Let’s get something straight before we go any further, shall we? I’m a Yeovil fan. I always have been and, sadly, due to my upbringing and not to mention my locality, I likely always will be. This article isn’t so much about criticising how the team are doing (for the record, very poorly. Very poorly) or to complain about the way the club is run (although there may be a paragraph or two touching upon it) but more about why I think that taking a break from attending matches might actually be the best decision I’ve made for a while.
I’m not a glory supporter- I’m not one of the hundreds, possibly thousands of fans in my age group who started supporting the club in the last ten years when Yeovil were climbing the football league and beating the ‘giants’ of football left, right and centre. I am not one of those fans who expects instant success from the team and who feels personally affronted when we don’t get a win. I’m only 24 years old, but I can remember attending matches as a young boy with my father back when Yeovil were a non-league team. Back then Yeovil were playing teams such as Woking and Kingstonian and, worse than that, they were losing to them. My first match to my memory was a particularly dreadful match where Yeovil lost 2-0 to Kingstonian. Another memory for me was Yeovil playing Dulwich Hamlet, who at the time had a pink away kit, and a full back who was bordering on being morbidly obese. I don’t remember the score because the sheer size of this ‘professional sportsman’ was much more puzzling to me. So please don’t think that I’m writing this because I am fed up of my team now losing on occasion. Supporting a team means accepting defeat as part and parcel of the experience. Just look at those fans who travel home and away, fully expecting their team (whomever that may be) to lose, and yet still going. It’s in the blood. It’s a community. I get that.
But I also believe that a community works two ways. The club have to give something back. The fans, everyday people, give their money week in, week out to watch the team. We don’t always expect a win, but we at least expect to be entertained. When Yeovil spent that one, lone, historic season in the Championship, they lost a LOT of game. But even when they were losing, they were playing largely decent football, and although we were lacking in budget and quality (due, undoubtedly, to the lack of aforementioned budget) we were still playing decent football. Losing wasn’t as painful when you could see that the team cared, that they were passionate about it. Relegation that season was always on the cards, it was to be expected- nobody could be too angry about that. The Championship season had been a marvellous adventure from start to finish and Yeovil had, for the most part, battled and done themselves proud in almost every match. The season that followed that saw us relegated from League One was the beginning of the end. I had been a season ticket holder in the Championship, and although I wasn’t a season ticket holder for the following season, I attended all but one home match in the hopes of seeing some improvement. But right from the first match- an embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Doncaster Rovers at home- it was clear that the losing mentality had crept in. Later in that season, as relegation loomed, the legendary Gary Johnson, a manager that any Yeovil fan would admit had worked miracles with the squad, was sacked. It was probably the right thing for him and the club. He had done all he could with a team, and we had punched above our weight for so long. In came Paul Sturrock, after a spell with Terry Skiverton in charge which sealed the team’s fate, and there was hope that- with relegation confirmed- the rebuilding could begin for League Two.
But it is now November, as I write this, and Yeovil are rock bottom of the football league, staring a third successive relegation right in the face. What’s worse is that this relegation will see Yeovil fall out of the football league. It took the club over a century to get there and just three years to fall back out of it. This Yeovil squad that Sturrock has created is possibly the worst I have seen for a while, although it could be that the simple desperation of the situation has clouded my judgement (only slightly, though, which is the depressing thing). So why, after two relegations already and just 10 wins in 55 games, am I deciding that NOW is the time to take a break? Why not six months ago when things were looking bleak?
The simple answer to this question is that after last night’s match (24th November 2016), I finally lost any faith in the club. The chairman, John Fry, has long been a target of hatred with Yeovil fans, and whether that is justified or not is hard to tell- I’m not there to see the day to day running of the club nor am I behind the scenes to see what is going on. But his constant statements to the press are always evasive and passing of the blame, and it seems to any Yeovil fan that he has been quick to take the credit for the successes of the last ten years but even quicker to deny any responsibility for the more recent failures. Everything that has happened since he and Norman Hayward took over at the club is surely partly down to them regardless of whether it has been positive or negative. The match itself, which was a woeful 1-0 defeat against Wycombe Wanderers, again at home, was actually flattering. It should have been a least 4-0 to the away team but for the heroics of our local lad Chris Weale, the goalkeeper. I was among a group of fans who were incredibly annoyed after the match, and the players, who normally applaud the fans, were largely quick to leave the pitch. And who can blame them? They had played poorly and were being booed at the final whistle. But at the same time, if a fan pays their money, they have a right to be annoyed. It is, after all, their money that is paying the wages of these players. It shows a passion for their club and that should be something that the players are showing out on the pitch. For me, staying away is both better for my heart, is better for my stress levels, and is ultimately safer. It is, after all, sometimes best to stay away than it is to put yourself in a situation where you may say something you regret.
For what it’s worth, I don’t particularly think that the coaching methods or management methods are the main problem, nor do I believe that the chairman and the board are the only reason for our current predicament. I think that it is a combination of all of these things. I honestly believe that Pep Guardiola, arguably one of the best managers in the world, would have a hard time rescuing Yeovil from the drop with their current form, lack of confidence and losing mentality. The club’s budget is small, but that has been a reality for a while now, although there have been many articles and comments stating that the club’s owners haven’t done enough to try and source some income from elsewhere. There has even seemingly been some damning evidence to support this claim and the setting up of a Supporter’s Trust is an attempt to take some power back for the fans. There are concerns, however, that Fry and Hayward will block any attempts made by fans to have a say, as this will mean them having to relinquish some of the power they have over the club. Again, there are arguments for and arguments against. But that is another issue for another article and, again, I do not know enough about the intricacies of the situation to comment further. For now they are in charge of the club, just as Paul Sturrock is in charge of the team, and that is unlikely to change (at least in terms of the club’s ownership) by the end of the season. I do think that this downward spiral will continue and that it will take relegation back to the Conference- to the doldrums of non-league football- for there to be any changes made. And even those changes are likely to be baby steps and they may not necessarily change the club’s predicament instantly.
So am I Yeovil fan? Yes. Completely. I always will be, because it’s where I live. I have no choice. It’s in my blood. It’s a part of my background. But does that make me any less of a fan if I don’t attend matches? There will be some that will argue that I’m being childish, that I’m throwing in the towel half way through a season, and I’m fine with that. There will also be some that will argue that being an ‘armchair fan’ is as bad as being a Nazi sympathiser. And I’m fine with that, too. If they can continue going to watch a team with no passion, run by a controversial board and a management team who, by most fan’s agreement, seem to have run out of ideas, then I salute them. They deserve a medal and a man of the match nomination for every game they attend. I, however, cannot. Being out of work at this minute in time means that every penny I have counts, and whilst it’s important to spend money on enjoying life, no matter your situation, last night’s performance was a further nail in that coffin. Because watching Yeovil for me isn’t even enjoyable now. The mood travels around the whole of Huish Park stadium- dejection and resignation. You get the feeling that every fan in Green and White goes to watch Yeovil because they feel they have some obligation to do so, that it’s their job. For me that isn’t what football should be about. You should go to a football match to escape the rigours of the week, to have a few hours where nothing matters but the match. It shouldn’t feel like a chore to go and watch your team- especially when it’s your own money that is being spent to do so. It’s stopped being even remotely bearable to go to matches for me now.
So no matter whether I’m at the match or not, I’ll never stop rooting for my team. I will watch Final Score on a Saturday afternoon, I will tune in on local radio stations to listen to the match being broadcast live, and I will always be willing the boys to pick up three points. It’s my team. That won’t change. My father, who is 62, has supported Yeovil since he was a young boy. He was there when people were outside the ground asking for donations from fans in order to keep the club afloat. He can remember the dark days more than most of the fans probably can. He doesn’t go to matches anymore, because of finances, because of his age, but partly for the same reason that I don’t- because the match day experience just isn’t enjoyable anymore. Does that make him less of a fan? He has given many years of his life, and a significant chunk of his money, to the club. I’d like to think that my 20 years or so of support for the team has done the same. But if you love something, sometimes it’s best to let it go. Especially if you’re a person who is in a relationship that feels like it isn’t being reciprocated.
Maybe next season my passion for the team I love will return. But right now, supporting Yeovil feels like being in love with a frigid girlfriend who doesn’t feel the same way.
So maybe ‘Taking a break’ from the team I love isn’t so bad after all.