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Boss's call for progress off pitch is easy to understand

By Western Gazette - North Dorset  |  Posted: December 12, 2013

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AT a time when Yeovil Town showed considerable progress and scaled new heights on the pitch, manager Gary Johnson has asked for similar off it.

The Glovers are on the crest of their most significant wave, travelling to Sky Bet Championship relegation rivals Barnsley unbeaten in three and having finally turned impressive performances into remarkable victories over both Watford and Blackpool.

On the hallowed turfs of the second tier, at least, Johnson's men are proving their quality and suggesting they can again achieve the unbelievable.

However, as his side's evolution and development continues to advance at a commendable rate, the boss is clearly dissatisfied that – in his and many others' opinion – standards off the pitch are some way behind.

More specifically, Johnson is growing increasingly frustrated by the club's below-standard training pitches and the need to often have to travel half an hour to a school to prepare for matches.

In the past month, the Glovers have attracted a former Premier League striker who has totted up transfer fees in the millions and two top flight starlets more accustomed to the state-of-the-art facilities at Everton's Finch Farm and Liverpool's Melwood.

It is therefore easy to see how a boss – having worked tirelessly to attract high calibre personnel – can get irritated by having to then show his star names around a school changing room that's not even in the same postcode as the club.

Johnson's second concern is that he and his management staff can only humanely be expected to – quoting the man himself – flog themselves to maintain standards and continue Yeovil's Championship adventure for so long.

In response to a question that initially focused on players burning out over the Christmas period, Johnson came out with two telling lines – it takes too long to get change at Yeovil Town and the club may require outside help.

"There does seem to be a lot going on but not a lot happening," said Johnson, drawing a fan's thoughts to the long-standing elephant in the room – the supermarket development.

Since at least early 2011 the Glovers have appeared to be engrossed in a political battle with South Somerset District Council on plans to develop land on what we are told are sub-standard training pitches behind the Copse Road End.

The Glovers' powers-that-be argue that the retail unit would provide the club with a significant added income stream that could in turn not only improve supporter facilities at Huish Park but could also provide far more acceptable training facilities.

However, the authorities in charge of our local community appear to disagree with the football club that has helped put the town on the sporting map, regularly citing road structure issues, the loss of green open space and an out-of-town development that contravenes national planning policy as their reasons for concern.

While we are regularly re-assured that meetings are ongoing between the club, key local government figures and our MP, the third anniversary of South Somerset District Council receiving the planning application is rapidly approaching with no suggestion a resolution is near.

When does the time come for the club to, despite their substantial investment and effort, cut their losses, accept they are fighting a losing battle and consider – if there is one – a plan B?

In Alvington, Yeovil created quite a storm by, as they were fully entitled to, demanding sole use of the main pitch.

However, with Sherborne School and Buckler's Mead Academy so regularly offering their services, it does not take an expert groundsman to gather all is not well with what should be their first choice training surface.

Johnson said the club may need help from outside, and with the two schools thanked for their support, he clearly doesn't mean the helpful lend of a blade or two of grass.

Be it greater leniency from the authorities or even a financial boost from a businessman, the gaffer is clearly wanting off-field facilities to match their on-pitch Championship status before the odds that Yeovil have so regularly beaten become too far stacked against them.

Whereas it may take a miracle to bridge gaps with their giant Championship rivals in certain areas, it could be argued only reasonable to strive for better in others that could prove the difference.

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