To many supporters today, Huish is just a street dissected by the A30 down near the Tesco supermarket in the centre of Yeovil.

But, up until 1990, it was the home of Yeovil Town which explains why today’s stadium is named Huish Park despite being more than two miles away.

Huish Athletic Ground, which stood on land that is now a Tesco supermarket in Yeovil town centre, was the club’s home between 1920 and 1990.

The move had actually been more than five years in the making with negotiations between the club and Bartlett Construction beginning around the purchase of the town centre site and the move to a former army camp in Houndstone.

Gerry Lock, who had been chairman since 1982, was the man behind the deal and in 1987 he was overwhelmingly backed by the club’s shareholders to conclude the deal which netted the club nearly £2.5m.

That triggered a Public Inquiry in to the suitability of the site for a football stadium which would take a further 20 months to complete.

In Hendford to Huish Park, a history of the club by historian Kerry Miller, it is recorded there were “additional costings manifesting themselves almost daily” during the construction.

Gerry Lock, right, with manager Brian Hall as they collect the Isthmian League winners’ trophy in April 1988.
Picture courtesy of Tim Lancaster.

It also tells how there was supporter unrest about the lack of covered standing behind the goals – something not righted until a roof was put over the home terrace more than a decade after arriving – and no social facilities. Enough said on that latter point.

By the time the Public Inquiry drew to a close in March 1989, concerns over covered terracing were the least to the club’s worries – the cost of the new development had ballooned to £3.5m.

Hendford to Huish Park adds there was a £400,000 payment from Bartlett as “a gesture of goodwill“, but that still left the club in a financial hole before they’d even got in to the new stadium.

The first match was played on August 4, 1990, a 2-1 defeat against Newcastle United, and followed a couple of weeks later by the first competitive match.

The first match at Huish Park was a friendly against Newcastle United on August 4, 1990.

That ended in a 2-0 win against Colchester United with striker Mickey Spencer scoring the first competitive goal at the new ground.

The first season saw average attendances of 2,639, an increase of 17.6% from those seen at Huish, and the club needed the money.

The problems become clear

By 1991, with the magnitude of the impact of the stadium move becoming apparent, Lock was forced out as chairman and replaced by a new board led by Supporters’ Club chairman, Bryan Moore.

Hendford to Huish Park describes how Moore was “pushed in to the chair” adding: “Moore’s first was to prepare the shareholders and the general public for the bombshell that was to come with the financial situation.”

With speculation that the club were in a financial hole to the tune of anything between £500,000 and £750,000, the clear and present danger of the club going to the wall was very real.

The Mecca bingo hall, today the Club Neo nightclub, hosted a public meeting attended by 1,000 people and there were bucket collections at home matches.

Supporters, board members and even players bought shares in the club, no transfer fees would be paid for players and the reserve team was scrapped to try and keep the club afloat.

FA Cup to the rescue

As was so often the case, the FA Cup came to Yeovil’s rescue when in 1992 they drew another of the competition’s famous giant-killers Hereford United in the second round.

A crowd of more than 8,000 packed in to Huish Park for a goalless draw and by the time the replay rolled around 11 days later, both clubs new a money-spinning third round tie against Arsenal was the prize that awaited them.

Paul Sanderson put the Glovers ahead in the tie before midfielder Paul Batty, who had bagged a hat-trick in the previous round against Torquay, missed a penalty and then Owen Pickard, who would go on to play for Yeovil, equalised for Hereford.

Then, with just seconds remaining, substitute and defender Neil Coates popped up with the winner.

Miller recalls: “It was a goal which was conservatively estimated as being worth £100,000.”

Add to that a shrewd move from the club’s commercial manager and a former Arsenal player, Alan Skirton, to make fans keen to attend the third round tie get vouchers from league matches in the run-up to it, and the club cashed in on the arrival of the Gunners.

It could have been even better had Arsenal agreed to move the game to a Monday night to accommodate the Sky cameras, who were willing to pay a further £100,000.

The Premier League side had a match the following Wednesday and were not willing to make the shift, so Match of the Day highlights it was.

It may be too simplistic to say Neil Coates’ goal at Hereford saved the club, but it certainly went a long way towards it.



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