Yeovil Town club captain Francois Zoko has blamed the uncertainty of the club’s takeover situation as being at the heart of the club’s fall out of the Football League. The outgoing striker has expanded on views he gave earlier this month in an interview with the Western Daily Press, where he feels the playing squad were much too exposed to the takeover issues surrrounding American businessman Rob Couhig‘s failed plans to assume control at Huish Park.
In particular, Zoko was highly critical of Yeovil Town’s Football Advisor Mark Palmer – a man initially recruited by current owner Norman Hayward to advise him on the future of the football club. Palmer initially came in during the latter part of 2017, and into early 2018, when club Director Andy Rossiter was attempting his own takeover – something that appeared to dissolve after the club gained an unexpected cash windfall in the form of an FA Cup Fourth Round tie against Manchester United.
Palmer was understood to have left the building during the latter part of the 2017-18 season, but was spotted back at Huish Park on December 8th 2018 for the home match against Forest Green Rovers. On this occasion, the lines seemed to be rather more blurred. Whilst initially he was returning as Hayward’s Football Advisor, it also transpired by February 2019, that Palmer was to become Couhig’s Chief Executive under the new organisation – an appointment that was never realised when the takeover plans collapsed earlier this month.
Zoko told the paper that he was aware of Palmer’s involvement back at the club during November 2018, and said that the Football Advisor was directly engaging with the club’s first team players, even to the point of entering the dressing room. He felt that was crossing a line that ‘office’ people should never do:
“I felt it from the start. When we were speaking to someone who wanted to take over at the club, as soon as they stepped in and crossed the line the club got worse and worse. From November, Mark Palmer was there and they ruined the club. That’s it. You have an office and dressing room. When someone from the office, like Palmer, crosses the line and comes into the dressing room speaking to players, promising things, you’re kiling it.”
Zoko felt that the levels of uncertainty at the club got into the dressing room. He said his concern was that the situation was still unresolved – both at management and ownership level – and had barbed words for the way that Palmer had sowed those seeds:
“I think the mistake was that they (Mark Palmer) don’t know the professional world of football and how it works. They stepped in and did exactly what you shouldn’t do. This is my own opinion on the situation. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so. Uncertainty is the worst thing that can happen at a football club. Yeovil have had that for many long months and uncertainty is killing the club. They’re still in it. Todsay we are still talking about the same things we were talking about a few months ago. This is what is shocking me. It scares me for next year.”
Zoko said he remained neutral on the subject of sacking first team manager Darren Way – a decision made by the current Yeovil Town Board at the end of March 2019, following a defeat against Milton Keynes Dons. However, he added that he felt the Caretaker Manager appointment of Neale Marmon was the wrong choice, saying that the nature of it, and Marmon’s plans to move ‘upstairs’ at the end of that season into a Sporting Director role under the new ownership extended the levels of uncertainty at the club. He felt the club needed to make a bigger decision than that in order to stay up:
“If you sack Darren, you sack him – it’s the club’s decision. The players respect that. You like it; you don’t like it – football is not personal. You have a job to do. We needed to win games to stay in the League. Neale (Marmon) is a very kind and nice man but we’re talking about one of the hardest and most ruthless leagues in English football. It’s not his fault. At that moment we needed certainty. You can’t build anything on uncertainty and that was the case this year.”
Although he has now officially been released from the club, Zoko revealed that his original intention had been to remain at the club as a coach, gradually moving from his position as a player into an off-the-field role within the club. The 35 year old has recently taken two coaching badges and has gained an FA Youth Award as well as an FA Level 3 (UEFA B) in Coaching Football. At present it would appear that he will have to look elsewhere to put that into practice, although doesn’t plan on retiring from the playing side at this stage.