Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Cherry Chimes talks to Ciderspace ahead of Yeovil's visit Dean Court

Match Preview
AFCB V Yeovil Town
Blogger interview 
Cherry Chimes has a quick conversation with Martin Baker who writes on Ciderspace, the Yeovil Town blog that has a tremendous amount of news on it and some excellent photos showing the Glovers' promotion winning celebrations at Wembley last May. So how are the Somerset team doing in the Championship?

CC: There is a lot of information on Ciderspace so do you work with others and how do you put it all together?

CS: Whilst I'm currently the main person who works on the site, we do get a lot of guest contributions and people who are willing to help out, which I really appreciate - both fans and people associated with the club. In addition, I've had a lot of work-based experience of internet technology, and so sometimes bring ideas of how we can cut down on some of the maintenance of the site.

CC: Going up via the play-offs has to be the best way. What was it like at the end of last season? Could you believe it?

CS: At the start of the 2012-13 season, I think very few Yeovil fans would have predicted promotion. We'd had around three seasons of flirting with the relegation zone, and so if we were going to go out of League One, a lot of people would have reluctantly predicted we'd go the other way. But Gary Johnson has a bit of a midas touch with our club - about halfway through the season, you started to recognise some of the techniques and patterns that he'd used to get us out of the Conference and up through League Two during his first spell as manager.

Once those signs started to show through, it started to look possible. We had two lethal goalscorers - one of whom was James Hayter, and we had a cracking goalkeeper at the other end. Whilst we entered the play-offs on a high, and a celebration that we were there, our semi-final opponents Sheffield United seemed to be almost in despair at having to go through that route. At that point it seemed as though we had a big chance. Going up via the play-offs is a fantastic experience, and probably beats automatic promotion, although it's not the way you'd gamble to do it - we'd previously failed in 2007 against Blackpool. But this time we seemed more confident, more street-wise as a club - players and supporters - and throughout the whole day I felt it was ours to win.

CC:  What do you think about Yeovil's performance this season so far?

CS: We've stuttered a little, but I think we're gradually growing into being able to compete in the Championship. It's a massive learning curve, given we've got no spending power, and only a tiny number of players such as James Hayter and Jamie McAllister have genuine experience of playing at that level. Whilst we've played the majority of the Championship sides before in League One or in the FA Cup, when you play them at League One, you can single them out as that 'cup final' and raise your game for it. When those big guns come in across 46 matches, you can't do that. We've coped OK, but struggled badly to score goals. It's only in the last month or so that we've started to put together good results. Overall, I think most fans are content, and are happy with the start that we've made, although it's going to probably go to the wire in April as to whether we can extend it into a second season.

CC: What's the latest situation with Paddy Madden - do you think he'll stay in January?

CS: I don't think he'll play for us again. He's not scored for us this season, and right from the start there seemed to be a bit of friction between himself and the manager. Exactly what Gary Johnson's thinking is on this, is harder to determine, but Madden was in and out of the team with Johnson suggesting he wasn't doing quite what he wanted him to do within games and in training. At some point a line has been crossed, and Gary has said "no more" and so Paddy has been transfer-listed. Gary's attitude in the past in such situations is that the player gets frozen out entirely, and so Paddy will either need to find himself another club, or get very bored for the remainder of the season. He'll still be a hero to Yeovil Town fans for what he did last season, but it's clear there is no turning back now. He hasn't been in the matchday squad since he was transfer-listed. Hopefully there are enough clubs out there who can find him a new home in January.

CC: Who has been Yeovil's best player in the Championship?

CS: Probably Byron Webster - which is fortunate for yourselves, as he's 99 per cent certain to be missing through a hamstring injury. He's a centre-back that on paper you'd never believe would be in the Championship and competing so well. York City rejected him, Doncaster Rovers fans were very dismissive of his time with them, whilst Northampton Town seemed far too willing to tear up his contract and give him to us for free. But he worked under Gary Johnson when he was at Sixfields, and I think Gary knew what he was taking on. He's quietly grown into a key player for us. Other worthy shouts would be for Everton loanee Shane Duffy, who plays the last game of an Emergency Loan spell on Boxing Day - he's only been with us for three months but has been rock solid as a centre-back alongside Byron. I'd probably also be singing the praises of Marek Stech as well were it not for the fact that he's been missing for four-and-a-half months with a broken hand. We got him back between the sticks last Saturday, and that's going to be a big boost for us.

CC: All of last year's promoted teams are finding it hard going. What do you think the main difference is between League One and the Championship?

CS: For us, it's been the ability to score goals. Championship sides are far more organised with their tactics, and we've found far too often that our attacks have been snuffed out at the edge of the penalty box. In League One, there's a lot more running and athleticism, whereas in the Championship it's about players using their brains and their technique. Some matches become closer to a chess match. We were clocking up 60 per cent possession in some games, which made us feel like we were dominating games, but after a while you began to wonder how many shots did we have that were inside the opposition box? So we've needed to get a bit smarter with our movement off the ball, and that's starting to look better.

CC: Your results have been picking up and you have beaten some good sides like Forest, Blackpool and Watford. So are Yeovil supporters optimistic for the rest of the season?

CS: If you'd asked me that five or six weeks ago, I think I would have given a very luke warm response. We'd dropped to six points from safety just before the loan transfer window closed, and it was utterly imperative that Gary brought in some new players. Nottingham Forest's Ishmael Miller, Everton midfielder John Lundstram (who was at Doncaster Rovers last season) and Liverpool striker Adam Morgan have breathed a bit of life into the side - particularly the first two - and I think now we can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. We've got out of far worse trouble in League One at Christmas, so I think it's still all to play for. We will have the advantage that unlike teams like Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley, Charlton and Millwall who are floundering, there will be zero pressure on our management team and players. Come March and April, that will be vital for us.

CC: Which ground have you most enjoyed visiting this season?

CS: So far, I think it's been Watford. It was a new ground for us, and from a Yeovil point of view it's a localish away trip which meant we got a good away following. Winning 3-0 away from home obviously helped our mood, but it was good to visit a ground with a bit of genuine Football League character. The odd thing is that although this is a brand new division for us, we've only done one other new ground - we'd never been to Burnley's Turf Moor. During the second half of the season, I am particularly looking forward to Birmingham City and Queens Park Rangers. Again they're new grounds for us, and both clubs have fantastic histories and traditions.

CC: AFCB have not been great at home of late. I'd better ask what is your score prediction for AFCB v Yeovil? A nailed on three points for the Glovers?

CS: If only! Have you seen our recent record at Dean Court? I guess we can take some solace from the fact that Bournemouth haven't won in four home games, whilst our overall form lately has been good. But I'll opt for the theory that Boxing Day local derbies tend to turn into central battles that end up in draws. So I'll predict a 1-1 draw, with Ishmael Miller getting ours, and that at least one red card will be produced as at least one player from one side takes the name 'Boxing Day' a bit too literally!

CC: Thanks for your comments Martin. I really liked your answers and AFCB fans know that Yeovil are capable of springing a surprise on any team in this league. It will be good to rejoin our derby rivalry in the Championship this year and I expect the Glovers will bring a good crowd on Boxing Day. Please read more of Martin's thoughts at Ciderspace.

As a little Christmas bonus KnowHowe 5 can now be watched if you click on the KnowHowe tab.

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