TWISTS AND TURNS
GARY HOPES YEOVIL HAVE THEIR OWN WINDASS MOMENT
IT is five years since Dean Win- dass swung a chunky right leg and broke Gary Johnson’s heart.
Five years since the veteran’s stunning Wembley volley sent Hull to the Premiership, leaving Johnson and his Bristol City side shattered on the Wembley turf.
Yet while the memory still hurts, the 57-year-old reckons Windass was always fated to be the hero – and he is now using the striker’s tale to inspire his Yeovil side to a remarkable place in the Championship.
Second favourites for the drop in August, the Glovers finished fourth in League One and last weekend saw off Yorkshire giants Sheffield United in the play-off semis to book a Wembley showdown against Brentford.
And Johnson – who led Yeovil from the Conference to League One in his first stint at Huish Park – is urging his troops to believe promotion is already written.
“There’s a story that unfolds in all play-off games,” said Johnson. “I’ve shown the boys the story of my play-off semi at Bristol City, when we beat Crystal Palace.
“Unfortunately for us, the real story that year was Dean Windass, who scored the winning goal against us at Wembley.
“Looking back, it was all in the script. It was all about him – his age, him being a Hull fan, it being perhaps his final game. He was the local boy who won promotion to the Premiership – what’s a better story than that?
“Now we have to believe it’s scripted for us. We’ve told the lads loads of great play-off tales from down the years, and given them a few scenarios about how it’s meant to be for us. I suppose you could call it ‘storytime motivation’.”
Should Yeovil – whose aver- age gate is just over 4,000 – win at Wembley they would be arguably the smallest side ever to play in the Championship.
“I think it’ll probably make the Guiness Book of records if we make it,” laughs Johnson. “The smallest budget ever! Can you imagine some of the Championship teams coming here? We’d have to give them the whole of Huish Park!”
As such, Johnson is well aware that the match could well represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a club more used to battling relegation.
“That is something we’ve talked to the lads about,” he admits. “We said ‘As players, you might never get another chance to get into the Championship. And Yeovil as a club may never get another chance’.
“Of course, that’s not definite. But the fact is that they are as near as they’ve ever been and may ever be.
“So we have to seize the moment.That’s what I ask them to do in games and that’s what I want them to do at Wembley. And this seems to be our moment.”
Defeated 1-0 at Bramall Lane in the first-leg, Yeovil bounced back to win 2-0 at a euphoric Huish Park, Ed Upson snatching victory with an 85th minute header.
“We always wanted the second leg at home because we knew that, with a full house at a tight ground, the pressure would be on them,” say Johnson.
“And in a way, being behind made it easy for us.When it’s 0-0 or you’re 1-0 up, it’s easy to think ‘Well what do we do?’ At 1-0 down, you know exactly what’s required. You have to go for it from the off. Luckily for us it all went to script.”
Johnson, who returned at the end of last season, has received plenty of plaudits for transforming Yeovil’s fortunes, but the Londoner says he couldn’t have done it without assistants Darren Way and Terry Skiverton, both of whom played under him.
“What they do is increase my influence three fold,” he explains. “We all think alike so nobody can get away with anything with us three around.
“I know that if Terry or Darren has said something, it’s come straight from the Gary Johnson handbook of psychology and motivation. Because they’ve had that for five years as players and they’ve carried it on into coaching. It’s like having two mini-me’s, only in Skivvo’s case not so mini!”
Of course, Yeovil aren’t the only ones who will feel that fate is on their side. Having missed out on automatic promotion thanks to a missed penalty, opponents Brentford made it to Wembley after a 5-4 shoot-out victory over Swindon, scoring each of their spotkicks.
“Uwe’s done a great job after what happened on the last day,” says Johnson. “That would take some motivation and credit to them all for surviving that experience.
“To then come back and settle both legs – both legs – on penalties is amazing. There’s another story being written. Our job is to make sure we ruin the fairytale ending.”
ON OUR WAY TO WEMBLEY: Gary Johnson celebrates with players and fans. Inset: Ed Upson celebrates his winning goal in the semi-final