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Rough guide to... Torquay United
24 June 2006
Torquay United? Who might they be?
Apart from wearing yellow, which is just a personal dislike of mine, I have no particular reason to dislike Torquay United. When I think of them I think of a small team from a small seaside town. I suspect they think of us in the same way. I think of Helen Chamberlain, the Soccer AM presenter with the fear of flying; I think of Martin Gritton, her one-time lodger; and I think of Fawlty Towers. Try Wolf Sweat.
Given that they were relegated the season before, last season was always going to be one of consolidation. And so it proved. In the end. They almost forgot where to find the handbrake and only a decent run at the death stopped them slipping out of the league altogether. They finished 20th, three points clear of the relegation places. In mid-April they sat rooted to the bottom of the table, six points adrift, but a run of 13 points from the final 15 was enough to lift them to safety.
It wasn't all bad for Torquay though. Their fans saw a bit of glory with an FA Cup run which included taking Birmingham to a reply in the third round.
And regarding their match-ups with us, we definitely got the better of the two exchanges with a nice 3-0 win at home and a 2-2 draw away. We were seconds away from a clean sweep too, before Tony Bedeau popped up to equalise in the dying moments.
Anticipate with relish
I hear Torquay's quite a nice seaside town, and Devon is general is meant to be a bit special, so why not take the family and make a weekend of it? January can be quite nice these days, what with climate change and everything.
Something else to look forward to (he says, crowbarring in a story that is too funny to leave out) is that Jo Kuffour (ex-Arsenal junior, once had a trial with us) won't be playing for Torquay next season. He was their second highest scorer last season, and I don't know if you've been following it but the details of his departure are rather amusing. It started the other week when Torquay manager Ian Atkins received a text from Jo to say that the contract deal he'd been offered was acceptable and he'd be along to the club very soon to sign on the dotted line. The reason he gave for not being able to sign right away was that he was in France. All seems OK so far, right? Torquay fans were relieved at holding on to a player with "potential" and everything seemed hunky-dory until two days later when it was announced Kuffour had put pen to paper for Brentford. Oops. Cue outrage from Torquay fans, manager and chairman, who ranted: "Another nail is hammered in the coffin of player integrity." Classic.
Oh, and Torquay are currently without a number one keeper after Andy Marriott upped sticks from between the sticks and legged it to Boston after much umming and ah-ing.
Anticipate with dread
When looking at the current Torquay squad list one name sticks out from all of the rest. That name is Paul Robinson. Yes it's that one, our ex-loanee, the one who scored a hat-trick on Black Friday, back in September 2003. Don't you just hate the curse of the ex?
The way forward
In Ian Atkins Torquay have a manager who definitely knows his way around the lower reaches of the English league. He's been there, done that, worn the promotion T-shirt. He certainly started well at Plainmoor too. It was his appointment in mid-April that inspired the team to their run of four successive wins and a draw at the death that pulled them from the brink of non-Leaguedom. It'll be interesting to see whether he can keep that form going, enhance the team and push on towards the play-offs.
My money says yes – definitely a top-half finish for Torquay next season. Much will depend, though, on convincing out-of-contract players such as ever-present Darren Garner to re-sign. They're also looking to bring last season's Chelsea loanee Danny Hollands back on a permanent basis and are involved in a four-way tug of war for highly rated ex-Villa youngster Jamie Ward.
Looking further forward, history suggests they're where they belong, having spent only two of the last 34 seasons out of the basement division. They seem on the face of it to be financially stable, though – well, as stable as any fourth division club can be today – and that is surely a firm foundation from which to build.