Tuesday 20 May 2014

Off and running

So welcome to Lee Vaughan, the first new face through the Cheltenham Town revolving door, and the first impressions seem promising.
He has certainly said the right things so far, lots of use of the word 'passion' and describing himself as tenacious, so we will see if that's the case when he pulls on the number two shirt in mid-July.
I have seen him a couple of times, and he likes to get forward, is certainly not afraid of a tackle and can also take penalties, and from the reaction of Kidderminster's fans, he will be a big loss to them.
"He'll be a great signing for you, absolutely gutted he has gone," said one, and another tweet I was sent said: "Harriers will certainly miss him - first name on the team sheet in recent years."
So he has been a big part of their side, and now at 27 he wants to kick on and become a football league player, and our former players Steve Guinan and Jerry Gill have also spoken very highly of him.
But the most telling statistics are that he has played 157 games for Kidderminster in four seasons, and has picked up 39 yellow cards and two reds in that time.
The first figure tells us we are getting a player who will rarely be troubling Ian Weston over the two seasons (at least) that he is with us, so once again we are getting a player who wants to be out there.
The second figure will tell us about the competitive nature, the will to win, and the fact that he won't be shirking any 50-50s. Maybe in pre-season he can show a few of his new team-mates how to approach a 50-50...
Much has been made of our lack of red cards last season. We were the only side in the division not to get one - and we haven't had one since Alan Bennett's against Fleetwood in October 2012.
Before that, I can remember Sido's at Southend in the 4-0 defeat during that fateful March which cost us automatic promotion two seasons ago, and I remember Andy Gallinagh getting one at Burton which was later rescinded on appeal.
But we have never had that many under Yates' management, which has led to suggestions that we are 'too nice' or alternatively that we are a bunch of bottlers who don't get stuck in enough - both surprising given that the manager could not be accused of either of those traits when he played.
The answer lies somewhere between the two, I believe, and while we need more aggression and more tiger in the tank, we certainly don't want red cards flying around like confetti.
So there has to be a balance. We want to see passion, commitment, effort - but we don't want to be down to 10 men every game, or we'll eventually struggle to put a team out.
So while most of the reaction to the signing has been positive, I am sure there are a few dissenting voices about - some will no doubt feel this is a cheap option from the Conference, and I have seen some pointing out that our left-back was signed from there, two years younger, also with no league experience, and has not exactly been a roaring success.
All of this is true, but I don't regard the Conference as a cheap option. Most of the clubs in there are full-time and we are well aware that many sides have bigger wage budgets than ours, and also comparable or larger attendances.
We also want hungry players with a point to prove, and there are plenty of them in that League.
Players who have been discarded by clubs higher up earlier in their careers, and have that desire to come to clubs like ours and show what they can do in the League - rather than journeymen chucked out by higher-level clubs who see us as just another contract on the road to their PFA pension.
We finished in the lower half of League Two and teams in the top half of the Conference would easily give us a decent game. After all we lost in the FA Cup to a side who were relegated by 12 points, so I don't think we are in a position to look down with any snobbery at Conference clubs and players.
In my last blog I put Forest Green's Jared Hodgkiss down as a potential right-back target, and he and Lee Vaughan are very similar players with similar career paths, starting at League clubs, not making it, having a solid few years in the Conference and now in Vaughan's case going again.
Plus the man he is replacing at right back came from Bath City having only played one Conference season at Twerton after spells at Weymouth and Basingstoke - and overall he didn't do too badly.
Actually, now I come to think of it, Harriers have a decent left-back as well...
Every signing is a gamble, and not every signing will come off. Even the best managers don't always get it right after all. For every Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie, there is an Eric Djemba-Djemba and a Bebe...
But while Vaughan has come in, Jermaine McGlashan has departed.
I have mixed feelings on this one. Some of me thinks this is the best outcome for everyone after nontryergate, but some of me is also disappointed that he didn't want to stay and prove his critics wrong.
We know all about the lack of end product, going to ground to easily and his tendency to run down blind alleys - but I do not think he can be accused of a lack of effort in games.
However his decision to go smacks a little bit of running away -  'Mummy the big boys in the playground were being nasty to me - can I go to a different school please' - and I thought he was better than that. It's all a bit too convenient.
What has interested me is the seeming change in his circumstances from before the incident blew up.
From January, we had all assumed he would be off anyway. I was told as much around February-March time, that the club would try all they could to keep him, but that it would be futile, and those at the top of the club were almost resigned then that he would be going.
That was also the message at the directors' fans forum earlier in the season - 'the club will move heaven and earth to keep him' was the phrase used - but again the over-riding message was that he was a goner.
Then all of a sudden we are told that he was about to come in and sign a contract before the naughty people on Twitter started being nasty and mean, so what has/had happened to all these clubs queueing up to take him, I wonder - or was the offer so good that he couldn't turn it down? Heaven and earth had clearly been moved sufficiently.
I started this blog talking about passion and commitment - and if Jermaine is the type of player who is going to cut and run because a few people are having a go at him online, maybe he is not the type of character we want here anyway.
It is a shame that the good memories we have of him, notably the two Torquay play-off games and the sight of him skinning a good few full-backs with that acceleration of his will be overshadowed by the way he has left - but he made the bed and he has to lie in it now.
He made the choice to say 'no' when the manager asked if he was putting it all in during that training session, and he made the choice to turn down the deal he was about to sign because of a few Twitter comments.
But let's end on a positive note - and it is great that Steve Elliott has signed his player-coach contract. Good luck Steve - and let's hope there are soon a few more new faces coming in for you to help whip into shape during pre-season.

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