Yeovil Town manager Gary Johnson believes the football club's off-the-field strategy needs to quickly catch up with the on-the-pitch success, if it is to sustain its Championship status on a long term basis. With the club playing second tier football for the first time in its history, the club face a challenge of both improving the facilities at Huish Park, as well as increasing the revenue coming in through the club.
The Glovers have been somewhat nomadic in recent years in terms of their training ground - having in the past used facilities at Huish Episcopi that were later abandoned, plus more recently Alvington, Bucklers Mead, Sherborne School as well as their own top pitches at Huish Park. However, that tends to leave Johnson's side living from day-to-day and often not with the right equipment at the right location. Gary said today that was starting to become an issue for him:
"We haven't got all those facilities that other clubs have got. The reason why I was late today was because we have to train 25 minutes up the road and then come back in the traffic. We've still got some things that we've got to do, to catch up with these other big teams that we're supposed to be competing against. We've got to do that pretty quickly."
One of the club's long term plans has been to locate new training facilities. Back in October 2011 they announced plans to go into partnership with an American artificial turf company to provide a new training pitch, but that plan ultimately fizzled out. Then in June 2012 the club's first team took over the main pitch at Alvington, although the club's recent usage of Bucklers Mead and Sherborne School would suggest those facilities are now not being regularly used. Johnson says that he appreciates the help both schools are giving the football club, but feels that progress on this is far too slow:
"I think at this club it takes too long to get change - whether it's help from outside. How long have we been trying to get things going? Credit to Sherborne School and Bucklers Mead School for giving us their facilities because without them we would be struggling. It always seems to take a lot of time for us to catch up, and we're going to need to catch up pretty quick, because we can't keep flogging ourselves, let alone anything else. We spend most of our day working out where we're going to go and what we're going to do, and that's not just on the football field - it's about our programme. How can we fit in a programme that's conducive to some of the players that we've got here who we've got from the Premier League. They're used to all of that sort of thing. I'm not having a go at anyone in particular, it's just that as a club, we've just got to catch up a bit quicker, and as quickly as we can. We might need some outside help - we'll have to wait and see whether that comes. There does seem to be a lot happening, but nothing happening."
Gary speaks of the club needing 'help', from either inside the club or outside the club, suggesting that he personally would welcome outside investment or expertise. He feels that with the club perhaps starting to find its feet at Championship level, then it has to start thinking 'bigger' if it is to continue to progress in the long term:
"The Championship is a very very high standard. If we are going to start thinking bigger, and people are going to start expecting us to be competing with these teams, then we've got to do something about it ourselves. You can be relentless (in training and management) for a particular amount of time, but you can't be relentless forever. You need help. We're competing at a level where we're a long way behind. It's all very nice when people pat you on the back and say well done, great effort, but it can't be like that forever. If we're going to compete at this level, then you've got to start making decisions, or get help, or whatever we need to do, to make sure that we can improve our players. Whether it is the Council, or whether it's outside help, or whether it be the Board of Directors, we need to think bigger. It's no use thinking bigger if things don't happen, or if they take two, three, four, five or ten years to materialise. There's a lot of really good people around this club, and it deserves a bit more help, maybe from the outside, or maybe from the inside. Everybody is trying hard, but nothing gets done, because of little obstacles, here and there."
With recent wins over Watford and Blackpool that have surprised many national football pundits, the club are now within touching distance of being able to escape the relegation zone - a win over fourth from bottom Charlton Athletic on Saturday would guarantee that step. However, Gary explained that in order to attract players like Ishmael Miller, Adam Morgan and John Lundstram to the club on extended stays, then the players themselves needed to be sold by what facilities they would be using when they reached South Somerset:
"Because people have enjoyed our couple of wins, I'm not sure if everyone knows what we've had to do, to get those couple of wins, and how hard it is to get the players to come, and to convince them to come, and then to work with them when there's not really workable facilities at the moment. Yet we're still competing, we're still there, and we're still just this one game away from getting out of the bottom three. I just want to see the club progressing. Everyone has done fantastic to get us here - so what are we going to do? Are we going to stand still now, and hope the manager keeps us out of trouble, or can everybody in the vicinity, and anyone who could help in any way, could they come in and let us know?"
Gary confirmed that he had put forward his views on the subject to Yeovil Town's Board of Directors in meetings this season, and added that his views were not aimed at any one specific person or area of the club, but at the issues that he believed needed resolving.
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