Yeovil Town. Or, as Russell Slade prefers to call them, the little club with the mighty big heart.
Sheffield United will discover exactly how big when they face Gary Johnson’s side in the first leg of their League One play-off semi-final at Bramall Lane tonight.
The visitors might not boast the profile, prestige or pulling power enjoyed by their opponents. But as Slade, the Leyton Orient manager explained, folk under-estimate them at their peril.
“Yeovil’s biggest strength is that they make the most of what they’ve got,” Slade, who spent nearly three seasons in charge of United’s latest opponents, told The Star.
“When I was down there I had a few of little sayings that I used and that one about heart was among them.
It’s a small town surrounded by villages, fields and cider farms. But what I did, and what Gary is doubtless doing too, is turn all of that into a positive.
“The squad tend to spend a lot of time at the stadium because there aren’t too many other places for them to go. But what that does is create a really strong spirit and they’re a team in every sense of the word.”
Those qualities were in evidence when Yeovil, who stage the return in Somerset next week, overcame Nottingham Forest in the end of season knockouts six years ago despite losing the opening leg 2-0 at home.
“We made sure the boys knew that, so long as there was only one goal in it entering the last 10 minutes, that Forest would wilt under the pressure of the home crowd,” Slade said. “There was and they did.
“We ended-up winning 5-2 and 5-4 on aggregate.
“In extra time, there was only ever going to be one winner because we were positive and had passed Forest to death.”
Slade also boasts an intimate knowledge of United and, having risen to prominence there as a coach during the late 90s, detailed the pitfalls which could await his former employers unless they “press, press and press.”
“Gary’s attitude, I’m sure, will be to score more goals than United,” Slade said. “
And by that I mean he’ll be just as happy if it’s 3-2 as a tight, cagey game.
“Of course United can win this. They’ve overcome Yeovil already and can do it again.
“What you can’t do against Yeovil is just stand off them though. Don’t think ‘we’re better players’ because they’ll run all day.”
United triumphed 1-0 at Huish Park in September before being beaten by Yeovil in front of their own supporters four months later. Orient, who finished a place outside of the play-offs, won two and lost one of their three encounters with Johnson’s charges having knocked them out of the JP Trophy earlier this year.
“When we went back in the JPT we adapted our game because of the pitch there,” Slade said. “It wasn’t the best and in the league we didn’t cope with it as well as we should but we learned.
“That what (manager) Chris (Morgan) and the rest of the United lads will be doing now; looking and learning from previous matches with Yeovil.”