Gulls to Glory

I’ve had fun over the pond in the America’s, but now it’s time to create a dynasty. 2 and a half years ago I left Torquay after living there for 28 years, so it feels only right to take them to glory. Torquay is a slow town with nothing to brag about. It tells you all you need to know when the locals got excited when it was announced we were finally getting a Gregg’s on the high street. The football team isn’t much better, spiralling down the divisions since reaching the highs of League One in 2004 / 2005. The Gulls currently find themselves in The Vanarama National League with little hope of returning back to the EFL. Until now.

I arrive at Plainmoor and I vow to be in this for the long haul. This club, this town, needs something to celebrate. There’s a lot of work to do and we’ve set some long term objectives for my time at Torquay. In order to be successful for a long period of time, we’ll need to ensure that the young players coming through are good enough to develop and sell on for big profit, but this will take a lot of time given our current level of facilities. So a focus on youth recruitment and development will be on writing but it will take a fair few years before we start seeing anything from it. A longer term objective is for the club to build a new stadium. With the plan to progress up through the leagues, soon enough a mere 6,200 won’t be adequate for the level we desire. An upgrade in facilities all round, training, youth and stadium is desperately needed for Torquay, but that can only come with success on the pitch which should bring in cash for the board to spend on these improvements.

Very Poor Development Centre

Recruitment

The first thing to take care of at the club is staff. We aren’t too bad in comparison, but there’s improvements to be made.

Staff Before
Staff After

With a transfer budget of £0, recruitment would be tough. Looking at the squad though there aren’t any glaring holes, so we’ll only need a couple of players to bolster this side and we will work with what we have. The player I have highlighted as our key man for the upcoming season is Centre Midfielder George Dowling. A tidy, technical player who can pick a pass and will be our main playmaker in the midfield unlocking opposition defences. At just 23 Dowling has a lot of room to develop.

Kieron Evans is here on loan from Cardiff and looks to be a great fit for this side. A creative player out wide who is an absolute weapon from corners and could well handle himself at this level.

Kieron Evans

We were short in the wide areas and needed a loan or a freebie from somewhere to bolster our options in these positions. Ideally we were looking for someone who could play both AML and AMR. That’s when Marcus Maddison popped up in scout reports. Now usually I avoid players who have low determination and low work rate, but I thought we’d take a chance on Maddison as his technical ability seemed to good for this division and could well be the man who would propel us into League 2. I fully understand this is a risk, but one I’m willing to take responsibility for should it go wrong.

Marcus Maddison

We also managed to sign Bobby Joe Taylor from Dorking. The selling point for me was his versatility, and at this level with very limited resources, to have someone who can play pretty much anywhere you need him to, we’d have been foolish to turn down the opportunity to sign him.

Bobby Joe Taylor

With our business in the market done and dusted, we were ready for our league campaign. Below is how we’d set up, with a cautious mentality to figure teams out and chop and change during games where necessary. I don’t know what to expect this season, we’re tipped to get relegated but I can see a mid table finish. It’ll be a season of figuring things out and if we don’t come out of this division at the first time of asking, we can look back at this season and see where we need to improve in order to become and EFL club once again.

Shape for Start of Season

Promotion Charge?

Well well well, we might be onto something here. After 10 games we find ourselves top of the league without tasting defeat, winning 7 and drawing 3. A cautious mentality hasn’t stopped us from scoring goals. 23 in our first 10 games suggests defence is the best form of attack. The squad look very capable of a promotion push this season and as of now there are no players under performing, although Maddison’s form is of slight concern. Some games he’s Neymar, others he’s, well, Marcus Maddison. Loanee Kieron Evans picked up the player of the month award for August, with 5 assist and 3 goals in his first 6 appearances.

League after 10
Strong form to start the season
Kieron Evans Player of the Month

Patchy Form

Toward the end of October our form was really starting to dip. Marcus Maddison was an absolute passenger in every game and found himself dropped, not even finding a spot on the bench. Sometimes as a manager, you have to hold your hands up and admit that you’ve made a mistake. We’ll be moving him on at the soonest opportunity to simply get him off the wage bill.

Form dipping

At the turn of the year we found ourselves top of the tree after 30 games. It was very tight though and after a dip in form we had a stint in 4th place until we made positive changes to the mentality and picked up some results to see us sit at the summit again. The bad news was that we could no longer afford any scouting. Our financial situation is absolutely dire and it’s going to be a long road ahead with little or no investment possible.

Top After 30 Games
Can’t Afford Scouting

Our form was once again alarming in January and February. We were trying all we could but nothing was clicking and we found ourselves with just 4 wins in ten games. We needed to find a solution as we were looking as if we could slip out of the play off positions and really implode.

Form in January and February

We’d lost sight of what we were so good at at the start of the season with scoring goals but keeping it tight. We’d moved our CDM into the CAM position to try and create more but that left us exposed and we were conceding goals for fun. So we took it back to basics and turned things around by bringing back our holding midfield. March saw us go unbeaten for the month but only winning once, but there were positive signs that we’d stopped the rot at the right time and we could keep our promotion push alive. With 6 games to go we were 4 points off Halifax who were top, so we had a lot to do but we needed to make sure we stayed in those play off places.

3 wins on the bounce saw us shoot up to 2nd, just one point off now leaders Chesterfield. This league was so tight that no one could really afford to slip up. 3 games to go and every game was a cup final.

1 Point off top with 3 to play

Our next game saw us beat York in a topsy turvy, hum dinger of a game which ended 4 – 3 to us. But the best result of the day for us was Chesterfield’s who lost to at home to Eastleigh. With these results we had guaranteed a play off spot and we were now 2 points clear with 2 games to go, it was all in our hands!

2 Games to go, Play Offs Guaranteed

With our current run of form we went into the game at home to Altrincham as clear favourites, and for good reason. We beat them 3 nil and we were now staring at League 2. We just needed to better or match the result of Halifax and Yeovil and we were up, back in the EFL. Our final game of the season though was against the big spenders of the league Wrexham and this wasn’t going to be easy at all.

1 game to go 1 point needed

And we’d done exactly what we needed to do. We beat Wrexham 3 – 1 on the final day to ensure promotion in our first season at the club. We’d be going up as National League Champions and with some clever recruitment in the summer, I fancy our chances in League 2.

National League Champions
National League Champs
Strong form in March and April

After a bit of a roller coaster season we are able to look back and say it was a fantastic one. A run of 11 unbeaten at the end of the season ensured us promotion and we’d taken the first step into building a dynasty. Off the field, we had an excellent youth intake with some players classed as elite talents. However, it is worth noting that as we progress through the seasons, these players in this crop will no longer be regarded as elite talents. They’re certainly not wonder kids, but we may be able to develop them and sell on for some cash for the club.

Excellent Youth Intake

Onto the Next One

An excellent, successful season sees Torquay plying their trade in the Football League once again as of next season. Scouting will be tough as the financial rewards for promotion from the National League is next to nothing, so we need to be smart once again in the market. But, I have a good feeling about what we’re doing here and we could well be onto something. Onwards and upwards.

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