My Team & I: Torquay United


By Ben Mayhew

Twitter: @GreenwichGull

Why Torquay?

Purely for reasons of geographical loyalty: the Gulls are the closest club to my home town and the first team I ever saw in the flesh. The Westcountry is hardly a renowned hotbed of football success and a lot of people end up overlooking their local club to follow a top flight side, but I could never get excited about the bigger teams.

Favourite Player?

Most of the club’s stars understandably tend to move on to greater things (they get to fulfil their potential and the transfer fees help to balance the books), but one who stayed the course in my lifetime (and set a new club appearance record in the process) was Kevin Hill: a versatile left-sided player who always had time for the fans and gave his all for the club. More recently, veteran midfielder Chris Hargreaves’ work ethic and leadership inspired us back to the Football League and his tremendous strike in the Play Off Final was the richly deserved icing on the cake for a model professional. I just wish he were a few years younger as we’re clearly missing his presence in midfield.

Favourite Game?

It’s tough to separate our two Play-Off Final victories in my lifetime, both of which I attended. The former, at the old Wembley against Blackpool in 1991, was a dramatic encounter that went to penalties and was seminal in cementing my affinity with the club as a young fan (see ‘Favourite moment’ below). The latter was in 2009 against Cambridge at the new Wembley, which we won with two cracking goals to return to the Football League. The atmosphere at both games was fantastic, but I think the Blackpool match just about edges it as it blew my mind to experience such an intense match at a young age.

Favourite Strip?

Playing in yellow generally results in more eye-catching kits than most teams can muster, but my favourite was our unique blend of yellow and white vertical stripes in the 90s. It was the first replica kit I ever had and I wore it until long after the sponsor’s logo fell off (although it always looked better on Helen Chamberlain)!

torquay orion strip

Best Thing About Supporting Torquay?

I always love supporting the underdog, which is usually the default setting for a Torquay fan! It makes every success all the sweeter for its unexpected nature. Something which goes for any small club is how close you can get to the action – the layout of Plainmoor in particular means that I can stand virtually next to Paul Buckle if I want to. Have you seen the size of his watch?

buckle surveys his charges

Worst Thing About Supporting Torquay?

The fact that the club is so far away from almost everywhere else! Firstly, this makes away trips gruelling for players and fans alike, so our form and support on the road tends to suffer. Secondly, the Westcountry is famously bereft of big clubs that we’d otherwise be able to scoop up rejects from, and our relative isolation from any city of note (Note the subtle dig at Exeter and Plymouth) makes it difficult to attract players to the area.

Favourite Moment?

It has to be our Division 3 Play Off Final victory over Blackpool in 1991, which we won on penalties to gain a rare promotion to the 3rd tier. I was 11 years old at the time and still quite new to football. Plainmoor was the only ground I knew, so to suddenly turn up at (the old) Wembley for such a crucial match blew my fragile little mind. After a torrid 2-2 draw, we walked down to the side of the pitch to watch the penalty shoot out. The kicks went to sudden death and produced a uniquely surreal memory when Gareth Howells (our keeper) calmly slotted home. The elation of watching their top scorer Dave Bamber shank the following kick wide to send us up was punctuated by me being lifted up in the air and whirled around by an ecstatic nearby fan to cap an unforgettable experience.

Worst Moment?

The manner of our relegation to the Blue Square Premier in 2007 really rankled because of the behind-the-scenes chaos that contributed to it. We’d escaped demotion so many times over the years that you could argue we’d used up our 9 lives (ask any Stevenage fan about 1996), but going through 5 managers in 2 seasons is rarely a formula for stability. The farce continued after our relegation, when former boss Leroy Rosenior was reappointed only to be apologetically sacked a record-breaking 10 minutes later! This whole debacle came hot on the heels of another upsetting moment in 2005 when our unsurprising relegation back to the fourth tier was made all the more unbearable by our being pipped to safety by the repulsive MK Dons franchise.

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