Yeovil Town 2 Millwall 0 – Friday 10th April 2009
Yeovil legend Terry Skiverton’s first taste of management was something of a trial by fire when Russell Slade suddenly left the club in February 2009. Slade’s Assistant Manager Steve Thompson initially took charge of the team as he had done following the departures of Colin Lippiatt in 1999, David Webb in 2000 and Gary Johnson in 2005 – and being given the ‘permanent’ job on two of those occasions – but following a 3-0 drubbing at Bristol Rovers in his first game, he was relieved of his duties and Skiverton was promoted to Player/Manager.
Russell Slade had perhaps been a victim of his own success – with reputedly the lowest budget in the division, arguably the 2006/07 playoff campaign came as a surprise to absolutely everyone. Following the trip to Wembley though, expectations increased but Slade’s two subsequent seasons were more of a struggle. It was perhaps true of Slade’s Yeovil that when Plan A didn’t work – keep it tight, nick a goal – there wasn’t really a Plan B, and they could be very pedestrian coming forward. In both 2007/08 and 2008/09, Yeovil were comfortably the lowest scoring team in League One, with 38 and 41 goals from a 46-game season. The problem was, after being successful, opposition teams became cautious against Yeovil and were more difficult to break down.
With only one win in the first ten games of 2008/09, the Glovers were hovering around the relegation zone after a disappointing 07/08 which had seen them win only four games in the second half of the season, and the manager’s job was on the line. Despite a run of four wins in a row including 3-1 away at promotion-chasing Peterborough, Slade was sacked in February. It was in at the deep end for Skiverton, with only three points gained from his first eight games including a 5-0 defeat by Slade’s new club, Brighton. He eventually steadied the ship though, bringing in a trio of loanees from Spurs in the form of Jonathan Obika, Andros Townsend and Danny Hutchins, as well as Chris Weale on loan from Bristol City. These new signings gave the team some much needed youth and energy; three of the four made their debuts in the 0-0 draw against MK Dons, which began an unbeaten run of 11 points from five games. The team which had shipped 19 goals in seven games since Slade’s departure, suddenly notched up five clean sheets in a row, culminating in this impressive 2-0 win over Millwall which took them up to 16th. Chris Weale memorably scored in injury time against old rivals Hereford to secure a 2-2 draw and pass the 50 point mark which would see the Glovers safe.
As manager, Skiverton was immediately able to address the most obvious problem, the lack of goals. His team scored 55 in 2009/10 and 56 in 2010/11, without conceding more than Slade’s team had done. He brought in very decent League One strikers such as Dean Bowditch and Andy Williams, as well as Kieran Agard, who while not the biggest star for Yeovil, would go on to prove his quality by scoring 20 goals in a season for both Rotherham and MK Dons.
Skivo had two full seasons in charge, and much of 2011/12 before Gary Johnson returned to the club and he became a deputy again, the role that he holds to this day, almost ten years later. His first full season, 2009/10, was one of the only League One seasons aside from the two play-off campaigns in which Yeovil were fairly comfortable and did not flirt with relegation – despite a lot of (often high scoring) draws, the Glovers were 11th with ten games to go and were never lower than 17th during the season. Although there did seem to be some dissatisfaction on the terraces while he was manager, hopefully history will look on him more kindly – firstly, any manager who keeps Yeovil in League One on the budget we have is a success. Maybe in 2009, which had seen an FA Trophy win, two promotions and a Wembley play-off final in just a few years, it was easy to forget that. But we were not on a level playing field financially with most League Two teams, let alone League One, in which we faced teams like Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Norwich, Charlton and Leicester on a fairly regular basis. Secondly, we scored more goals, signed some very good players and had a more balanced squad than the previous manager had done.
When things were not going so well on the pitch, Skiverton also had the ability to make changes – the dramatic change in form in 2009 which saved Yeovil from relegation was repeated two more times. In both 2010/11 and 2011/12, Yeovil were bottom in mid-season but an improved second half took them up to a more comfortable mid-table position. In 2010, the signing of Paul Wotton and Max Ehmer signalled a dramatic improvement, as a run of two points in eight games was followed by 17 points from the next eight. The season ended on a six-match unbeaten run with the Glovers winning 2-0 at Carlisle and finishing in a very respectable 14th.
Although 2011/12 followed a similar path, with the Yeovil bottom again after only two wins from their first 17 games, it seemed likely that he would be able to turn things around again, but in January 2012 Gary Johnson made a surprise return to the club, winning his first game in charge and picking up nine more that would lift the Glovers up to safety in 17th. This was done mostly with the players Skiverton had assembled, with the addition of two or three loan signings particularly Franks and Grounds down the troublesome left hand side. The following season of course, was a record-breaking one as the Glovers were promoted to the Championship for the first time in their history. Skiverton remained as Assistant Manager, and took temporary charge again following Johnson’s sacking in 2015 but was unable to prevent a second successive relegation, although he remained at the club through the succession of managers that followed where he remains at time of writing, assistant manager to Darren Sarll.
We can also look back at the high quality of signings that Skivo made, including in the loan market – Steven Caulker, Ryan Mason, Dean Bowditch, Andy Williams, Paul Huntington, Luke Freeman, Luke Ayling and Ed Upson. While Shaun MacDonald was initially brought in on loan by Russell Slade, he made most of his appearances for Skiverton, including a memorable hat-trick in the 5-1 win at Leyton Orient. He also brought Gavin Williams and Chris Weale back to the club. One of his first actions was to sign 17 year old Andros Townsend, who now plays regularly in the Premier League as does goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, another Skiverton signing.
A good example of his impact at Yeovil might be the development of players like Luke Ayling and Ed Upson. Ayling signed at just 18 from Arsenal’s reserves. He played about half the games in 2010/11 as he was bedded into the team, first in midfield and later at right back, which he would make his own from 2011-2014 before going on to play in the Premier League for Leeds. Upson also developed over a long period of time to become a key player for Yeovil. Signed after being released by Ipswich at the age of 20, he made a handful of appearances in 2010/11, limited mainly as cover for MacDonald. Over the following two seasons he grew in stature and by 2012/13 he and Ayling would have been two of the first names on the teamsheet of that playoff-winning team. Upson of course scored the goal that took Yeovil to the playoff final, but also scored these against Wycombe, Hereford and Fleetwood among many others. He made the step up to Championship level, scoring the Yeovil’s first Championship goal against Millwall as well as starring in one of the best performances of the season, the 3-1 win at home to Nottingham Forest. It shows what can be done with players with patience and time, as based on their first few appearances and maybe even first full season, I don’t think many people would have pegged Upson or Ayling as future stars, let alone one who would go on to play at the top level.
A lot has happened at Yeovil since Terence John Skiverton arrived as a fresh faced 23 year old from Mile End signed from Welling United by Colin Lippiatt. Three promotions, a Cup Final win, two Wembley appearances and Championship football. His first game was the 5-0 drubbing at Scarborough in August 1999. Although he did not start that game, he did play most games that season, with one highlight being he scored twice in the 5-1 win over Rushden in November. He scored a lot for a centre half because he put his head in where it hurt, getting injured while scoring on more than one occasion as well as playing on with a bandaged head as all good centre halves must do. He scored a number of vital goals including the winner in the 5-4 FA Trophy match at Doncaster, when at 3-0 down all must have seemed lost. He was also top scorer for a time at the beginning of the historic 2002/03 season, scoring in injury time to salvage a point on the first day, an injury time winner at Kettering a couple of weeks later, and celebrating the return to Huish Park with a goal against Woking. My personal favourite memory is probably against Doncaster in 2006, with Yeovil at the wrong end of the table and facing a difficult run-in, he scored an absolute cracker of a volley off the inside of the post which set Yeovil on the way to a comfortable 3-0 victory and probable League One safety. He was dominant in the air but didn’t just score with his head.
After more than 20 years as a player, captain, manager, and many other roles in between, it will be a strange day when Skivo is no longer at Yeovil Town but let’s hope it doesn’t happen for a long time yet.
Team that day: Chris Weale, Danny Hutchins, Nathan Smith, Lee Peltier, Terrell Forbes, Gary Roberts, Keiran Murtagh, Paul Warne, Andros Townsend (sub. Andy Welsh 73), Jonathan Obika, Gavin Tomlin (sub. Luke Rodgers 84). Subs not used: Craig Alcock, Danny Maguire, Danny Schofield