Great Yarmouth Town manager Mike Derbyshire believes December will be a vital month in the Thurlow Nunn….
….League First Division and could reveal much about where his side will finish this season.
The Bloaters play five times in the run-up to, and during, the festive period and Derbyshire thinks that by the New Year, he will know a lot more about what he can expect from his young squad this campaign.
“We’ve not done badly so far,” he said, “but now it’s time to find out just what we’re capable of. We are a very young side but then, we’ve been a very young side for some months now. Bringing in experienced players was never going to be easy on our budget but to my mind, it isn’t always age that brings experience anyway – simply playing brings experience. Teenagers and young men grow-up fast when they have to compete at this level week in, week out.
“And these lads have done a lot of growing up, believe me.”
His team begin their December fixtures with a home game against Brightlingsea Regent on Saturday. They then travel to play Ipswich Wanderers on the 8th before they are back at The Wellesley to face March Town United on the 15th.
Yarmouth end the month with games against two of their Norfolk rivals, Swaffham Town at home and Downham Town away, during the Christmas week.
“Christmas is always regarded as a key period in football because of the number of fixtures each team plays. But the reason I see this whole month as so important in that there are fifteen points at stake, with just seven points currently separating us from third place in the table and it is a chance for us to position ourselves nicely in the chasing pack.”
So does that mean the Yarmouth manager sees a return to the Premier Division at the first time of asking as a genuine possibility? “In truth, stability was always the ‘aim of the game’ if you like for 2012/13,” he admits, “but now, I’m beginning to think we might look to achieving a little more than that. We’re in mid-table at the moment and from where we’ve come, I suppose that will be looked on as success.
“However, I’d certainly like to believe that we’re capable of a top-six finish and of course, promotion will always be our main aim. Indeed at the start of the season, my main aim was to win the division. You have to aim high, even if that means falling short. I just don’t believe in setting easy targets.”
Of the teams above Yarmouth in the First Division table at the moment, only the runaway leaders Newmarket Town and Cambridge University Press (CUP) have inflicted defeats on them. And both of those games were the tightest of affairs, with stoppage-time goals deciding each contest.
The Bloaters have lost just twice in the league since September 8th and a good December could see them very handily placed.
All this is a welcome change from the dark days of last season when Yarmouth suffered one of the worst campaigns in the club’s long history – beset by financial problems and with its very existence on the line.
When Derbyshire took over the first-team manager’s role two months into last season, the Bloaters were pointless at the foot of the Premier Division and without a win to their name in league or cup.
This was followed shortly after by the complete withdrawal of a playing budget and at one stage, the club was even unable to fulfil a first-team fixture.
The Bloaters’ boss won a lot of plaudits for sticking with a job that many people viewed as nigh-on impossible. But despite the fact that Yarmouth did, ultimately, succumb to relegation from the Premier Division last May, the ‘green shoots of recovery’ were already evident.
The club’s board had worked hard to secure a new, long-term sponsor in local firm DSL and on-pitch, a focus on youth was beginning to pay dividends.
In fact, there has been something of a mini-revolution on the playing side of the club in these last fourteen months, with changes to the management teams at all levels.
This season has also seen the initiation of a very successful youth development programme at Yarmouth which promises a bright and, more importantly, sustainable future. And Derbyshire is adamant that this was the guiding principle behind any changes the new regime undertook. “That was what mattered far more than anything else – the future of the club.
“Things have been tough here, that’s an open secret, but thanks to the hard work of many, many more people than myself, we’ve come through it.
“The question now is – can we push on?”