A NEW TT SERIES WHERE FANS TALK ABOUT WHO WOULD BE IN THEIR TORQUAY UNITED DREAM TEAM (PLUS SUBS AND MANAGER) – STARTING WITH NEW TT CONTRIBUTOR SAM DRUIFF…
My first game at Torquay was against Oldham Athletic in November 2004. It was the game that saw Leon Constantine score on his debut – spoiler alert – he doesn’t make my XI!
In goal it was a toss-up between two players; Andy Marriot or Bobby Olejnik. Both ended up with our neighbours 20 miles up the A380. I’m going with Bobby Olejnik, purely down to the amount of points he won for us. Olejnik was one of the first signings under Martin Ling’s leadership. Countless times on that incredible run from the turn of the year we went on, games were won 1-0 with Bobby keeping clean sheet after clean sheet. Bobby ended the season making the team of the year and his performances were enough for Peterborough to part with £300,000 to secure his services.
Right-back was a tough one because I’ve seen so few good ones at Torquay, sorry James Hurst! I’ve decided to cheat a bit with this one and use Lee Mansell. I know he hated being at right back, but he did a good job there over a number of years and I had too many other options in midfield. Also someone who made the appearances that Lee did had to make my team. He’s also the player who’s played the most games in my time supporting the Gulls. Left-back is the easiest decision I’ll ever have – Kevin Nicholson. That goal against Barnet, always fought back from whenever he was dropped and a true Torquay United legend.
Centre backs were an easier decision than I thought it would be and I’ve decided to pick Steve Woods and Mark Ellis. Steve Woods was a leader and a rock, with a long stay at Plainmoor ended abruptly by the ever ruthless Paul Buckle. Mark Ellis makes my team because for me he was such a talented footballer. He was quick, strong in the air, scored goals, and shouldn’t be at a club like Forest Green!
Midfield was an enjoyably tough one, as looking back we’ve had some outstanding players. On the right I’ve gone with Eunan O’Kane. A properly exciting player; he had so much time on the ball and it’s very easy to forget he was only 20 when he joined ‘The Gulls’. One of the best players I’ve ever seen play football and I’m not shocked he’s gone on to play in the Premier League.
My two central midfielders are Chris Hargreaves and Alex Russell. I only saw a bit of Alex, but I remember just how good he was on the ball. He was so adept at picking out passes and controlling the game. I remember there was talk of him re-signing not that long ago and it’s a shame we didn’t see him return to Plainmoor.
Chris Hargreaves partners Russell in my XI, and would be my captain. He had very few bad performances in his time with us. A brilliant captain for the club and led us back to the league, finishing off with a screamer at Wembley. It’s such a shame it never worked out for him as the manager.
On the left side it’s ‘Mr Torquay United’ – Kevin Hill! You can’t not include a man who’s played 417 games for the club, making his last appearance in a yellow shirt at Wembley, in a Torquay XI! My favourite memory of Kev was on the way home from the play-off final against Cambridge; I met him at a service station (he’d been working for Radio Devon) and he is just one of the friendliest people you’ll meet.
Tim Sills is my first upfront, and without a doubt my favourite ever Torquay striker, as the man who provided the goals to get us back into the league. Obviously the standout goal from his Gulls career was his Wembley header, but my favourite was against Histon in the play-offs. Great ball in from Mansell and a rocket header from Sills which eventually sealed our trip to Wembley.
Choosing a second striker was tough; if I’m honest I’ve not really liked a lot of the strikers at the club. For every Tim Sills we’ve had about 5 Karl Hawleys. So my second striker and the man finishing off my starting 11 is a lazy choice. I’m going with Kieffer Moore. 5 goals in 4 games, and one of the most naturally gifted players I’ve ever seen.
Picking a manager was between five potential candidates; Leroy Rosenior, Ian Atkins, Paul Buckle, Martin Ling and Kevin Nicholson. After a lot of deliberating I’ve picked Martin Ling, closely followed by Nico and Buckle. I decided Kev can’t manage a team he’s in already (although he’s done it a few times in the last couple of years!), whilst Paul Buckle was so successful in his time as boss here. But I just always admired Martin Ling’s management, and any player I speak to says he was their favourite to work under.
Andy Marriot – Only just missed out on the first team.
Chris Todd – Solid at the back. To play the way he did after he had leukaemia was incredible and inspirational.
Luke Young – Terrific on the ball. Vital we keep hold of him; gets in for that goal against Wrexham.
Tony Bedeau – Torquay legend, goal-scorer.
Martin ‘Buster’ Phillips – Always enjoyed watching Buster playing!