As the run-in to the 2013 season approaches, things couldn’t be tighter in Division 1. With any one of a probable ten teams still within a shout of promotion as we go into the 3rd to last Saturday of the season, any small twist or turn now could really turn the promotion race on its head.
BillytheBee has been chatting to fans from all the Top 10 promotion-chasing teams *. In a series of interviews, fans from Doncaster, Bournemouth, Yeovil, Sheffield Utd, Swindon, Tranmere, and even outsiders Walsall and Orient give us their vibes on the end-of-season run-in (we didn’t talk to Franchise FC aka MK Dons fans as we don’t recognise their club actually exists).
In our third interview, we bring you the thoughts of fans of a team who have, like a good army general, kept their troops heads firmly below the radar for most of the season before making a late assault … and a team who were flying high at the top of the league all season but hit a horrendous run of form in the new year to see them clutching for a place in the playoffs. We talk to Yeovil fans Martin Baker from Ciderspace Independent fans’ website and Pete Wooldridge as well as Paul Harper (@paulharper82) from Total Tranmere about their thoughts on the next few weeks.
How is your run-in looking? How do you think you will get on?
MB (YTFC): On paper the run-in looks good. Yeovil play Oldham and Bury, who are in the bottom five, and midtable Crewe and Stevenage. In practice we’re wise enough to know that sometimes playing sides near the bottom is not always an advantage, as they’ll throw the kitchen sink at you. Our squad is a fairly small one of around 19-20 players, but it’s currently holding together fairly well. We could run into problems if we lose certain key players such as goalkeeper Marek Stech or top scorer Paddy Madden. But for now we only have a couple of short term injuries.
PH (TRFC): Injuries have haunted Tranmere since the turn of the year. I still have nightmares over James Wallace going in for a tackle he didn’t need to and doing his knee in. Injuries certainly haven’t helped but our form has been dreadful in the last few months after spending so much of the season at the top. We have 2 tough games left (Preston and Bournemouth) and I can’t see us scoring a goal at the moment let alone winning a game!
PW (YTFC): I couldn’t believe Yeovil’s luck when I looked at the last 6 games of the season. Every one was deemed winnable. What a fantastic run-in. And with our last 90 minutes being against Bury, who could still be propping up the league, who do we have to thank for those 3 golden ones?
We’re starting to pick up a few late season injuries and at the moment. Our Captain Jamie McAllister is sidelined with an ankle problem and Gary Johnson isn’t rushing him back, which is good. Just need him to perform for the last couple of games and then the Play offs, if we need to go through that hoop.
Gary’s not running a big squad so any knock is going to hurt at all levels. But there’s a certain belief from the fans with these players that we can do it and get to the Championship. We have a lot of trust in Sir Gary. He’s got us this far and its him we need to show the resolve and metal which will steer the ship into port and secure a place in the Championship.
We ‘re just celebrating our tenth anniversary of being in the football league after gaining promotion from the Conference in 2003. That was during Sir Gary’s first spell at the club before he was seduced by one of our rivals up the road in Brizol. Cometh the moment Cometh the man.
We’d all like to go up straight with out the Play offs, but if we have to, well lets keep our powder dry till the time is right. I think is all calm at the present because we all know everything could turn into a great big pile of fresh Somerset Cow Poo at any moment with a couple of silly mistakes on the pitch or Yellows and Reds being tossed about by the Ref’s.
With such a small squad to play with Gary seems to have made some brilliant signings. Who would have thought that Paddy Madden from Carlisle would be looking at the League 1 golden boot? Paddy and James Haytor are crucial up front. It’s been brilliant watching defenders open up as they turn and jig their way into the killing zone and let rip.
What teams are you worried about that may steal your thunder? Why?
MB: Tranmere are obviously the side for Yeovil to fear as they’re seventh (ed – this was before the weekend’s results). But if anyone upsets the applecart then it will probably be one of Walsall or MK Dons as both are starting to build-up a head of steam (ed – again before the weekend’s results). At present we should be OK for a play-off place, but probably still want 4 or 5 points from the last four games to be certain.
PH: Think they already have to be fair. Walsall and Orient have now overtaken Tranmere and are in good form at just the right time where as we are the opposite. If one of those sides sneaks in, they have a decent chance of winning the play-offs.
PW: Stevenage away will be Yeovil’s stiffest test. If we get away with the points there we’re looking good for the final three games. I predict a draw though and then a few choice words from the manager should see us off to Oldham where Lee Johnson, Gary’s son, is manager. He’s not settled in to his first managerial position yet and the pressure will be on him and his players. Great time to nick the points and run amok.
If we beat Crewe and Bury we will be there in the top 4 positions. All will depend on all the other teams then fighting it out amongst them selves. Our games will get easier as we start to see the finish line. Crewe at home should/will be a cert for us and I think the old Non-League fighting spirit will come to the fore if we are reliant on the last game of the season. I’m hoping we can relax with the last game and go out and score a few against Bury.
What’s your heart saying? What’s your head saying?
MB: I think Yeovil will get a play-off place but not an automatic spot. In fact I think the current top six will remain more or less in the current groupings. Donny and Bournemouth will go up, and then it will be a scrap between the other four. At that point, I really do see it as an absolute lottery. All four current play-off teams are within a point or two of each other, so there’s no one side you’d pitch ahead of the others.
PH: Sadly, Tranmere will come up too short. Having led for a large part of the season, it has been a terribly disappointing last couple of months watching us drop away as dramatically as we have.
PW: My Heart says 2nd for sure..Head however is anchored in reality and will see Yeovil scrapping our way to 4th … Just behind you guys. With 12 points up for grabs we should be confident enough to say we can win them all. If we get 9 of those we can do it. We should get at least 3 wins..4 would be brilliant!
What league position do you think you will finish in?
MB: Probably about 4th for Yeovil but when there’s only a point or two in it, I’m guessing here!
PH: 9th for Tranmere
PW: I predict Yeovil will finish 2nd … Above the Bees!!
If you get to the playoffs, who would you want? Why? Who would you want to avoid? Why?
MB: Psychologically you want the teams you’ve already beaten in the League. For that reason probably Brentford would be good! Yeovil got six points against the Bees this season. Our record against Swindon is pretty dire, so hopefully they will be avoided.
PH: We won’t, but IF we did, I wouldn’t care who we played. Just to make them would be massive, especially given our recent form. Tranmere don’t have good records against any of the current top six teams really so perhaps it’s best we miss out to avoid play-off heartache!
PW: If we get to the Play offs I think Yeovil will get Swindon in the Semi then Brentford in the Final. Don’t want to tempt fate too much but it should be a great day out! Green Hoops V Red Stripes, what a spectacle!
Could you survive in the Championship?
MB: As Yeovil is currently structured, probably not. But I think I said that when we went up to League One, and eight seasons later we’re still there. Even if it’s only one season, I’d rather experience it than not do it at all. But hopefully we can surprise ourselves a bit.
PH: In a word, no. I can’t see Tranmere’s player budget increasing enough for us to build a big enough and, more importantly, good enough squad to compete. Lack of numbers has cost us this season. We haven’t had the quality to bring in with all the injuries. That’s no offence to the lads who have come in but they aren’t of the same quality. They’ve given their all but I think it would be a big step up and I am not sure we’d cope all that well
PW: That’s a big question! I don’t have any feelings for cementing a position with just the present small squad. Yeovil are looking at expanding the ground and building more infrastructure to support more fans. We will have to do a lot of work close season, on the pitch and on the blower to other managers and agents. We in a great catchment area for fans, the whole of Somerset, the fringes of Bristol to the north and Bournemouth to the south. we could be on the start of something big.
Lets hope we don’t borrow beyond our means and fall into a financial cesspit. Build the team and the fans will come.
If Sir Gary has the backing then we can stay up and he’s done alright with his choices so far!
Mike Appleton was rumoured to be sniffing around a few of your players when he was at Bristol City. How did you manage to fend him off?
Yeovil fans: When our players join Yeovil we make them sign in blood they will never join a Bristol club. Appleton didnt have a chance. That’s why they gave him the boot. Apparently he’s setting up a hat shop in the middle of Bath.
Tranmere fans: He was always wafting around our dressing rooms like a bad smell. He put in a request for Akpa Akpro. Well he actually put in two requests. One for Akpa and one for Akpro. Clueless. Needless to say, they both ended up in the bin