Chris Sweet and Jimmy Healey aboard the Glovers’ open top bus

Former Sports Editor of the Western Gazette Chris Sweet followed the Glovers up and down the land, through the highs and the lows, he was in one of the best seats in the house for Yeovil’s finest hour. 
In our latest Gloversblog, he tells us what YTFC in 2013 means to him.

What does the 2013 team mean to you? How often do you sit back and watch the highlights over and over again? Let us know, share your pictures and let’s enjoy the ten-year anniversary of the Glovers’ most memorable success.

I’m going to open with a potentially unpopular opinion – reaching Wembley in 2013 will live longer in the memory than actually winning there.

That’s not to downplay an utterly iconic 90 minutes from Yeovil Town’s history. But once we were there, the pressure and expectation was arguably much less. It was about completing the job, not letting the epic defeat of Sheffield United be in vain and to beat (again) a team we’d already walloped six past that season.

But before expanding my argument on why blunting the Blades was better than swatting the Bees, some self-indulgent context.

The Western Gazette Play Off Special Cover Pic @Sweeter1984

What may surprise those who thought I was a mouthpiece of the club, someone who never asked the right questions and didn’t know what I was on about, is that first and foremost I was – and am – a fan. I caught the bug when my old man and I first went to Huish Park in 1992 and, essentially, I pursued sports journalism with the aim of covering the club. I’d be lying if I said that the personal digs didn’t hit home. Yes, I should have thicker skin, but everyone’s human. I left journalism for good reason and it took a good number of years to want to watch Yeovil again, let alone write about them. And you try filling eight pages a week with “no comment” responses to those questions I supposedly didn’t ask…

Those that know me best will testify that, whilst intrinsically curmudgeonly, I’m deeply passionate about the Glovers. It’s beyond gutting (and the scope of this blog) to see where the club is today, but at the other end of the scale is 2013 – being front and centre to see Little Old Yeovil silence a, quite frankly, arrogant former Premier League club to prompt the most euphoric sporting celebrations of my life.

As University of Sheffield alumni who often went to Bramall Lane, a trip to South Yorkshire for a night of pie and Henderson’s was always going to be one to relish (yep, I made that pun). But that particular Friday night was much tougher to endure than a skinful on Division Street before ending at the Leadmill.

Play Off Semi-Final Souvenir Special from the Western Gazette

Yeovil’s nerves were clear, but we applied ourselves. 1-0 to the hosts was arguably fair, but the fliers left under windscreen wipers advertising bus travel from S1 to Wembley was far from it. There was still the return leg of a double-header where expectation, dangerously, was only on one team. And they weren’t going to be the ones in green and white.

I can remember arriving at Huish Park on that blisteringly hot Monday thinking whatever happened, it had been a bonkersly brilliant season. I’d no doubt once more slate Harry Maguire (whatever did he go on to achieve…?) for having the turning circle of a cruise liner, Jim Healey would make a comment about my lack of hair, and I’d probably sign off with a pint or four with the Tupman family and Mrs Sam Foley in the Tupman’s box, as had been the routine for the campaign.

What wasn’t in the plan was: ending the afternoon on the pitch; hugging Ed Upson and rubbing his forehead; a certain Merthyr-based Welsh winger soaking my notepad in black sambuca; necking Cheddar Valley with the squad’s two Northeasterners; a centre half (for the first and not last time)  unprompted calling me every name under the sun; and then struggling to stay on my feet (along with two key first teamers) after Angelo Balanta had bought Modellos’ stock of fizz and promptly sprayed it everywhere. 

Chris celebrates the semi-final win over Sheffield United
Pic: @Sweeter1984 / Len Copeland

The celebrations were utterly euphoric and whilst I appreciate hindsight is everything, I look back wondering why we were surprised. Yeovil followed the script to the letter – Kevin Dawson’s exquisite finish epitomised the eff-you attitude the squad had, and of course this was the day Ed was going to score his first Glovers’ headed goal.

That entire squad was built around beating adversity. Many have gone on to bigger and better, but each of them had a point to prove. Not only was that their defining commonality, it epitomised that turnaround against a Sheffield United that expected to just turn up to reach Wembley. They were part of the community, and they celebrated with the community.

I rocked up at work on Tuesday with a beast of a hangover and no voice, yet still floating thanks not just to the after-effects of a brilliant celebration but sure that I’d experienced something I’d likely never repeat with the Glovers. 

It made Wembley an experience to truly enjoy with, what I felt, a bizarre lessening of pressure. Ok, Tony Pounder will argue otherwise – he had to keep me calm for pretty much all of the second half in the press box – but although the job still had to be done, we’d overcome the odds versus Sheff U and the confidence gained was phenomenal.

The Wembley Win Souvenir Special Cover from the Western Gazette

Don’t get me wrong, celebrating reaching the Championship was an experience like no other – I’ll never herd hungover cats and arrange a bus tour again, I’ll never hear Angelo cracking champagne before I see him again and I don’t think that centre half will swear at me again.

But, whilst I’m sure I’ll see Jim with his tie around his head in the future, the outpouring of emotion after reaching that final will be unrivalled when it comes to the Glovers. This is the night and the memories I always go back to when reminiscing with the likes of Jim and Ben Tupman.

Both horseracing fans, I often speak to Kev Dawson. I’m usually with a good friend who’s a Sheff Utd fan. And I never miss the chance to remind him of that goal. And why not? The arrogant swines deserved it.

The squad that beat the Blades are Glovers’ legends. They not only allowed us to dream, they allowed us to believe. And forever I’ll be grateful.

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