Yeovil Town Chairman John Fry has said that he is keen to establish an Under-23 set up within the club. Fry has been discussing various financial aspects relating to the Glovers in the wake of them pulling Manchester United out of the hat in the FA Cup Fourth Round stage, in a tie that is due to be played next Friday.
The Glovers have not fielded a secondary senior side since they made the decision to resign from the Football Combination League in February 2009, with that decision being made public just ten days ater the departure of Russell Slade, as the club announced the intention to change direction in their approach to player development following the change in management. Since then, although various managers have staged occasional informal friendly fixtures, often behind closed doors, there has been little in the way of opportunities for fringe players or Academy graduates to impress the manager within a competitive environment.
Over the years that have followed, the majority of professional clubs have changed from a Reserve Team structure to a Development Squad, made up of predominantly Under-21 or Under-23 players. The Glovers have not followed that path up until now, and it's notable that their last proper Youth Team graduate was Craig Alcock, who made his debut in May 2007 and became a first team regular during the 2008-09 season.
Since that point, no other 'home grown' player has come through from that level to any serious degree, whilst there has been a feeling that younger players such as Sam Hoskins - now playing for League One side Northampton Town, and Kieffer Moore whose free-scoring exploits for Rotherham United this season earned him a £750,000 move to Barnsley, struggled to develop at Huish Park, without the ability to play in lower key games in a development structure. As such they moved on, and only began to flourish later in their careers.
Fry has been asked by the Western Gazette what will happen with the money from the Manchester United tie, and he suggests that it will be spent partly on 'footballing operations' rather than necessarily directly fall into the first team budget. Fry doesn't commit to a timeline on the plans, but tells the paper that he sees the lack of a development squad structure as a gap that he wants to discuss with the Board of Directors:
"I haven't met the board yet. I will meet the board and we will then decide that gets spent on what and so forth, changing the business. For a few years I've wanted to change the business. What we're doing now is integrating the academy, spending some money on the academy, young players. We would like to set up an Under-23s side. It's the biggest missing block we’ve got here."
In the last three seasons in League Two, Yeovil Town have finished 19th, then 20th and this season currently occupy a 21st place spot in the table, currently two points off the relegation spots. Despite this precarious position, Fry believes that the club is capable of getting back into League One, and describes a seven year plan, suggesting a return to League One would stabilise the club financially:
"Our objective is to get the club moving upwards and start the season, next season, so the seven year plan would be next season, we'd go for a higher position in the league, to get in the play-offs or even try to get into League One. The only way we're going to produce enough money to stand this club alone, apart from people putting money in, is to get into League One."
Fry still believes that the club is suffering the effects from their 2013-14 Championship season and their subsequent relegation from that level. He once again targets former manager Gary Johnson for those problems, claiming that the club had given him an extra £1.3 million in funds to keep the side in League One that year:
"We had one hell of a problem coming out of the Championship. If I hadn't held it tight, if I hadn't held it, this situation was disappointing because the first year we kept Gary on, we gave him an extra £1.3 million in budget to try to get back into the Championship or at least stay in League One and bang, you can’t plan for it. It's harder to keep a club from going down than taking it up. It's easier going up than coming down and bear in mind it took the club 108 years to get out of non-league."
Fry's claims that Johnson was given an extra £1.3 million to spend during the 2014-15 season do not tally with interviews and club statements given during that season. There were two public statements given by the club in the wake of Johnson's departure from the club that made reference to club finances. The first took place in the Alec Stock Lounge in February 2015 and when addressing those present, Fry said that the playing budget was set as £1.3 million in terms of direct costs:
"We set our budget where the player budget itself with the direct costs was 1.3 million pounds, and we topped it up to 1.7 million pounds with another 400,000 pounds. That's where we started, which took us to about halfway up League One as far as the budget was concerned."
Fry explained that the additional £400,000 figure was to deal with "associated costs, which are agents fees, hotels, relocation and all the rest that goes with it to attract a player to this area" - with the separation appearing to recognise costs that fell outside the Football League's SCMP (Salary Cost Management Protocol) rules.
Just over a month later, with the club by then looking as though it would fall into League Two, the club released an official statement, where they outlined the reasons for the club's demise. In this statement, they published the size of the club's playing budget, raising it slightly from the previous £1.3 million figure that had been issued in the Alec Stock Lounge, presumably because replacement boss Terry Skiverton had made further signings during that month. The club statement gave a £1.4 million figure:
"The directors approved the injection of £1.4 million of funds into our 2014/2015 football budget, giving our Football Manager, Gary Johnson, the Club's biggest League One player budget in our recent history. This increase provided Gary with the 14th biggest player budget in League One."
Thus what is portrayed in the Gazette as an 'extra' sum of money for the 2014-15 playing budget, would appear to be the absolute amount that was made available during that season, rather than the implication that it was an additional sum.
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