To tap into all the good feeling and gaiety generated by the recent arrival of the Royal baby, football delivered its own spin on the egalitarian story through Championship new boys Yeovil Town. The Somerset club used an easel, similar to the one waiting to be used at Buckingham Palace, to announce the loan signing of Swansea’s Alan Tate in a welcome use of humour and refrain to brighten up the often dreary pre-season lull.
It was an unusual announcement of what was essentially a run of the mill transfer deal. However, Yeovil are no usual football club at the moment as Tate will notice when he starts his 6 month loan deal with the Glovers this Saturday. It will begin with a trip to Millwall, Yeovil’s first second tier fixture in their history just ten years after entering the Football League for the first time.
Birmingham will be the season’s first visitors to Huish Park a week after Millwall, when the ground’s humble 9,565 capacity is likely to be packed out with supporter’s watching the club make history. It is the latest chapter in a remarkable job of success by Gary Johnson after disappointing spells with Peterborough and Northampton Town, taking over the relegation-threatened club from Terry Skiverton in January 2012 before guiding them to the safety of 17th, then charging to a fourth place finish in League One last term. After overcoming Sheffield United in the play-off semi-final, Brentford were defeated 2-1 at Wembley to complete the dream.
For Johnson however, it has been no dream. “I’ve had to brainwash a few people” he said, “there was a feeling League One was Yeovil’s limit but my job has been to convince them it wasn’t, I’ve had to try and change the mindset”. Johnson will have to keep urging his side to strive forwards and it will be a difficult task at a club whose record signing remains the £250,000 spent on Pablo Bastianini from Quilmes Athletic Club back in 2005. This summer they’ve had to rely on free deals for Danny Seaborne and Sam Hoskins from Southampton, Liam Davis from Oxford, Joel Grant from Wycombe and Kieffer Moore from Dorchester Town.
It is the deal for 20 year old Moore, scorer of 20 goals in total for Truro and then Dorchester in the Conference South last season that sums up what Yeovil are all about. “Everything at this club is about value the money” says Johnson, “we do a lot of due diligence on every player who comes to Yeovil”. It is the same logic and fine management that saw them sign Paddy Madden, a striker discarded from Carlisle last season, initially on loan last summer before making it permanent in January for a small fee. The striker ended the season with 24 goals for Yeovil including one in the play-off final, winning him the League One golden boot award. Madden had only managed 2 goals in 32 appearances for Carlisle before his move south, but meticulous scouting and measured risk saw Johnson and Yeovil duly rewarded.
Grant will give them skill and creative trickery on the wings whilst Danny Seaborne will provide a strong presence to the defence alongside Byron Webster, as well as a great deal of experience having played in the league with Exeter, Southampton, Charlton and Bournemouth. Yeovil have also gone to the Premier League to loan Billy Clifford from Chelsea and the 6ft 6 striker Michael Ngoo from Liverpool together with Tate, who at the age of 30 with over 250 appearances for parent club Swansea, adds tonnes of experience and leadership at the back.
Those signings will compliment a squad that has a wage budget that Johnson has said previously below the £1 million mark, making last term’s promotion to the second tier all the more outstanding. Johnson learned the traditional value of forming a successful club on cheap wages and little money during his stint as an assistant manager to John Beck at Cambridge, where the two coaches rose the club through the leagues on a small budget all the way to the semi-finals of the Division One play-offs in 1992. They lost out to Leicester, but the lesson was clear to Johnson “Cambridge taught me that your signings must really want to buy into your ideas, buy into the way you want to play. You have to sign people to fit your team, not the other way round”.
That was the secret behind Yeovil’s wonderful climb to the second tier and it will be the secret behind their bid to stay there considering Johnson has only seen 5 of the playing squad from last season’s group depart from Huish Park. Therefore a great deal of the togetherness and camaraderie that was underlying in their promotion will still be in effect for their forthcoming historic campaign that begins in earnest this Saturday.
It will be a campaign that will see them travel to Leeds and Nottingham Forest rather than the likes of Leigh Genesis and Southport whom they visited only a decade ago. An easel is not needed to announce Yeovil’s arrival to the Championship, just acceptance that hard-work, passion and sensible business still works amongst the ridiculous business-driven modern game.