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Friday, 19 November 2010

I should have stayed home

Many thanks to Cruncher for going above and beyond the call of duty last weekend and making a 400-mile round trip to supply a match report for the Dagenham debacle. I was enjoying the Millennium Stadium experience at the time and watching a cracking game of rugby between Wales and South Africa which the hosts would have won fairly comfortably if it wasn't for a bunch of drugged-up Springboks and a blind and biased New Zealand referee. Still, the stadium was magnificent, the atmosphere incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity (and naturally took full advantage of it) to drink as much beer as I wanted while watching the game (Brains, of course). All around me 54,000 like minded souls were doing the same with South African and Welsh fans all mingling together, all consuming copious amounts of alcohol (I don't think I've ever seen so much beer/lager drunk in such a short space of time by so many) and all without even the vaguest hint of trouble or bother. A real eye-opener for anyone used to having their bottle top removed from their plastic soft drink bottle and to being segregated within an inch of their life at their nearest football ground. The only fly in the afternoon's ointment came with the regular text updates I was receiving from Huish Park. As I said to my long-suffering wife, who was having enough trouble at the time getting to grips with the complexities of the rugby union line-out laws never mind offsides (though she's very good at offside in football); 'how the hell do we expect to stay in League One if we can't beat the likes of Dagenham & bloody Redbridge?' She had no answer and I'm beginning to wonder if anyone associated with Yeovil Town Football Club has either.

Watching the Glovers this season has been like watching a Formula 1 car with slick tyres going round Silverstone in the middle of a thunderstorm. All's well on the straights and a fair old head of steam is sometimes built up, but disaster lurks at every corner, the brakes are useless and the less said about the pit-stops the better. With a third of the season gone, the league table doesn't lie: 23rd, 4 points away from safety and the joint-worst goal difference in the division.

The answer it seems is not, after all, the recruitment of another loan striker. At the start of the week the arrival of Chelsea reserve-team striker Adam Phillip on a month's loan was being regarded by a sceptical fanbase as Skivo's attempt to turn our mis-firing strikeforce into a deadly attack, capable of taking those chances spurned on a regular basis otherwise. Five days later and it now seems that the lad will be lucky to get onto the pitch at all before his month is up, as the manager has said he will wait to blood his new player at least until one of our other 6 loan players has returned to his club, which will be in three games time at the earliest. One feels a bit of sympathy for Phillip in that case, having to sit out at least 3 more games before he gets his chance, but one also feels sympathy for existing players at the club who have waited even longer for their opportunity. The likes of Craig Calver, Billy Gibson and Ed Upson must be wondering what they have to do to get some playing time in a losing team and I would also wonder how Luke Freeman would have reacted when he heard that another striker was being drafted in. The Arsenal loanee may have made 15 appearances on paper this season, but only 5 have been starts in the league and in many of his cameos he's been pushed out onto the left. Despite that he's still managed a couple of goals and one might have thought that he would have been worth trying for a while in his favoured striking position. Similarly Andrew Williams is as capable in front of goal as he is on the wing and again might have been worth a spell up front before the resort to the loan market.

I don't necessarily think that a new loan in was a bad idea mind you, but I do question the wisdom of bringing in another forward. To my mind what's needed above all else is some solidity at the back. We give far too many goals away, more often than not from set-pieces where the marking goes awry. We need, well, you name it, we need it. The recent absence of Craig Alcock has shown up the inherent weakness of the squad - how many other L1 clubs would have no recognised cover at right-back? John Sullivan is a decent keeper and by all accounts a nice fella, but would anyone argue he's a step up on Alex McCarthy or Stephen Henderson? Similarly both Adam Virgo and Paul Huntington have excellent qualities but somehow, as a pair, combine to leak goals as well as score them at the other end, and their only back-up is the injury-prone Stefan Stam. The left side of defence I would generally exempt from criticism as between them the two Nathan's have, in my opinion, done good, to use footballing parlance. So I would have been looking for a utility defender, someone to fill-in for Craig Alcock until his return from injury and then put pressure on the central defenders to perform. And, I hear you say, who would this paragon of virtue be? Not a clue, I answer, that's what the coaching/scouting staff get paid for. But these kind of players are around and it is possible to borrow them. We've done it before, for example with Liam Fontaine, equally adept at full-back and centre-half.

There, that's the defence sorted. Next week I will explain how to turn water into wine and describe how, on Football Manager 2011 I sold Andy Welsh to Portsmouth for £250,000 and a sell-on fee. Who said computer games were unrealistic?

Tomorrow the Glovers take on a resurgent Charlton at The Valley, god help us. The home side are 8/13 favourites, the draw is priced at 14/5 and a Yeovil win at a surprisingly miserly 9/2. My fiver, more in hope than in anger, is going on the away win. Come on Yeovil, shock us all! Running total: -£25.25p

Just read: Fall of Giants by Ken Follett; and Another World by Pat Barker. Fall of Giants is another huge, and I mean enormous, tome from the author of Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. It follows the fortunes of five different, but somehow inter-related families from the outbreak of the First World War to the Armistice, from the coalfields of Wales to the Russian Revolution via the White House and the War itself. It's a page-turner (which is a good job as there's 850 of them to plough through) but it managed to keep my interest until the end. It's not of the same standard as Pillars of the Earth, but it's still worth a read if you've got plenty of time and are strong enough to pick the bloody thing up. The first of a trilogy still to come, be still my beating heart. In contrast I read Pat Barker's creepy little study of a dysfunctional family living in a haunted house in one sitting, and then stayed awake half the night unable to settle. Terrific writing and proof positive that less is quite often more.

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