability - so here we are.

Nobody expects The Gazette, for example, to be confrontational. What is expected is that they acknowledge a concern amongst their readership that obviously exists, done in the briefest of ways would have sufficed. It was naive, at best, not to have stated from the start from problems incurred at other clubs, that there would be much debate and many questions. And to compound that with putting the Capital Glovers letter to one side, to the convenience of the Board (it appears), has led to the inevitable thought that lack of communication is a foe lined up on two fronts.

I have banged on about inevitabilities, and this outcome of how the local media is viewed is another of those, and as with the club, of its own making. Everyone understands why they are not at the club's throat, nor wants or expects them to be, but not why they haven't made a single reference to a significant concern amongst the community they report to, or at least raised an eyebrow as to why Matt Scott thinks it so.

If the local papers still do not give supporters' views a mention, we will have the ludicrous situation of national reporting on a provincial issue ballooning, while its local counterparts can't spare a drop of ink; a ridiculous contrast that would increasingly become part of the issue, as well as self-perpetuate it, if it were prolonged.

The Guardian was also bound to happen as a follow-up to inaction. As a direct result, of both the club and local press attitude to great concern in the community, that concern now has the benefit of a proven super-sleuth and champion of punter-perspective.

Digger appears to follow every item he starts as a project to completion. He is keeping a watchful eye on Plymouth, where that includes noticing what Sir Roy Gardner is up to. It is inevitable that a continued silence at Huish Park will lead him to find clues elsewhere - as his work uncovering the mystery of the previous Notts County owners showed.

This inevitability is now a predictable conveyor belt gathering pace. The Board need to take a reality check on what is happening, hold to the Customer Charter promise and explain how we could achieve by unity. If they don't, the simple conclusion at some point will be that they won't tell us because we won't agree that it's good for the club.

No-one wants to be at odds with their club, no-one either wants to hold up what may be an astoundingly good plan to advance the fortunes of the club.

But, on this issue, silence is madness. If a spouse was to inform the other that some bloke in a suit down the pub had told them it was good to change the house ownership into just that person's name, 'but don't worry, it's for the best', a lot of questions would follow. So would a lot of wondering, and checking to see if someone was winking at the milkman, or even the bloke in the suit, or booking airline tickets, or whatever.

That is certainly no slight on the integrity of this Board, none at all. It is simply the inevitability of human nature when faced with such an unexplained dilemma. The conveyor belt won't stop unless the Board acknowledge the obvious in that they have caused a chain-reaction that is sane, fair, and inevitable. It is up to them to apply the brakes by speaking up.

Yesterday has brought on the height of worry in normal times that a club should expect its support to have to cope with - ie. that the team played crap. It is inexcusable to bring significant extra worries through a silent dismissal, especially when disallowed by a promise of Charter. As well as it is inevitable that words such as 'despondent' to describe the effect of silence of both local media and the club are replaced by those such as 'bloomin' rude'.


Friday, 20 August 2010

Local press letting fans down

I haven't received my invitation for a chat with club chairman John Fry and Chief Executive Martyn Starnes yet, but judging by the comments made by some on the achieve by unity forum then I'm sure it's only a matter of time. It seems that the Chairman and CEO are willing to conduct one-on-one meetings with virtually anyone who asks them, which makes their apparently wilful refusal to otherwise comment on the ongoing Yeovil Town Holding Company saga very hard to understand.

It's not just the YTFC Board who are conspicuous by their silence however. So far all the running in publicising the story has been made by unofficial and independent supporters groups and websites/blogs, aided and abetted by the wonderful and tenacious Matt Scott, author of the Digger column in The Guardian newspaper. One would have thought that as the national press has now started to pick up on supporters' concerns over Holdingsgate (as I am now beginning to think of it) that the local press might have seen fit to make their own enquiries into the situation, but so far neither the Western Gazette nor the Yeovil Express have featured the story at all, other than the Gazette's initial interview with John Fry back in the first week of June, which was when the club first announced its intentions.

As I understand it the Capital Glovers sent their open letter to the Board to the Gazette and asked the paper to print it. I'm told that the paper then contacted the club to see if they wanted a right to reply to the letter, but the club refused, saying they wanted to respond to the Capital Glovers direct - despite telling the Capital Glovers that they hadn't received the open letter! Whatever, the Gazette have been holding the open letter for 3 weeks now and evidently have no intention of printing it without some kind of reply from the club, who evidently have no intention of replying - a completely unsatisfactory state of affairs. And what of the Yeovil Express? There's no bigger fan of the club than Express editor Steve Sowden but again, the silence from the paper on Holdingsgate is deafening. It's becoming clear that the local press are very good at reporting on the usual activities of the club, but when it comes to the unusual then they're found wanting. It's fortunate that The Guardian isn't as shy.

Does it matter that the local press is so backwards in coming forwards? Not as much as it did before the advent of the internet. Nowadays more fans are more informed than they used to be due to the influence of the net, but nevertheless a significant number of supporters still rely on the press and particularly the local press for their YTFC news and views. And it's these supporters who are being let down by the lack of coverage on Holdingsgate. It would be nice to think that both the Gazette and the Express could rediscover some independence and indeed some balls by the time they publish next week's editions of their respective papers, but I won't be holding my breath. The club says 'jump', they only ask 'how high'.

With some relief, it's back to why we are all here, the football. The Glovers entertain Hartlepool United tomorrow at Huish Park, with the visitors reeling somewhat after the unexpected resignation of former manager Chris Turner this week. Glovers boss Terry Skiverton has signed former Watford midfielder Billy Gibson on a 6-month deal and he will presumably go straight into Saturday's squad. Missing will be the suspended JP Kalala and almost certainly missing will be the almost certainly injured Luke Freeman; but on the plus side both Dean Bowditch and Andy Welsh should return from injury, so happy days there. Skivo's main selection dilemma will be in the central midfield spot - will Ed Upson or Rob Kiernan partner Luke Ayling in the middle? I would go for Upson initially, but Skivo may prefer Kiernan's defensive nous. We will see tomorrow.

The bookies make the Glovers favourites for the win at 11/10. The draw is priced at 12/5 and a Hartlepool win is also at 12/5. My fiver is going very firmly on the home win. Running total: -£4.25p. Come on you Greens!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Can you hear the Yeovil sing ...?

Cruncher is back with a follow-up to his blog of last week, 'Get over the hump'. Is there anybody out there listening?

Can you hear the Yeovil sing? I can't hear a ...

Well, you know the rhyme. Although there are some signs of warming up the vocal chords for a performance or two. Once the Board went for the ostrich technique, it was inevitable that they would invite more criticism and less trust. Just as it was clear that once Matt Scott was on the scent of the shareholders documents, that he would eventually find them. This is increasingly becoming a saga about inevitabilities; if the Board remain obstinate, there is no doubt Digger's spade-work will be followed up until eventually he starts up the JCB. The more you bury yer head in the sand, the easier it is to get yer arse kicked.

On motive, I remain open-minded. I do, however, see why the wider view may be falling the other way, largely due to the lack of explanation and debate. For all that is good at the club, silence and non-engagement unfortunately is a common theme, meaning a bolted-door policy over the years on other matters has now impacted on this single vital issue, to affect the benefit of doubt: one of the afore-mentioned inevitabilities.

As it happens, based on John Fry's long service and how the club is perceived in the wider football world, my instinct remains that there is good intention - though I sincerely wish the route avoided separation. I wish also that local and/or supporter investment had been sought as a preferential strategy, including accepting well-chosen new directors for their input and ideas as well as their money.

Apart from The Guardian, the press have been shy while supporters have been penned-in like sheep subdued by a wall of silence. On this issue, that has a proven as well as a potential risk, sheep don't stay penned-in for ever. The silence of the lambs has ended, the flock has broken free to find its voice with questions, and the club needs to find its own voice with comprehensive answers. Digger breaking through the topsoil does seem to have got the club reaching for the throat-spray. Let us hope that what they do say addresses the issues full-on, especially with regard to safeguarding the club and ensuring it benefits wholly from its own assets.

No-one wants development to be off-agenda, this small club needs to create revenue. The opportunity is there for the club to understand, then explain and engage, and then to achieve by unity. A lack of such action though will compound an opposite and divisive effect. With crowds having dwindled significantly compared to a few years back, that is relevant to the here-and-now, as well as the future. 'Achieve by Unity' is the club's motto, and (as the Guardian article highlighted) the Charter also demands debate on such issues.

I noticed Denison Till and their belief in asset-separation alongside understanding of 'football difficulties' a couple of months ago, when searching around to find more clues in general. I made and repeated a general enquiry that was not responded to, though accept an explanation given. Since Digger's disclosure that the club is consulting with them I contacted them again, combining my initial general points with YTFC relevance.

Consultant Andrew Lindsay (while understandably and politely expressing his unavailability to comment specifically or to continue a dialogue) sang the praises of the Yeovil directors, as he had done to Digger, confidently assessing the Yeovil Board as ranking high on integrity and commitment to both club and community, in his many years of experience; also re-assuring (without detail) that the proposed route was both safe and wise; and he viewed the current Yeovil business model as notably superior to how most lower league clubs were run.

All well and good. Now it is time for the Yeovil Board to sing the praise of their own proposals, and that will inevitably have to include detail. The Capital Glovers Open Letter was a fair and respectful open-minded approach, which I would ask the club to note as reflecting the general view of a great many of us. I know that others are making similar approaches and seeking other routes of help and advice - as is the inevitable outcome when explanation goes AWOL. If that compounded further, the collective opinion would strongly suspect that satisfactory explanation was not possible - the worst scenario.

This is not a stand-off from uninformed (oh the irony) supporters, but a plea from a realistic support that wants to be allowed to share a vision that they want proven as an exciting way forward they can take part in. Sing up.


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Late goals cost points, again.

Triple disappointment for the Glovers at the Memorial Stadium yesterday. Firstly we went down to a 2-1 defeat to Bristol Rovers, losing to a goal scored in the 4th minute of injury-time at the end of the game; secondly we lost Luke Freeman to a leg injury. At first it seemed the loanee might have broken his leg, but x-rays thankfully ruled that out; nevertheless it seems certain that the youngster will be sidelined for some weeks, though exactly for how long we will have to wait and see. A shame for him, and us. Thirdly, JP Kalala got himself sent off for 2 bookable offences which means he'll miss next Saturday's home game against Hartlepool. With such a small squad the last thing Skivo needs is a self-inflicted wound like this, it means that our central midfield against a streetwise Pools outfit next weekend will consist of two players whose League One starts can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

So far this season the Glovers have played 3 games and conceded 4 goals. All 4 goals conceded have something in common - their timing. The goals against have all come either in the last 5 minutes of the halves played, or in injury time itself. Now obviously 3 games is only 3 games, but nevertheless they are interesting stats. And of course we can all point to games last season when late, late goals cost us dearly - off the top of my head I can think of matches against Leeds, Millwall and Southampton from the run-in last season, in all of which we conceded injury-time goals which cost us points. What causes the late goals? No doubt fatigue, disruption caused by substitutions, maybe a lack of concentration or perhaps simply heavy pressure from teams desperate to score, all will play their parts. It's obviously something that Skivo and his coaches will be aware of, let's hope that a solution to the problem can be found sooner rather than later.

After 3 games in 7 days the Glovers now have a week to regroup before their next match. Three points out of a possible 6 and a narrow loss to a Championship side in the League Cup is by no means a bad start to the season. But the loss of Freeman for however long and Kalala for one match in the first week is a reality check. It's a long season and we have a very small squad. For all the optimism amongst the fanbase at the moment survival must still be this club's first goal.

Just read: Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. The blackest of black comedies set in a contemporary Dublin boys school. Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll are rife, and that's just the staff. What the boys get up to is worse... Hilarious, irreverent and at times moving and sad. It's on the long list for this year's Man Booker Prize and well recommended

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

League Cup R1: Yeovil Town 0 Crystal Palace 1

The Glovers entertained Championship outfit Crystal Palace last night in the first round of this season's League Cup competition. The match kicked off 5 minutes late due to the late arrival of Palace fans, held up by delays leaving London.

The visitors were all over Yeovil for the first 20 minutes or so, John Sullivan keeping us in the game with some excellent goal-keeping. Sullivan had an excellent match in fact, and if he carries on like this then not only will I be eating my words regarding my reservations as to his suitability as a no.1, but he'll have made the position his own, whether that's as a full-season loan or on a permanent basis. At any rate, the start Palace made threatened to blow us away, but gradually we began to catch up with the pace of the game and to create some chances of our own. Dean Bowditch was the recipient of a couple of those chances but unfortunately although he did well to get into good positions to score, the striker didn't have his shooting boots on last night and the chances went begging. Luke Freeman hit the bar for no reward, Bowditch got one on target but found a defender on the line, and Craig Alcock's header was saved. It was end-to-end stuff with both sides attacking with pace and verve and highly entertaining for the crowd of 3,720; but with no goals at half-time to show for it.

The second half was slightly less frenetic but just as entertaining and absorbing with both sides looking threatening without ever quite managing to make the breakthrough. The vast majority of fans in the stadium were convinced that the Glovers should have had a penalty with quarter-of-an-hour to go when Bowditch was upended in the visitors box by Paddy McCarthy. It looked a clear foul from where I was sitting but referee Phil Gibbs - who otherwise had an excellent game - waved play on, a pivotal decision in the outcome of the match as it turned out. The Glovers piled on the pressure for the rest of the game and in the last minute had the chance to win it when an Andy Williams cross found Bowditch in space in front of goal from 6 yards out. Somehow the ball bounced off the striker and a backtracking defender and looped gently into the Palace keeper's arms when a goal looked certain; and from the ensuing counter-attack the visitors finally did score. Sullivan did well again to block an initial shot but was left with no chance when the ball rebounded kindly to Alan Lee who scooped the ball into the back of the net. There was no time for the Glovers to respond and the Londoners were through to the next round.

We lined up as follows in a 4-4-2 formation:

1. John Sullivan: 9/10 - Top-class performance. I've been comparing him unfavourably to Alex McCarthy ever since his arrival, but this performance was every bit as good as McCarthy at his best. Mea culpa, again.

2. Craig Alcock: 7/10 - Better. More involved in the game than last Saturday, going forward and defensively.

5. Paul Huntington and 19. Adam Virgo: 8/10 for both - Our new central defenders look to be forming an effective partnership. Both are excellent in the air and no-nonsense on the ground. I was worried about their apparent susceptibility to pace pre-season, but they coped well with Palace's very pacey attack in this game. What I particularly like about them both is their refusal to take risks. If in doubt they kick the ball out and don't bugger about with it. Their other important attribute is that they both pose a threat from set-pieces. Encouraging.

3. Nathan Jones: 8/10 - Just when you think it's time for the old boy to retire then he comes along and has a game like this. Galloped up and down the left flank like somebody 20 years younger than he is, solid as a rock defensively and always prepared to get forward. A revelation.

18. Luke Freeman: 7/10 - Another very promising outing. Began the game on the right flank for a change but didn't look any worse for that, providing his usual threat running with the ball and his delivery from the wing. Was unlucky to hit the bar instead of the back of the net in the first half and is never afraid to shoot, which is very pleasing to see. Appeared to tire during the second half and was eventually replaced.

8. Luke Ayling and 21. Jean-Paul Kalala: 7/10 for both - Our central midfielders both appeared to be enjoying themselves last night and it showed in their performances. Ayling had far more time and space to pick his passes than he had against Orient and JP looked rather more like a footballer than the headless chicken he resembled on Saturday. Both of them roamed the length of the pitch in search of the ball and appear to be forming a good understanding.

7. Andy Williams: 8/10 - Started on the left and had an excellent game, whichever flank he was attacking from. Full of flicks, tricks and backheels, and provided some wonderful crosses which were begging to be put away. First-class.

9. Sam Williams: 7/10 - Decent all-round game. Didn't find it easy against Palace's experienced central defenders but stuck at it and won his share of flick-on's, one of which Bowditch really should have converted. At one point found himself clearing a Palace shot of his own line from broken play - an impressive example of his work-rate considering he's a striker!

10. Dean Bowditch: 7/10 - A frustrating game for Deano. No-one could fault his effort and ability to get himself into goalscoring positions, it was just that when he pulled the trigger he was firing blanks. He'll play worse than this and get a hat-trick.

6. Nathan Smith (73 mins for Luke Freeman): 8/10 - Came on as a direct replacement for Freeman on the left wing and added plenty to the Glovers attacking threat. I've never rated him as an out-and-out winger before, but on this brief cameo he could do a job in that position. Fast and direct, he's surely too good to be starting on the bench for much longer, however well Jonesy played last night.

So we lost, but trundling home from the ground last night it didn't feel like we had. We were never going to win the League Cup whatever happened and despite the eventual result the performance was what counted. Terry Skiverton has put together a side with pace, flair, inventiveness and spirit. Last night we kept the ball on the ground in the main, used the flanks and looked every bit as good as our Championship opponents for most of the match. The challenge now is for the lads to build on this performance at Bristol Rovers on Saturday.

And talking of the Gas, the bookies make them evens favourites for the win at the weekend, the draw is priced at 12/5 and the away win at 11/4. Given Rovers poor start to the season and the fact that we won there last time out I reckon that's quite generous of the bookies, and my fiver's going on the away win. Running total: +£1.25p.

Just read: Orbus by Neal Asher, and Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds: Two terrific 'hard' science-fiction books written in two very different styles, but both immensely entertaining in their different ways. Orbus is a Spatterjay novel set in Asher's Polity universe, and if you're a science-fiction fan who doesn't know what I'm talking about when I say that then you owe it to yourself to check his books out. Densely-plotted and action-packed, Orbus is simply wonderful. Pushing Ice is very different in tone and style, but equally rewarding. A stand-alone novel with big ideas and a huge timescale, but rooted in human foibles. Thought-provoking, well-written, and again, very enjoyable.

Adam Stansfield 1978-2010

Shocking news. Adam Stansfield has passed away. He had been diagnosed with bowel cancer and lost his battle with the disease last night, at the age of 31. My deep and sincere commiserations to his family and friends.

What can you say when something like this happens? There's no rhyme nor reason to it, nothing that can be said to make anyone feel better. All we have left are memories. I'll never forget Adam scoring against Stevenage Borough in the FA Trophy final and especially his interview afterwards, live on Sky Sports. 'I've come fucking miles for this,' he beamed in sheer delight and I can remember laughing out loud and thinking, yeah, haven't we all Lisa, haven't we all. I loved him a little bit for that and I loved him for the sheer effort he put in on the football pitch, loved him for the way he never stopped running, never stopped closing the opposition defenders down and for all the goals he scored in the green-and-white. And always with a smile on his face. And I loved him for refusing to celebrate when he scored against us for Exeter the last time he played at Huish Park, a short time before he was diagnosed with the bowel cancer that ended his life.

An Exeter fan, Nick Bryant, is doing a charity run from Exeter to Yeovil on the day the Glovers play Exeter City, Saturday 25th September, in aid of Cancer Research UK. Donations can be made here:

Rest In Peace Adam, you'll be missed.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Get Over The Hump

Guest-blogger time. Cruncher is back with a powerful plea to the Board to start talking....

Get Over The Hump

Time is moving on, and the questions and worries about the club's restructuring plans continue to be met with a castle-wall of silence. As an enthusiastic manager with an enterprising on-field approach who can also easily connect with the support, Terry Skiverton is a promising prospect to bring more through the gate. It is worrying, though, that he might be hindered by the Board's reluctance to illuminate about their own enterprising endeavours.

On one hand there is much to draw in new punters and to re-enthuse old ones to return. On the other, the club is advocating what has proved elsewhere to be significant risk in divorcing the football club from its ground - and then significantly compounding that with no explanation. It's a subjective view, but I tend to think it feasible that while Skiverton is drumming up more support, the wall of silence could cause the potential returning masses to, at best, dither.

The first crowd of the season could be read two ways: disappointing because it was down by a couple hundred on last year's opener; or encouraging because three hundred more turned up than for Orient's last visit - which is significant because last year it was also an August fixture. Which leads me to conclude unsurprisingly that nothing can be concluded after one game just as equally with attendances as with on-field prospects. I do think though that the end of August sum total attendance compared to last August might be an early measure, and even tomorrow's Crystal Palace Carling Cup crowd will be interesting to compare against last year's 3,860, for the Norwich encounter at the same stage of the competition.

Anyway, we'll have to see. It's the dilemma that I particularly want to mention and for the Board to note its significance: a feeling that we could indeed be taking small exciting steps to better things, yet coinciding with a great and rational fear of where the restructuring proposals could lead. They need to appreciate that this is what is in hearts and minds at this time, including no doubt in those that are 'dithering' about either finding out what Huish Park is like, or returning to the fold. It is real, and needs to addressed.

For what this club both needs and wants, Terry Skiverton's approach to developing this club hits the mark. A clear long-term objective to continue on an upward climb, committed to sourcing and developing talented youngsters to play to an entertaining attacking plan. Combine this with his understanding of the perspective from the supporter and the press, as an effective and enthusiastic communicator, then Skiverton shows potential to follow the successful eras of Alec Stock, Mike Hughes and Gary Johnson that defined the football club.

John Fry, like all of us, may acquire criticism on specific issues, but he has also certainly done enough for this club to have earned his place in the history of the club as firmly as anyone. That though adds to the enigma. Start talking to us. When it comes to matters so important as ground, I like my terra to be firma.

I particularly enjoyed DNB's post on the Achieve by Unity forum about the last twenty years of wonderful mixed emotion since the move from the old Huish - I want someone doing that with similar fond memories in another twenty years. Matt Scott of The Guardian has learned that his persistence has given the club 'the hump'. Time for the club to get over their hump. Martin Starnes has stressed in The Western Gazette the need for people to attend games - while welcome to hear, it falls on the club to look into all aspects of why people may not be attending.

How frustrating it would be to negate the good efforts of the management team, and indeed the good efforts of many years of good practice with John Fry at the helm. Silence or insufficient communication though has been a long-standing bugbear - but all those occasions added up together cannot amount to the need for words as does this singularly important restructuring issue.

As the line says, 'Silence like a cancer grows ...'


Sunday, 8 August 2010

L1: Yeovil Town 2 Leyton Orient 1

Goals from Dean Bowditch and Luke Freeman got the Glovers off to a winning start to the new season at Huish Park yesterday. Visitors Leyton Orient probably had more possession during the match and in truth looked the better side for much of the game, but a combination of good finishing and last-ditch defending won the points for Terry Skiverton's men.

The Glovers started the match well and dominated the first quarter-of-an-hour of the game, taking a deserved lead through a Bowditch solo effort. The striker received the ball wide on the right, cut inside to beat his marker and placed the ball wide of the keeper in the left hand corner of the goal from just outside the box. An excellent start, but strangely the Glovers couldn't capitalise and instead seemed to retreat into their shell, allowing the visitors to gradually take control of midfield and the match. It was no surprise when the O's pulled level on 41 minutes, Alex Revell nodding home a Dean Cox cross with the Glovers central defenders stranded. What was a surprise was the Glovers going into half-time with the lead intact, and it came about through a mistake from O's keeper Jamie Jones. A long ball out of defence found Andy Williams wide on the right who did well to take the ball down under heavy pressure and lob a cross into the box from the by-line. It looked easy for Jones but somehow the ball squirmed out of his grasp to fall into the path of Freeman, who side-footed gleefully into the open goal for probably one of the easiest goals he will ever score. 2-1 to Yeovil at half-time.

And that's how it stayed. The pattern of the game had been set: The visitors had most of the possession, passing the ball around nicely up to the home side's penalty box and invariably grinding to a halt there - all very familiar to long-time watchers of Russell Slade's sides, it must be said. Former Glover Terrell Forbes was unlucky not to score when a bullet header hit the post from a corner, and on the odd other occasion the visitors did break through Adam Virgo crowned an excellent competitive debut by clearing off the line. Orient huffed and puffed, the Glovers threatened sporadically on the break and that, in the end, was that. Not the the most convincing of performances from the Glovers, but a very welcome three points and plenty of room for improvement. I'll very happily take that.

We lined up as follows in a 4-4-2 formation:

1. John Sullivan: 7/10 - Good, competent performance. Not overly stretched by the O's attack but did what he had to do well and without fuss.

2. Craig Alcock: 6/10 - Decent game, without ever quite hitting the highs that we know he's capable of. Looked to be caught out of position for Orient's goal, but that's what can happen when your full-back is looking to attack as much as Craig does.

5. Paul Huntington: 7/10 - Very solid and reliable. I was a tad concerned about his parternship with Virgo beforehand and indeed they were caught out once looking at each other wondering who should have been marking who after Revell's goal; but apart from that lapse combined very well.

19. Adam Virgo: 8/10 - I take it all back! I said a week or so ago that I didn't think that Virgo would be a good signing, good in the air but too slow. I was wrong. Dominated at the back, dangerous at set-pieces, and kept us in the game with a couple of goal-line clearances where he literally put his body on the line. Mea culpa!

3. Nathan Jones: 5/10 - No doubting his enthusiasm, nor his effort and certainly not his spirit but these days the flesh is getting weaker. I assume Nathan Smith has some sort of knock?

7. Andrew Williams: 6/10 - Didn't quite get into the game with the same kind of positive effect we saw in the friendlies. Didn't have a bad game by any means and the second goal came from his assist, but was generally fairly quiet by his recent standards.

8. Luke Ayling: 5/10 - Tried hard but found it tough against Orient's 3-man midfield. Rarely had the time on the ball that he found in the pre-season, but kept going against the odds. It's all part of the learning curve for him.

21. JP Kalala: 6/10 - Looked like a one-man wrecking squad at times. Threw himself into tackles but was always swimming against the tide of that 3-man midfield. When he did get the ball his passing wasn't as precise as it might have been.

18. Luke Freeman: 7/10 - Decent game. Made one or two good runs down the left but guilty at times of trying to beat one man too many before delivering the ball. Again, it's all part of the learning curve for him. Attacking instincts led him to be in the right place at the right time for the winning goal.

9. Sam Williams: 5/10 - No lack of effort but no real penetration or anything much else really. Did okay, but you can see why Skivo has started talking about the need for an alternative target-man.

10. Dean Bowditch: 7/10 - Good game. Enthusiastic running, put himself about the pitch, always available for the pass, took his goal very well and was unlucky not to score again in the second half.

14. Rob Kiernan (84 mins for Luke Freeman): N/A - Not on long enough to make an impression.

15. Cameron Stewart (77 mins for Dean Bowditch): 6/10 - Did enough in the short time he was on to suggest that Andy Williams is going to have real competition for the right-wing role.

One down then and 45 to go. Tuesday night sees the visit of Championship side Crystal Palace. The bookies make the Eagles favourites at 13/10, the draw is priced at 12/5 and a Glovers win at 17/10. My fiver is going on the home win. Running total: +£6.25p.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Mystic Taff's season's predictions 2010/11

So here we are only a couple of days away from the big kick-off and it's time once again to put on my Tommy Cooper fez and gaze into my crystal ball to see who's going to finish where next May. Now people laughed this time last year when, amongst other things, I said Stevenage would be promoted from the Conference; and that Spurs would finish 4th in the Premiership. Guess who's laughing now? So without further ado, here are this season's runners and riders:

Premiership: Another potentially fascinating season awaits. Six clubs, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool all have the wherewithall to finish in the top four, but four into six doesn't go. My gut feeling is that Man City will this season make the breakthrough into the top four, Spurs will consolidate into real title contenders, Arsenal will slip out of the elite group and Liverpool will improve now they have a competent manager, but perhaps not by enough. I just wonder about Man Utd. Last season they relied very heavily on Wayne Rooney bringing home the bacon and they've barely strengthened over the summer. Could they be surprise strugglers? One can only hope. At the other end of the table Blackpool have to be the biggest dead certs for relegation since er, Burnley last season.

Champions: Chelsea (Last seasons prediction: Chelsea - actual finish: 1st)
Runners-up: Manchester City (Manchester United - 2nd)
3rd: Tottenham Hotspur (Liverpool - 7th)
4th: Manchester United (Tottenham Hotspur - 4th)
Europa League: Liverpool, Arsenal (Manchester City - 5th, Aston Villa - 6th)
Relegated: Blackpool, Wigan, West Ham United (Burnley - relegated, Hull City - relegated, Stoke City - 11th)

Championship: Normally one would expect all 3 clubs relegated from the Prem to have a good go at bouncing right back the following season but I can't see that happening this time. Portsmouth will more than likely be relegated again, Burnley were lucky to be promoted in the first place and will be play-off contenders at best, and Hull City will be happy enough with mid-table mediocrity and avoiding administration. My choices for automatic promotion are Nottingham Forest and Reading, with Leicester City, Queens Park Rangers, Middlesbrough and dark horses Doncaster Rovers vying for the play-offs. As mentioned above it doesn't take a Nostradamus to see Pompey doing a Leeds and sadly I can see Cardiff City going the same way unless the club's new Malaysian owners start putting some money where their mouths are.

Champions: Nottingham Forest (last season's prediction: Middlesbrough - actual finish: 11th.)
Runners-up: Reading (Cardiff City - 4th)
Play-off winners: Doncaster Rovers (West Bromwich Albion - 2nd)
Relegated: Portsmouth, Cardiff City, Scunthorpe United (Newcastle United - 1st [oops!], Barnsley - 18th, Swansea City - 7th)

League One: Southampton have the stadium, money, team and resources to go the entire season without being beaten and must be red-hot favourites to go up as champions. Charlton's experience from last season will be enough to provide the impetus to make the other automatic promotion place their own. Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday, Peterborough and Plymouth are my tips for the play-off's. At the other end of the table there always seems to be one surprise struggler. Last season it was Southend, this season I have a feeling in my water about our 'friends' from up north. Keep your eye on the Gas.

Champions: Southampton (last season's prediction: Charlton Athletic - actual finish: 4th)
Runners Up: Charlton Athletic (Leeds United - 2nd)
Play-off winners: Huddersfield Town (Norwich City - 1st)
Relegated: Rochdale, Exeter City, Dagenham & Redbridge, Bristol Rovers (Exeter City - 18th, Swindon Town - 5th, Hartlepool United - 20th, Carlisle United - 14th)

League Two: This division is looking more and more like the Conference in disguise these days and even though I forecast it happening I still can't believe Stevenage are a football league side now. The division is also one of the tightest of them all, especially at the top. My three to be promoted automatically: Bradford City, Port Vale and Morecambe. Play-off's between Burton Albion, Chesterfield, Rotherham and Aldershot. It could be equally tight at the bottom, with Accrington, Barnet, Macclesfield and Cheltenham all fighting for the right to party in the Blue Square Premier next year.

Champions: Port Vale (last season's prediction: Northampton Town - actual finish: 11th)
Runners-up: Bradford City (Notts County - 1st)
3rd place: Morecambe (Bradford City - 14th)
Play-off winners: Aldershot (Rotherham - 5th)
Relegated: Cheltenham, Accrington Stanley (Grimsby Town - relegated, Accrington Stanley - 15th)

Blue Square Premier: Or League Three, or even Division Five depending on how old you are. The boundaries between league and non-league are becoming more and more blurred nowadays and this season half of the teams competing in non-league's premier division are ex-football league clubs and perhaps more to the point full-time. Luton will be once again the team to beat and I fancy York City, Wrexham, Cambridge United and Grimsby to make the play-off's. Can a part-time club bridge the gap? Almost certainly not, which doesn't bode well for the likes of our our old rivals Bath City or Forest Green Rovers.

Champions: Luton Town (last season's prediction: Luton Town - actual finish: 2nd
Play-off winners: York City (Stevenage - 1st)
Relegated: Hayes & Yeading, Bath City, Forest Green Rovers, Eastbourne Borough (Salisbury - relegated, Eastbourne Borough - 19th, Ebbsfleet - relegated, Chester City - relegated).

And finally, proving once and for all that hope continually triumphs over experience I will again this season be putting a fiver on each of the Glover's games as they come along. Last season this resulted in me making a profit of, (drum roll....) £3.88p over the season. Well, at least it wasn't a loss.

We start off with Leyton Orient at home on Saturday. The Glovers are 5/4 favourites, the draw is priced at 9/4 and an Orient win at 11/5. In accordance with my unwritten rule that says I must always bet on the home win if we are odds against, then my fiver is going on the Glovers win. And the best of luck to us all!

Monday, 2 August 2010

We're going to score one more than you

This time last year I looked at the Glovers squad and compared it with the squad from the previous season and attempted to forecast where we would eventually end up at the end of the season. Quite clearly I knew what I was talking about as my forecast of a final position of 15th did indeed eventually come to pass, though we'll draw a veil over such comments as "An injury-free Scott Murray will score and provide goals." and "Keeping Danny Schofield was the third major bonus of the summer." Well, no-one can be right all of the time.

Here then, is my look at this season's squad (with last season's incumbents in brackets) and my thoughts as to what we can expect:

Goalkeepers: John Sullivan, Richard Martin (Alex McCarthy, Richard Martin). You've got to feel a little sorry for John Sullivan. Not only has he to follow in Alex McCarthy's footsteps, he still doesn't know if he's going to be here for more than a month, with rumours persisting that McCarthy may be on his way back to Huish Park eventually. At least, we don't know if Sullivan knows if he's going to be here for more than a month, if you see what I mean. Perhaps he does? Whatever, Sullivan's a competent enough keeper, but he's no McCarthy. This year's Martin looks to be an improvement on last year's Martin.

Fullbacks: Craig Alcock, Danny Hutchins, Nathan Smith, Nathan Jones, (Craig Alcock, Danny Hutchins, Nathan Smith, Nathan Jones. No change from last season, surprisingly. I've said it before and I'll say it again, in my opinion Alcock and Smith are as good a pair of starting fullbacks in this league and we're lucky to have kept hold of both of them. We'll hopefully see a lot less of Nathan Jones on the pitch this season and it would be wonderful if Danny Hutchins was to rediscover the form and enthusiasm he showed when he first came to the club on loan from Spurs.

Central defenders: Stefan Stam, Adam Virgo, Paul Huntington, Rob Kiernan (Stefan Stam, Steven Caulker, Terrell Forbes). I've included Kiernan as a central defender but he could equally be used as a midfielder. And currently he's only here for a month anyway. As for the rest, Stam unfortunately is liable to be injured more than he plays and from what I've seen so far in the pre-season both Virgo and Huntington have two things in common: They're good in the air and susceptible to being run at with pace. It remains to be seen whether the threat they'll pose from set-pieces will be greater than their vulnerability from open play.

Central midfielders: JP Kalala, Luke Ayling, Ed Upson (Kieran Murtagh, George O'Callaghan, Ryan Mason). Both Ayling and Upson look to have bags of potential but both are very young and relatively untried. Kalala's fitness and influence will be crucial.

Wingers: Andy Williams, Cameron Stewart, Luke Freeman, Andy Welsh (Scott Murray, Aidan Downes, Danny Schofield, Andy Welsh). If there's one area we've strengthened then this is it. All four of this season's squad are exciting, attacking players and 3 of the 4 are also capable of playing up front. Really looking forward to seeing them all play this season.

Strikers: Sam Williams, Dean Bowditch, Craig Calver (Gavin Tomlin, Sam Williams, Dean Bowditch, Andre McCollin). If Bowditch can stay fit then it's not impossible to see him scoring 20 goals this season. The key phrase is 'stay fit'.

Overall then we have at the time of writing a first-team squad of 20 (assuming Richard Martin has signed some sort of contract), the same as this time last year plus around a dozen academy players. Two of the first-team squad are loanees on long-term (6-month) deals and 2 are loanees on short-term (1-month) deals.

It's evident that Skivo is setting out to build on last season's pattern of play and then some. We're going to get the ball down, out to the flanks and then into the box and there's going to be plenty of attackers in and around the box looking for the ball. I fully expect us to start most games with a back four and two holding midfielders, but after that it's anyone's guess. It could be 4-4-2, 4-2-1-3, 4-2-3-1, even 4-2-4 at times. Whatever it is, it's going to be attacking, open - maybe to open for comfort at times - and exciting.

It's one of those beautiful ironies that football often throws up that our first opponents this season are Leyton Orient, managed by former Glovers boss Russell Slade. It's often forgotten that under Slade the Glovers played some breathtaking stuff at times during his first season at Huish Park even if he came to be regarded as - at best - a pragmatic manager, someone who's first concern was to stop his opponents scoring rather than one who takes risks. Skivo is shaping up to be his exact opposite in philosophy, one of the 'we're going to score one more than you' school. As much as I admired Slade and respected the work he did at Yeovil, I'll take Skivo and his attractive and attacking style of football any day.

For what it's worth I think this time around we're going to do better than last season. Last term we won a grand total of 13 games out of 46 played and finished 15th On 53 points. We look stronger going forward this season even if marginally weaker defensively, but I think Skivo has rightly decided that attack is the best form of defence. We will finish in the top ten, but out of the play-off's. Final position: 9th. As far as cup competitions are concerned I couldn't help noticing that we are 40/1 to win the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at the moment. 40/1! Say no more.