The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE PLAY-OFF FINAL - By Chris Dunlavy

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.”

PIC­TURE: Pin­na­cle

ON OUR WAY TO WEM­B­LEY: Gary John­son cel­e­brates with play­ers and fans. Inset: Ed Up­son cel­e­brates his win­ning goal in the semi-fi­nal

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.