The smallest Steps (guest blog by Ben Barrett)- Yeovil Town FC

Pre-season is well and truly underway and the transfer merry-go-round is in full swing, and this is as evident as ever down at Huish Park.

We’ve had the most famous side in the world at Yeovil, and beat them; we have brought some players in, let some go and even started borrowing some from others.

Fans have seen a new kit unveiled and are all starting to find themselves asking the same old question: What can we expect?

Allow me to start with the pre-season fixtures, the results really don’t matter, we had a couple of behind-closed-doors friendlies in London a draw against Wycombe and a defeat against Stevenage, during those games we had a number of trialists all playing for a contract and getting fit one stage at a time.

The next game we had was a big one – Manchester United brought an XI down led by Ole Gunner Solskjaer, many of the players had been prominent in the reserve league for the Red Devils and had come close to breaking into the side, names like Rodrigo Possebon, Nicholas Ajose and James Chester have all featured on Premier League benches and even in the Carling Cup squads.

The reason for the visit of Man United was for Darren Way, Yeovil Town legend, a player and now coach who had his career cut short in a road accident in December 2008.

Over 6,500 people showed up to show their support for one of the best players to ever pull on the green and white shirt – to top it all off, we won 3-2! I’ve explained in previous blogs just how important Darren has been to the club so I won’t play that record again, but it really was the perfect send off for a true legend.

Let’s be honest it is always nice to beat United anyway – but it was the workout for the squad, the extra match fitness and the test of playing against some of the best young players in the country which the team will appreciate the most.

Since then we have been on the wrong end of a 3-1 score line against Bristol City, but as I’ve said before the result really doesn’t matter, and hearing that partnerships between centre-backs and centre-forwards are blossoming within the squad has to be a good thing.

Yeovil Town have a higher turnover of players than your average League One side and this summer has been no different, we lost our London-based players, Gav Tomlin, Terrell Forbes and Kieran Murtagh all to teams closer to ‘home’ as well as saying goodbye to numerous loanees.

Since the departures, the clubs has acted to bolster the numbers, in have come a former Premier League defender who is still only 22, one of Arsenal’s brightest prospects and a midfielder with a perfect name for a footballer – Ed Upson!

The Premier League defender is Paul Huntington, once of Newcastle has found himself in Yeovil via spells at Leeds and Stockport. Living in Leeds I know a bit of him and Leeds fans speak reasonably high of him claiming he was just a bit unlucky with injuries and a change of manager. Yeovil fans can hope a bit of stability and a run in the team could see him become one of the freebies of the season.

Yeovil’s blossoming relationships with big clubs are growing from strength to strength; we are not just happy with being the feeder club for Tottenham’s youngsters we are borrowing some Arsenal’s young talent.

Prospects

Luke Freeman has joined his mate Luke Ayling at Yeovil and they both have great reviews from the Arsenal faithful – Freeman has had a squad number and with the Gunners youth policy there for everyone to see, he really is one of their best young English prospects.

We are building a team which has the ability to chop and change the front line at the click of Terry Skiverton’s finger, with Freeman, Dean Bowditch, Andy Williams and Andy Welsh all having the ability to play either on the wing or in a more advanced role, I am really looking forward to seeing us score some more goals this term.

In midfield, we have got a youngster on loan from Watford; Jean Paul Kalala got a new contract and Ed Upson from Ipswich. I won’t pretend I know an awful lot about Ed, but reading some of the Ipswich fans opinions on him suggest he could be more than just a useful acquisition.

The only area we still look a little light in is the goalkeeper department, still no permanent stopper and with goalkeeping coach Ben Roberts filling in during pre-season games it is easy to understand fan’s concerns.

Skivo has assured that there are people in the pipeline ready to come in when they return from tour with their parent clubs, rumours of David Button at Tottenham and Elliot Parish at Villa have circulated but we wait for something concrete. What we have done is plug the gap with John Sullivan from Millwall on loan, only for a month, but he has already performed well in preseason and looks like he will be given his chance.

The squad is taking shape, we are still a week or so from the start of the season and even longer until the end of the transfer window so there is still time to see just how good trialists are and get contracts signed.

Progression

But what can we expect from the upcoming season?

Some fans are already set in their ways, claiming that we are set for another season of hoping not to get relegated and hoping the standard of football is good enough for long enough to get a few people through the turnstiles.

But not me, I am positive and will be doing everything I can do persuade others that we can make some progression. We have a stronger squad that at this stage in any recent season, we have a management team which are no longer inexperienced and a hungry young squad eager to impress.This could be our best chance to make an impact on the league in a long time.

The opposition in the league are also considerably weaker than previous years too; the main threats are Sheffield Wednesday who have a transfer embargo and Southampton who could end up running away with the league. I’m not going to be putting any money on promotion or even the play-offs any time soon, but I am going to put my head on the line and say we will finish in the top half.

That for me is progression and another step to build on, if that can be achieved then the two year deals that have been handed to the likes of Bowditch, Huntington and Nathan Smith will all prove a worthwhile investment. For what it is worth, I’ll be happy with anything above about 15th in the league – sometimes the smallest steps are the most satisfying.

In Skivo We Trust

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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