Pratt, Champions and Scotland Yard - 1929-30

The hallowed turf of Huish didn't get much restbite in the summer of 1929, a carnival was organised on the pitch, including a baby show, firework display, fancy dress - won by Red Riding Hood and a tug of war won by Bradford Abbass. The day topped off by a caveman football match. To cap it all off a motor cycling gymkhana was also held during the summer which guaranteed ' three hours of thrills and spills'. 

The AGM, held in the changing rooms, revealed another working loss of £140, something that the committee were quite happy with as it was the smallest working loss for quite a few years, despite the disastrous previous season. Attendances had dropped to an all time low of an average of 1600 and when striker Campbell left and a few days later leading scorer Bob White go the Wolves, public criticism of the club was rife.

With Tommy Lowes disappointing one and only season in charge now over, it was time to start afresh. A new man was needed, a man with pedigree on the pitch at the highest level and more importantly with contacts, the club found a Pratt, David Pratt.

Thirty-six year old Scotsman, David Pratt had a fine if undistinguished pedigree behind him. Starting out his professional career with Celtic and then Liverpool and Bury. A defender by nature, he had come to the end of his career and saw Yeovil as a stepping stone into higher management, a man who was seriously ambitious and with contacts all over. 

Pratt, went straight into action, most of the dead wood from the previous season were not offered contracts and Scotland and the North of England would become the club's hunting ground. Starting with an advert in the northern and Scottish press. 

The advert showed immediately David Pratt's attck minded footballing philosophy. With the country in a deep recession, the previous enticement of part time football and job thrown in was gone, there were no jobs. Any new players would be signed on as full time professionals again raising the finances by £50 a week. Pratt's first signing was a player he knew well, fellow Scotsman Tom McNeil, a 23 year old striker from Liverpool. 

Tom McNeil

The Scottish contingent was growing by the day, winger John Barclay from Accrington and previously Dundee was signed. Right back, Samuel Cheetham was signed from Bradford City, another coming to the close of his career, however would be an influential during the sea
Samuel Cheetham 

Signings were happening on a daily bases as a complete overall of the team was taking place. Glaswegian, Right-half Jimmy Logan was signed on after spending the  vast majority of his career at Plymouth Argyle. 

Jimmy Logan

Two more players were added just before the season started William 'Billy' Whitehead and Albert Bloxham, an outside right who although only 24 years old had had a career that had taken him from Torquay United to Raith Rovers, where Yeovil acquired him. Bloxham going on to be a crowds favourite. 

Albert Bloxham

With this mixed bag or journeyman footballers and youth, Yeovil kicked off the season with a Southern League match at home to old adversaries Taunton Town, a club also finding finances tight. On a boiling hot late August Saturday in front of over 3000 at Huish  both sides fought out a 1-1 draw. The Glovers goal coming from Tom NcNeil, a screamer of a shot after a perfect pass from Bloxham. For the Yeovilians in the crowd it must have been like watching a different team, as only two players from the previous season started. The Yeovil line up for the first game for the 1929-30 season being :

Rogers, Bill Day, Samuel Cheetham, Jimmy Logan, David Pratt, Tom Parkin, Albert Bloxham, Patrick McDade, Billy Whitehead, Tom NcNeil, John Barclay

After opening the Western League campaign with a fine 3-1 away at Exeter City reserves, Lovells Athletic came to Huish. Lovells's striker James Gardner was given a warm welcome by the Glovers's fans who well remembered his fine performances in a green shirt before his departure to Bristol Rovers. Gardner showing that he still had class by scoring a hat-trick. It wasn't enough though. Albert Bloxham also scoring three for Yeovil as they ran out 5-3 winners. 

James Gardner given a warm welcome back at Huish. 

The FA Cup came around again, Yeovil hoping to have an easier time of it then the previous season where replay after replay had evolved into extreme match catch-up. Their first hurdle would be away to Gloucestershire league side Kingswood. David Pratt, seeing the tie as a foregone conclusion resting some players after playing four games in twelve days. The decision nearly backfired as Yeovil just managed to scrape home 3-2. Two of the goals coming from Tulley, a previous seasons reserve player who later went on to play for both Street and Frome Town. 

So far, after the first eight matches the Glovers had gone unbeaten and although hardly setting the world alight were battling out draws and victories. The first trip of the season to Wales, saw them pitted against Barry. Barclay and NcNeil put Yeovil in the driving seat early in the first half, the 2-0 lead looking to be extended easily. However, Barry turned their attention to a hard physical game and Rogers in the Yeovil game was injured and taken off, leaving the Glovers one player down and an outfield keeper. It came as no surprise when Barry raced into a 5-2 lead. The third goal seeing Barry charge the substitute keeper into the net, ball and all! 

Ebbw Vale travelled to Huish for the next round of the FA Cup. Albert Bloxham, fast becoming the fans favourite had picked up an injury in the brutal match with Barry. George Jones from Southport drafted in to replace him on trial. It looked like an early cup exit as 'Vale' went in at half time one-up. The Glovers fought back with two late goals both from Billy Whitehead. Jones was let go after five matches after failing to impress. The victory gave Yeovil an away match at Weston-super-Mare, the Seagulls then plying their trade in the Bristol and Somerset local leagues. With the then FA Cup rules given first out of the hat choice of venue, Weston immediately opted for the payday and switched the match to Huish. Payday was well earnt as a good crowd saw them put up a good fight before going down 5-0, with even old defensive stalwart Jimmy Logan getting on the scoresheet. 

Yeovil continued playing fine fast flowing football which after the previous season gave the football loving public of the town plenty to crow about. After Weston, a fine 3-1 win at Bath City was followed up with the 'performance of the season' against a strong Swindon Reseve side. Bloxham being unstoppable down the wing as the Glovers destroyed Swindon 4-0. 

In November, it came as a shock that we'll loved secretary Ernest Sercombe was stepping down after twenty-three years. . Ernest had previously been a player and then secretary all the way back to the Pen Mill days a job he did then in an honourable (not paid) position. A man who was respected in his thoroughness in his job, his good manners and hard work. Resigning in mid-season and with immediate affect no doubt caused rumours to fly, especially from a man so meticulous in his work ethic. Within a few days it was announced that David Pratt would also take over the role of Player-Manager with secretary responsibilities. 

Ernest Sercombe 

Barry was again visited this time for a difficult third qualifying round of the FA Cup match. In the first half the Glovers were sublime. With both sides trying to play fast attacking football, Barry were no match to the Glovers. By half time they were two up with goals from Bloxham and McDade. Barry decided in the second half that if they couldn't match Yeovil with passing and speed they'd go the route one way. It worked! An ariel bombardment quickly saw Barry on equal terms with two in two minutes. Yeovil kept to their 'scientific' play and regained the lead with McDade getting his second. Barry kept to their route one approach, again it paid off. Two goals in the last six minutes sent the Welshmen in the crowd wild and Yeovil heading back to South Somerset out of the FA Cup. 

William 'Bill' Johnson, had a fine pedigree, just two years earlier he had kept goal for Aston Villa in the first division before being sold to Charlton Athletic. David Pratt decided a new keeper was needed and Johnson fitted the bill and he arrived to take over between the sticks. Bill came and kept goal for Yeovil for the next couple of seasons until moving to Taunton Town. Unfortunately after retiring to Yeovil, through injuries received from playing, Bill became registered blind and  also became a firm supporter of the club. 

William 'Bill' Johnson 

Results continued to be a mix bag, however all could see that Pratt was slowly putting together a more than capable side full of attacking force. This came to the front when Bristol City reserves arrived at Huish at the end of November. City Reserves, always a nemisis for the Glovers were torn apart in a performance that was described as 'artistry'. City taken an early lead by then Yeovil with their now accustomed fast pace attack ran out winners 6-2. Yeovil also giving a debut to William Carr Porter, a Cambridge graduate who had taking up a teaching position in the town who added brains to the squad. 

Christmas morning saw Yeovil arrive at Prior Park, Taunton to be confronted with the worst pitch most had ever seen. Massive pools of water lay in places and where water wasn't seen it was just thick deep Somerset mud. Over 1400 witnessed a match where passing along the ground became impossible. In a farce of a match, Yeovil managed to take the lead with a first time McNeil shot in the box, which was becoming his trade mark. Midway through the second half Taunton were awarded a controversial penalty for hand ball which the Yeovil players disputed strongly. Finally Burrows the Taunton forward stepped up, and inexplicably kicked it along the muddy ground and the ball trickled slowly to Bill Johnson in the Yeovil goal. Some may say it wasn't a good Christmas for Burrows, he was married the next day. As Burrows was exchanging his wedding vows, his team mates were being torn apart at Huish in front of over 4000. A  performance that again highlighted the attacking intent  of Pratt's team. Billy Whitehead adding to his growing reputation with a hatrick in a 5-0 hammering, the only surprise being it wasn't more. 

With the increased crowds flocking to Huish to see this attractive football and without the added expense of Reserve football, the club announced that they had wiped off the overdraft at the Bank. Although, worryingly, many league sides had announced that the next season they would not be entering their reserve sides into the Southern league. The upshot being it would deny Yeovil with lucrative fixtures and a reduced fixture list the following season. Decisions had to be made. 

Another striker was signed on in January, Fred Western arrived from Merthyr Town, to booster an already lethal front line  While another striker was arriving a former striker was departing . Frank Clinker was a forward in the early day's of Yeovil Casuals, making his debut in 1904. He'd passed away! Frank, had risen to Detective Inspector at New Scotland Yard in London before his death. His passing being commemorated by a muffled bell at the Scotland Yard offices as all stood hats off. 

The new decade of 1930 opened with Yeovil going through January undefeated, Fred Western coming in for praise as he scored his first goal against Torquay reserves in a hard fought 3-2 victory. Rumours had been flying around of players being scouted by other clubs and Yeovil looking to financially capitalise on this. David Pratt, coming out strongly in the press to deny any such rumours. 

The unbeaten run which had lasted seven games came to an end at Ashton Gate, where Bristol City reserves scored in the last few minutes to win by a solidarity goal. However a week later Yeovil gained revenge on Barry, who had beaten the Glovers twice earlier in the season. The match report voicing that Bloxham was not at his best but still scored to add to Billy Whitehead's brace. 

By now a Western League and Southern league double looked distinctly possible. With the Western League only having eight teams, fourteen matches in total for each side. When Plymouth Argyle Reserves arrived at Huish, the Glovers were sitting on top with just four games to play. Argyle a close third. The Glovers display in the two-nil win was described as "'faultless with not a weak link in the team'. The result putting Yeovil within touching distance of Western League glory. 

The committee had made the not unsurprising decision to resign from the weakened Southern League the following season. A conclusion had been made to join the London Combination league Division two. A league with a name that didn't quite fit the bill, only one London side would be in the league. However it would give the Glovers new teams to compete against, especially in the South East. 

Two away defeats in five days realisticslly put paid to any thoughts of Southern League success. The first at Ebbw Vale saw a fine defensive Yeovil performance destroyed with the Welshman scoring with the very last kick of the match. A few days later at Eastville, saw Bristol Rovers Reserves edge a 4-2 win in a game that ended with both sets of players at each others throats and the referee cautioning two Glovers players. Yeovil avenging the Ebbw Vale defeat a week after their loss on Wales in a four-nil victory at Huish. 

All eyes were on the Western League, the next game saw the Glovers away at Home Park to face Argyle reserves. A win would give the club the Western League championship. The Supporters club arranged their annual day out at Plymouth  to coincide with the match. Over 400 Fans making the journey. A crowd of 5000, a record attendance for a reserve match at Plymouth, witnessed Yeovil put on a display that would have 'tested many third division sides'. Bloxham on the wing again being at times unplayable. Tom McNeil scored after 25 minutes to put the Glovers in front and they never looked like conceding. A second from McNeil, a quick turn and shot, 20 minutes from time sealed the victory and the championship. After the match the Glovers's fans were entertained by the Argyles supporters club. For Yeovil they'd gone from being bottom of the Western League the year before to now league champions, it was some turnaround. 

Somerset rivals, Bath City had also been having a fine season, although their success was more in the prestigious Southern League. A week after their success at Plymouth, Yeovil travelled to Lambroke, Bath City's stadium. A ding ding match watched by a large crowd saw Yeovil playing nice touch and go football resulting in Whitehead and a brace from Fred Western giving the Glovers a well deserved 3-2 victory. 

Bath City's picturesque Lambroke Ground in around 1910 before moving to Twerton Park. 

As was per usual, a hurriedly arranged dinner and dance was organised to celebrate silverware glory. Ernest Sercombe was presented with a grandmother clock as a thank you for his loyal service. As a recognition for how he had turned around the fortunes on and off the pitch, David Pratt was presented with a framed photo of the team. A team he had built. 

April arrived the last month of the season and with April came the usual non stop round of matches at Easter, this time three matches in four days. If the Glovers were tired they weren't showing it, scoring thirteen goals and conceding just once. Exeter City reserves beaten 4-0 at St James Park in front of a good following of Yeovil fan's in the crowd. Three days later, Exeter again were torn apart by the speed of the Yeovil forwards, going down 5-1. In between these games Torquay United arrived in the final Western league match of the season. The 4-0 victory assisted by a Tom NcNeil hat trick was secondary . The highlight was the presentation of the Western League trophy to David Pratt. Who on speaking put the success down to a wonderful team spirit and the loyalty of the players. 

The season ended with two prestigious friendlies. First up, Second Division Tottenham Hotspur arrived with their full squad, including English international Jimmy Dimmock. Over 6000 turned out to see an exciting match with Spurs running out winners 6-4. 

Jimmy Dimmock, Tottenham and England 

Another 5000 turned up at Huish two days later to watch Leicester City at Huish. Although the reality it being mostly a Leicester City reserve side. Again an exciting match saw Yeovil come back from 4-1 down at half time to fight back however eventually again losing 6-4.

With that the season was over. Dave Platt had jigsawed together one of Yeovil's finest ever teams. A team that played extensive one touch combined with speedy attackers. Could he keep the team together? Or would David Pratt's ambition see him away at the first chance. These were the questions in most of the Huish faithfuls mind during the summer. Whatever happened though, Pratt had given the club it's pride back. 

Happy days! 


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