A rough guide to... Torquay United

Cod Almighty | Article

by Rich Mills

8 September 2021

Torquay United have had no time to feel sorry for themselves after missing out on promotion in the play-off final. Rich reports from Meggies with a view of the Moor

How are you?

Look at the National League this season. Other than a handful of imposters, this is almost a classic 1970s and 80s fourth division - we just need Hereford and York to join us again and we'll be happy, right? It'll be like a family wedding where we catch up with those family members who moved away a few years ago and we keep meaning to visit but never get round to it.

See, the Conference isn't so bad, is it?

Long time, no see

It's been six years since Town last played the Gulls in the Conference. Both games in the 2015-16 season ended all square but while the Mariners' season ended in promotion via the play-offs, Torquay's fizzled out after managerial changes and financial troubles.

Since then, following eventual relegation to the Conference South in 2018, things have been on the up. Paul Hurst's nemesis Gary Johnson took over in mid-September with the Gulls struggling to get going in the sixth tier and turned the club around almost overnight, eventually winning promotion back to the Conference with games to spare.

Last season ended in heartache for the Yellow Army. The season faltered after a flying start was scuppered by injuries to some key players. Promotion back to the League was still a possibility until hopes were dashed in the play-off final against Hartlepool. Some horrendous refereeing decisions ruled out two clear goals (check out the highlights on BT Sport and the reactions of commentators struggling to explain what was happening) before the team ran out of steam in a penalty shoot-out.

To make it worse, vultures were circling. Keeper Lucas Covolan was snapped up by Port Vale after a superb performance including a goal; Centre back Kyle Cameron and Midfielder Aaron Nemane were lured away by moneybags rivals Notts County and winger Ben Whitfield was snapped up by cash-happy Stockport.

How are you feeling?

A play-off hangover compounded by the loss of four key players would normally mean months of doom and gloom but due to the over-running Conference season there hasn't really been much of a break to get maudlin in, not that Johnson would allow it. New and better players were promised and he might just have pulled it off. A core squad including Conor Lemonheigh Evans, Armani Little, Joe Lewis, Dean Moxey and Danny Wright has been enhanced by some encouraging signings, the most surprising of which was Dan Holman, back from nowhere (injury, retirement and er, Dubai).

Two excellent Gulls podcasts – the Torquay United Yellow Army Podcast hosted by the local rag, and the National Obsession – aren't getting their knickers in a twist either way. What's the point? As Charlie Baker of the National Obsession always points out, the season doesn't even start until the clocks go back and it's quite possible to get promoted if a stuttering start persists until the new year before a side strings some results together.

Where are you from?

You're making the most of our traditional September summer weather aren't you? I mean, you'd be mad to just pop down for the day so you're making a long weekend of it so you have time to enjoy a bit of Devon. You know, a cream tea, fish and chips, sand, sunshine. Oh, that sounds like Meggies doesn't it? Busman's holiday, sir?

Sitting on Bristow's Bench, the all-seater stand facing the home fans Pop Side terrace, one gets a great view of the Moor but nothing really compares to wandering up there and seeing it close up – the Tors, the granite railway, the views and the ponies – so make sure you take a look. For funicular fans there's Babbacombe Cliff Railway, but a stone's throw from Plainmoor which should be on your list of places to visit.

Oh yeah, while you might be tempted by the away terrace behind the goal of the Babbacombe end, you really ought to consider a seat for this game, not just for the views but because you'll actually be able to see the game too.

For your pre-match pint there's a Wetherspoon outlet in Torquay down by the harbour if you're that way inclined; one in Paignton too, but come on, you can do better than that. Anyway, they might not have any beer or staff because the chain's owner fucked himself over by backing Brexit, the dough-faced James May look-a-likey.

You must be so sick of being reminded about that dog, Bryn

No, not at all. In fact, the Netflix documentary was just a start and the club teamed up with a local brewery to produce a commemorative brew. (And it’s not bad at all – Ale Ed.) It's a great story and on a par with lions running down Victoria Street.

Pre-match factfile

• Form
Torquay are shipping goals at an alarming rate with keeper Mark Halstead flapping à la McKeown at anything above waist height and dithering as attackers approach with the ball. Add in some defensive howlers and there's no way this game is finishing nil-nil, with both teams warming up with narrow 4-3 wins.

• Dangerman
It should be Dan Holman but he's yet to open his account to date. Maybe that ends this weekend? Danny Wright will always be a threat of course and is almost nailed on to pop up at the far post to nod one down for a team mate. Watch out for the midfield though as Hall, Evans and Little all chip in during the season.

• Ex-Town threat factor
Not one, and considering the way Town have recruited and shed bodies over the last few years then it's refreshing not to come face-to-face with a Mariners alumnus, not that the majority would ever be considered a threat.

• Rivalometer
Too far away to ever seriously upset each other, there's no real rivalry. And don't take offence if the Pop Side sings you dirty northern bastards at some point in the game because to your average Devon local, pretty much everyone's a northerner. They'd even direct it at Exeter or Yeovil.