Darren Way is another League Two manager who is relatively unknown outside of his own club. Whilst not a one-club man, Way has spent fifteen of his twenty years in the game at Yeovil in various capacities.
Hailing from Plymouth, central midfielder Darren Way originally joined Argyle’s centre of excellence before leaving for the highly-regarded Norwich City Academy at the age of fourteen. Despite representing England at U16 level, he was released at the age of twenty without any first team appearances to his name. After brief trials with Plymouth, Bristol Rovers and Stevenage, he joined Conference side Yeovil in the summer of 2000. Yeovil had been in the Conference for three seasons without troubling the leaders and had genuine Football League ambitions. Way made his debut on the opening day of the season and went on to miss just one game as Yeovil battled with Rushden & Diamonds for the title. Two defeats in the final two games handed the championship to Rushden, and there was no play-off consolation in those days for the team finishing second. His scoring record was impressive, with twelve goals from fifty-one appearances in all competitions. Way ended a fine first season by being named in the Conference Team of the Year.
Yeovil got off to a mediocre start in 2001-02 with just three wins from their opening nine games; they recovered well to finish third, fourteen points behind champions Boston. Consolation came with a 2-0 FA Trophy final victory over Stevenage Borough at Villa Park, which represented Way’s first honour at the club. 2002-03 proved to be the greatest in Yeovil’s history as they stormed to the Conference title by a seventeen-point margin, earning the long-awaited promotion to the Football League for the first time. Way scored only once that season, in the 4-0 win at Doncaster which secured promotion. He was also called up to the England C team in November, making three appearances in total, and was named in the Conference Team of the Year for the second time.
Yeovil almost made it to the playoffs in their first season as a League club, missing out to Lincoln on goal difference. Way appeared in Yeovil’s FA Cup third round defeat to Liverpool, and Yeovil had laid down a marker which was to pay dividends the following season. On the negative side, Way picked up a stress fracture of his shin bone that was to recur throughout his career. The 2004-05 League Two title was won with a 3-0 final day win over Lincoln at Huish Park, and Yeovil were promoted to the third tier for the first time in their history. The club also reached the fourth round of the FA Cup, going down 3-2 to Premier League Charlton. Way capped a fine season by being named in the League Two Team of the Year. The club suffered a setback at the start of the 2005-06 season when manager Gary Johnson departed for Bristol City, and Yeovil struggled to stay in League One. Way departed for League One rivals Swansea in January 2006; ironically, his final game for Yeovil was a 2-0 defeat to Swansea.
His time at Swansea was badly affected by that shin injury, which recurred several times and necessitated a string of operations. After just seventeen appearances for his new club in almost two years, he was loaned back to Yeovil in November 2007 for two months in an attempt to regain match fitness. He returned to Swansea after eight appearances, but hardly featured for them again as Swansea won the League One championship. Yeovil re-signed him in the summer of 2008 in a £50,000 deal, but he was destined to play only a handful more games for them before his career was ended by a serious road accident on 17 December. Thirteen operations were needed to repair a broken left femur, broken left kneecap, a broken and dislocated right elbow, a broken and dislocated left hip, multiple fractures of his right wrist, damage to his right hand, a ruptured left bicep, deep cuts to both shins and soft tissue damage in those and lots of other areas. Despite being wheelchair-bound for many months afterwards, Way tried to regain fitness but was forced to announce his retirement from playing in February 2010 at the age of thirty. Granted a testimonial match against Manchester United in July 2010, Way finished his playing career with a very reasonable thirty-six goals from 295 appearances.