Life at Yeovil Town has certainly delivered both highs and lows in recent years for Glovers fans.
A club that’s been from League One to the Championship and then all the way down to League Two in a few years, as well as threatened by financial worries, things have been far from dull.
And, as they look for more stability and a push back into the third tier, a man that has seen it all at the club has been entrusted to try and build something for the future – Darren Way.
The 39-year-old has spent most of his footballing life associated with the club one way or another and, earlier this week, signed a new deal with them until 2021.
A sign of surer things setting in at the Somerset side, then? Way thinks so:
“I just think the massive thing for me, and it’s probably lacking in football now, is stability.
“I’ve had a massive turnover of players every year almost totalling 20 players.
“We’ve got 19 out of contract this year and someone has to make those decisions for the sake of the football club and from where the club was where I took over and to where it is now it is in a stronger place.
“Every year the team has almost started all over again and to build any successful team you need stability.
“If I look at Gareth Ainsworth at Wycombe, probably a similar club to ours, seeing how they got promoted to League One the main thing involved was stability, not turnover.”
For sure, it has looked a tough task at times to build with so many – often enforced – changes amongst the playing staff in recent seasons.
And, thanks in part to that, finishes in the league table have perhaps not been as high as fans would like. However, Way is of the opinion that now things are getting balanced, the future will be brighter than the past:
“You’ve only got to look at Notts County. Look at how many managers they’ve had in there. When I first took over I felt I was equipped against a relegation battle so we’ve had to build from there.
“I’m quite thankful that our directors and the owner have got a shared vision of the future and not over a period of two weeks.”
Certainly, the Glovers have had to chop and change in order to stay afloat, regularly having to bring in players on short-term deals and living on a day-to-day basis.
They do seem, however, on a more solid footing now and that should only improve in the coming months:
“Financially, the club is in a better place.
“Put it this way we’ve never had a player that we could even look like selling.
“One because they have only been on one-year contracts and two because they’ve usually been here on loan.
“I just think the situation as it stands at the moment in January is that we’ve probably got about nine players which we need to make decisions on.
“Five loan players, two that are out of contract and two that will probably generate interest from the outside.”
What Yeovil have had to do, then, is bring in young players to bolster the squad and, at times this season, that has yielded some fantastic results.
And, clearly, youth is the way forward for their manager:
“We’re the youngest in the four tiers. I mean, for me, I have a vision at the football club where I want to develop young players and it’s more beneficial when it’s your own players.”
Indeed, the signs of growth and moving forwards are there at the club as they have started to field some of their own players once more:
“You have to look at young players. We’ve got young players, we put two academy players in the first-team.
“One against Aston Villa and Newport and we played a young player against West Ham in the Checkatrade Trophy and we haven’t had that for years.
“We sold a player in the summer in Otis Khan which we haven’t done for years and we’ve got international players which we haven’t had for years.
“We’ve had them as loans but not as our own.”
Clubs like Yeovil are more reliant than most on what they can produce themselves, then, rather than what they can buy in and, after depending on short-term deals and loans, it seems as though they might be able to start getting away from that.
Way, for sure, is pleased with the academy and the future of the squad:
“The academy is very good. Put it this way as I said we’ve put two players in the first-team which we haven’t done for years.”
It’s a squad with potential more than most, then, and when it clicks – as Newport and Notts County will attest to – things look impressive.
They do, however, need more consistency and, if they can do that, Way can see a lofty finish being possible:
“I feel this squad is good enough to make it into the play-offs.
“The international break has not enabled us to push on and we’ve had a bulk of injuries to deal with where I’ve lost experience.
“Our form at the start of the season was good though.
“We had the biggest win we’ve ever got in the Football League.
“We kept the most amount of clean sheets in a row and so we’ve broken some good records and we’ve created a little bit of history this year but I do understand and am aware that everyone wants more.
“But by wanting more it can be very dangerous if you get it wrong. I promised I’d keep the club in the Football League so you’ve got to be careful what you wish for.
“If you look at the clubs that we’ve had to compete against in the past; Barnet, Chesterfield – they spent more money than what we had.
“When I first took over it was Dagenham and York but it’s just become that bit stronger now in the league so making sure we stay in the Football League is what I’ve been proud of so far. ”
Evidently, Way is pleased with the work that has gone on to this point at the club as they’ve looked to shore up and now the plan is to move forwards gradually.
What has he learned, though, in his many years in Somerset?
“You need loyalty, an understanding of the history of the club and to work harder than everyone else and have an emotional understanding of the football club.
“It’s difficult nowadays because back in the day we were together for two years before getting promoted out of the Conference and we had stability.
“Eventually, we got to a stage where the club couldn’t afford to keep us together and we all went our separate ways including the manager.”
It’s been the stereotypical rollercoaster ride that so many Football League clubs can relate to in recent years for Yeovil, then, and as Way embarks on what he hopes will be a sturdier path, how does he reflect on his time so far?
“I’ve loved every minute of it.”
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