Sunday, 27 January 2013

Friday night frustrations

So two Friday nights have brought two sterile 0-0 draws, both of which we could have won, but never looked like losing.
That is the positive side, but neither game will have lived long in the memory, or enter the hall of fame of classic Cheltenham Town matches.
Much of the sterility of the games can be put down to the conditions both games were played in.
At Morecambe, it was the bitter cold and a pudding of a pitch, and against Rochdale it was more bitter cold, coupled with wind and sweeping rain which ended any hopes of a classic.
I know. They are professional players, and should be able to adapt to any conditions... but everyone says Messi would struggle on a wet February night at the Britannia, so might Marlon and co be excuseda cold January night at the Globe...?
Anyway, I am not sure that, in retrospect, Yatesy will be asking the board to request Friday night football in January when we sort out next season's fixtures.
Hope not, anyway, as surely it was obvious the weather on the Lancashire coast would be horrendous, and Friday night football in the winter was never going to be the best plan, or attract the biggest crowds, was it?
In some ways, it was a waste of two games, and two winnable games at that, The only saving grace would be that we did not lose either of them - but I can't help thinking 3pm on a Saturday might have brought different outcomes. Hindsight.
We played the same starting XI in both games, and two of the selections were a massive indication to the major areas we need to strengthen before next Thursday.
Sam Deering was deployed for rare starts on the left hand side of midfield, with Kaid Mohamed moving up front alongside Shaun Harrad, two square pegs in a squad down to its last 18 players.
Well, 17 at Morecambe as Darren Carter was injured - which sparked talk that he was leaving, with his six-month deal running down, but by last Friday, he had signed up for another six months, but also missed that game.
The 18th member of the squad was Luke McCullough, signed from Manchester United, and dubbed the new Johnny Evans (lucky him...) but seemingly most famous for being caught in flagrante in an alleyway, which was the first thing which came up when I searched Google for him after he signed.
On the football side, the words 'physical', 'brawny', 'powerful, 'commanding' and 'muscular presence' all appear in his profile on the United website. That suggests to me that he is here in case Steve Elliott falls apart in the coming weeks, rather than Keith Lowe or Alan Bennett.
He is the central defensive cover which Yatesy had been looking for - but he ironically arrives at a time where we look a lot more solid at the back, and it is at the other end where the problems lie.
After the last two games, much of the flak has been thrown in Mo's direction.
At the Globe, he missed our best two chances. The first was a mis-kick after Shaun laid the ball across to him, and the second a side-foot wide from Jermaine's square ball, when a dummy would have left Sam with an open goal.
He didn't have an effort wothy of note against Rochdale, and neither did Shaun... and therein lies the problem.
These two games have been Mo's first two starts down the middle since he joined the club, therefore it is fairly obvious he is not going to have struck up a telepathic partnership with Shaun overnight.
I can see why Mark played him there. Darryl and Shaun are too similar, both don't like the physical battle with defenders, and neither wants to come deep and get the ball or relishes the hold-up play with back to goal.
They both want the ball played through, off the shoulder of the defender, to run onto. They are both 18-yard box players who (rarely) do their best work outside the box.
He could have used Jeff with Shaun, but that partnership hasn't really come off, so why not try something different? Especially as, against York, Mo came on and set Shaun's goal up within a couple of minutes.
But we know we need a striker, and so does Yatesy - with Paul Benson or a resurrection of our interest in Byron Harrison apparently high on the wanted list.
However, even if we managed to sign Robin van Persie, he is only going to score if he gets the service, and that has been the problem.
The lack of service, be that from wide areas or through the middle, is the over-riding reason why we have failed to threaten the opposition goal enough in the past 180 minutes.
Much of the blame falls on Mo and Harrad apparently for two 0-0 draws. But where have the crosses from Jermaine been? The penetrative passes from Pack and Penn? Nowhere.
Again, the weather has not helped, but it can't be used as an excuse, and yes, it has probably led to us going a bit more direct in those two games and that has not helped our two front players either.
I think Sam has deserved a start  as in my view his cameo appearances have, by and large, been effective. I thought he did well at Morecambe, and should have definitely had a penalty - everyone (even Jim Bentley) thought so bar Eddie Ilderton, the referee.
He was less effective against Rochdale, but, once again I will say that Sam was being asked to do a job in an unfamiliar position, another reason why we need a natural, left-sided wide player.
Jake Taylor has also filled in out there with mixed results in recent games, and his loan is coming up for possible renewal, but as I have said before I would send him back and look for a bit more experience - or stick to the four central midfielders we have, giving Sam more of a look-in.
I know there has been a massive debate about Marlon and Darren, can they play together, but I thought we missed Darren over the last two games.
He has been the player who has tried to play those little 10-yard passes through the back four (eg Northampton away for Darryl's winner) and I felt that without him we have lost some creativity.
With Russ and Marlon in there, neither of them really want to take the advanced role, and if Yatesy wants to keep two up front (and if he is bringing in a new striker, he has to I think) then he has a decision to make.
It has to be two of Russ, Darren, Sam and Marlon - basically, either Russ or Marlon with Darren or Sam from now on, assuming he keeps Jermaine  and Mo (or another left-winger) down the flanks and sends Jake back - but I still want to see more end-product from Jermaine than we have in recent weeks or months.
He is meant to be our biggest attacking threat, and simply has not been. He is a fans' favourite and so I have seen criticism of Yatesy's decisions to take him off in games of late - can't agree as I think he has deserved it.
So while we have had problems clicking in the front third, we have looked secure at the other end, after our recent woes.
The Globe was not the scene of another north of Birmingham horror show to match Chesterfield, Rochdale or Rotherham. We always looked odds on for the clean sheet.
Rochdale created a few more problems yesterday, but Browny only had one save to make, which was one more than he had at Morecambe, and the Bilston Beckenbauer's inclusion seems to have had a positive effect.
I will admit I was unsure about Yatesy's decision to drop Benno for Keith, but two clean sheets and one goal conceded in three games would vindicate the decision.
I am sure Benno isn't happy, and it will be interesting to see what happens if the change becomes a longer-term move, especially now with Luke McCullough coming into the mix as well.
Hopefully, he is the first of maybe three or four new faces to come in, and they are needed - not to replace those in the team now necessarily, but to give the manager more options and administer some in the squad with a much-needed boot in the backside.
It is tight at the top - two points seperate third place from ninth, and we need to reverse a run of one win in seven games, with four draws and two losses.
Other sides are coming in to form, and we need to find a consistent formula.
All through the season, I have been told we haven't clicked yet - but here we are, right in the mix for the top three. If we can click, then we can still achieve what we all want. If...

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Missed opportunity

At around 1.30 on Saturday, I stuck a microphone under Mark Yates' nose, and asked him what his team was for the afternoon's game.
The last thing I was expecting him to say was that he had left out Alan Bennett, Kaid Mohamed and Jermaine McGlashan, so the next question was whether they were injured or not.
No, was the reply. Okay then gaffer.
Bennett was left out in favour of Keith Lowe, because Mark felt we have been letting in too many goals. You can't argue with that statement - it's true, but dropping the skipper is not normally the solution to a problem like that.
We know that Yatesy was looking for defensive cover, believed to be Jamaal Lascelles of Nottingham Forest, recommended apparently by some bloke called Cotterill.
The dropping of Bennett suggests that, had he managed to secure the deal, the new man would have started, but the move still remains undone and so it was a chance for the ever-willing, and usually reliable Bilston Beckenbauer to step in alongside Steve Elliott.
Keith managed to throw in one of his customary stepovers and a Cruyff turn, and turned in one of his usual seven-out-of-10 displays - and that change was seven minutes and a poorly-defended free-kick away from working.
The omission of Mohamed and McGlashan was explained by the manager stating that he didn't feel his wide men had done as well as he would have liked lately.
He also wanted to play two up front, and so it was a narrow 4-1-3-2 system which took the field, but a starting team shorn of width and pace.
Shaun Harrad was back in the side, and with Jeff Goulding alongside him - a partnership we haven't seen much of, but which I felt could be a successful one... but not in this system.
The first half was a mess. Both teams were playing the same formation, neither side could keep the ball or string three passes together, and there wasn't mauch in the way of goalmouth action.
Marlon Pack, who in many peoples' eyes has not hit the heights of last season, was the only one of our front six to get us on the front foot - the rest of them looked lethargic and we never looked like breaking them down.
The second half started in the same vein, and it was case of waiting for the changes to come, which they did midway through, and Mo and Jermaine came on for Jeff and Darren Carter.
Mo went down the middle and Jermaine on to the right, and straight away it was as if someone had attached a set of jump leads to the entire side as we came to life.
We got the goal with a fabulous finish from Shaun, in what was his first shot of the game, and there looked like being only one winner, until a catalogue of errors gifted York an equaliser.
From a corner, Billy Jones, instead of curing one of his wicked balls into the box, played it to the edge of the area for some reason, and Jamal Fyfield broke away.
He was chased and challenged by Marlon, who I thought won the ball, but the referee gave a free-kick and even more inexplicably booked Marlon for the tackle.
But free-kick or not, we should have defended it better. It ricocheted about in the box and Jason Walker put it in, and with that went two points.
Defeats for Rotherham, Bradford and Fleetwood, and a win for Port Vale over Gillingham in the meeting of the top two rubbed salt into that wound - and those two points dropped took on more significance.
We hadn't looked in much trouble - I can only remember one save from Browny, when he came off his line to block from Walker, but we struggled at the other end.
Marlon was the pick of our midfield, but Russ Penn was ineffective as he had to drift wide and nominally provide some width, which is not his strong point at all.
Darren started well and faded, before coming off, and Jake Taylor was largely ineffective, which he has been in a number of his games - in fact it seems to be either feast or famine with him.
He was excellent at Northampton, and at Hereford in the Cup replay, and had a great game, scoring a great goal against Wycombe. Those games aside, I am afraid he has been decidedly average, or worse.
I must confess I wonder if we let the wrong Reading loanee go, and whether we would have been better off keeping Lawson D'Ath, and sending Jake back... we only saw Lawson for about 155 minutes over three games, but I liked the look of him.
Largely though, our efforts going forward were like running through treacle. That was of no benefot to the front two, and we were able to learn nothing at all about their merits as a partnership.
Shaun didn't have a shot of note until his goal, and only had one more afterwards, which was brilliantly saved by Michael Ingham.
Much of the post-match flak has fallen on Jeff, whose substitution was ridiculously cheered by some fans. I never have, or will, see the sense in that.
I appreciate that fans have favourite players and others they don't rate as highly - I do as well, but I will never understand why supporters have to boo some of their own players and even cheer when they are taken off. I can't think of anything that is more demotivating.
Some of the comments on social media and forums since the game about Jeff have been pretty laughable. One said he shouldn't ever wear a Cheltenham shirt again, another said he doesn'tput the effort in. Good grief.
Jeff appears to have become this season's scapegoat, taking on that unwanted mantle from the likes of Danny Andrew, Junior Smikle and Josh Low.
With some fans I am afraid he is on a losing wicket the minute he steps on the pitch - a few have made their mind up and won't be swayed no matter what.
But he spent most of the game on Saturday having the ball fired at him head high for him to try and either control, or flick on. Those flicks he did win (not many I admit against their big centre-backs) were ineffective as Shaun is not the quickest.
Jeff is not and never has been a target man. Play the ball to his feet and might create something, as he has in the past - especially his sublime late winner against Barnet - or put a cross in and he might get on the end of it, as he did against Wycombe.
He also had to try and run the channels as there was no natural width in the side while he was out there, and it was a bit of a thankless task.
Of our three strikers, he is the only one of the three who can create something from nothing, as he did against Barnet, with his lobbed winner at Accrington last year and (nearly) in the play-off final when he smashed a 35-yarder against the bar.
The other two, Shaun and Darryl Duffy, are finishers. Penalty box players who play off the shoulder of the central defenders, and that system on Saturday did not play to Shaun's strengths, while Darryl didn't get on. None of them have much natural pace.
Jeff has three goals in five League starts, Darryl two in three starts and Shaun's goal on Saturday makes it six in 15 League starts. That was his first in the League since September.
Chris Zebroski had five in 19 starts before he left, and all three of those remaining have decent records.
But they have been chopped and changed, none of them having what could be a proper run in the side of late. No chance to get into a groove, as strikers need. No opportunity to build up some confidence and sharpness.
For example, Darryl and Jeff started against Wycombe, both scored, and stayed in the side against Oxford, but the side as a whole didn't perform, and Darryl missed out against Everton.
Shaun had that run at the start of the season, and it worked as he scored five goals by mid-September in a seven-game spell, but since then they have all suffered from the decision to play one man up front.
Zeb was the only one of them who was really comfortable with that - Jeff, Shaun and Darryl are not comfortable with that physical battle with centre-halves - they need someone next to them to win that battle and make them some space and some chances.
That 'someone' could yet be Paul Benson, the Swindon striker who has confirmed there is an offer on the table.
He could be the man we need to bring the best out of Shaun, Darryl and Jeff, as I think he could play up front with any one of the three (and probably Mo as well, as I thought he did well up there when he came on) - but as long as we can get the service right, and play with some proper width.
If he comes, Benson might be the regular, reliable goalscorer we need, or might help one of the other three take on that role.
We have had them fleetingly in the past - Gillespie, Odejayi, Thomas, Richards - but constantly suffered from losing them, either being sold or leaving when their contracts expire.
Jon Palmer wrote a piece in the Echo here which was spot on - talking about the team's search for consistency being hampered by constant changes in the personnel and system.
I was told a stat after the match that we have only picked the same starting team for two games running seven times this season (York was our 32nd game) and never for three matches in a row , and in our last four games we have used four different systems.
These are League Two players. They need to be comfortable in a system, like they were during that great run last season, and it seems that it is taking Yatesy longer this season to find that formula that works.
As Jon alluded to in the piece I have linked to, in order to get consistency on the pitch, you need to try and get consistency in selection, and system.
Despite that, we are still right in the mix, sitting fifth, two places and two points behind third-placed Exeter having played two games less. Our famed goal difference even compares well with Exeter, and Rotherham, who are fourth on goal difference.
I am told a lot that this squad is not as good as last season's, yet we are still as high up in the table and competing with teams with much bigger budgets than ours.
Fleetwood have just spent £300,000 on a striker. Rotherham continue to sign players like water, Port Vale have landed the not cheap Lee Hughes, yet we are still in there fighting with these sides who all carry much bigger and more expensive squads than ours.
However, with a squad of 19, including youth teamer Joe Hanks, and with Bags and Danny on loan in addition to that, we need the FA Cup money to go on some reinforcements.
By the time we head up the M6 at Morecambe, we could have one or two new faces on the bus - fingers crossed...

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Looking beyond the scoreline...

We may not have pulled off the upset we all half-believed was possible, but it was a night many of us will not forget for a while.
Like most of the 6,000 or so Cheltenham fans who crammed into the ground, I arrived thinking there was that little hope, that small possibility that we could make the headlines, and claim Everton's scalp.
I got there just after 5pm, and much of that pre-match wait was spent star-watching.
In some ways it was cathartic - I got to tell Graeme Sharp that Andy Gray's 1984 FA Cup final goal against Watford was a foul. He smiled, and agreed it might have been. Result. I have waited 29 years for that.
But that was countered by his refusal to agree that his goal in the final was offside, so I can't claim a 0-0 draw.
I got to shake John Barnes' hand - the greatest player I ever saw at Vicarage Road - and Motty was wearing his sheepskin coat. All was well with the world.
Then, at around 7pm, the team sheets arrived, and with that, my little inkling of a possible upset vanished immediately. Ah well, I'll just sit back and enjoy the game then.
Mr Moyes was not mucking around.
Heitinga and Pienaar were out injured, so he just put Coleman and Oviedo in the side. Naismith was swapped for Anichebe - basically, the strongest side he could have chosen.
Four England internationals. 252 international caps. So much for squad rotation then Dave.
We made two changes from the defeat at Oxford, Darryl Duffy and Jake Taylor out, Marlon Pack and Kaid Mohamed in. Seemed fair enough to me, and we were down to the bare 18.
I have to admit I got a shiver down my spine when the teams came out. It was fabulous to see the ground so full and there was great noise when the teams came out.
Our boys clearly responded to the atmosphere in those early minutes, and we came out of the traps like a pack of hunting dogs marauding all over the pitch, closing down and snapping into tackles.
My early thought was that there was no way we were going to be able to keep up this intensity for the whole 90 minutes - but if we did, then maybe we had a chance of doing something.
But we were up against a quality side. Their first attack brought their first goal - an instinctive finish from Nikica Jelavic as he hooked the ball back into the net after Fellaini hit the post.
I looked at the linesman to see if there was an offside, but when I saw the replay, he was level when Fellaini shot. It was a great finish, and showed the awareness of a top player to gamble, and he knew where the ball would come back to him.
Then came the penalty. Alan Bennett was furious, and hadn't calmed down much when I stuck a microphone under his nose half an hour after the final whistle, and justifiably so I think.
I don't think, if Benno makes the same challenge against York on Saturday, that the referee would give a penalty. I feel it was a 'big club' penalty. I also doubt that it would have been given had Jagielka made the same challenge on Jeff Goulding at the other end.
But Kevin Friend gave it, and Baines' spot-kick was powerful and precise. Even though Scott Brown went the right way it couldn't have been better placed.
So after not doing much wrong in my view, we found ourselves 2-0 down, and suddenly the next goal in the game became important.
If we got it, that little dream was maybe still there - if Everton got it, then it was all over.
We didn't give up, and got to half-time two down, but the second half started badly with the third Everton goal.
Baines made it with an overlap and Osman - who was quality throughout in my eyes - skipped past Benno's challenge and finished with some aplomb.
So what now? Three down with a half to go, and all I was asking for now was a goal, and for us to keep up the effort and not allow heads to drop.
The goal came a few minutes later. It was a great pass from Mo and it was fitting that Russ Penn, our best player on the night, ran on to it and rammed it in at the near post.
A few minutes later, Jermaine McGlashan slung a cross over, and Jeff's header hit the back of Distin. If he hadn't been there, it would have been 3-2. Then what? Who knows...
Well we won't ever know, unfortunately.
That's because of the fourth goal, which was just superb. It was  swift counter-attack, and Coleman ran through and produced a deft finish over Browny's fingertips for the fourth goal.
Moyes decided to bring his subs on (another 71 full international caps worth...) and we made our changes as well, with Sam Deering being the pick of them for me, producing some decent passes (and winning a header!).
The fifth goal, for Fellaini after a good run from Anichebe past some tired challenges, put an unfair gloss on the scoreline in mine, and most other people's view.
Most fans I spoke to after the game, and since, felt that our lads were harshly done by with the scoreline, and that they had done all they could given what they were up against. In my view, 4-2 or 3-1 would have been about right.
Some fans have gone the other way, and would disagree with my assessment. I have seen some views from fans saying that we were poor, embarrassed, did not turn up, did not do ourselves justice etc. Each to their own.
Russ was by far the pick, but I thought Darren Carter and Marlon Pack did well too, Jeff worked hard all night and I also felt Mo and Jermaine had a decent game, as did our back four. Ok all of them...
They all stuck to their task admirably, and I think it is harsh to criticise any individual players - Everton were ruthless.
Browny made two saves - from a Baines free-kick just before the penalty award and from Naismith in the last minute. The other five shots on target went in - and Browny had a chance with none of them.
So that was that. No upset, but let's face it, it was massive outside chance, and the main purpose of the game was a money-making exercise to help stabilise the club and aid our main priority, a promotion push.
Yatesy can now go out and get a loan signing or two to boost our numbers and give us a bit more quality in some areas.
Players like Paul Benson, Aden Flint and Luke Rooney from Swindon, and Charlie McDonald from MK Dons have been linked on various rumour mills. Yatesy has said nothing, so we will wait and see.
So back down to earth we come, and York at home on Saturday.
The ground won't be as full as it was on Monday, but hopefully the players will channel the intensity and use the adrenaline and experience of that 90 minutes into the first of our 21-game mini season.
Time to get back on that rollercoaster!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Our big day

So here we are then, 24 hours (and a bit) away from one of the biggest nights in Cheltenham Town's history.
Whaddon Road is about to host its' biggest FA Cup tie in seven years, since Mr Shearer and co came along with Newcastle and left with a 2-0 victory.
But that wasn't the easiest win they ever had - John Finnigan had his best game in red and white, while Kayode Odejayi gave Jean Alain Boumsong and Titus Bramble the run around.
As far as the status of the opposition goes, this is probably the biggest game we have had at Whaddon Road.
Importance-wise, the Yeovil game in 1999 will not be topped - that match, and how it panned out, changed the direction of our club forever.
However, this Everton side is packed with quality, and no matter what team David Moyes sends out, we will be massive underdogs.
It is one of those games where our key players, the likes of Scott Brown, Alan Bennett, Steve Elliott, Jermaine McGlashan, Russ Penn and Marlon Pack, have to have the game of their lives, while some of the Everton side are a bit off the boil.
One time out of 10 we will turn them over - let's hope this is the one time.
When we went to Spurs last year, I never thought we stood much chance of an upset, as we were away and their side was packed with quality - and as the game panned out we were never really in it.
We battled hard but were always up against it. But this is different, mainly as we are at home.
We will have the majority of the crowd, and hopefully the ground will be rocking. It will be fantastic to see the old place full again.
I am looking forward to seeing what side Moyes puts out, and how our players match up to them.
I suspect Leighton Baines will play, and Phil Neville, Marouane Fellaini after his ban, Nikica Jelavic and Victor Anichebe, and some younger names like Ross Barkley and Shane Duffy might get a run-out.
It is a shame we won't see Luke Garbutt as continues to come back from injury, but it will be good to see these top players roll up at our compact ground, and I wonder how they will react to it.
That will hold the key to the game. If Everton's attitude is spot on - and with Moyes barking at them I suspect it is the vast majority of the time - they should win, but there is always that hope.
They lost to Shrewsbury 10 years ago, so surely it is time for them to be turned over again...
Mark Yates' pre-match comments have been spot on - he has not come out and said 'we will enjoy the occasion'. He is sending his team out to win, no pick up a souvenir shirt for the lounge wall.
If we do end up getting beaten, my over-riding hope is that we do ourselves justice and make Everton work hard for their place in the next round - do we really want to go to Bolton or Sunderland anyway...??!!
The 2006 vintage did just that against Newcastle, and arguably this team has just as much, if not more in some cases, ability than that side.
It would be a shame if we go out to a defensive howler, or if we have golden chances we do not take. Don't come off the pitch with regrets.
There should be no pressure on our players. I am not even nervous about this game like I would be about a run-of-the-mill league game, or like I was at Hereford before the replay.
This can be a 'free' 90 minutes for our lads. Go out there, get in their faces and show what you can do, and see where it takes you.
A win would be incredible, a draw fantastic, but whatever happens it is going to be a special night.

Friday, 4 January 2013


This blog post was going to be all about the Oxford game - but subsequent events have rather overtaken the 90 minutes of tepid fare we saw at the Kassam.
When I saw the teamsheet, the first name I spotted was Sam Deering, restored to the 18 after being somewhat surprisingly left out against Wycombe on Boxing Day.
So who was missing ... Chris Zebroski.
At the same moment as I was scanning the teamsheet, my phone buzzed with two texts from people in the away contingent at the Kassam saying much the same thing - is it true that Zeb hasn't turned up again...
That was followed by some tweets asking the same thing.
It seemed that was the case - and that was a question for Yatesy after the game.
Ah yes, the game.
Well, it wasn't very good. Neither side did much, they got a penalty, sat deep for the rest of the game, and we couldn't break them down despite having a lot of possession.
Darren Carter went off injured, having played quite well, Marlon Pack came on and was the most likely to pick the pass to break through their yellow wall, and Jermaine McGlashan nearly scored at the end.
But neither goalkeeper made a save of any note at all.
That sums the game up, and to be honest I was more interested in how Yatesy would respond to the question about Mr Zebroski.
The answer was that he flat-batted it with all the aplomb of Alastair Cook frustrating the Australians.
"I got a late call," he told Ian Randall. Later, to Jon Palmer, he said "I don't want to talk about Chris Zebroski. Ask me about the 18 players who were here."
The annoyance and frustration were evident.
Let's face it, it's not the first time that Zebroski's name has been a late omission from the teamsheet this season.
The other three times were Saturday home games, and each time he has been restored to the side for the following game, but this no-show seemed different.
Yatesy seemed more cross about this one. It seemed like he had reached the end of his tether.
More will come out later in the week, he said. And so it has turned out.
We were told that Chris said he had been assaulted on New Year's Eve and had hospital treatment that night, which meant that he was not fit to play. Yatesy was told he was not going to be at the Kassam at 10am.
I am afraid that the player has history. At Plymouth his contract was terminated for gross misconduct after an incident involving Paul Wotton and a glass water jug in a restaurant on their 2006 pre-season tour of Austria.
I am sure we knew all about that when we signed him.
I must admit I was expecting a fine, maybe a suspension and certainly that he would be transfer-listed. When I saw he had left, I admit I was shocked.
To be fair there can be no complaints about his attitude and effort on the pitch. He had scored six goals, including a winner at his old club Bristol Rovers, and I thought he was the driving force in extra time at Hereford.
But I am afraid you cannot have players not showing up for matches. That is short-changing the club, manager and fans, and cannot be allowed to continue.
I would love to know what his team-mates thought when he was not showing up, then got his place back in the side the following week? Hardly conducive to good team spirit, and it doesn't send out a good message.
Zeb's departure has been described as a 'mutual termination'. My question about this is whether we have had to pay him off or not. I hope not.
My hope is that he has been fined and warned in the past for his previous no-shows, and therefore this latest misdemeanour leads to breach of contract, and therefore he has been effectively sacked.
I don't like the thought of having to shell out lots of money to someone who didn't want to do his job properly.
Some disappointment has been voiced about us effectively "wasting" a five-figure transfer fee by cancelling his contract - but how many clubs would have been willing to pay us to take a player who had shown his unreliability on so many occasions?
Anyway, why should we continue to waste a (very good) wage on someone who seems hell bent on disrespecting our club, and the shirt many of us would walk over hot coals to wear?
I think the club has shown swift, decisive management by nipping the problem in the bud, getting him out of the club so he can find a new club this month and we can look for a replacement. Suits both parties.
He was reportedly the highest-paid contracted player, so it will no doubt give Yatesy more scope to play with in the market this month.
Yes, for now his departure and Lawson D'Ath's return to Reading leaves us a little bit short on numbers for the big Everton game on Monday, but at least we know the 18 who are on duty are committed to the cause.