Yeovil Town manager takes responsibility for poor start but is it time to panic?

Yeovil Town have yet again made an indifferent start to their campaign and have just three points on the board after their opening five matches in Sky Bet League Two, with the players failing to impress.

But in a remarkable statement to Glovers fans, Paul Sturrock has admitted he has made mistakes in recruitment, team selection and his tactics on match days.

The experienced Scotsman pleaded with Glovers supporters to stick with him in what has been an injury stricken few weeks.

He told ytfc.net: “I must put my hand up here and take the blame for wanting my cake and eat it; wanting to have a larger squad with both types of players where instead a smaller squad with more experienced players might have been the better formula.

I believe the injury situation has kicked this club in the teeth. If we had Marc Laird, Kevin Dawson, Ben Tozer, Ryan Dickson and Wes Fogden available from the start, we would have as good a midfield as any in the league.”

So is Sturrock making excuses? Or is he trying to give fans a sense of the trials and tribulations of being a football manager?

What some may see as a panic statement others may see as brave and honest.

Not many managers give supporters this kind of insight and it is clear that the performances and results were not what he expected after an extremely positive pre – season.

However, there have also been glimpses of brilliance.

Just over a week ago, Yeovil Town battled back from two goals down to sink fellow strugglers Luton Town in what was a second half full of skill, team spirit and clinical finishing.

But they took one step forward and two steps back as they whimpered through a battle with Oxford United.

The 2-0 scoreline was flattering to the away side and despite an impressive 500 strong following the Glovers looked like strangers on the pitch and gave the travelling support little to cheer about.

Whatever you may think about Sturrock’s attempt to smooth things over with the fans, his record speaks for itself and with five promotions to his name this kind of situation will not scare the 58 – year – old.

It will spur him on to turn things around.

Another club may find it easier to be positive but with two successive relegations and plenty of heart – breaking performances to choose from, Yeovil fans are understandably unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But with a brand new squad and a brand new manager, five matches in is not an acceptable time to press the panic button.

No doubt there will be more tough times ahead and moments where Yeovil Town may seem to be reverting to type.

However, there is potential in this squad with plenty of new faces yet to stamp their mark on the first team.

Kevin Dawson is kicking a ball again and Jack Compton has already impressed despite not being match fit.

Yeovil Town welcome Morecambe to Huish Park on the 5th September and the atmosphere on the day may well be the difference between winning and losing. Two successive home league wins is a distinct possibility and in this tough league home form will be crucial.

Follow this link to read Paul Sturrocks statement in full: http://www.ytfc.net/news/article/a-message-to-fans-from-paul-sturrock-2658040.aspx

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PREVIEW: Exeter City vs Yeovil Town

As opening fixtures go, this one is particularly poignant.

Yeovil Town travel to Exeter City to embark on a new challenge in League Two, with new manager Paul Sturrock.

But this is not the only reason Town fans will be looking forward to this local derby. This fixture gives both clubs the chance to remember a much loved player that wore both shirts with pride.

Adam Stansfield was just 31 – years – old when he lost his battle with bowel cancer in 2010 and just two days after this battle between his former sides, the five year anniversary of his death will be marked.

Some may say it is fate but both sets of fans have promised to honour his memory. Supporters from both sides will take part in the Adam Stansfield Memorial Cup with all proceeds going to the Adam Stansfield foundation.

After what will be an emotional start in League Two, there is an important match to be played.

Yeovil Town will be looking for a positive start against their west country rivals and to finally kick on having suffered two successive relegations.

The Glovers have welcomed no less than 15 new players to their side and Sturrock eluded, as recently as last week, that he had no idea what his starting 11 would be.

This is highly unlikely but shows the amount of work the manager has had to do in pre – season.

New captain, Ryan Dickson, looks certain to start but with Nathan Smith having impressed at left back, Crawley Town’s player of the year may start in midfield. Matt Dolan will need to prove his fitness to warrant a start in the centre and two of Shaun Jeffers, Mark Beck and Ryan Bird are likely to lead the attack for the Glovers.

However, injuries may also play their part with Dickson, Kevin Dawson, Jack Compton, Jordan Gibbons and Iffy Allen all missing out towards the tail end of pre – season.

Exeter City will also hope to be battling at the top of the table after an indifferent few years in the fourth tier. Arron Davies will welcome back his former club and new signing Will Hoskins is easing his way back from injury.

The worry for Town fans, once again, will be goals. Unproven goal scorers have signed on but Sturrock has a strong foundation, with players he has worked with before, experienced players and young players.

No doubt, it will be tough for the new faces to gel but the manager has worked hard on team bonding and creating a winning mentality,

This has already become apparent in pre – season with victories over Bristol City and a highly rated Swansea under – 21’s side.

With some tipping the Glovers for promotion, others for mid table mediocrity and some for relegation, Town fans will just want to see desire,heart and a new winning mentality.

This is a new era for Yeovil Town and hopefully one full of more joy than sorrow.

YTFC

Signing number 13 for Yeovil Town . Will their luck change in the new season?

Yeovil Town have signed their 13th player of the summer with defender Alex Lacey joining the Glovers from League Two rivals Luton Town.

Lacey, 22, has been rumoured to be making his way to Huish Park for a while but Sturrock has now confirmed that he has signed a two year deal with the club.

The young centre back has made 51 senior appearances for the Hatters but was released during the summer and Sturrock was keen to secure his services.

His experience in League Two will be invaluable as the Glovers make a return to the fourth tier for the first time in ten years.

After a huge clear out following relegation at the end of last season, Yeovil Town fans will need to spend some time getting to know the new recruits. But they also have some familiar faces that they can welcome back in August.

Ryan Dickson and Matt Dolan both return to the club having spent time on loan at Huish Park previously.

Fans seem to be generally happy with the summer business but after the last two disastrous seasons it seems “approach with caution” may be the initial mantra for the new campaign.

Pre – season friendlies are often about gaining fitness and getting that competitive feeling back after the summer break but this summer, they are more important than ever for Yeovil Town.

The results of the matches are as insignificant as ever but the key will be gelling as a team. With a huge turnover of players and a mixture of youth and experience, learning each others game and how to communicate on the pitch will be crucial for the Glovers to succeed in the new season.

With a start as tough as Yeovil Town’s, they cannot afford to make silly mistakes in the opening few games and dent the confidence they will have gained.

With Exeter City, Queens Park Rangers, Bristol Rovers, Luton Town and Oxford United all opponents in the opening month, a solid start is crucial. It would let everyone else in the league know that Yeovil Town are ones to watch as they look to secure and immediate return to League One football.

Signings galore for Yeovil Town as Sturrock rebuilds squad

After a painful two seasons for Glovers fans, Paul Sturrock has finally made his mark on the South Somerset side announcing four signings in the space of three days.

As if fixture release day wasn’t exciting enough for all clubs in the Football League, Yeovil fans were treated to a snippet of what their side will look like during the 2015/2016 season.

Midfielders Matt Dolan and Jack Compton have both committed their immediate future to Yeovil Town.

“Matty” Dolan, as he is affectionately known, is no stranger to Glovers fans, having played eight times in the 2012/2013 season – one being a substitute appearance in the League One Play – Off Final.

Matt Dolan returns for a second spell at Huish Park and will hope to be part of a second promotion with the club.

Matt Dolan returns for a second spell at Huish Park and will hope to be part of a second promotion with the club.

It is a day that both Dolan and all Glovers fans will never forget and the crossing ability and work-rate of the 22 year old mean he is a welcome addition for the new challenge ahead.

Jack Compton is slightly more of a mystery but was most recently a part of the team that pulled off the “great escape” in League Two last season. The former Hartlepool winger revealed he had other offers but Paul Sturrock’s ambitions, and all he had heard of the the club, convinced him Huish Park was the place to be.

In, arguably, the best news of the last few days – Kevin Dawson has extended his stay at Huish Park for a further two years. Yeovil Town were dealt a blow when their player of the year Sam Foley opted for a move to League One side Port Vale but securing Dawson’s services will no doubt ease the pain.

The classy winger decided he should be the one to tell the fans the good news.

With fans on Twitter calling for him to be made captain – his reception in August should be quite something.

In addition, Sturrock has also brought on board a familiar player from his time managing Southend. 29 year old midfielder, Marc Laird, has joined on a one year deal and last season played 39 times for Tranmere Rovers.

It is no surprise that Sturrock is recruiting his former players and it should help the dynamic of the side that some of the new faces are familiar with the manager’s style.

Joining Laird is a versatile defender and midfielder who played under the gaffer at Swindon Town. 25 year old Ben Tozer is re – united with his former boss following a five year spell at Northampton Town.

Tozer may be one to watch next season with the manager eluding that he will be more settled at Huish Park, rotating between just two positions. He told ytfc.net:

“I feel Ben’s career over the past few seasons has stagnated in a way that he has become a utility player and played in about five different positions.

“I would like to settle him down now into playing in just two positions. He has all attributes to be a great signing for the club and I am looking forward to working with him.”

It has been a refreshing week as finally Yeovil Town fans have something to look forward to and can start to visualise the team that will line up on August 8th. With a back five and a strike force still to be decided, it is exciting times at Huish Park.

The Glovers were lucky enough to bag a tasty draw in the Capital One Cup as they will play host to relegated QPR.

With pre – season creeping up on us, expect more signings at an alarming rate. One thing is for sure – Yeovil Town fans will not be complaining!

Yeovil Town Ladies host record crowd but fail to keep Doncaster Belles at bay.

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Yeovil Town Ladies saw their unbeaten record come to a halt as they went down 3-0 to 2nd placed Doncaster Belles. The Jones Stadium boasted a brilliant atmosphere as well as a record crowd of 509 – an impressive advert for women’s football.

Yeovil started well but Doncaster threatened with their speed and precision. Charlotte Haynes in the Yeovil goal had to be on guard early on and made a crucial save inside five minutes. She impressively tipped Sue Smith’s shot over the bar and forced an early corner.

The pressure increased as Doncaster continued to press high up the field. As they continued to force corners, Yeovil were equal to the pressure and defended well in numbers.

Both keepers were on red alert in the first half and Yeovil carved out an impressive break early on and Helen Bleazard was at the heart of the attacks and her shot forced Nicola Hobbs in to an equally great save.

After Smith had received treatment following a challenge by Steph Williams, the Belles took advantage of the free kick and the dangerous ball in to the box was cleared countless time but eventually headed in by Belles captain Leandra Little.

It was harsh on Yeovil to be behind at the break as after the setback they controlled much of the play, just the final ball was missing. Bleazard continued to cause the visitors problems and a free kick on the right hand side just could not find a green and white shirt.

In the second half, Doncaster stepped it up a level. The visitors kept possession well and were dominant in midfield for much of the rest of the match.

Ellie Curson took a chance as Yeovil looked to claw their way back in to the match but the ambitious shot from range was relatively comfortable for the keeper.

Yeovil Town were again undone by a set piece and the second goal also came from a training ground move. In truth, the cross eluded the whole of the Glovers defence and it was left to Courtney Sweetman- Kirk to score the visitors second of the match.

This did not deter the Glovers and in true “achieve by unity” style the ladies stuck together and worked hard to try and get themselves back in to the match.

The introduction of Alys Hinchcliffe gave the Glovers a real threat up front and she had countless chances to get her side back in it. Her shots just could not find the back of the net, adding to the frustration for the home side.

This frustration is what probably led to the third goal and as the cliché goes – the “sucker punch.” After a defensive mix up, Glovers keeper, Charlotte Haynes, had no choice but to foul Smith and the inevitable point to the spot arrived.

Any football fan or player would have been proud of the resulting penalty as Smith smashed it in to the top right hand corner, no keeper would have had a chance.

As the match petered out, it became more and more even with both sides having chances to add to the scoring.

The end of the match signalled disappointment but also a huge amount of pride for the fans, staff and players. The effort the club had gone to in order to promote women’s football was clear for all to see.

It was just a shame the team had an off – day. The skills of the individuals showed it was just that.

Yeovil Town ladies now have just over a month’s break as they head in to the mid – season break. They will have plenty of time to move on from today’s disappointment and take the second half of the season by storm.

PREVIEW: Yeovil Town vs Sheffield United

Just three days after their relegation to League Two was confirmed Yeovil Town are back in action at Huish Park tonight. They host play – off hopefuls Sheffield United in what will be another tough game for the Glovers. Now that their fate has been sealed Paul Sturrock is able to make changes in order to give his squad a chance to impress over the last four games of the season. He has also said that he wants some positive results before the end of this campaign to give Town fans at least something to cheer about. However, it will not be easy tonight as Sheffield United have come in to some impressive form. Before the weekend they had won 4 out of their last 5 games before Saturday saw them share the spoils at Oldham Athletic, having trailed 2 – 0 at the break. Midfielder Jason Holt and striker Jamie Murphy sealed a point for the visitors, which has left them in 5th place in League One. In direct contrast, the Glovers have mustered just one win in the last 13 matches in what has been a forgettable season.

Nigel Clough has eluded to the fact that it is never easy to play a relegated side but will be looking to secure a play – off spot as soon as possible. Yeovil Town will be looking to put this season to bed and focus on rebuilding for the next campaign. In some ways the last few games are more important for the players themselves as they will have to prove to Paul Sturrock that they are worthy of a position in his new look League Two team.

The Blades could be without Jamie Murphy and defender Terry Kennedy as they both suffered knocks at the weekend. However, they have strength in depth with former Glover Craig Alcock likely to cover defensively and with danger up top coming from Steve Davies and Mark McNulty. Yeovil Town’s defence will have to be forever alert to keep United at bay. It will be a tough ask for a Glovers outfit that this season have conceded 31 goals at home and won just 4 games on their own patch. Yet, strange things happen when teams get relegated. The pressure is off in terms of getting a result and they can play with freedom whilst the opposing team look for a win that they often desperately need. Expect changes in the YTFC camp, with Kieffer Moore and Seth Nana – Twumasi making a brief appearance on Saturday…will they get a start? Adam Morgan had also disappeared off the radar under Terry Skiverton so it wouldn’t be surprising if he was given a chance to show what he is made of. Captain Joe Edwards is soon set to return, as well as Liam Davies and Chris Weale. No doubt we will see these faces again before the last game of the season away at MK Dons.

YTFC

New beginnings for Yeovil Town as Paul Sturrock appointed as manager.

After a poor Easter period for Yeovil Town fans, the 4 – 0 defeat away to Fleetwood Town has now been forgotten. Not due to just how poor the performance was or the fact that relegation to League Two is now just a waiting game, but the fact that the club have now acted in preparation for a drop in division.

Glovers keeper Artur Krysiak after the 3 - 2 defeat against Chesterfield on Good Friday.

Glovers keeper Artur Krysiak after the 3 – 2 defeat against Chesterfield on Good Friday.

Terry Skiverton was brutally honest in his latest interview after the trip up north to Fleetwood ended in disaster. He eluded to the fact that the defending was “nothing short of a disgrace” and that the players were “simply and utterly not good enough.” This damning report of his side confirmed the need for change at the club.

This is just what has happened, as it has been confirmed that former Swindon and Plymouth Argyle boss Paul Sturrock has taken the hot seat and will be in charge for this weekends clash with Notts County. Yeovil Town’s new Gaffer left behind a new opportunity to be an advisor at Torquay United saying that the decision to take the job at Huish Park was a “no brainer.” Having led his first training session on Thursday morning, he then made his way to take part in his first press conference as manager. He was positive in his comments about the quality in the squad but also made it clear that there would be changes in the summer.

New Yeovil Town boss takes his first training session at the club.

New Yeovil Town boss takes his first training session at the club.

Another question on the lips of Yeovil Town fans was regarding the role of Terry Skiverton and Darren Way. Having taken over the reigns after Gary Johnson’s departure from the club, the duo were fighting a losing battle when Johnson lost his job. Despite bringing in some of his own players on loan, the damage was already done to the side. Therefore, it seemed unlikely that the former Yeovil Town captain would get the job on a permanent basis. However, his loyalty has been dearly rewarded as Skiverton will revert back to his role as assistant manager, with Darren Way re claiming his role as a coach for the club. Way and Skiverton have been very much a constant at the club and this loyalty is something truly unique in the modern game.

The former manager has now twice stepped down to become assistant and it is quite clear that he only wants what is best for the club. In his 16 years at Huish Park, Terry Skiverton has experienced 3 promotions and soon to be 2 relegations. With Sturrock at the summit, he will be hoping to add more promotions to his Yeovil Town career.

Terry Skiverton has stepped down to assistant manager for a second time.

Terry Skiverton has stepped down to assistant manager for a second time.

So, just who is Paul Sturrock?! Well, one thing is for sure, he is not short of experience. Having been in the game for 40 years and having managed 8 clubs, he knows the lower leagues well. In August 2000, he took over Plymouth Argyle when they were struggling in the old third division. He rebuilt a the squad to coincide with huge changes at boardroom level. He then successfully led them to the title and broke many records during that season. When he left Home Park they were still on a high at the top of the Second Division and although he left the club with 12 games to play, they achieved promotion to the old First Division, the equivalent of the Championship. He also guided Sheffield Wednesday to the Championship in 2004, beating Hartlepool United 4 – 2 in the Play – Off Final. His other successes include guiding Swindon Town to promotion to League One in 2007. Having also returned to Plymouth and taken over at Southend, he has proved to be successful getting out of the lower divisions. His last job ended with a sacking by Southend United in March 2013, which at the time seemed extremely harsh.

This experience will be invaluable to Yeovil Town who need to rebuild and challenge in a new division. Sturrock told BBC Somerset that “it is a challenge…..I like restructuring football clubs…I like restructuring squads and I like getting promotions….these are the challenges I have set myself here.” This will be music to Yeovil Town fans ears after two seasons of disappointment. The new recruit also made it clear that the next five games would allow him to see which of the squad he wants to keep on, also eluding to the fact that some will move on after the imminent relegation.

Yeovil Town's new management team in discussion at Thursday's training session.

Yeovil Town’s new management team in discussion at Thursday’s training session.

It would be naive to think that all our problems have been solved with this appointment, but it is a step in the right direction. Stability for the club is now the main priority but with an ambitious manager on board who is committed to getting promotions, the future looks bright. The last 5 games now are for Paul to assess the current squad and to start looking to the summer. The close season will be a crucial time for the whole club and a brand new squad created by a new manager will leave positive thoughts with Yeovil Town fans.  His first game will be at his new home, Huish Park and I would expect there to be a great reception for the new manager. Relegation may be confirmed on Saturday, but it may finally put this season to bed and allow everyone to look forward to new beginnings. The 2015/2016 season has suddenly become a lot more exciting!

A whole season summed up in 90 minutes. Yeovil Town suffer yet another defeat at the hands of Chesterfield.

Before Saturday’s match against Chesterfield at Huish Park, relegation to Sky Bet League 2 was all but confirmed after three straight defeats away from home. However, League One’s bottom side got themselves in to a great position against the high – flying Spireites. James Hayter and Sam Foley put the Glovers in the ascendancy and gave the home fans something to celebrate. Unfortunately, as has been the case so often this season, the celebrations were short lived. Almost immediately after the home side doubled their advantage, Chesterfield got themselves back in the game. Good work by the Play – Off hopefuls resulted in a quick corner. The home side failed to defend the set piece and the way the atmosphere changed at Huish Park, it was clear that the fans feared what was to come.

Fans can often be far too optimistic or far too pessimistic, but in this case they were spot on!  Sam Hird heading in the easy header before Jay O’Shea scored a brace to complete the impressive comeback. What will frustrate the home fans the most is the manner of the capitulation. The result would not have made any difference to their inevitable relegation in the grand schemes of things, however, winning and losing are a habit and at the moment Yeovil Town do not believe in their ability to win. They have a losing mentality and even at two goals to the good, there is a lack of confidence within the side. Terry Skiverton said after the game that Yeovil have ” been on a losing run for two years” and this is the stark reality of the predicament the club finds themselves in. Earlier in the week, John Fry spoke to the media and supporters and made them aware that a youth system would be re introduced at the club in order to aid turning the clubs fortunes around. This transition period will be extremely important for the club and will define the next few seasons at the club. Fans are under no illusion about the challenges that await them in the fourth tier of English football. It will not be a case of going straight back up, it will be a case of trying to stabilise as as club following a whirlwind in the Championship and a dramatic drop in to League Two.

The future of acting manager Terry Skiverton is yet to be announced and will be crucial as to which direction the club will be taking. No doubt if the Yeovil Town legend departs it will signify a whole new era for the South Somerset club. However, if he is to take the hot seat next season, he must be strong in himself and create his own team his own way. He must have ambition to eventually get the club back in to League One and win the fans back with a more positive style of football when his side takes the lead.

Most Yeovil Town fans will now want the season to end and for the new season to come along with a fresh start with new hungry players. However, there are still six games left and Yeovil Town must repay the ever loyal supporters with performances full of pride and fight for the shirt they hold so closely to their hearts. Their first test is away at Fleetwood followed by a visit from Notts County in just under a weeks time. The points may not mean anything in terms of survival, but they will mean something to the fans who travel in their numbers all across the country. They want to see some passion and belief, to reignite their own passion and belief ready for a brand new challenge next season.

PREVIEW: Scunthorpe United vs Yeovil Town

This weekend sees Yeovil Town travel to Scunthorpe United in what will be a crucial battle in Town’s unlikely but not impossible “Mission Survival.” Scunthorpe have enjoyed a resurgence in form and lie seven points clear of the relegation zone, having looked destined for the drop in the early stages of this season. However, they have lost the last two matches and will be precariously looking over their shoulders once again. In an extremely tight league, no team in the bottom half are safe. However, Yeovil Town would quite happily trade places with the Iron as they lie three points adrift at the bottom and five points from the safety line.

Since Gary Johnson’s departure, Yeovil’s home form has improved with one win and one draw, both in which they scored two goals. This is something they had failed to achieve under Johnson this season. However, the 2 – 2 draw against in form Gillingham may well have been a good result in isolation and due to being behind in the 87th minute, but in truth the three points would have allowed fans to believe a lot more in survival being achieved. They must now go to Glandford Park for nothing less than three points.

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Josh Sheehan, Liam Shephard and Stephen Kingsley have all joined on loan from Swansea City

Influential midfielder and captain Joe Edwards looks set to miss out once again, so it will be up to the new loan signings to impress along with consistent performer Sam Foley. Josh Sheehan and Stephen Kingsley impressed on their debuts last week and will be looking to build on this. They gave Town some dynamic in midfield and this was mirrored by the countless chances that the Glovers created. Just the one goal at the break though was their undoing. The match should have been over, yet they only scraped a point. If Yeovil can go to Scunthorpe and become dominant in the central areas and take their chances then there is no reason they cannot win the game. When you are down the bottom, it seems nothing goes for you, but no doubt Gozie Ugwu will be looking to add to his tally of four goals in eight games. Adam Morgan will be pushing for a start after coming off the bench last Saturday to score the penalty in the dying seconds to seal the point. After James Hayter missed a number of chances at Huish Park, I wouldn’t be surprised if Morgan gets the nod, provided he is match fit.

In the predicament the side are in, Terry Skiverton may as well take risks. Every other side in the division will see us as a relegation spot already taken. This gives him a sense of freedom in his team selection but he clearly has not given up hope. Byron Webster is likely to take the captains armband and his return has been a huge boost for the whole club. He comes up against his former team mate Paddy Madden and they will not give each other an easy time. Madden scored an equaliser when he returned to Huish Park and Yeovil Town will need to be at their best to keep him at bay. He has scored 15 goals this season and is a fans favourite as he was at Huish Park.

Byron Webster has re -joined the Glovers on loan from Millwall.

Byron Webster has re -joined the Glovers on loan from Millwall.

Games are running out thick and fast, so a win and only a win will be good enough for the Glovers. The long trip for fans and players will no doubt provide even more motivation. When your team are bottom of the league, all you have is belief. It is not over until it is over. Achieve By Unity. If Yeovil Town go down, they certainly will not go down without a fight. That fight begins on Saturday. It won’t be easy but nothing worth waiting for is ever easy.

There have been moments to celebrate this season. Can there be a few more?!

There have been moments to celebrate this season. Can there be a few more?!

YTFC

Follow me on Twitter: @sheridan24_ytfc

Has the magic of the FA Cup returned after this weekends shock results?

After what was one of the greatest FA Cup shocks of all time on Saturday, Bradford City beating Chelsea 4- 2 at Stamford Bridge could actually be responsible for people falling back in love with what used to be the most respected Cup competitions. In recent years, Premier League clubs have disrespected this great trophy by fielding a weakened squad in the early rounds so as to rest their top flight starlets. This has resulted in many lower league clubs enjoying successful cup runs, but under the watchful eye of journalists and fans focusing on the side that the Premier League manager chose to field for  the match.

Much has also been made of when the FA Cup final takes place. For the first time since 2010 last year’s FA Cup final was the final match of the 2013/2014 season, a time that many football fans feel is its rightful place in the footballing calendar. The final was an epic battle between Arsenal and Hull City, with the Tigers being the clear underdogs. The FA Cup allows for teams outside the top 4 of the Premier League to have a real chance of some silverware and the 3 – 2 victory for Arsenal was one of the greatest finals in recent times and Arsenals first trophy in 9 years. With the excitement of the World Cup just around the corner, it seemed only right that the FA Cup was the last match of the season. With the title secured and relegations confirmed, there can be no conflict of interest regardless of which teams are involved. This immediately results in the whole competition being taken a lot more seriously. However, it is the early rounds that have been in the headlines this season. The draw has created some fairy-tale fixtures, with both Yeovil Town and Cambridge United welcoming the great Manchester United to their small home grounds, as well as Brighton welcoming Arsenal and non-league Blyth Spartans welcoming Birmingham City. The occasion is always enough for many lower league fans and the “magic” is watching your team that you support week in and week out take to the pitch with the big names that you see on Match of the Day week in and week out. The sheer thought of beating a top Premier League team is always just a dream.

Ryan Donaldson and Josh Coulson celebrate after securing a fourth round replay at Old Trafford.

Ryan Donaldson and Josh Coulson celebrate after securing a fourth round replay at Old Trafford.

As a Yeovil Town supporter, the most nervous game of this season has been the FA Cup second round replay against Accrington Stanley. With a sell -out crowd at Huish Park that evening, the magnitude of what it would mean for the club to welcome Manchester United was there for the whole of the football world to see. Cambridge United are still in the FA Cup and will be able to enjoy a trip to Old Trafford after holding the former European champions to a 0 – 0 draw. Any football fan knows that this would have not been any normal 0 – 0 draw and far from boring, with their goalkeeper Chris Dunn becoming the hero of the hour. The celebrations echoed that of a promotion and the pride the fans would have felt can outweigh any result that is to come at Old Trafford, even if they were to lose heavily. Yeovil Town lost 2 – 0 to the Red Devils, after a performance full of fight and endeavour, only to be beaten by a wonder goal from Ander Herrera and a breakaway goal from starlet Angel Di Maria. Huish Park declared the man of the match as “the whole Yeovil Town team.” The banter I am sure followed from opposing football fans, but in reality that was in fact true. The differences stretch further than quality on the pitch, they involve support, financial constraints and the capacity in the contrasting grounds. The difference has become clear for Cambridge fans, for example, who are outraged at being charged £46 for the replay at Old Trafford. With loyal fans paying an average of £18 – £20 per home game, it seems a tad excessive and does not take in to account the cost of travel and extra expenses on the day. It may well be worth the memories, but lower league football is all about being accessible and rewarding loyalty to teams who are not guaranteed to win silver ware or achieve promotion , it seems harsh for the pay out to be for memories which should be for everyone. It just may be a once in a lifetime trip, but in today’s society, the working persons game could potentially be slipping away from all of us. I for one would not want to miss such an opportunity, but in truth for that amount of money, many would have to sacrifice other things to enjoy the day.

In this money fuelled game and business we should not underestimate the achievement of League One’s Bradford City, as well as Middlesborough who visited the Etihad Stadium and ran out 2 – 0 winners in what was a truly dominant performance. I suppose the real question regarding the Cup is what constitutes as the “magic”? Does it only exist if you support a lower league team and get lucky enough to play one of the elite English teams? Or is the magic about what it means to every single club involved. With many of the top flight clubs having been illuminated, I can imagine teams like West Ham and Liverpool are daring to dream. How idyllic would it be for Steven Gerrard to lift a trophy in his last season at Anfield? For teams like Chelsea, they will now turn their focus to the Premier League and the Champions League, but to end their Cup run with what was a “disgrace” (as described by Jose Mourinho) was not part of the script after what has been a very successful campaign for them so far.

Bradford City celebrate after a phenomenal win at Stamford Bridge.

Bradford City celebrate after a phenomenal win at Stamford Bridge.

Many will say the draw is not as exciting following the exit of the “big boys.” However I disagree, with Arsenal facing a tricky visit from Middlesborough and Leicester hosting Aston Villa, anything could happen! The lower league sides have a real chance, with Stoke making the trip to Blackburn and Bradford hosting Sunderland or Fulham. Manchester United will face League One opposition if they can overcome Cambridge and will visit one of Preston or Sheffield United. This means that there will almost certainly be one team that will have an extremely long and successful cup run to remember. As a fan, am I a tad jealous?! Of course! However, these are the moments that you treasure as a football fan and ones that no one can take away from you. Those days make all the hard days watching your team seem like distant memories. This could well be one of the most shocking FA Cups yet and maybe that is just what the competition needed! Prices may be high for fans, but ultimately the changing nature of football means we need to preserve support for this great competition. Clubs will always need the revenue from the bigger clubs and that is what attracts the crowds, I do get frustrated that Huish Park sells out for Manchester United, but boasts a poor crowd for a huge six pointer in a relegation battle. For me, that is a bigger game but I cannot deny how proud I was watching my team play against one of the biggest teams in the world. I will never forget that day. Of course I would much rather we stay in League One another year, but in football you don’t get that choice. I had an experience that will stay with me and for me that truly is the magic of the Cup.

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