Interview: Yeovil Town’s Jamie Sherwood and Annie Heatherson

There has been much publicity of the rollercoaster journey that Yeovil Town have been on in the last couple of years. After clinching promotion to the WSL1 as WSL2 champions, they currently participate in the National League South after relegation from the WSL following the club going into administration. After a tough summer and start to the season the club have re-appointed Jamie Sherwood as manager. Under Jamie’s leadership Yeovil have strengthened and are unbeaten in 2020 winning all of their five games. I have been fortunate enough to speak with Jamie and club captain Annie Heatherson.  

Welcome back to the club Jamie. Is it almost like you’ve never been gone?
Jamie: This is home, this club has always had my heart and my energy and to be back on my touchline is the best feeling. To be lucky enough to have another opportunity to push, develop and importantly to re-establish this club back where it belongs is a special role, job and responsibility and one I relish!

In what way is the club familiar to when you’ve left and are there elements that are different?
Jamie: There are always different elements when a club goes through changes, the club has seen some staffing and player changes over the past couple of years but what is pleasing is the hunger, passion and appetite to achieve for this club. The ethos remains the same to develop players, staff and the club to be ready for every challenge in front of them but the difference this time is that we are starting afresh…. new energy from top to bottom and bottom to top…this energy is crucial to return us back to where we feel this club belongs.

How does it feel to have Jamie back at the club? How important is it to have someone of Jamie’s experience onboard as Yeovil move forward?
Annie: It’s been amazing to have Jamie back personally as Jamie was the original manager to bring me out of retirement and help me love the game again. We can all agree that Yeovil have been through some tough times recently and Jamie coming back is helping this club reconnect with who we are again. Trust me it’s still going to be bumpy but we are in great hands.

Photos: Lee Collier Photography

Do you agree that after the difficult year it was vital that the club got this appointment right?
Annie: 100%. This club needs someone who sets standards and works harder than the players and also is driven to want to get Yeovil back where it belongs.

Now that you are in post, what have you been most impressed by?
Jamie: What has impressed me is the unwavering support that the players and the club receive… I’ve always felt that our support base has given us that extra yard, extra leap and extra strength in a 50/50 battle and that is what has impressed me the most is the supporter’s loyalty and continue positive backing of the club!!!

How have you been following the club since you left? It must have been heartbreaking to see the struggles of last year?
Jamie: I’ve always reiterated that fundamentally I am a supporter of this club and again I’m lucky enough to be in a position to guide it back to the top tiers of the women’s game but to watch the treatment the club, players and staff received over the last 18-24 months has been gut-wrenching and heartbreaking as I know more than most what every individual associated to the club has given the club in its fight whether that has been a financial backing, personal investment or pure sacrifice of time away from their families…..it’s been difficult and everyone should recognise what that has done to our former groups that have been associated and it’s all part of the fabric that now surrounds the club and will continue to wrap itself around the beliefs of everyone involved now!!!

Photo: Isabelle Field @SouthamptonFC

What is your fondest memory about the 2015/16 season which saw you gain promotion to the WSL1?
Jamie: There are many memories of that special and magical season…. such as giving Kelly Snook her debut in a FA Cup third tie at home and knowing that after the first 10 minutes she’s ready as a 16-year-old to play a huge part of the season.

Other memories include standing in the middle of Huish Park after beating Everton 1-0 with the staff and saying very quietly – We will win the league but saying ‘sssh’ it’s a secret!

Another moment that not many know about…. final game vs Sheffield 82nd minute I walked off the touchline actually went and stood outside Huish Park and listened for 1 minute to the noise generated by the supporters that day…. that moment then made even more special as I walked back in Trevor Jenkins, former GM, walked back down the tunnel together knowing we’ve achieved what we knew we could!!

So many moments, so many memories and so many stories from that time – Special!

Photo: @sa_wiltshire7

How have you found the season so far?
Annie: This season or the last 12 months have probably been the hardest part of my career. Having a club, you love so much go through what we went through was personally hard. I committed my life to Yeovil and to a point we lost that Yeovil feel. Starting back at the bottom and having to work our way up is hard to come to terms to but what makes it worse is knowing I’m at the end of my career so I probably won’t see very more highs from here.

Photos: Mike Halford

Who are the young guns that we should be keeping our eye on over the season?
Annie: Wow this part to me is the most exciting part. We currently have a solid connect with our youth system and I got to be honest I’m glad I’m getting ready to retire. We have established youth like TJ and Charlotte but players like Tia, Jaz, Connie, Keeley, Ellie-Mae, and Jenna. Jenna Markham, this 16-year-old has a born talent in front of goal, grounded and hardworking. The games she has played she has impacted by either scoring or setting up a goal. Speed that makes me look like a tortoise and a desire to want to do the best for her team mates.

You’ve bolstered the squad with signings of Chloe Lloyd, Jordan Guard, Sydney Hinchliffe and on the coaching side of things, Grant Kalahar. How have they all been settling in?
Jamie: When a new manager (not sure if I’m new) comes in they always look at what is needed and then use their abilities to develop areas that need strengthening and I felt on the playing staff we needed some experience but not just experience but the right influences, both Chloe and Jordan have played for the club so know why it’s special and Sydney is the twin of former player Alys Hinchcliffe so again Syd knows why this club is special and the expectations of everyone involved here…they have settled in really well and I think you can tell that in their performances for the club!!

I am really pleased to bring Grant into the club, firstly he is a great friend and someone told me years ago winning with your friends is the best feeling…so friendship, trust and respect is a massive reason why Grant was the right person to join the staff and help us continue to grow in our individual roles we all have. He brings a wealth of experience, a loud voice (adding to mine) but also his attention to detail…. the fine detail of stand here, this way and do this because if x, y and z. I feel now we have a strong coaching unit with Tony (GK) Phil (1st Team Coach) along with Grant and myself mirroring our other departments, medical, performance, and administration – I believe the team on the pitch has now the best team off the pitch supporting them in every way possible.

The club have also promoted a number of young players this season. How have you found working with them so far?
Jamie: This club since I’ve known it has been all about offering opportunities and ensuring that everyone is ready to excel in this environment…the club has a huge tradition of developing its own players. In my time at the club I can name over 20 players who have played first-team football that came through our youth pathway, college programme and the Development Squad….so now I’m back it’s no different…. the younglings bring a youthful attitude, an energy that just wants to do well and impress it also brings a new freshness to the environment but what is pleasing to see is that the values that we hold close to us as a club is displayed in the younglings coming through!!!!

The future is bright with the mix of what is going on throughout the club and I am privileged to be sitting/standing where I do and I assure everyone that has a soft spot for this club – it will continue to strive within its pursuit of the top tiers of the game…. we will be back and when we do it, it will be the most special feeling for anyone who has given their support to the club.

Photo: Sheena Booker

What is a realistic target for Yeovil Town to achieve this season?
Annie: To finish as high as we possibly can, to keep demanding a higher standard from players and staff and to become closer and more disciplined as a team. If all we this year is become closer and more connected as a squad, then I think we are on the right path. We have lost our way a little and I think we are starting to slowly come back to what Yeovil use to be. Heart, family and togetherness.

 
Stuart Barker
hellosince71@gmail.com