TT contributors Luke Hunter (@lukehunter8) and Matty Hayward (@MattyHayward96) field our questions on the turbulent and miserable season that was ‘TUFC 2017-18’:
No messing around, who is most to blame for our relegation to the NLS and why
Luke – It’s important to highlight the word most in that question – you could make an argument that one of about seven people are to blame. I’ll go for Clarke Osborne. It’s apparent that the Owers was very much his man and although Harrop has had a lot of the blame for the appointment, you have to consider that he was probably just following orders on that particular case. That being said, the dismissal of Nicho and the preceding events that followed were shambolic and negligent – we weren’t necessarily relegated when Nicho went, but we certainly were by the time Owers arrived. The general management of the club has created a stench of negativity off the pitch and time and again in football that resonates on it.
Matty – I don’t see our relegation as one shocking season where we’ve finished in the bottom four, I see it as a culmination of failures over the past 5 or 6 seasons. There are very few people who have been involved in the club in that time that can be completely blameless. Certainly, the sale of the club to GI was a huge contributing factor, so some blame has to be apportioned to Phillips’ consortium (although they were clearly, admirably doing their best). Whoever decided to deny Nicho of a good budget, then sack him, then take a month to appoint an inferior manager (when people like Mark Yates were available) has to take a lot of blame (so Harrop and Osborne?). That said, there’s only so much blame you can throw at board members. It takes a high level of ineptitude to be relegated from this league, so Owers, Kuhl and a great number of the 40+ players we’ve had this season should also be held accountable.
Who are your top three TUFC players this season and why?
Vincent Dorel – has enjoyed a fantastic season, given the circumstances. Warmed to the fans and cemented himself as number one almost immediately. Calm and collected, did his best with the absolute load of rubbish in front of him.
Elliot Romain – showed more in his short spell than the majority combined. He isn’t the biggest, but he works so so so so hard, you’ll find that’s enough for Torquay fans. I don’t expect him to, but if he did come back, he’ll almost certainly establish himself as fans favourite.
Josh Gowling – sorry, I know I’ll divide opinion here. Purely based on games played, you can’t dispute he made a massive difference to our team. The wins with and without him made a massive difference. The only thing close to a natural leader and his apparent disrepute with Owers concerns me, you get the impression Josh knows how a team should be managed.
Luke Young – Errr. I think Youngy has been adequate. Nowhere near as good as he is capable of, but still comfortably our best player and (according to torquayfanstats.com) he’s picked up 11 assists too.
Vincent Dorel has been fine as well. Probably not as good as the number of shots he stops suggests (that’s down to defensive incompetence), but he’s done well and I hope he stays.
Josh Gowling – Controversially, I think Gowling has been good this season. The stats with and without him show that we’d be fine if he’d stayed fit all season. It baffles me that people give him stick for getting injured as if it’s his fault. I don’t remember people giving Youngy or Durrell Berry abuse for being injured.
On the flipside tell us your three most disappointing three players of 17-18 and why?
Josh McQouid – absolutely terrible. Can’t hold Owers accountable for that one either, he came with pedigree and form, everyone was happy with that deal. Unfortunately he showed zero application.
Tommy O’Sullivan – one of the worst ‘footballers’ to ever wear the shirt. Utterly hopeless, uninterested and outclassed.
Jake Gosling – was he even here? Not the slightest impact. Again, more disappointing given his pedigree.
The word “disappointing” in the question suggests that I should focus on players that I expected to be better than they have been, as opposed to simply the worst players (Murphy, McQuoid, Evans, Gnabouyou, Balatoni, Haworth, Andresson, Anderson, Fallon, O’Sullivan, Myrie-Williams etc.)
The most disappointing player this season has been Sean McGinty. I started the season thinking he and Gowling would be a perfectly decent National League defensive partnership and, although far from our worst player this season, he seems to have gone backwards under Owers.
I was equally optimistic about Jon-Paul Pittman. I saw him in pre-season and thought he looked sharp. I remember standing on the Popside thinking he and another of my players on this list would be an impressive front-line at this level. How wrong I was.
That player is Ruairi Keating. Bless him. There’s so much to like about Ruairi Keating. He’s the first to clap the fans; he’s so energetic and passionate; we only signed him because Nicho loves Boyzone. Crucially, I thought this would be his year. Although I think Owers is wrong to have under-used him, I can see why. When he’s come off the bench he’s been immature and erratic at times, and he hasn’t scored since November. I do hope he stays and gets a better chance next season
Any highlights of the season to mention?
Luke – The first game versus Tranmere was fantastic. It was a massive crowd and we more than held our own against what undoubtedly became a challenger this season. We had a shot cleared off the line late on, imagine if that had gone in. Unfortunately it mostly went downhill from there.
Matty – Aside from the meteoric growth of the Yellows Twitter movement, I have six key highlights from this season. The timings are approximate. In order of date:
1) 20:29 on October 3rd . Sealing the deal in our hammering of Maidenhead. I listened intently on the radio.
2) 16:31 on October 21st . I was there. The moment I realised who had scored was one of the most jubilant moments of my life. Minutes after Halifax had taken the lead.
3) 21:02 on October 24th . I was sitting on a bus when it came through on Twitter and I hugely embarrassed my girlfriend by literally jumping for joy. The day it was clear that we weren’t rubbish anymore.
4) 16:02 on November 25th . Again, I had Dave Thomas’s dulcet tones describing this one to me. Killing the Orient game off.
5) 16:02 on December 26th . I was at my uncle’s house. Jeff Stelling announced it. Great Boxing Day point at ‘local rivals’ Eastleigh.
6) 16:13 on April 14th . This time at home to Halifax. I’ve never gone so mad at a goal that means so little.
If you hadn’t noticed, these are Reidy’s goals this season.
Lowlights of the season (difficult choice)?
Luke – There is literally countless options to go at here so I’ll throw a bit of a curve ball in. The retirement of Ryan Higgins. He was my one to watch at the start of the campaign as I recall – I genuinely saw that as a bit of a coup for Nicho; I’d seen him a fair few times for Southport and he was always “that guy” that could play a few divisions higher. It was never really right for him and such a shame that it ended as it did. Wish him all the best.
Matty – Where to start? Fylde away was truly awful. That was the first time I thought we looked like a team destined for relegation. The FA Trophy hammering by Maidstone was equally demoralising. The worst performance I’ve seen was at Woking. James Gray’s screamer aside, we were utterly embarrassed by a very poor Woking side. 4-1 flattered us. Although relegation was inevitable, Hartlepool away was truly gut-wrenching, it made all the emotional rattling the club had given us all year seem completely pointless.
Which opposition team has impressed you the most?
Luke – AFC Fylde. Since beating us back in November (?) they’ve been unstoppable. They were relegation candidates at that point but to be fair, it’s been sterling from that after that point and a playoff position is more than fair.
Matty – I honestly don’t believe this league has any good teams in it. I thought Tranmere looked decent, hard and well-organised on the opening day of the season. Aldershot have some very good attacking players, but they failed to beat us at Plainmoor so they can’t be that good. I wouldn’t be surprised if Fylde go up through the play-offs: they’ve been excellent for a team in the middle of nowhere who are new to this league.
Tell us about your best TUFC away day from 2017-18?
Luke – Solihull Moors. Fantastic atmosphere from the Yellow Army and one of the most welcoming teams I’ve visited. Away days have generally been a disaster with us all season, some great towns but ultimately ruined by the 90 minutes of football endured between them – Halifax gets an honourable mention. Away from Torquay, Blyth Spartans was a fantastic trip with FC United.
Matty – That’s got to be my first away game of the season: Aldershot. I always enjoy going there. Not only is it quite close, it’s also a very reasonable ground and if away fans are put under the roof behind the goal (which we were) then the atmosphere can be excellent. Despite losing to a clearly better side, we put up a good fight and Luke Young’s free-kick was a thing of absolute beauty, especially as it came minutes after them opening the scoring. I’m also quietly glad we’ll get to play Woking next season because that’s also a good away day.
What do you make of the retained list announced hastily by Gary Owers last Saturday?
Luke – With the exception of Dorel, those that have been offered contracts are all very fortunate in my opinion. I have severe concerns about the motivation factor with Owers, I suppose the concrete evidence of that will be in whether any of those he has offered terms actually stay.
Matty – It looks very reasonable to me. I’d have given Williams his marching orders for being utterly abject this season, and I think it’s a little harsh on Chaney and Gosling who haven’t been given a chance under Owers and would be decent in the NLS I feel.
As Torquay Talk’s Luke Hunter put excellently in a tweet, it’s “a little surprising to see so many of Nicho’s signings re-engaged…having [according to Owers] been hamstrung by them for ¾ of a season, reminding us of that fact regularly”. I was particularly shocked to see Keating had been offered a deal after Owers had continued not to pick him and bemoan the inability of the players he had inherited.
The real question concerns how many players will actually sign. I would be depressingly unsurprised if all of those offered contracts hedge their bets for a better deal elsewhere. Who can blame them?
Can Owers turn things around and build a team capable of challenging in the NLS in the next season?
Luke – The NL regional level is challenging and once again, we’re at the mercy of only one automatic promotion slot, I think it would be absolutely criminal to suggest we’re guaranteed an immediate return. If Owers utilises the budget, which appears to be maintained, then potentially we’ll challenge. Realistically however, I envisage a midtable finish.
Matty – I’ve seen nothing to suggest that he can. He’s going to end up bringing in at least 15 players this Summer, so recruitment is key. The number of atrocious players he’s been responsible for signing this season gives me no confidence that he’ll choose well this time around. Meanwhile, if rumours are to be believed, he’s also disliked by a number of the players currently in the squad which says to me that he’s not only a poor tactical manager but he’s also a poor man-manager. I would say, I think it’d take a genius to put us in the title race next season, but I also think there are many better managers who would give us a better chance.