After surprising everyone and defying the odds to gain promotion from the National League, we were ready to do the same again in League 2. Looking at the teams in this division I fancy our chances at another strong season. But we must recruit and improve this team, so we have a big summer ahead. Before we’ve even kicked a ball the experts are predicting we’ll finish 20th. We’d like to think we’re better than a 20th place finish but you never know what can happen. Off the field we were able to secure a Senior Affiliate club in the shape of Blackburn Rovers. Hopefully we can bring in some promising youngsters on loan with no fee or wage contribution involved. The board have also agreed to increase our junior coaching budget, a small step toward improving the academy of this club.
There was a lot of work to be done in order to improve and bolster the squad. A times last season we really felt the detrimental effect of having a thin squad, and now with 7 subs available and 5 to use, games may often be decided from the bench so strength in depth is key. The first bit of business we were able to complete was to bring in youngster Kieron Evans on a permanent deal. We know exactly how good this kid is after last season and Evans could well be our key player this season.
Next through the door was Idowu on a free transfer. We needed some talent in the midfield and Idowu certainly provides that. A player with good mental and technical ability, he is exactly what we were looking for and we’ve done very well to bring him in for nothing. His versatility in midfield roles was also a huge selling point for us as if we need to change the way we play, Idowu can always slot into the midfield whichever role we choose for him.
We were desperate for someone to come in at Right Back and we dipped into the loan market to secure the signing of Rushesha. I always like my full backs to have good physical attributes and Rushesha certainly fits the bill. He’ll be able to get up and down the wing comfortably and with decent crosses we’re hoping he can provide a fair few assists over the course of the season.
Up next is a nod to the future of this club. Young David Robson will has come in on a free transfer and has a lot of room to develop at the age of just 21. We’ll throw him straight into the starting 11 in order to expose him to game time and a few years down the line we may be able to make some decent profit on him.
Next in was another signing for the future. Centre Back Oliver Tipton joined us standing at 6 foot 3. Only 19 so once again there’s plenty of room for development and with his height and jumping reach we may be ablet o get a fair few goals out of him from set pieces. He also has great penalty taking attributes, so he could well be the leagues highest scoring defender.
Our final key signing of the summer was Tyler Roberts who had been released from Wolves. Looking at him I’m fairly surprised we’ve managed to bring him in to the club. I honestly feel like Roberts could blow this league away and become a bit of a Torquay United legend. The fact he looks a bit like Post Malone is very pleasing as well. At just 19, we’ll work with him and certainly try to improve his work rate and some of other mental attributes but for now he fits us like a glove.
Our business in the market wasn’t yet complete as we needed back up in certain areas. We were able to bolster the squad depth with the below signings, all of whom were available on a free transfer. Overall we’d brought in 10 players and not spent a penny on transfer fees. If we have a successful season we can certainly look back at this summer of recruitment and put it down to our shrewd business in the market.
EFL And 7 Subs
So here we were, ready to take on the EFL and take the next step to glory. Pre season was good, winning 6 out of 7 friendlies, only losing to Senior Affiliate club Blackburn. Season ticket sales had increased for this season and the fans were feeling optimistic.
We were ready to go with an opening day trip to Stevenage. Something felt different at the start of this season with positivity in the air as opposed to heading into the unknown. And the positivity was apparent when we smashed 4 passed Stevenage for an opening day win. New signing Idowu picked up man of the match on his debut and we were well on our way.
We started the season in great form winning our first 4 games, scoring 11 goals and conceding one. The main victory coming at home to Oxford who had a very strong squad so this was a big result. We suffered 1 defeat in 8 games with a very poor performance at Accrington Stanley but we couldn’t grumble at the start we’d made.
After a good start to life in the EFL, October proved a stumbling block. Teams were no longer coming to attack us and had started hitting us on the counter attack. We won just 1 of 5 in October and come November we made a minor adjustment to our system. We looked like a soft touch to play against and were conceding extremely sloppy goals, so we simply moved our mentality from positive to cautious, that’s it. And with that change you’d have thought I’d revolutionised football for good.
After the change we went on a 20 game unbeaten run and looked a dead cert for promotion. After 30 games we sat on 67 points, level with Oxford who had a superior goal difference to us and 13 points clear of 4th place, so it was pretty safe to say we’d be a League One club next season. The most notable victory in this run of form came against Sol Campbell’s Crewe Alexander. Crewe at the time were top of the league and hadn’t conceded a goal in a whopping 12 games. Fair play to them, that’s some record, and this fixture looked to be a tricky one and we would have taken a draw at the time. Just 7 minutes in star boy Tyler ‘Post Malone’ Roberts breached the league’s best defence and ensured we were the first team to score against them in 12 games! That early goal set us up to really put the sword to them and we ran out 4 nil winners. A huge win, a huge performance and our very own Post Malone was looking like an absolute steal.
Away from league football we had a strong run in the FA Cup. After beating Hemel Hemstead and AFC Wimbledon in the first and second round respectively, we set up a 3rd round tie against League One side Fleetwood. We fancied our chances at home and the idea of little old Torquay in the 4th round of the FA cup really galvanised the players. We ran out 2 1 winners and progressed to the 4th round. The FA Cup can bring some good money into a club like ours, so we were delighted with the run we put together in this competition and looked forward to the 4th round draw, hoping for one of the giants of English football.
Huddersfield were struggling in the Championship, sitting 23rd and struggling to find any form at all. Looking at that we fancied another upset. And just 2 minutes into the game the upset was on the cards. Kieron Evans ran through after a long ball from Robson and slotted home from a wide angle. We were really daring to dream here and we really believed we could do this. Those dreams were shattered when Huddersfield equalised after constant pressure and eventually ran out as 4 – 1 winners. After our opening goal we really couldn’t get near them and they gave us a real hammering. To dream for those few minutes was nice but ultimately it wasn’t to be.
The Run In
From March onwards we looked unstoppable. Injuries had forced us to throw in young Oliver Tipton in at Centre Back and it was the happiest of accidents we could ask for as he really found his feet quickly and developed into a key player for us. Post Malone was banging them in on a regular basis and Kieron Evans was the assist king.
With 7 games to go we hosted Stevenage and the task was simple, win and we were promoted. And that’s exactly what we did. After a sloppy first half we really kicked into gear in the second half and romped to a 3 nil win to secure our second promotion in a row and become a League One club for the first time since 2004 / 2005. Job done. There was still a title to fight for though and we certainly didn’t want our season to fizzle out.
Our form was decent throughout April, not losing a game but drawing two and winning the remaining 2. Coming into the last day of the season we were 1 point behind leaders Oxford on 103, Oxford on 104. We needed to beat Chesterfield and hope Oxford slipped up to win the league.
We felt confident coming into the Chesterfield game that we could do our bit. But we completely bottled it. A poor, poor performance saw us slump to a 2 nil defeat and Oxford won they’re game meaning they were champions. But that would have just been icing on the cake on a 2nd season in a row where we’ve defied all the odds and let the world know we’re coming. 2 back to back promotions and a squad that was just getting stronger and stronger suggested that we could once again be in for a strong showing in League One.
A word to Oxford. To win the league with 107 points is an unbelievable achievement. For us to amass 103 points and not win the league we have to tip our hat to them. But we’ll see them next year.
Another fantastic season was under our belts. We smashed record after record for the club and the future looked bright with some of these youngsters gaining recognition come the end of the season. Tyler ‘Post Malone’ Roberts was an absolute revelation this season and I’m still shaking my head in disbelief that we managed to pick him up for free. He scored 23 in 45 games and it was clear to see he was already ready for League One and could well put up similar numbers in that division.
Kieron Evans provided assist after assist and finished the season with the most assists in the league with 22. As a team we posted up records that fans of Torquay United have never seen before. With just 5 losses all season we set the record for lowest number of league defeats and we also set the record for the highest points total for the club.
On a personal note it was a season of rewards for me, winning manager of the month multiple times and finishing the season with the Manager of the Year award. Some nice icing on the cake there to a great effort from all players and staff.
Looking forward to next season in League One and looking at the teams we’d be competing against, I honestly feel like we could be on for another strong, promotion contending season. We know how to recruit for this level and Post Malone is just getting better and better. The ‘experts’ will right us off but I’ll be disappointed if we’re not in a play off conversation next season. Another step toward building a dynasty here at Plainmoor.