Sunday, 27 April 2014

Thank you Browny

On Thursday night, I was at Whaddon Road for a fantastic evening with 11 former CTFC players, who all served the club with great distinction.
During the evening, they were asked what it was that made Cheltenham Town special for them. As director Tim Russon went along the line, all of them, from Mark Boyland, through Clive Walker, Bob Bloomer, Jimmy Smith, Jason Eaton, Russ Milton, Jamie Victory, Steve Book and Lee Howells to Shane Duff and Damian Spencer, one word kept cropping up.
Togetherness.
They all pointed to the camaraderie in the dressing room, and the bond between the players, board, manager and fans which pushed them to great success, be it a Southern League Premier Division title, an FA Trophy win or a Conference crown.
How ironic then that 48 hours later we had Saturday's startling revelations from Scott Brown after the defeat at Rochdale, which finally laid bare what an utter shambles this miserable season has become.
Firstly, let me say well done to Browny. He came out of the dressing room after the game, and I noticed him sitting down at the bottom of the stand looking out at the pitch, where Dale fans and players were still celebrating their deserved promotion.
Then he came up, and spoke first to my BBC Glos colleague Pete Matthews, and then seperately to Jon Palmer, and what he said left me absolutely stunned.
I was literally stood there open-mouthed as he revealed that a couple of his team-mates told Mark Yates on Friday they had not been trying, not giving 100 per cent.
Whether he was talking about matches in general over the season, or in training that day, or in past training sessions is unclear, but still, it is an utter disgrace.
Browny was really angry. You could tell in his voice. It was unlike him to be like that - he always seems such a calm character.
But this revelation, coupled with the limp, weak display of most of those in front of him on Saturday, had tipped him over the edge.
He should be praised to the hilt. He deserves no reproachment at all.
There was no question to prompt his words. He just came out with it, like he had been holding it in and needed to release the pent-up anger - rather like I feel every week as I sit and construct this stream of consciousness. It is very cathartic...!
He was almost speaking through gritted teeth, and every word he said only served to confirm what we have known all season.
He deserves credit for sticking his head above the parapet and saying what he did. In fact, there is an argument to say that the manager should have come clean and told us and it should not have been left to a senior player to feel he had no option but to spill the beans.
Now is the time for the board and manager to act.
There are players at the club who do not care, and who effectively are cheating the supporters, and stealing a living from the football club.
The first question I have to ask is why, Mark Yates, was this player or these players part of your squad and/or your starting XI at Rochdale?
Why was this waste of space allowed to take the shirt of another player or a hungry youngster who does want to try? That decision is almost as shocking to me as the players' confession in the first place.
What is for certain in my eyes is that Saturday has to be the last time they will pull on the shirt. I don't care who they are - how important they are to the team and whether they have a contract for next year or not. I want them out. Over to you Mr Chairman and Mr Manager - let's have some decisive leadership here.
Name and shame if you have to, at the very least fine them a week's wages, but there is no Cheltenham Town fan I know who will countenance that player or players lining up for the club again, thank you very much.
It is an insult to those who have spent hard-earned money on season tickets, and been short-changed with terrible home performances. An insult to those who have spent good money travelling up and down the country from Plymouth to Hartlepool following this team.
They put more effort into their fancy dress costumes than some of our players did in the 90 minutes on Saturday.
We were miles away from Rochdale's level. They are going up, along with Scunthorpe and Chesterfield. Our combined record against those teams, played 6, lost 6, goals scored two, conceded 14.
So no surprise that we are not going anywhere. In fact, looking at next season, I have us in the bottom eight without major surgery on and off the field.
Mark Yates does deserve credit for putting Joe Hanks on at half-time, and the fact that he was our man of the match for a 45-minute display should show his fellow midfielders up. But I am not sure they care enough to take notice of it as long as they get their pay cheques.
Sign David Noble? No thanks. After watching him and Matt Richards stand and wave Bastien Hery through to set up the second goal, I will drive him back to Rotherham or wherever he lives myself.
It was reminiscent of that horrendous day at Crewe, the 8-1, or that 4-0 surrender at Stevenage. It could have been another 8-1 but Rochdale all but stopped playing at 2-0 and could taste the champagne which later came raining down on me in the stand as I tried to stop the radio equipment getting waterlogged.
A couple of others played themselves out of a contract once and for all, thank goodness. I also hope the club will suspend any thoughts of keeping Jermaine McGlashan as well after another in an ever-increasing line of insipid displays. Thanks Jermaine, but no thanks.
We have a young, hungry winger in Zack Kotwica who wants to play, can beat a man, and can cross a ball - I am not sure Mr McGlashan has all of those attributes.
While Yates deserves credit for playing Hanks, he is also culpable in his development being stunted. Why has it taken 18 months for Joe to get back on the field again after his promising cameo against Exeter in October 2013? Yes, it is that long ago.
In the meantime, we have seen Noble, Richards and Taylor strolling around with barely a care in the world, Sam Deering look busy without achieving very much and can't-be-bothered loanees like Lee Lucas and Kemar Roofe come in for a few games and waste the club's money.
Meanwhile Joe has kicked his heels on the bench, or in the stand, or been sent out on loan. Scandalous waste of talent, and poor management to leave him out for so long without getting a chance.
Yes he may have only played for 75 minutes in total for the first team, but he has showed in that time that he can do a job. He has done more than some of those loanees - and he could have saved us a lot of money.
So what now?
Something has to happen, and it has to happen soon.
I get the feeling that something is brewing, and it will all blow up in the next 48-72 hours.
What it is, I have no idea, but I just get that sense, and it will affect the management team I think.
We need new ideas, a new voice, and a new approach.
When Dave Kevan was part of the coaching staff, we turned in some decent displays. He brought in  fresh ideas, a new pair of eyes and a different approach. I think there needs to be some fresh blood in the coaching set-up.
Whether that is instead of or in addition to some of the current incumbents is open to question.
There is an argument for splitting up the Yates-Howarth axis - either with a new number two for Yatesy or a new number one with Howarth - or they both go and we completely start afresh.
Whatever it is, there needs to be a re-think.
If Yates is to stay, he needs to change his approach, and his attitude. He needs to find leaders, and he needs to make sure he doesn't fall out with them. Bennett, Lowe and Penn are big misses. I cannot see those three tolerating any non-tryers, can you?
And people could tolerate their departures a bit more if they were replaced by players of equal or better quality. On the whole, they haven't been (Bennett for Michael Hector then Troy Brown being the exception, although neither had or has Benno's leadership qualities).
But Noble for Penn, plus Lucas or Roofe? No. Michael Ihiekwe or Mitch Brundle for Keith Lowe? No way. See also Craig Braham-Barrett for Billy Jones. No comment needed.
As someone pointed out to me correctly on Twitter earlier on today, Yates' mantra when he came in was to find young, hungry footballers with a point to prove. That person also pointed out that as soon as he was given some decent money to spend, he went away from that to journeymen, who largely cannot give a toss.
The 'Yates is a good judge of a player' epithet has also taken a bit of a bashing as well, hasn't it?
Players like Marlon Pack (who fell into his lap it has to be said), Luke Summerfield, Bennett, Jombati (until Bennett left and he went downhill), Penn, Steve Elliott, Kaid Mohamed and the loans of the likes of  Jack Butland, Luke Garbutt and Jimmy Spencer were all good signings, who all performed well. But they are now tempered somewhat by having to endure the likes of Richards, Taylor, Craig Braham-Barrett and a lengthening series of unconvincing and at times downright useless loans, coupled with the reluctance to give our own kids a proper chance.
In my view, Harry Williams' youth team form deserved a chance in the side long before now. I would even say he deserved a pro contract long before now. Again, why use Roofe or Lucas when Harry was there?
Yates needs to take a bit more of the blame for his own mistakes and those of the team on himself. He has shifted a lot of flak on to the players and of course they do shoulder a lot of responsibility for this season, but ultimately the buck has to stop with you Mark.
Your failed recruitment. Your unloved squad. Your underwhelming tactics. Your obviously uninspiring training. Your now-poisonous environment.
Yes, the players have made some ridiculous mistakes in games. Over and over again. So why are they doing that? Is it that they don't care (partly, as we now know) or have they just stopped listening to the management team?
If so, or if they keep making the same mistakes, or following the game plan, then why have they then not been left out of the side? That is mainly because of our small squad, so threadbare due to players being sold, and then not replaced adequately (see above).
This has meant that players have known that how badly they perform, and whatever mistakes they make, there is likely to be no-one to take their shirt, so they are free to coast through training, and games, before picking up their money.
There are not many of this shower I want to see in our red and white stripes in July, whoever is in the dugout.
Along with Browny, who told us he has been made a 'fantastic' offer to stay - please sign it!, I would keep (as long as none of these are the non-tryers, and I don't believe any of them are) Troy Brown, Terry Gornell, Byron Harrison, Zack Kotwica, Joe Hanks, Jamie Cureton and Connor Roberts, plus the four youth team graduates. The rest can go (Steve Elliott reluctantly).
This is a massive summer. As I said earlier, I cannot see us - as we are now - being out of the bottom eight. If they stay up, Rovers and Northampton will have clear-outs and improve. Luton coming up will go through the division, and of the play-off sides I fancy Grimsby to come up. They won't be poor.
None of the relegated sides are bad enough to be dragged right down, so we need to get this summer right.
We need action from the board to sort out the managerial side of the club with the utmost urgency. We need to root the bad apples out of the playing staff as well, never to be seen again.
Then we need a clear plan for the summer, whoever the manager is. We need to get back to finding hungry players with energy, passion and drive to play a decent style of football, and get the loyal supporters, the bedrock of this club, enthused again. If we get this wrong, then this club is in big trouble next season.
There is a nasty stink about the place at the moment, a poisonous atmosphere that needs to be killed off, and killed off fast before it spreads irreparably. It can be done, but action is needed now.