Our three and a half years of existence as a website have seen us occasionally dabble in the spirit of mindless speculation in analysing the squad of a promotion chasing club to assess the readiness for a possible step up in level the following August. Previous studies have covered the Queen’s Park Rangers of Neil Warnock, a Nigel Adkins led Southampton and West Ham under Sam Allardyce.
Yeovil Town, a club that has flirted with promotion to the second tier once before, had etched up eight league wins on the trot before Saturday’s almost equally impressive 1-1 draw at fellow promotion chasers Doncaster, and with only two points separating the Glovers from the top spot in an almost unbearably tense League One, they can now dare to indulge in reverie. Here, Ben Barrett looks at at how well equipped the Somerset club might be for Championship football.
I feel a bit naughty writing this, it’s like tempting fate. So I’ll start with a disclaimer of sorts.
With 13 games to go, Yeovil Town are fully in the mix, not only for play-off spots, but for automatic promotion places in League One.
Fighting weekly against sides with budgets that eclipse our own, we have held firm, and Saturday’s draw with Doncaster brought to an end an eight game winning streak.
This change of momentum has coincided with a change of attitude at Huish Park – gone are the days of short contracts and a need to turn over mass amounts of players each summer – only four or five of those listed below see their deals with Yeovil run out in the summer, including the loans – and that makes a big change from everyone needing new contracts.
So this is a look at the players that have earned the Glovers their place in the fight for promotion and whether or not they’d cut the mustard in the division above.
It’s a long old way until the season’s end, but we’re in there scrapping with the best of them. League One fans have been writing “little old Yeovil” off for too long now.
Gary Johnson is back and as a result, Yeovil Town are back, write us off at your peril!
The song goes, ‘We’ve got the best ‘keeper in the league…’and I’m prepared to stand here and claim that isn’t just supporter-based propaganda, but a full blown fact.
Without Štěch, Yeovil Town wouldn’t be in the hunt for the play offs, we would be pottering about in mid-table. Marek Stech keeps wins from being draws and draws from being defeats.
Everything about his game is ready for a higher level and probably has been all season. And Glovers fans are pinching ourselves that we secured his services. The truth is, if Yeovil don’t make the Championship, Štěch will – his quality hasn’t gone unnoticed.
These verdicts won’t all be this simple.
Verdict: Ready – always has been.
Luke Ayling is something of a tougher call and he’s now our longest serving player (if you exclude Gavin Williams who has been away and come back for a second stint), securing the right back spot and making it his own.
But his early season performances were somewhat ropey, mainly due to questions over his positioning and aerial ability. Over time, however, and once Joe Edwards had come in, initially on loan, then on a permanent deal, he bucked his ideas up.
Hence, his position in the side is no longer guaranteed and it’s made him a better player.
So, the verdict is this, I’d want him in my Championship side but only if he is kept on his toes. His second half of the season performances have been greatly improved and he’s a player showing he’s ready to take elevation in his stride.
Ask any Doncaster or Northampton fan to write this bit and they’ll have a hard time typing amid tears of laughter. They all tell us he’s a donkey; no pace, no talent, no chance.
But Gary Johnson brought an inexperienced defender from a League Two side, on the cheap, and moulded him into someone I wouldn’t want missing from my team.
However, his style of all action defending is certainly best suited to League One, with its numerous attackers of a big and burly nature – dealing with this is what Webster does best.
He’ll head long balls away for fun, he’ll throw his body on the line and he’ll stick his foot into challenges others might stay away from.
I guess I’d have to ask if that’s the sort of defender you need in the Championship, or whether you need those who can pass and move and blend in with midfield play more.
His play this season has been top notch – some of the games where we’ve been under the including those against Sheffield United and Coventry – teams hrowing on big men late on to grab equalisers – have been immense. Nullifying Leon Clarke and Dave Kitson is no easy task.
Could he do it to Jordan Rhodes and Jermaine Beckford? I’m not sure; it’s a different mould up there.
Verdict: I’d take him, he deserves his chance, but we might need another option.
Dan Burn is a young lad on loan from Fulham and much like Ayling, he has grown into the season. Having experienced nothing of League football before this campaign, with each game, he grows stronger and cleverer.
He’s big, he’s tall and he’s got height on his side… you see where I’m going with this?
His presence makes a difference in the air – in both penalty areas – and his bond with Webster is strengthening with each match.
I guess the concern about going up into the Championship is the same as Webster’s – there isn’t a long line of Clayton Donaldsons waiting for you; there are all too different strikers and play makers to be dealing with.
But, he’s learning and he won’t learn about those players and how to deal with them without playing among them.
I don’t think I could trust him as the main centre back, at least based purely on experience, so yes, it would be a risk in the league above, but maybe a risk worth taking.
For the club, a loan deal might be cheaper than bringing in another centre back. For the player, a chance to show what he can do at that level may do him the world of good.
For everyone, the consistency of playing next to a settled partner, like Webster might be the key.
Verdict: Again, I’d take him with us if Fulham would allow, but I’d have to have someone with some defensive know-how ready as well.
We’ve started the back four with three players whom I’d be happy to take into the Championship with a few caveats thrown in. We finish with a player who I wouldn’t…well…not with confidence anyway.
McAllister is our captain and he’s filled a troublesome gap at left back, left vacant by Nathan Jones who is now beginning a coaching life. Without question he has experience – bundles of it – and he has leadership skills, while he knows a Gary Johnson team inside out.
But throughout the season, his left back spot has been a source of joy for the opposition, in fairness, Macca has always done well to nullify the problems, but would the jump in quality of opposition be matched by a jump in quality from an ageing full back?
For me, no. That’s a massive shame too, he has brought that nous to the back line, the ability to organise and command a situation. But I’m not sure he has another season in the second tier in him.
Verdict: to be replaced – but I don’t want him on the scrapheap. I want him stood alongside Gary, Skivo and Darren in the dugout. He’s been Yeovilified, as Johnson calls it, and he’s one of us now. He shares similar beliefs and attitudes to Gary. Player-Coach? Why not?
There is quite a story here. Observers from afar will have seen Dawson come in on trial when his best mate, Paddy Madden joined us. You could suggest he was there as a friendly face to make the move from Carlisle to Yeovil easier for the front man. What we have stumbled on, however, is raw talent.
Dawson has slotted into the right hand side of midfield like he’s been there all his life. His link up play with those around him has been magnificent, his work rate is probably only matched by Madden and he’s got a future in the game.
He’s only signed a deal until the end of the season, but for me he plays a key role on and off the field.
He’s Madden’s house mate and the striker is likely to be hot property in the summer. I say, we sign Dawson up now – he’ll be an asset to us on the pitch, but if Madden has a chance to leave, I’d suggest having a mate in Dawson who is hanging around might make it harder to up sticks again. Home comforts and all that.
I’d want Dawson in my side, no matter what division we’re in.
Yeovil have played somewhat of a blinder in the transfer market this January. Paddy Madden secured on a two and a half year deal, Dawson too and this fella.
Joe Edwards has been brilliant since joining permanently from Bristol City. He could have stayed and fought for a place at Ashton Gate under new management, but two loan spells at Yeovil have Yeovilified him too.
He trusts in the Gary Johnson way of doing things, he can play in anyone of six or seven positions, and has the time ahead to improve even more.
He’s staying so long as Gary Johnson does. If that’s in League One or the Championship, I won’t be moaning.
Ed’s signing of a contract at the end of last season was possibly the start of our success story.
Two more years for a midfielder who was hundreds of miles from home and ne of the best performers in a struggling side, amid interest from other clubs, showed us the sort of ambition we had been crying out for.
Luke Ayling followed suit and signed an extension and suddenly, two key players no longer saw Yeovil as a stepping stone to a bigger club. They believed in us and in Gary Johnson.
His performances have not only got better, they’ve matured. He’s playing a role that can be box-to-box or the old head that sits and protects while others go and do the flair stuff.
I’m delighted he’s contracted to us for the next campaign and a step up to the Championship is probably due, if he does it with Yeovil he’ll be a key component of our side – if he does it with anyone else, he may find himself playing a bit part role.
It could be easy to sit back and suggest that plucking freebies out of non-league has resulted in an almost 100% failure rate over the past four or five years for Yeovil Town.
No longer, my friends – Sam Foley is the exception to the rule.
Foley is probably my player of the season so far, which, when you consider the gushing praise I’ve heaped on Štěch /Madden et al, is quite a claim.
He was the best player when we’re playing badly and he isn’t far off it now we’re playing well – his ability to turn defence into attack is unequalled, his array of passing and his link up play in small spaces make him the perfect candidate for the Championship.
Again, if it could be with us, he’d get more minutes as he continues to learn about life in the Football League. Elsewhere might see him drop to a more rotational role.
Foley, like Dawson, is on a shorter deal. Can I hear the feint cry of ‘Sign him up…?’ Yes, yes I can.
Little Patrick Madden, staring down the barrel of the being the first Yeovil striker to score 20+ goals in a season since Phil Jevons, breaking 50 year old records for scoring in consecutive games, and a proud place on a ‘League One top scorer’ bet sat in my back pocket (20/1 at the time).
Madden has been a revelation. Put simply, it wasn’t working out at Carlisle, it wasn’t going to – they got a small fee, a player off their wage bill and a sell on clause; we got a goal scoring machine.
A good deal all round. He’s a typical finisher with bundles of energy, running and effort to boot. His positioning, his pace and relationship with Hayter and Dawson in particular have made his performances all the better.
Everything than can be said about him already has. Yes he can handle the Championship – yes he’ll score goals if we’ve got the players to make chances for him.
If he’s happy and confident he’ll score goals.
There will be some Championship defenders (and those coming down from the Premier League) who won’t enjoy chasing this little scamp around for 90 minutes.
Can we keep prying scouts and tempting figures from luring him away? I don’t know, but I’d want some 0’s on the end of the number, and a fair few of them too.
Described by many as the ‘class act’ of the front line, James Hayter has been there, done it, and got some pretty impressive t-shirts along the way.
He’s not getting younger, but he’s playing a vital role in the side. Madden has mentioned before that Hayter should take a lot of credit for the goals anyone scores in the side and having that nous that comes with experience is proving as invaluable as anything at the moment.
He’s quiet, he doesn’t really do interviews, and is more than happy to let others take the limelight.
I’d want him with me and my side in the division above, but I think I’d try and mould him into the role currently occupied by Kevin Phillips, he knows where the goal is and when a game is tight, you know you’re able to create a chance or score a goal through this player.
At Yeovil, we’ve got a pretty minute squad – a look at our bench sees our second choice goalkeeper who is also the ‘keeper coach, two very young lads in Luke Young (Ashley’s brother) and Nathan Ralph, both raw and keen, but both needing time and a few minutes on the pitch. If we went up, they’d be out on loan, I imagine.
Dom Blizzard and Gavin Williams are both solid players who are just down the pecking order in a team playing well – their talents are undoubted, but they’re both injury prone. I’d give club legend Williams one more season, his presence alone is worth a calculated risk. As for Blizzard, he cannot break into the side and whilst he is worth a squad role in League One, anything higher might be asking a bit too much.
Matty Dolan on loan from Middlesbrough is currently going through an injury and I can’t say I’ve seen enough to really comment, while the same applies to Kwesi Appiah from Crystal Palace and Richard Hinds. Hinds is probably playing out his last season, certainly in Yeovil, possibly altogether, before moving back home to Merseyside.
We also have Reuben Reid on the books, he’s currently out at Plymouth and while he may be signed on for next season, something pretty drastic might have to change for him to get a chance in either division.
So that’s Yeovil. It’s all we’ve got – a first eleven who, individually and as a team, are all pretty much ready to rumble in the league above even if any suggestion of strength in depth is quickly shot down.
We’re in for a rollercoaster at Huish Park, but the team are ready, the gaffer is ready and the fans are up for it.
I guess we need to keep our feet on the ground, remember that even a finishing position outside of the play offs is still a positive outcome for the club, but that to keep our stars and plan ahead, that sixth place (heck, that second place) looks a little bit too tempting to not go for.
In a league tighter than an otter’s pocket, who knows what will happen? I don’t have a clue. Looking at the fixtures, the top six or seven could finish in any order.
As exciting climaxes go, League One could have everything in the final few weeks and months and I’m just happy to be right in among it.