LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Yeovil Town

Glovers slip down to the sixth tier but still up for the cup

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Until recently Somerset’s only representatives in the Football League, Yeovil Town were a big cheese on the non-league scene until accession to The 92 in 2003. After ten years, the Glovers made it as far as the Championship – but back-to-back relegations since put them back to where they started. Now in the fifth tier, Yeovil play at out-of-town Huish Park in front of sub-3,000 crowds.

Forever romanticised for their David v Goliath cup clashes on the sloping pitch of former ground Huish, Yeovil have long had a powerful local identity, helped by the dearth of football clubs in this heartland of rugby and cricket.

Huish Park/Paul Martin

Formed in the 1890s, the club shared grounds with its oval-ball counterparts until securing Huish, warts and all, after World War I. Regularly battling through to the serious rounds of the FA Cup, this regional league side beat Bournemouth & Boscombe in 1924, lost to Liverpool in 1935 and drew at Sheffield Wednesday in 1939, packing Huish and developing the ground with the proceeds.

The club’s greatest moment came in January 1949, Yeovil’s player-manager Alec Stock leading his team through the fog to beat then First Division Sunderland 2-1. In front of a near 20,000 crowd at Huish, the match turned on a misplaced pass halfway through extra-time by then record British signing Len Shackleton. Sunderland, put on the back foot by a Alec Stock opener, had been struggling all afternoon with the sloping pitch, Somerset mist and partisan locals spilling close to the touchline. For their part, the Glovers’ stand-in goalkeeper, Dickie Dyke, had only one previous game under his belt. A Dyke blunder had allowed the visitors to equalise, but Shackleton’s gaffe let in Yeovil’s Eric Bryant on 105 minutes. The 2-1 scoreline, somehow, remained.

Without the power of television, Yeovil’s achievement isn’t as prominent in the national psyche as, say, the quagmire of Hereford or heroics of Dickie Guy – but theirs was probably the biggest cup upset of all time.

Stock went on to take QPR to an unexpected League Cup win in 1967. While still a non-league club, Yeovil would defeat Football League clubs 20 times in the FA Cup, a record.

Huish Park/Paul Martin

By the time safety had become an issue in the early 1980s, it was obvious that Huish was no longer fit for purpose. Yeovil, moving from the Southern to the Isthmian League, joined the Football Conference the same season as the Hillsborough disaster, 1988-89. Automatic promotion to the Football League had just been introduced, and the club needed a new stadium.

Built on a former army camp at Houndstone outside of town, Huish Park was named after its revered predecessor and opened in 1990.

It still took the Glovers over a decade to achieve hallowed entry to the Football League. It came under Gary Johnson, whose high-scoring side, captained by stalwart centre back Terry Skiverton, had won the FA Trophy in 2002. Impregnable at Huish Park, Yeovil won the 2003 Football Conference by 17 points, notching 100 goals in the process.

Huish Park/Paul Martin

League Two proved a relative breeze, former Everton striker Phil Jevons grabbing nearly a third of Yeovil’s 90 goals as the Glovers romped up to League One in 2005. After adjusting to Johnson’s departure, Yeovil made the League One play-offs in 2007, losing the first leg of the semi-final 2-0 at Huish Park to Nottingham Forest. Russell Slade’s side then took the game to Forest in the away tie, two late goals taking the game to extra-time before a 5-2 win on the night. In front of nearly 60,000 at the Wembley final, Blackpool then proved too strong for the Glovers, and ran out 2-0 winners.

Skiverton became manager, moving over in 2012 as assistant to a returning Gary Johnson, the dream ticket. In 2013, Yeovil went on an unbeaten streak that took them back to Wembley for another play-off, this one with Brentford. This time there would be no mistake. An early goal from Irish cap Paddy Madden settled the nerves before a hard-earned 2-1 win granted Yeovil a Championship place ten years after League accession.

Out of their depth in the subsequent campaign, the Glovers duly finished bottom – and were bottom of the next division down by the time Johnson was sacked halfway through 2014-15. Not even Skiverton could reverse the slide, nor wily Paul Sturrock, brought in just as the back-to-back relegations were confirmed.

Huish Park/Paul Martin

Facing a third straight relegation, this time out of the Football League altogether, Yeovil promoted long-term servant Darren Way up from the coaching staff. A midfielder whose tenacity had helped Yeovil win the Conference title back in 2003, his playing career ended by a car crash, ‘Weasel’ Way wasn’t going to give up League status lightly. Appointed on New Year’s Eve 2015, the young manager proved the perfect choice to guide his club to safety – and, thanks to an eight-game unbeaten run in the autumn, Football League survival again in 2016-17.

A dream FA Cup tie in January 2018 at home to Manchester United – Way’s testamonial opponents in 2010 – shifted focus away from another relegation battle in League Two. Scrapping their way to safety that spring, the Glovers finished rock-bottom in 2019.

Reaching the play-offs that first season, Yeovil have since shown poor league form but provided plenty of FA Cup drama, as tradition dictates. In the First Round in November 2020, a solitary strike by Glovers academy graduate Gabby Rogers in the 122nd minute at Bromley saved the tie going to penalties before Stockport hit a goal in extra-time to edge out Yeovil 3-2 in the next round. Twice leading in the game, the Glovers missed a penalty as extra-time beckoned – and the chance to pull off a potential shock in the Third Round.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Neat and compact, Huish Park reminds many of grounds in the pre-corporate days, mainly because away fans stand at an uncovered end, Copse Road, aka the Martin Baker Terrace. A stand there, in fact, would be next on the club’s shopping list, but while Yeovil remain immersed in the National League with gates of under 3,000, it’s not going to happen any time soon.

Capacity is 9,600, 5,200 seated in the Main Stand and Screwfix Community Stand opposite, where visiting supporters are also allocated sections N and P nearest the away end.

The home end, the Thatchers Gold Stand, is both covered and, almost as important, wind-shielded. Practically the last building before Yeovil runs out of town, stuck right out on the north-western fringes, the stadium can feel very exposed to the elements.

getting there

Going to the ground – tips and timings

Why does a club spend £3.5 million on a stadium in the middle of nowhere and not provide transport there on match days? As the club website itself says, ‘…unless you love walking you are advised to get a taxi’. Come here for an evening game and you won’t find any.

The route that does serve the nearby retail park, the First Somerset 51 from The Borough/Yeovil bus station, doesn’t pass that close to the stadium on its way up, only on its way back to town. From town, the ASDA stop is nearest, then a 7min walk up Western Avenue. The 51 runs every 20mins Mon-Fri, every 30mins Sat until 6pm/6.30pm, not at all on Sundays, journey time from town 12-15mins. Going from the stadium back to town, the stop is where Copse Road meets Western Avenue, nearest the away end.

South West bus 11 (hourly Mon-Sat, daytimes only) runs from the bus station (stand 11) to Stourton Way, by the pre-match Arrow pub/restaurant.

The sat nav code for Huish Park is BA22 8YF. For most league fixtures, the car parking (£3) either side of the ground is sufficient, although drivers have to be patient before the long queue clears for cars to access the one road out after the match.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

The ticket office (Mon-Fri 10am-1pm, match-day Sat from 10am) is alongside the club shop behind the Main Stand. There are also phone bookings on 01935 847 888 and online sales. For all enquiries, contact info@ytfc.net.

Match-day sales are £2 dearer except for under-16s. It’s £18 to sit along the sidelines in the Main or Screwfix Community Stands, £15 in the away sections. To stand behind the home goal in the Thatchers Gold Stand is £15, while visiting supporters pay £14 at the Copse Road end. Over-65s pay £16 to sit, £12 to stand, 16-23s £12 to sit or stand, under-16s £5.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

Beneath the Main Stand, the club shop (Mon-Fri 10am-4pm, from 10am match days) stocks current first-team tops of green with white shirts, and second choice white with green trim. 

Retro YFC shirts are displayed on coffee mugs, while kids can be treated to a range of goodies, from pin badges to jolly green giant toys.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

There’s a couple of fast-food outlets in the retail park, but nowhere to sit and drink a beer except for the Airfield Tavern, alongside the Premier Inn, across the roundabout from ASDA. A family-friendly pub/restaurant in the Table Table chain, it has free parking and a garden in summer. Away supporters welcome.

The most popular option is The Arrow, a pleasant pub/restaurant tucked away in the Abbey Manor estate close to Stourton Way that runs parallel to Western Avenue. It welcomes home and away fans with big-screen sport, a selection of cask ales, a menu of homely favourites and free parking. Swift service, too. It’s 10mins from the stadium via a maze of crescents and closes, across The Toose from the Preston CE VC primary school.

At the ground, a marquee beer tent is set up at the car park behind the Main Stand, usually happy to allow in away fans unless the visitors are from the West Country.

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