Andy Charles – @capitalgull
Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the first time I saw Torquay United play at Plainmoor, which came as a seventh birthday treat and saw the Gulls beat Portsmouth 2-1.
I was hooked from that day and, although my trips to Devon have decreased since moving to London in the 1990s, I still get to as many games as time allows, even if less of those are coming at home nowadays.
I hope this team is something of a cross-section across nearly four decades, although there are a couple of eras (David Webb, 1980s and the last three seasons) which may find themselves completely ignored until I get asked for a “Nightmare Team” somewhere down the line…
I think there might be a few names in here that have not featured before, as well as a couple of high-profile absentees who I never found as impressive as some clearly did. It’s a cavalier line-up which might not keep that many clean sheets, but I can guarantee entertainment!
There’s no doubting the quality of Neville Southall and, more recently, Bobby Olejnik, but I am going back to some of my most enjoyable days to find a goalkeeper. Kenny was just the ultimate character, a player that would no doubt receive plenty of “clown” headlines nowadays. I loved his OCD of touching the ball down before kicking, but I can think of few more endearing players in my time watching Torquay, and I’ve taken him on at cricket a fair few times as well.
This pick would be very different in a wing-back formation, as Andy Gurney would definitely get the nod, but I am sticking with the 1980s here with the dour Scotsman, whose name is synonymous with Torquay’s survival in the 1986-87 season after his famous clash with Bryn the Police Dog. But Jimmy Mac was a fine defender and an excellent leader as well. His main competition in this formation would have come from Paul Holmes, a player I had a lot of time for and would have made more of an impact in the Premier League but for injury.
Look up dependable in the dictionary and you will find a picture of Brian McGlinchey. A proper defensive full-back who played the game with no fuss. He’s the kind of team-mate I would have wanted to play alongside and was a key member of the squad that saw Torquay promoted to League One in 2004. It was just a shame we couldn’t manage the result we needed at Colchester on that fateful final day of the season, because you must wonder what our club would have been like now – perhaps a Rochdale or Walsall instead of the flop we’ve become. Paul Gibbs would have been in here if playing three at the back, with Tom Kelly, Colin Anderson and Phil King also considered, Kevin Nicholson was not.
Matt Elliott and Phil Lloyd
I was reminiscing with Matt Elliott about his time at Plainmoor at work a few months ago, and he told me it made a man of him and enabled him to crack the heights he did with Leicester City and Scotland. There was plenty of competition for places here, but Matty was the first name on my team-sheet as a commanding defender and for his ability to weigh in with a goal or two from set pieces as well. Alongside, needing another craggy centre-back, there was no finer option than Yorkshireman Phil Lloyd, who I recall being another in the short line of dependable defenders we have utilised over four decades. Very little got past him, and based on my midfield selections, there might be a few runners getting some space! Darren Moore was clearly a consideration here as well, along with Alex Watson and Craig Taylor who were such an excellent partnership. And, no, please don’t ask me to include Steve Woods!
Alex Russell and Brian Healy
Alex Russell was an absolute must in here. The best distributor of a football I have seen at Plainmoor over a decent spell of time and still a fierce competitor now, having been part of England’s victorious side at the Veterans World Cup in Thailand earlier this year. Alongside him is a player I was completely obsessed by – Brian Healy. I think he would have been one of our best ever players but for constant knee trouble, which cost him one entire season, and slowed him down after returning. A dead-eye from set pieces, I’ve picked him ahead of some superb midfielders, a few who would possibly have fit better as a tackler alongside Aggy (Sean Haslegrave and Charlie Oatway in particular). Jason Fowler certainly had a case for a place as well, as of course did Bruce Rioch, even if he played for us at the very end of his career. Nowhere near the list – hugely over-rated fan favourite Lee Mansell!
Most exciting player ever to play for Torquay United. End of story. Rodders was also a lovely fella, who took time to come and speak to Gulls fans on one very memorable day at Oldham. We’ve had some decent wingers, with Greg Goodridge among them, but Rodney Jack is head and shoulders above all of them.
Oh what might have been for Torquay had we been able to tempt Eunan to stay at the club for longer. An unknown when he signed, the young attacking midfielder had two impressive full seasons in Devon before moving on to great things with Bournemouth, where he helped the Cherries reach the Premier League. Such a shame for us we never really were able to cash in on him (thanks for nothing Eddie Howe). My old favourite from the early 80s, Ray Bishop, was a possible here as were Tony Currie and Tony “Bomber” Brown, but I can’t pick someone after so few games even if they were impressive ones.
Best left-foot ever to grace Plainmoor, and I include some legends of football like Chris Waddle in that category. Lors was so graceful with the ball at his left foot (I think he might have had a right one as well but remain convinced it ever existed). Superb set-piece taker, scored some sublime goals and would have been one of Torquay’s greatest products but for high-profile off-field issues which stopped him being the success he should have been. He beats out competition from my first favourite player – Donal Murphy – for this spot.
I’ve got myself into a hole here, playing just one out-and-out striker. Because of the formation, I have opted for “Coops” up front even though he perhaps didn’t score the amount of goals he should have in his eight years at Plainmoor. So much competition here, with one obvious replacement on the bench, but Les Lawrence, Scott Partridge, Tim Sills and even Dave Caldwell could have featured here, as could my strange football crush, Carl Airey, the man with a backside as wide as a truck and less pace than…well…me!
Kevin Hill, Paul Hall, David Graham, Wes Saunders, Paul Trollope
Controversial no goalkeeper bench, but I had to mention all of these players who narrowly missed out in their respective positions. Kevin Hill – well he was just so much fun to watch and could play just about anywhere, including in goal. Paul Hall was another cracking winger who went on to bigger and better things, while David Graham was another superb player who spoiled his career by being unable to control himself away from the pitch. Wes Saunders nearly made the team at centre-back and Paul Trollope was so under-rated in his time at Plainmoor and went on to play for Wales before building a coaching/management career.