Luke Ayling was a crucial part of that Glovers side which magnificently marched to the Championship in 2013, and brought to you by Thatcher’s Cider, we spoke with Luke about his Gold-en moments as a Glover.
After spending his entire youth career with Arsenal, first team opportunities were hard to come-by. The full back had a major desire to get a taste of senior football, and after a phone call with Terry Skiverton, Luke ventured to Somerset for a taste of it.
“Moving to Yeovil was huge for me, I came in on a loan spell, which was more of a trial if anything. I spoke to Skivo (Terry Skiverton) and he said to come down for the last three months of the season and see how I like it, how I fit in with the boys and play a few minutes too.
“I think I did alright, I fit in quite well with the lads, and then Terry gave me a two-year deal. I was so pleased, I was 19 at the time, and I needed to play some first team football, so it was a great opportunity for me.
“Skivo was huge for me, he’s the manager that gave me my chance in football. I will always be thankful to him for that, not many managers would have taken me on trial because I wasn’t as strong or quick as other players, but Terry saw something in me, he took a gamble and I really hope I paid him back with my performances on the pitch.
“He is one of the most important people in my career, giving me a chance and just having him at the club at the time, it worked out well for me.”
In 2012/13, Yeovil Town secured promotion to the Championship for the first time in the club’s history after victory in the League One play-offs.
Luke was a vital member of the squad that season, making 47 appearances in all competitions and starting every game in the season defining play-off run, which he would describe as his Gold-en moment.
“I loved that play-off final, well it was actually that whole play-off run to be honest! The Sheffield United game before that, the home game was the most surreal experience I’ve ever had!
“We came back from their place 1-0 down, but there was no panic at all in our dressing room, which was a weird feeling looking back as we didn’t really play that well up there. But we came back and put on a really great performance, it was a baking hot day, Ed Upson really turned up, scored a goal and set one up.
“With the fans being on the pitch after, it was the first-time I’d really done something in my career. Obviously, the final was brilliant, but that home tie against Sheffield United was massive!”
To be involved in Yeovil’s most successful Football League side clearly means a lot to Luke, with the group of players possessing such a close bond, the success clearly highlights the club’s motto; ‘Achieve by Unity.’
“We had a real tightknit squad; we spent a lot of time together as there really isn’t much to do in Yeovil. Which at other clubs you don’t really get as some people live in the city, some might move out or are with families.
“Down at Yeovil, it was all young lads who lived within ten minutes of each other, so it was a fun place to come into training. Dan the Kit Man who is still at the club now, he was a massive part of our dressing room, he kept people smiling all the time.
“It was just a really great period to be involved in.”
It took some time for Luke to net his first goal for Yeovil, but when it came, it arrived in spectacular style as he found the top corner against Birmingham in the League Cup.
In recent weeks for Leeds, the full-back scored a wonderful goal against Birmingham again as the Whites stepped up their promotion charge.
“The goal for Yeovil, I just swung at it! I hadn’t scored at that point; it had really been a wait. I didn’t really know what I was doing. It was in extra time; I was knackered I just swung at it and somehow it went in!
“My celebration said everything you need to know about it, I didn’t know what to do! I just ran to the middle of the pitch with my arms up then Sam Foley stopped me.”
Throughout his career, Luke has crossed paths with some great managers, and is currently working with Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United, someone Pep Guardiola has described as ‘the best coach in the world.’
In his most successful spell with the Glovers, Luke played under Gary Johnson, someone from a vastly different background to Bielsa.
“I don’t think there is anybody quite like him (Bielsa). You can hear what Pep (Guardiola) and other great managers have said about him.
“But then Gary (Johnson) he had a great period at Yeovil with us. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but he always found a way to get the best out of me.
“He always kept me on my toes, and we had a really good spell working together. It is a brilliantly time in my career and I’m sure it’s the same for him.
“He made me a better player, he made me run more, always on the side-lines shouting ‘RUN, RUN, RUN!’ and I’d think ‘Bloody hell, I’m knackered!’ He would keep shouting it all game and he definitely improved me in that side of the game.
“So, I really thank him for the work that he did with us, to give us our chance in the Championship, for what I have gone on to do, that was really the start of it.”
Whilst playing in the Arsenal academy, Luke struck up a friendship with current Town forward Rhys Murphy.
Despite both moving on to pastures new, the pair remain friends.
“I’m very close with Murph, he’s my best friend. He’s a godparent to my children and will be best man at my wedding this year. I still speak to him every day.
“I’ve always had an eye on Yeovil’s results ever since I left, I’m a Yeovil fan now, I’ve said that in a few pieces before. They’re always the first team I look at when I come in from games. With my best mate there now, there’s obviously a bit more on it personally for me.
“He (Murphy), started really well this year, but got unlucky with the injuries he’s picked up now but from playing with Murph in the past, whenever he’s picked up inuries he has always worked hard to get back to where he wants to be. I’ve got no doubt he will come back flying.”
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