Written by Kurt West
Twelve months ago Yeovil Town were in a somewhat desperate situation, near the bottom of League Two and with a manager who didn’t seem fit enough for the job, both physically and mentally. On December 1st, Paul Sturrock was sacked and Darren Way was given a chance to show his worth ahead of Terry Skiverton who had done, quite frankly, a horrendous job the previous season after taking over from Gary Johnson. Twelve months on and Yeovil find themselves in League Two after a remarkable recovery in the second half of last season. After a bright start to this season, Yeovil somewhat tailed off losing five on the bounce but now, after five wins in seven games, look to be on the rise again and currently occupy 13th position in League Two. Eleven months on from Way’s initial appointment, I look at why the club should hold him in high regard and why he deserves more credit than he has been given, for the job he has done in his first eleven months at Huish Park (As a manager, of course!).
Darren Way became caretaker manager on December 1st and his great work started almost immediately. A striking message was made from him, to the players . Although this may be seen as no more than a simple message written on a white board, to me it’s so much more than that. It was a message the players needed to hear after the lacklustre reign of Paul Sturrock, who really lacked a bite and didn’t seem capable to motivate the group of players he had brought in. In fact, in a press conference shortly before he was sacked he said the words ”we’re fu**ed”, hardly an inspirational message for the players who were struggling for confidence. The club is a huge part of Way’s life and he has a huge passion for the club which is something I think was key in what turned out to be an incredible turnaround from a group of players who looked all but doomed as early as December. Another decision I think was key was to change the club captain from Ryan Dickson to experienced centre-back Darren Ward, Darren has seen it all in his career and really was a logical replacement for Dickson who almost seemed relieved to hand over the armband. Way started his managerial career in the FA Cup against Stevenage, a 1-0 win and never looked back. He was appointed full time manager on new years eve and led the Glovers to relatively comfortable safety, finishing 19th and securing safety with games to spare. The last away game of the season was a perfect indicator into Way’s ‘never say die attitude’ coming back from 3-1 down with 25 minutes to go to win 4-3, with a 95th minute winner to cap it off. A successful start to Darren’s managerial career but he now had to take charge of his first full season, with completely new and more demanding expectations from the board and most importantly the fans.
HEART, PASSION, ENDEAVOUR
Ever since becoming manager he has always made it very clear that he is immensely proud to manage the club and that he holds the club in his highest regards. Although he gets stick for sometimes going over the top after matches I think it’s hugely important to always come over and clap the fans at all games, especially the away ones, it sends the fans home happy and most importantly, excited to come back next week. Some will argue that the points I have made are not exactly incredible reasons to really rate a manager of a professional club in League Two but work that goes on behind the scenes is even more impressive and something I think Darren should be highly praised for. Way is an ambitious manager. Introducing sports science and in-depth analysis to training, has been nothing short of revolutionary to a club used to the more traditional tactics of previous manager Paul Sturrock, and even Gary Johnson before him. It’s been said that he is the first in the door in the morning and the last out at night, Darren leaves no stone unturned and for that I think he should be held in high regards.
STYLE OF PLAY
I mentioned in the last section that Darren’s tactics were revolutionary compared to his predecessors and the unusual 4-3-3 system in League Two is one that works beautifully on its day. The quick, free-flowing style can cause teams hell sometimes and I’d much prefer to watch this style on a regular basis than what most teams play in this league. However, I do agree that Darren can sometimes be too stubborn in his ways and should maybe be more willing to change the system when it is clearly not working especially against teams inferior to us as I feel we sometimes struggle to put teams away. Despite the 4-3-3 system looking like an attacking style, it is actually the defensive resolve that has been the key to the success. In fact last season we went on an incredible run of eight clean sheets in nine games which is an incredible achievement at any level.
THE CURRENT SITUATION AND THE FUTURE
After a good start and then a terrible run of five league games without a win, we have now stabilised with five wins and a draw in our last eight games and sit just two point away from the play-off positions. Comparing it to our situation this time last year shows how much an incredible achievement this is and I don’t think it would’ve been possible without Darren Way. The club have showed ambition for the future by handing Darren a three year deal shortly before the end of last season which is unheard of at a club who normally give out stingy one year contracts. It shows Darren that the board are behind him and have faith in him to take the club back to the incredible success that we had encountered in the last ten years, reaching the Championship may be a step too far but going back up to League One and really stabilising the club would have to be seen as a huge success for a club who looked doomed only twelve months ago.
I’m not saying Darren Way is perfect by any means but I feel he deserves slightly more credit than he gets sometimes by our fans and is a huge improvement on what we have been used to in the last few years at Huish Park. I feel he has enough hunger, drive and energy to take the team forward in the future. Aged only 36, he has huge amounts of time to learn and I really do think he will become a top manager in years to come.
Yeovil fans, what have you made of Darren Way’s reign? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Auz