Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A tough job just got tougher

So the tweet few Cheltenham Town fans wanted to see finally appeared on our timelines this afternoon, and with it Mark Yates' summer rebuiding job got considerably tougher.
It was already the most difficult off-season of his four-year tenure, with the pressure of the number of players to bring in exacerbated by having a new backroom regime (if Shaun North takes the job - he has been offered it but as yet no news of a positive answer) and the fact that many fans have lost faith in his ability to pull rabbits from hats.
Therefore, Scott Brown's move to Aberdeen means he has lost, in my view, the key man in the squad - the glue which held it all together, a massive part of the spine of the team, and the one constant left from when Yates arrived at the club.
I saw a good stat earlier - that Steve Elliott is now the only player left with more than 50 league starts for the club, which is a sign of the turnover of recent years - but we still have players with plenty of experience on the books.
You cannot blame Browny for taking the chance to go, and you can't (although people have unbelievably been trying to) attach any blame to the board or the manager either.
Some shock news here - not every player who leaves the club does so because they fall out with the manager. I know some may find that hard to believe, but that is the truth.
Scott was offered a three-year contract in January, which is almost unheard of at our club. I think Lee Ridley was the last player who had a three-year deal and that wasn't exactly a roaring success.
In his last BBC Glos interview at Rochdale (before he launched into the famous non-trying rant...) he told Pete Matthews and I that the club had made him a 'fantastic offer' and there has never been any indication that he was unhappy here.
His footballing options in recent years had been limited by his desire to stay in Wolverhampton, to be close to his father, who has been very ill for a while, and he also had impending fatherhood to contemplate.
Sadly his father died recently, then his new baby arrived, and now there are no ties to Wolverhampton and Scott was able to widen his horizons, and the far north east of Scotland has won the day.
I know that some will decry the standard and competitiveness of the Scottish Premiership, but he will be playing for a club with an average gate of 13,000 at a decent stadium and also the chance of Europa League football - instead of a team averaging 10,000 less and a game or two in the JPT. No brainer really.
It's an early start - the Dons' first Europa League game is on July 3, 10 days before the World Cup final, and draw is on June 23, so not much of a break Browny!
I am sure their manager Derek McInnes became aware of him in his time at Bristol City, and Scott will be working with former Manchester United and Scotland number one Jim Leighton - a decent man to learn from.
"He is highly regarded," said McInnes. "We watched him the whole of last season and we feel we've got a more than capable goalkeeper to come in and provide real competition in that area.
"He's got good experience. He's a good age for a goalkeeper and again another one who will get better with us."

Jamie Langfield and Nicky Weaver are listed as other goalkeeping options on the Aberdeen website, and among the other names at the club are our ex-loanee Johnny Hayes, former Birmingham and Swindon forward Adam Rooney and the man who is linked to us almost as much as Bayo Akinfenwa or Izale McLeod, our old friend Calvin Zola.
So now we need to find two goalkeepers. 
Again, predictably, the manager is also being beaten around the head now because Connor Roberts has gone, and on the basis that he plays for the Welsh under-21s and is now in the full squad, it has now become a horrendous mistake to let him go.
It was a joint decision. Yates didn't feel Connor was currently number one material, and Connor wants to play regular games.
I would defy anyone who saw the Dagenham game to venture that Connor was ready now (and I stress that word) to be a number one goalkeeper in League Two. He made a hash of the own goal, and for the second goal was beaten, through his legs, at the near post.
Now, I know some will say that he should have had more of a chance - but does anyone think at any point in Connor's time here that Browny deserved to be dropped in favour of him? No, I didn't think so, so how then was Connor going to get that chance?
I will concede that he could have played in the JPT, but other than that Browny has been the out and out number one, and so deserved to be treated as such.
In the future, Connor will, I hope, go on to be a good goalkeeper, but we are not in the position where we can trust such a key role to someone who may not be ready for it yet.
I am afraid we cannot let Connor learn 'on the job'. He needs some games, maybe at Conference Premier, North or South level to build up some real experience. I cannot see him going to a Football League club and being their number one for two seasons or more. I may be wrong, you may disagree, but that's my view.
He has done well in the Wales games I have seen, but (dons helmet) he is fortunate that there are not many Welsh keepers about - and the decision of Boaz Myhill to quit internationals has pushed him up the pecking order behind Wayne Hennessey and Owain fon Williams.
In my recent blog, I named several available goalkeepers, and here are some names in the frame:
Chris Weale and Joe Anyon, both released by Shrewsbury, or Trevor Carson, formerly of Bury but on loan at Portsmouth last season.
There's Jake Cole, freed by Plymouth, or Chris Lewington, who left Dagenham, Artur Krysiak, who was at Exeter and played for Burton in that 6-5 game we all remember so well, and Peter Brezovan, who has served Brighton and Swindon in his career.
Paul Jones was freed by Crawley and Phil Smith, who had a game on trial for us at Evesham and saved a penalty is also available, as is Scott Shearer, freed by play-off winners Rotherham and Shwan Jalal, whose last club was Bournemouth.
The other name is Steve Phillips, formerly of both Bristol clubs and a loan spell with Gloucester, but freed by Crewe - a man who has had plenty of stick from CTFC fans down the years for some reason.
Maybe we should get the former AFC Wimbledon man Seb Brown, then we don't need to print a new shirt... and my BBC Glos colleague Pete Matthews won't have to learn a new name. I'll bet he calls whoever is in goal Scott Brown at least once in our first game...!!
All of those have plenty of experience under their belts at this level and above - and any of them could potentially be our number one next season, so there are people about.
There are also plenty of young goalkeepers eager to prove themselves, so I am sure one of them will want to come and give it a go with us.
Have a look here for some more, and see what you think...
Browny will definitely be missed, and we all thank him for his loyalty, attitude (especially when Jack Butland took his place for a while) and brilliant performances for CTFC down the years.
It will be strange to see a different face in our goal in July, but things have to move on, and while one door closes, another opens and we also got the out-of-the-blue arrival of Asa Hall from Shrewsbury to bolster our midfield on a two-year contract.
This one seemed to take everyone unawares. I had no wind of it and neither it seems did anyone who usually gets wind of these things, which can sometimes be a good thing.
He has played against us, most recently in the 2-2 home draw with Oxford this season, and has 200-odd starts in all competitions for Shrews, Oxford, Luton, Boston and Aldershot in permanent and loan moves.
At six-foot-two, he has some height and presence about him, and seems to weigh in with the odd goal as well, which won't go amiss in our midfield.
All in all, a solid performer with a track record at this level. I sense he won't be a spectacular flair player, but more of a hard worker - his interview saw him describe himself as high-energy, and box-to-box - more Penn than Pack I would suggest, and every team needs one of those.
So we will see where he fits in, but (random trivia alert) he will be one of the shortest names ever to play for us, with only seven letters.
We have had Tim Ward, one of our most famous past players, who went on to play for and manage Derby and also played for England, and more recently Ben Gill, who has the distinction of being the only player not to start a Football League game for us but to have scored a League goal.
But they are trumped by one of the shortest players to play for us, and one of the most remembered - Sam Cox, only six letters and the 'memorable' one game when he ended up at centre-back in the 4-0 abomination at Accrington under you-know-who despite being about four foot three wringing wet (...and still people say last season was worse than when he was in charge...)
Anyway. Back to reality, and a quick check of the squad as it stands now.

Defenders: Vaughan, Brown, Elliott, CBB
Midfielders: Hall, Richards, Taylor*, Kotwica, Hanks, Williams, Bowen, Powell
Forwards: Gornell, Harrison, Dale

So now we have 15 players, one of whom (*) is transfer-listed and three (in italics) yet to physically put pen to paper, although there should not be any problems with that.
Also of those 15, six are teenagers and so Yates still has some work to do - I would suggest two goalkeepers, a centre-back, a left-back, two wingers, another central midfielder and a forward or two - maybe eight or nine players still to find.
But I named 13 goalkeepers above, and there are more - and it is the same in all positions, plus it isn't even the end of May yet and the engraving is only just dry on the play-off trophies.
So it hardly time to panic, but you wouldn't know it judging by some Twitter and Facebook comments today, which have verged on the utterly ridiculous. I really do wonder sometimes if people think about what they type.
One comment said 'we are signing other people's leftovers and Conference cast-offs'. 
That is what we always do. Alan Bennett, Sido Jombati, Kaid Mohamed, Marlon Pack, Luke Summerfield, Darryl Duffy, Russ Penn, Billy Jones Keith Lowe - these names from the teams of the past two seasons which get dragged up all the time to berate the manager with as they are not here anymore - were also other people's leftovers, unwanted by other clubs when they came here - and some were Conference (and below) cast-offs too. Oh the shame...
That's what clubs at our level do. They try to sign up the best of what is available from other clubs. 
Who are these players expecting us to sign? I suppose that trying to hoover up the best of the out of contract players is 'lacking ambition' and some are expecting us to match the Burys of this world in lashing out transfer fees here and there?
Personally, I do not believe any club at our level should ever need to pay a transfer fee for a player. Paying a transfer fee does not show ambition in my eyes - it shows a reckless desperation and is not some sort of cast-iron guarantee that that particular club will be in the top seven. 
Every summer, there are more than enough decent players around, and that is the same this time, so we will be in the mix trying to sign them up, as we have been every summer, while staying within our means.
Sorry if that's boring, but that's the way it is. If you want massive transfer fees and reckless spending, then stick to the Premier League. Or move to Bury.

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.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Let the fun begin...

Right then, here we go.
The dust has settled, the season is over and already we know the date for the first pre-season friendly - only two months to go until the rollercoaster starts again.
But who will we see in the red and white at the Spiers and Hartwell Jubilee Stadium on July 12?
We know who a few of them will be, but there will be a few new faces - maybe as many as 10 - to find between now and then.
The released lists are starting to filter out - many clubs have decided those players who are surplus to requirements and also offered new contracts to others who may or may not decide to accept them.
So while some of us are enjoying Bosnia v Iran, Honduras v Switzerland and other such footballing classics in the next few weeks, Mark Yates has got some hard work to do.
He has already sorted Steve Elliott's future out, which is great news, but the one to watch now is Scott Brown - will we have to find two new goalkeepers this summer?
Let's hope not - but there are a few potential replacement number ones about.
Interestingly, Shrewsbury have let two goalkeepers go, which may set some alarm bells ringing as the Greenhous Meadow is not far from Browny's house in Wolverhampton. Let's hope their new boss Micky Mellon has someone else in mind.
The keepers in question are Chris Weale and Joe Anyon.
Weale is 32, and has 333 league games behind him - so would not be lacking in the experience stakes, plus he comes from Somerset, so the geography card works here. (Random trival fact: his identical twin brother Sam is an Olympic modern pentathlete).
Anyon, 27, has played second fiddle to Weale, but played a number of games for Port Vale, including a calamitous visit to Whaddon Road where he let in a farcical goal a couple of seasons back.
Trevor Carson, 26, played against us twice last season - for Bury in their 4-1 win at the start of the campaign, and in the 0-0 draw at Portsmouth, and has 133 league games behind him with a series of loan moves.
One-club man Chris Lewington, 25, played 127 games for Dagenham, including a few against us including the 5-0 win at Victoria Road two seasons ago, when he got the red card.
Paul Jones, 27 has left Crawley and has a record of 308 league games, including 158 for Exeter, who themselves have bade farewell to Artur Krysiak, 24, - whose most memorable game in his 173 senior football outings is probably not Burton 5, Cheltenham 6.
The final goalkeeper is Phil Smith, 34, - and he has already played for us at Evesham, as he was on trial two seasons ago and saved a penalty. He has just left Portsmouth.
But we don't want any of them - we want Browny, so get on with it Scott... pen, contract, signature. It's quite simple.
We do need a right back having let Sido go, and the one name which really jumped out from the lists I have looked at is that of Christian Ribeiro.
The 24-year-old with two Wales caps was born in Neath but is a Stroud boy, having gone to Marling School, and started out at Bristol City before ending up at Scunthorpe after three loan spells.
He has had a few injuries, but played 25 games as the Iron went up last season, and he might fancy moving back home... I would have tipped him for Forest Green, but they signed our old loanee David Pipe to fill their vacant right-back slot.
Another bonus is that Ribeiro can also play centre-half - who mentioned Keith Lowe...?
Pipe is going to the New Lawn as they have let Jared Hodgkiss go, and the 27-year-old has always impressed me when I have watched Rovers play.
He is a solid, no frills, out and out right back. That may be exactly what we need.
He started at West Brom and played 155 times for Rovers in his time there including 38 games last season, and was also their skipper (we need leaders don't we...?).
And before people wonder why we are thinking about looking in the Conference for a player, remember that Sido came from Bath, didn't he?
My other right-back possibility comes from down the M5 at the Mem, and I am hoping that he doesn't fancy a trip to Alfreton or Dover on a wet Tuesday night in November.
Michael Smith, 25, has been offered a new contract by the Gas, but was one of their plus points in his 50 league and cup games for them last season - in fact, along with Jonjo O'Toole, he was in the PFA League Two team of the year - so the best right back in League Two...
That's going to mean a lot of interest I am sure, and I am not certain that we will have enough financial clout to tempt him here unless Stevie can have a word! You wouldn't need to move house Michael...
Talking of geography, I will give our old boy Brian Wilson a quick mention - but a story on the BBC website says he will be going to a club in the North West after leaving Colchester, so expect him to sign back here in the next few days, haha!
One of the features of the lists I have checked out is the large number of left-backs that seem to be going unwanted by clubs at present, and I know I am not the only CTFC fan hoping that we will be looking at them.
On the other flank to Michael Smith at the Gas is 23-year-old Lee Brown - also offered a new deal but potentially in the same boat as his team-mate, and another near ever-present last term.
I can already hear the groans about why I am advocating two players who have played in a relegated side, so just for you we will look elsewhere - but his name is Brown, so he will fit in well to our back five!
At the top of the age and experience scale comes Jamie McAllister at 36 and with 500-odd games behind him, but freed by Yeovil, for whom he played 40 games in the Championship last term.
Not far behind him, and in the Billy Jones league of free-kick and corner delivery is another New Lawn old boy, Kevin Nicholson.
Now 33 and another 500-game man, Torquay have let him go, and he is another player who I have always been a fan of and has no shortage of experience. Both of these two would fit the 'leadership' criteria I feel.
But they don't really fit into the 'younger squad' mantra Yatesy mentioned when he released Jamie Cureton - and there are no shortage of left-backs who do.
First, we go back to Shrewsbury for Welshman Joe Jacobsen, 27, who played a century of games for the Shrews, and captained Wales' under-21 side.
Then, Dagenham have said farewell to 23-year-old Femi Ilesanmi, who played 117 games for them, and not all of their fans are happy about the decision - usually a good sign.
Up in the North West, there are two Scousers who might want to come down here and help us understand what Terry Gornell is saying, former Accrington man Laurence Wilson, 27, and ex-Morecambe player Robbie Threlfall, 25.
I have always liked Wilson, who can play left-back or further up the left flank, and scored the winner against us at Christie Park for Morecambe a few years back.
He started at Everton and has 255 games under his belt, but has usually been Northern-based, which could work against us - but Gornell and Jason Taylor were tempted south so it can happen.
Threlfall started at Liverpool and after a few loan moves went to Bradford and then Morecambe, so like Wilson is another northern boy - but in 2007 was named in the Daily Mail's England team of the future, predicted in the wake of our failure to reach Euro 2008.
A bit closer is Mansfield, where James Jennings, 26, has been let go after one season where he played 32 games and got four goals, playing as a left wing-back in their three-at-the-back system.
The last of my nine left-back candidates is Joe Widdowson, 25, who Northampton have freed after 63 games there in two seasons - so there is plenty of choice in that position.
But the search for centre-halves, as I think we will need one of them as I don't expect Stevie to play every week, was not so fruitful.
The only two who even remotely came on to the radar where Torquay 28-year-old Aaron Downes and former Newport (and Oxford before that) player Harry Worley, 25, - but I have to say neither have ever really impressed me, so let's hope that some youngsters from higher-ranked clubs catch the eye.
Into midfield, where we need some legs and energy, and this afternoon there was a mini-Twitter meltdown when the name of Luke Summerfield appeared on Shrewsbury's released list.
Yes, I know. Look forward, not back you hypocrite. Here we go again...
Summers is only 26, and made 54 starts for Shrews in his two years there, but having left us to go to League One I am not expecting him to want to drop back down.
He might be looking at the League Two play-offs and seeing how his dad's Burton side do - if they go up a family reunion may be a possibility at the Pirelli.
Also close to home is Ryan Burge, 25, who has left Newport and already said he wants to play for his hometown club.
He has plenty of bite in his tackles and I don't think he would lack in the 'desire' department.
I spoke to him at his grandad Rod's funeral recently and he seemed a really nice bloke - confirming the story about Keith Downing offering him a deal just before he was sacked, and then the next manager revoking it...
Talking of Keith, one of the players he tried to sign before that League One campaign was Sam Togwell, who along with other targets Martin Woolford and Gary Hooper ended up at Scunthorpe - but has now left Chesterfield.
He is 29 now, and has the thick end of 300 league starts under his belt - experience, leadership, promotion knowhow... wonder if Keith's interest may be resurrected.
One player we did get here briefly at the other end of the experience scale is Lawson D'Ath, who impressed Dagenham fans on loan there last season, and will be in demand after leaving Reading.
He played one full game for us, and scored a beauty - against Exeter in a 3-0 win, then played against Yate in the Cup and then got injured before coming on against Wycombe on Boxing Day.
We sent him back and kept the inferior Jake Taylor, but I liked Lawson and at 21 is certainly in the 'young, hungry and something to prove' category, and has good passing ability as well as getting stuck in.
No shortage of suitors I'd imagine.
Two very long-range punts who would be extreme outsiders for a role here are Gary Jones and Marvin Elliott.
Jones would be ideal on the leadership front, but his 36 years and 600 games - including 45 last season, so no worries on the ageing sicknote front - make him the man you could build a midfield around, with some younger legs to help him out.
The younger squad ideal and his fondess for the north however make this unlikely.
Based closer to home, Elliott is 29, a Jamaican international, and his injury record recently has not been good. Finance will most likely work against anything happening - but again vast experience from a higher level, box-to-box and goals from midfield, 25 for City in 216 league starts.
A more viable alternative to get us passing may be Luke Young, freed by Plymouth and scorer of a peach of a free-kick against us at Home Park.
A 21-year-old one club man, he, like D'Ath, has the young legs, but more experience with 99 starting and sub games for the Greens, whose fans were not altogether impressed with the decision to free him.
Finally, a name from very close to home - Forest Green in fact, 27-year-old Yan Klukowski.
He has elected to quit FGR to try out league football, and his record of goals from midfield in the Conference is excellent, with 48 in 126 Conference starts (plus 33 sub) - one in three games.
As a side who struggled to find goals from midfield last season, bar Matt Richards from penalties or free-kicks, this has to be attractive and with him on our doorstep he must be under consideration, surely?
Of course, there is no guarantee that he would reproduce that record at the higher level but every signing is a gamble and some risky ones might just pay off.
He scored 12 goals last season, 11 the campaign before that and 18 in 2011-12 - all from midfield, which is an impressive record. Someone will surely take a chance on him, and who says it can't be us?
We are also going to surely be in the market for wide men, especially, as seems likely, we are going to revert to the 4-5-1/4-3-3 system from the golden Autumn of 2011.
I can't move on without putting Ashley Grimes, 27, forward, and we know he and Yatesy have spoken since the M6 U-turn which he must now regret as he is on the list at Bury after only six league starts for them.
He has 35 goals in 90 league starts, and could be the man to play the 'Mo role' down the left.
As could another old chestnut, who we understand Yates spoke to last summer - the Benin international Rommy Boco, 28, whose move down to Plymouth from Accrington was a short one.
He scored two goals for Argyle. Yes. Both against us, one each in league and JPT - and scored against us in 2012-13 for Accy. As we know, we do like signing players who score and play well against us. Especially wingers.
Another left-sider to consider, at the peril of becoming the Shrewsbury Old Boys Club, is Paul Parry.
Now 33, he is an old-fashioned winger. Whether he has the pace is questionable, but he has a great left foot and could provide ammunition for Byron, and maybe score a few himself cutting in from the left.
He hails from Chepstow and started out at Hereford, so the geography issue doesn't apply, but the over-30 thing may well do - but we cannot surely rule out everyone whose age begins with the number three, can we?.
I am reminded (via @hEaLeR_CTFC on Twitter) that we actually bid £50,000 for him a few years back, if I recall correctly that when he was at Hereford, but that was turned down. If at first you don't succeed...
Finally on the winger front is another local lad, from Wotton-under-Edge, 25-year-old Sean Rigg.
He usually plays down the right hand side, and again could cut in from there and support a front man.
Rigg has left Oxford after two seasons, and earlier won promotion with Port Vale - but is not a prolific goalscorer.
Finally, the attack - and the question has to be how many forwards will we bring in if it seems like the manager wants to use one right up top - most likely Byron Harrison. We also have Gornell (unless he is going to be the mysterious second player on the transfer list which Jon Palmer tweeted about last week, only for it not happen...) and so there might only be room for one more.
The first name which cropped up, and someone we have tried to sign at least twice is Jack Midson, now 30, but like Boco at the top of the 'always plays well and scores against CTFC' list. Safest way to stop that is to sign the bloke.
Another who has played well against us is one of the three men to score more L2 goals than Byron last season, 25-year-old Bristolian Reuben Reid.
The former Gloucestershire second XI cricketer (random trivia fact number two...) has had an array of loan moves but after leaving Yeovil I would expect him to head back for Plymouth, where he was a youth product and where he scored 21 goals last season.
Whether he and Byron together would work is something we might not get the chance to find out, and the same goes for a player Yatesy knows very well, having had him at Kidderminster, 29-year-old James Constable.
He has been offered a new Oxford contract, but has not yet signed it with Gary Waddock wanting a quick answer - rumours are Portsmouth might be his next destination.
So if we have the big man in Harrison we might be after the smaller, nippy type, so what about 27-year-old ex-Crawley man Billy Clarke?
He could be the sort of player to forage the channels and might work out the way Jimmy Spencer did two years ago - weighing in with a share of goals - and he is another who has a promotion from this division on his CV.
So these are just a few names gleaned from a scan of the lists I have seen so far.
Others will come out in the coming days and weeks, and no doubt fans will have their ideas about who they think might fit into our squad.
Let the fun begin...

More names to add already - via Twitter:
Jay McEveley (Swindon), left back, aged 29 (@Reed2412)
Alex Rodman (Grimsby), winger, aged 27 (@whyalwaysjimbo)
Craig Westcarr (Walsall), striker/winger, aged 29 (@TheJackO'Neill)
Jake Cole (Plymouth), goalkeeper, aged  28 (@Watten86)
Jamie Turley (Forest Green), centre half, aged 24 (@MikeStewart1974)

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The final curtain

Before I start on this stream of consciousness, I just want to thank everyone for the mostly-positive reaction to the last post.
As I write, it has had 971 views, which is the second-most of any post on this blog (this is number 194) and is beaten only by the diatribe on Martin Allen before we played Gillingham last season.
The reaction has given me some insight into who actually takes the time to read these ramblings - it would appear that I have directors, current and former club officials and past and present players taking a look as well as the regular fans - so thanks very much.
Anyway, that's another season done and dusted, and the overwhelming feeling is that this is a very good thing, but while it has been one of the most forgettable of our Football League campaigns on and off the pitch, we must learn the lessons from it and ensure that we can get back onto the straight and narrow.
There is a lot to cover in this post, so I am going to separate it up into sections and try to tackle each subject, so here goes...
Dagenham game
It was, quite simply, a season summed up in 90 minutes. Again.
We took the lead, lost it, took the lead again, lost it again and then lost the game, giving away comical goals along the way and maintaining our home malaise in some style.
The only plus point of the game was seeing three teenagers on the pitch, in Joe Hanks, Harry Williams and Zack Kotwica, and they had differing amounts of impact.
Hanks was the pick, setting up the first goal with an excellent whipped-in free-kick, looking composed on the ball and not scared to take responsibility.
In the first 15 minutes, I counted that he had eight touches of the ball and did not waste possession with any of them. He was pointing at more senior players and was first with a pat for Sido after that own goal.
A bit of maturity beyond his years at times, and I think he showed he did not look out of place and that he is ready for more exposure next season.
Williams, in his best role just off Byron Harrison, was busy to start with but faded as the game went on. But again in his games, he has shown promise and a summer on the weights and a decent pre-season will hopefully see him in and around things next season.
On his first start (about six months too late in my view) Zack was disappointing. I thought he struggled to get involved bar one or two promising runs, and I feel he has gone backwards in his development.
If he had started some games in September-October time rather than constant 10-15 minute cameos, I think he would be better off now. He has also suffered from not playing 90 minutes more often this season.
Elsewhere, it was good to see Connor Roberts given a chance, and I felt sorry for him with the own goal. Sido didn't look at all before playing the ball back, but I did think Connor panicked a bit - he could have pushed the ball away, or punched it, or tried to pat it down then kick it afterwards.
It was perfect placement however - Sido curled it perfectly into the corner from almost on the touchline. I bet he could try that 20 times and not repeat it!
The second goal was a deep cross which Connor started to come for, then went back and ended up being beaten through his legs at the near post after two players comically fell over and allowed the centre-half a free run. Our season in a nutshell right there...
For goal three I thought he was unfortunate. He made a good save on to the post but the forward was left with a tap in.
So that was that - and it was a game which, along with most this season, will quickly be erased from the memory.
Managerial contracts
Before that game came the news about the managerial team's long-running contract saga finally being resolved with Neil Howarth's departure and Mark Yates' deal being cut in half to 12 months.
As I said in the last blog, something had to change.
There had been rumblings about the coaching, and clearly this season has not all been sweetness and light on the training field.
I am sure that the directors came to this decision after consulting various people around the club, and it is hoped that a new approach in the dugout will breathe new life into things.
Yates made no secret of the fact that he wasn't happy to see Howarth go, and that is hardly a surprise.
After all they have worked together for nine years with a Trophy final, a play-off final and some Cup runs, but without getting over the line to any real tangible success.
On the outside, they seem like the ideal good cop-bad cop pairing which so often works with a management team, and it is a shame to see Neil go. A decent bloke, and a good servant to the club.
But times have to move on, and I am intrigued to see how a new management team, with a first-team coach and player-coach alongside Yates, will work.
Of course Yates will have a say in who that is, which is quite right as he has to work with him, but I hope the coach comes from outside the club.
Someone with experience, fresh ideas and a new outlook is what we need. Dave Kevan did a decent job while he was here and I would hope the new man might have a similar impact.
But we know Yates can be stubborn - he is the gaffer and what he says goes ultimately, but I hope he will listen and take on board whatever ideas the new coach will bring.
The player-coach looks odds-on to be Steve Elliott, which is great news if it happens.
He has his B licence and is about to do his A, popular with the fans, will command respect from the players and therefore will not be lost to the club on and off the field.
So what of the manager?
I sense the support for him is around 50-50 - at least everyone I speak to who says he deserves one more shot at it is tempered by another person who says he should have gone as well.
He is lucky - kept on mainly by the loyalty of the board, who point to the two play-off campaigns as proof of his credentials and are giving him one more shot.
But this is the last-chance saloon, as the one-year contract suggests. He has, with many fans, lost the credit of those two play-off campaigns, with his detractors saying that he actually failed both times, as we didn't go up.
The league table doesn't lie, and with the 12th-highest budget in the division, we finished 17th, which is underachievement, so he is, without doubt, a man under pressure.
He is the kind of character who will hopefully rise to that.
heI hope  comes out with the 'I'll prove you wrong' mentality and sticks his critics' words back down their throats, but he has a big summer in store and then probably 12-15 games before the heat will intensify if things are not going well.
In effect, the board have hedged their bets, and put him on trial again. It's back to square one, and he has to prove himself to us all over again - and if he fails the trial, there are not two two-year contracts to be paid off.
As I wrote last week, I was stunned when Scott Brown came out with his words at Rochdale about the two training ground non-tryers.
They let him down, along with the rest of the team, the manager, board and also the fans, and thanks to Jon Palmer and the Echo, we now know who they are.
Jon and the Echo were quite right to name them. I know you all think I am bound to say that, but we have a right to know as fans of the club who these players were.
For the record, I didn't know who they were until the Echo's story, and I was totally wide of the mark with my suspicions over their identities - as was everyone else, hence the Echo's decision to reveal their names.
I was surprised, as over the season a lack of effort is, I feel, not something you could accuse these two players of. A lack of quality at times most definitely, but not a lack of effort.
The finger of suspicion was falling on others, which was not fair on those who were being blamed, especially the player being sung about in the LMI during the Dagenham game.
I am sure the club are not happy the names have come out, as I suspect they were hoping the storm would blow over and by next season it would have been largely forgotten about, and maybe with the two players still in red and white.
Overall, I don't feel they handled it very well.
The chairman came out and talked about the players never playing again, and how it may be a reason not to renew contracts.
Then the manager, after explaining the situation, appeared to play it down, and having played the pair at Rochdale did so again against Dagenham, before they were named.
A statement saying who the players are, with an apology from them stating that it won't happen again and they are fully committed to the club might have done the trick. Not all fans of course would have accepted that, but it would have a start.
In JP's story, one of them was 'poised to sign a new contract', while the other has a contract due to his appearances clause. So much for not playing for the club again, or not having a contract renewed.
In that case though, I suspect the contract was on the table before this brouhaha erupted, and since the naming, the manager has stated he might not sign it as he is upset about nasty comments on Twitter.
I don't know what he expected. People were not just going to turn round and say 'It's okay, you admitted you weren't putting it in, but we don't mind, so have a new contract on good money,' now were they?
So the attitude therefore seems to be, they have found out who I am, they are having a go at me, so I am off - rather than stuff you lot, I am signing again and I am going to play my heart out for you next season and win you round again.
It seems a convenient little escape clause for him.
To be honest, I am not fussed either way if he stays or not, and if I had to make a choice either way, it would probably be better if he went elsewhere, and we could draw a line under this little episode.
Finally, and to try and add some perspective, I went to Rod Burge's funeral last week and spoke to a couple of our ex-players about this (they were trying to get the gossip from me... but I had none!)
One of them, a real crowd favourite and someone who you could rely on for 100 per cent every time, admitted that he would sometimes not put his all in during those Friday sessions, and he was not alone in that.
He said players know they are in the side for Saturday, don't want an injury and don't want to use up all their energy, leaving themselves running on empty for the game.
But crucially, he said that if the manager was to ask him if he was putting it all in, of course the answer would be yes - and when a certain S. Cotterill was your manager that is hardly a surprise - which begs the million dollar question - why on earth did these two say no when Yates asked them the question...?
The retained list
I could never be a football manager for many reasons, but one of the biggest would be because of the job of having to tell players they are not good enough, or they are not getting a new contract.
You are playing God with people's livelihoods and either crushing the dreams of young players or consigning more experienced pros to the scrapheap and maybe forcing them to get a proper job.
Not pleasant, but a necessary part of the season for a manager like Yates who needs to find some leeway in his budget to try and re-shape an underachieving squad into one which can be more competitive next time round.
Regarding the out of contract players, I thought he got the decisions right.
Sam Deering, Ashley Vincent and Ed Williams all looked pretty clearcut, with Deering's omission last Saturday rubberstamping his fate while the other two never looked likely to be kept.
Deering played nearly 80 games, largely in an attacking role, and did not score a goal, and rarely set one up either.
There was no faulting his effort or work-rate in my view, but having had a lot of chances, it is time to move on, and maybe he can get the form back he showed at Barnet with another club.
Vincent's move didn't work out for whatever reason. We saw flashes of form, but they were extremely brief, and it wasn't until February that he started a match, so good luck to him and I hope he gets regular football somewhere.
I feel a little bit sorry for Ed Williams as he has some ability but was maybe a victim of circumstance and never got a chance anywhere near the first team. I hope he goes off and proves a success somewhere.
The contentious ones were Sido Jombati and Jamie Cureton.
Shane Duff got a newspaper column out of my tweet about Sido after the decision was announced, and a good piece it was too.
Mark Yates was right in his interview when he said that Sido looked like a Championship player when he came on the scene. He did - and I had thoughts that we might make some money out of him.
He became a cult hero, but he hasn't kept up that form, and has become very prone to mistakes this season. I know he is not the only one who has messed up, but his errors seem to have been more calamitous than most, getting more ridiculous as they went on, capped off by Saturday's own goal.
I think Yates gradually lost trust in him. Towards the end of the season, he dropped him and put Mitch Brundle, an 18-year-old loanee who had never played right back before, in his place, then shunted Sido to left back.
That spoke volumes, and although he restored him to right back towards the end, I think the writing was on the wall. Sido should get another league club, and if they get the 2011-12 vintage, they have a top player on their hands. Big if though I feel.
And so to Cureton.
I was 50-50 on this one, as he had 11 goals in 24 starts and had started to link up with Byron, plus I thought his knowledge would be ideal for Bobbie Dale, a young kid coming through to rub off on.
But I can see why Yates' reasons why he has elected to go the other way, and this was the most borderline decision of all.
He wants a younger squad. Yes, I get that one.
He has tried to accommodate two strikers when one would be better. True again, and Jamie does not suit the lone role these days in my view.
Those who think he should have stayed point to lack of service, and say he wasn't used right.
OK, so he could have started more games, and he was better when he did as I never felt he had any impact off the bench, but I don't subscribe wholly to the 'lack of service' argument.
He scored 11 goals in 24 starts, and missed presentable chances in other games, notably at Northampton, Exeter, Scunthorpe and Tamworth - chances which all proved crucial as we either drew or lost those games.
I am in no way saying the misses were totally responsible for those results, but if he got 'no service' then how did he get those goals or chances? Someone must have set them up for him as he didn't make them all himself.
New contract offers to Hanks, Elliott and Brown are spot on, and I hope they all sign them as soon as possible. I think Brown's decision will also prompt a decision on Connor Roberts. I hope he stays too, but we will see.
The Jermaine McGlashan situation has been discussed above, and we will see what transpires there.
As for the contracted players, Jason Taylor is on the list, which is no surprise as he has been out of the 18 lately and his move here has not worked, so it is better that he moves on.
There is a slight mystery as JP tweeted on Tuesday that two players were going on the list, but only Taylor has, thus far.
The identity of the other potential listee, if it happens, seems to be a head-to-head fight between Craig Braham-Barrett (see non-tryers gate above) and Terry Gornell, who in my view has not had a proper crack of the whip.
I am a fan of Terry and hope he gets more opportunities to play in his best role - up front - rather than as an attacking midfielder, which does not suit him.
He has scored goals at this level and I think he will do so again given the chance. Maybe next season.
The other players kept give us something to work with as a nucleus to build from - Troy Brown had a decent season, Matt Richards was in my view not as bad as people have made out and does not deserve the treatment he has had from some fans, and Byron Harrison deservedly took player of the year accolades.
When Browny re-signs (please...) we have a spine, and now it is up to Yates to go out and embellish that with new arrivals.
I think Brown is the most important contract renewal we need to fall our way. His rant at Rochdale has elevated him to almost God-like status with some fans and he is a reliable keeper at this level.
It would be very difficult to go out and find someone of equivalent ability to come in and replace him, and would also rob the club of a real talisman and one of the few players with a real connection to the supporters.
Yates has gone as far as he could given the number of players out of contract, and those with deals, and of course there is no guarantee that the four offers will be accepted.
Some would have liked him to go further maybe, while others are unhappy with decisions on certain players.
But we need change. Practically every fan has said this season that the squad is not good enough and wants 'big changes' - yet they moan when Yates makes those changes and decides not to keep players on. I can imagine the reaction if every player had been kept on...
As it is, we could still have four of the first-choice back five which let in the third-most goals in the division and was partly or largely responsible for losing 37 points after being ahead, so it's not revolution, more an evolution.
Summer shopping list
So now focus turns to the summer, and what Yates needs to do to the squad.
First, lets see what we have got (italics mean offered contracts/future uncertain, new pros underlined).
Goalkeepers: Brown, Roberts
Defenders: Braham-Barrett, Elliott, T Brown
Midfielders: Richards, Hanks, Powell, Bowen, Williams, Kotwica, McGlashan, Taylor
Forwards: Harrison, Gornell, Dale
So, including the four new pros, we definitely have 10 players and potentially 16 if the four with contracts plus Roberts all stay, and no-one wants Taylor. we have been told we will have a bigger squad, so say that is 24 players, we are looking for a minimum of maybe eight and a maximum of possibly 14 new faces.
Obviously, if Brown and Roberts stay, we won't need a goalkeeper but could end up hunting for two new ones, or one senior to join Roberts, or a new back-up for Brown depending on how things pan out.
Defensively we will need a right back for definite, and at least one centre-half, as if Elliott takes the coaching job I cannot see him being a regular (15-20 games maybe?) and I know I would not be alone in hoping Yates will be looking for a left back as well.
The manager's comments about accommodating two strikers when maybe he didn't want to points to his desire to go back to the 4-5-1/4-3-3 which produced the best performances of his reign in that glorious autumn of 2011.
So we need some midfielders. That midfield had the passing ability of Pack, the bite and bustle of Penn and the box-to-box engine of Summerfield - and he has to clone those three somehow, which will be his biggest challenge of the summer. They need to be players who can weigh in with goals.
Harrison will be first choice as the focal point, and Yates needs to find the pair to support him. A left-sided winger/forward in the Kaid mould plus a right-sided version as well - and I am sure he will want another out-and-out forward.
A big list and a big challenge, and already the retained lists from other clubs have started to filter out and already there are some interesting names being thrown around.
I am not directly advocating any of these as targets, but Christian Ribeiro (Wales international right back, released by Scunthorpe, who comes from Stroud), ex-Plymouth midfielder Luke Young, our perennial target Jack Midson and our transfer-listed U-turning favourite Ashley Grimes are among those looking around for the clubs, so there are players out there and more will become available as more clubs make decisions.
Happy hunting Mark!
And finally...
Like most CTFC fans, I am glad to see the back of that season, and hope the next one will be better.
But while 17th in the table was not the finish what we all wanted, a much bigger football club 40 miles south of us with 94 years in the Football League were relegated.
I think that puts into perspective what an achievement it is for our club to be looking forward to a 16th season in the 92 (even if we could be playing Wigan's B side soon if Mr Dyke has his way, but let's hope that doesn't happen...!)
That doesn't mean however that we can just sit still and stagnate - I want the club to thrive and progress as much as everyone else, and here is my wishlist for next season and beyond:
1. Less negativity - I am sick of it. Yes, it has been a poor season on the field, we all know that without having to be reminded about it 24-7.
But I am fed up of the negativity and constant drip, drip, drip of moaning about everything and anything to do with the club. I appreciate that much of the mood comes from what we have seen on the pitch, but this is not a new phenomenon - they just seem to be shouting louder when the team is doing badly.
Recently, there have been far too many people only too happy to tell everyone that they are not buying a season ticket for next season because of what was apparently the 'worst season in living memory'. Fine. Your decision to spend your money how you like, but there is nothing big and clever about announcing it on social media.
Also, there are far too many people running down anything the club tries to do. Now, I know they don't do everything right all the time, but no one does. Everyone makes mistakes.
The latest one has been those having a dig about the recent fans' panel. Those who joined are arse-lickers and it is all a farce apparently.
Any Cheltenham fan could have applied to the club to be part of it, and I decided to as I want to help the club. I was actually refreshed to see a number of faces I had never met before. It wasn't the same old faces, and there were a number of criticisms and suggestions put forward which will hopefully, down the line, benefit all fans.
Then today the club announced a family excellence award. Some of the comments on the club's Facebook page about it were just childish and embarrassing, and those who wrote them need to take a look at themselves. And so it goes depressingly on.
2. No scapegoats - Now, I am aware that fans have players they like, and players they don't. I am the same.
But every season it seems there has to be a scapegoat. One player who gets it in the neck all the time, and cannot 'win' however well they might play, and who gets the blame for the team's failings even if not directly responsible.
Danny Andrew, Jeff Goulding, Junior Smikle and now Matt Richards have all held the mantle, and I am sick of it.
I am not sure what purpose it serves for people to single out one player above all others. A team wins together, and it loses together.
Players make individual mistakes in games, but having seen 42 league games this season and all of our Cup games, I cannot say that Richards made more mistakes than anyone else, and played any worse than anyone else.
I have seen the abuse thrown at him justified by claims that he was hyped up when he signed as Pack's replacement. Hyped up by who? I cannot remember anyone saying that at all.
Presumably, people saw him come from a higher level on a two-year contract, with many believing he is towards the top of the wage bill (I have no idea if he is or not). They don't believe he has justified that. Fair enough, but that's not justification for abuse in my book.
People often say 'if he wears a Cheltenham shirt I will support him' - but seemingly it is not always the case.
3. Look forward, not back - Like the one above, I know everyone has favourite players and managers from the past, but that's where they are - in the past.
Players come, players go, but the most important thing is the future of the club.
People like Russ Penn, Keith Lowe, Marlon Pack, Luke Summerfield, Alan Bennett and Kaid Mohamed served us well, and the decision to let some of them go was maybe not the right one at the time.
But we have to move on, while I am not saying we should forget what they have done and what they contributed, constantly harking back and using their memory as a stick to beat the current players and manager is, frankly, becoming tiresome to me.
Like the negativity, it wouldn't be happening had we fared better on the pitch this season, so let's hope for better results and maybe the current and incoming players will get the focus and the wistful reminiscences can stop.
4. Fans and players united - This is the most important thing on my wishlist.
This club had its' most successful period between 1997 and 2002, and a big part of that was that we managed to create the perfect storm of board, management team, players and fans who were all pulling in the same direction.
We have never had that since then, so maybe it is not a coincidence that we have not recaptured that momentum again.
At the fans' panel recently, many people commented about the detachment of the players from the fans, and the need to get that back. It is crucial.
Times have changed. It's not like the days when players came in the bar and had a beer with the fans any more. Many of them don't drink (or aren't supposed to...) or live a distance away so want to see family after games.
Events like the open day in July and the barbecue for season ticket holders at Seasons are important then to try to establish some sort of link between fans and players.
The fans will be up for it, but the players must be too. They must not just huddle in a group together mumbling two words to fans.
They have to engage with them, be interested in talking to them - not like the end of season two years ago when they came into the main bar, stood in a huddle in the middle for 10 minutes then scuttled off again having barely said a word to anyone.
Little things matter to fans. Applauding them after games, home and away, win or lose (this goes for the manager too), signing autographs, posing for pictures, and above all just playing with a smile on their face rather than a grimace like this squad have for a large part of the season. Things like that will endear players to fans
Too often, they have looked to get off the pitch as quickly as they can. They need to remember they are there for the fans, not the other way round.
More connection between players and fans will not necessarily win us matches, but it might make for a better general atmosphere about the place.
5. More atmosphere - The million dollar question... how to get more noise at Whaddon...
Win more games for a start, yes that might do the trick, but some clubs don't win much, yet have fans who make decent noise at games.
Crystal Palace for a start - and yes, I know, there are a lot more of them, but you get my drift. At our level, Accrington and Aldershot are two sets of home fans who give it a decent shot.
The usual excuse is 'we will sing when there is something to sing about'. Sorry, I don't hold with that.
I used to stand in the Paddock in the 80s and 90s when we yo-yoed between the Southern League Premier and lower divisions.
There wasn't much to sing about most weeks, and about 800 in the ground, but we sung. Even if we lost 7-0 at home to Redbridge Forest or beat Corby Town 8-0, we sung.
I know what you are saying - he is looking back at the past, exactly what he has just told us not to do, the bloody hypocrite...
Maybe, but I am trying to make the point that atmosphere does not always have to be defined by what is on the pitch. A rousing few songs before kick off and in the early few minutes can give the team a good lift, then you just carry it on.
All it needs is someone to get it started. We had Middy usually, and we followed his lead, having a good laugh, and getting behind the team.
The Wymans crew gave it a shot - but where are they? (even the chairman asked this at the fans' panel) Again, I suspect the results haven't helped, but the ground needs a lift, and it needs someone to get it started, so at the risk of coming over all Delia on you all, come on Wymans, where are you? let's be having you...
Someone needs to start a singing group or section again, and get some vocal support going next season. Whether it is in the LMI, the Paddock or the In2Print, I hope it happens. And if people tell you to shut up, i
just ignore them. They used to tell us to shut up back in the day and we just got on with it.
We all support the same team apparently, so let's try and concentrate that and stop bickering between ourselves.
I know some fans want to watch the game and support their own way, but respect those who want to be more vocal, and sing or drum - and vice versa.
Those who want to sing, chant and drum are not drunken hooligans in the same way that those who don't want to make lots of noise are Baker's puppets or happy clappers. Mutual respect - let people support in their own way. If people want to sing, let them. If people don't, fine.
But one request for any singers next season - just slow the songs down a bit, especially the Tractor Song... Thanks.

Have a good summer!