A bad way to spend £16

In the 1970s, in the days before the three top divisions of the Southern, Northern nad Isthmian Leagues, the top divisions outside of the Football League, combined to form a single conference, Yeovil Town played their matches in the Southern League Premier Division.

The 1970s were a time when there  was no automatic relegation from and promotion to the Football League and although Yeovil were Southern League Champions on a number of occasions, their applications to be elected to the Football League were unsuccessful. The advent of the single top division saw Yeovil’s fortunes decline. While clubs like Wimbledon and Wigan Athletic gained promotion to the Football League, Yeovil slipped, twice being relegated from the fifth tier of English football, to play their games at grounds where crowds might number no more than a couple of hundred.

Going to watch Yeovil Town in the 1970s was always a special moment, Yeovil was a small club with a large and noisy following, home crowds averaged over 2,000, a number that often dwarfed the attendances enjoyed by some of their rivals.

Opportunities to watch Yeovil in the years that followed were limited, if there was a match being played when I was visiting Somerset, it was a delight to go along. The new ground, in an industrial estate on the edge of the town, represented huge progress from the old ground with its pitch that sloped from one side to the other.

There was a huge sense of pleasure in seeing Yeovil win a place in the Football League in 2003, and to watch them to rise two further divisions to reach the Championship, albeit for only one season.

After sixteen seasons in the Football League, Yeovil were relegated, to play their football in what is now called the National League (but what the BBC Sports app still calls the “conference”).

Yesterday was the first time this season that I managed to attend a match. As might be expected, the quality of football is not as good, but on a reduced budget, the supply of good players is less plentiful. Yeovil have done well to retain their level of attendance, there were 2,700 at the match.

The disappointment came not in the high balls to nowhere, or in their only being able to manage to draw against a team at the bottom of the table, but in the foul and abusive language coming from the supporters on the Yeovil terraces. Notices at the ground asking supporters not to use bad language are of no avail.

After seventy minutes of the match, I left the ground. Paying £16 to hear young men standing and shouting obscenities had represented poor value.

“Are you leaving?” asked a steward.

“Yes,” I said, “going home to watch rugby.”

Odd as it may seem, despite the 1970s being days of football hooliganism and violence, I remember Yeovil as a civil place. It’s a pity that some fans have lost their manners.



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