“Have the Cards heads gone in this title chase? I’m not sure just yet, but the signs are good”
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
“There’s only one Ronnie Vint, one Ronnie Vinnnnt, there’s only one Ronnie Vint..etc etc!!”. Tuesday night was a woeful evening for Woking fans again (and a wonderful one for the Yellow Army), as their team stuttered once more to hand extra initiative to United. Have the Cards heads gone in this title chase? I’m not sure just yet, but the signs are good! Having two players sent off (including the Popsiders new villain of choice for 18-19 Ben Gerring), losing their rag on the touch-line and conceding a 97th minute goal are the sort of things I’ve expected from United over the years. The last-minute goal from a corner almost became a horrible Gulls copyright, it happened that frequently!
This is not a time for complacency to creep into the rhetoric at Plainmoor though, even if we can be confident of winning the division and right so. There are sterner looking tests to come on the calendar and the Yellow Army need to get behind the team again and again. Nothing is written in stone just yet. On the training pitch and in the dressing room Gary Johnson will be giving sharp reminders to all the squad that they must continue press hard in games – ‘battle from the off and let your quality shine through’. Together we can get this job done, one game at a time – that open-top bus parade is not being scheduled just yet!
Saturday does represent one of those tests in the form of Chelmsford City – if the Plainmoor pitch can survive this typically turbulent January/February weather. City have been in good form, and after a slow start have pushed into a similar position as they finished 2017-18. On their books is Ex-Gulls striker Rhys Murphy who has been banging in the goals. Over the years lads have come back to United on opposing teams and inevitably scored, so just a warning for Kyle and the rest! Rhys was another Owers transfer dud last season, coming in with a decent reputation but struggling with fitness, before leaving with a whimper a little while later. A player who was neither ready or equipped for the challenge of pushing us away from relegation, much like the inept manager himself. Yes that 2017-18 season still hurts!
City fan Jack Mckechnie has answered my call to talk about ‘The Clarets’ before the fixture. Jack did the Q&A before the first match of the season, a 0-0 that told you everything you needed to know about ‘Gary Owers Torquay United August 2018’. He expected City to be challenging this year and will travel down with the hope of an upset. Assuming there’s no ring rust from 2 weeks off and the boys come out the traps in the right mood, I’m confident (not cocky mind!) he’ll be disappointed. In fact I can’t see many slip-ups from the boys in the next couple of months, though games against Welling, Ricay and Woking will represent examinations of character as well as quality. Keep winning and the title is ours – is life ever that simple as a Torquay United fan? Maybe just this once…
January came and went with very little transfer business in the end. My call for new faces was only partly answered and that one incoming, who will probably taste action at Plainmoor for the first time on Saturday is Frankie Vincent (love the name!). Gary was very pleased to unveil this young man, who not long ago signed a new deal at AFC Bournemouth. I’m still salty with Bournemouth over the Eunan O’Kane transfer dealings. If Frankie hits the ground running and boosts our promotion bid then I’ll cut them some slack…oh who’s kidding I’ll still be salty! Anyway Vincent is another example of a potential star coming to Plainmoor to prove his quality, and I look forward to seeing the lad in action. With Opi Edwards apparently injured again (during a Bristol City youth game frustratingly), he could be just the Plan B we are looking for.
Gary’s main business was new contracts, as most of the squad signed up for 2019-20. In the world of TUFC, where summer overhauls have become a standard ritual and pre-season fixtures are a “Who’s he…who’s he?” exercise, this is a very welcome illustration of professionalism and contingency. Two words that have not been linked to Torquay United in a while! Gary was quick to praise the United hierarchy in helping him secure these guys, he didn’t mention Clarke Osborne’s name but he’s the man with the purse strings. GJ is not silly, he realises that the United faithful are still very wary of their owner and any gushing about CO would not exactly sit well with us. Gary knows how to play this game!
Its undeniable that results have brought the team and supporters together, and the debate on Clarke as an owner has died down into a simmer since GJ’s glorious arrival. I mentioned in my BBC interview (any excuse to bring that up!) that a large proportion of the Yellows support are only concerned about what is happening on the pitch, and the big attendances have underlined that. Is there more trust in CO now a brilliant manager is in place and the team is firing…maybe, or maybe they’ve just forgotten about him as we celebrate win after win, I’m not sure. In the background the un-wanted stadium plans sit, and we’ve still not had a proper fans forum or a local board member elected at United – so plenty to ponder on what progress is being made.
The next big test for me will be if we are promoted to the National League and what sort of backing Gary Johnson receives to strengthen his crew. Don’t get me wrong, I like the lads we have signed on for next season – they are an honest bunch and will form the backbone of a solid team. However, take out the X-factor that the Bristol City loan boys allow us, and we are left with a squad that will need serious reinforcements. GJ will have guys in mind to fill these gaps, guys who he hopes will take us to the next level and stabilise us as a NL club. Will Clarke back these plans and keep the momentum going? The proof will be in the pudding…for now let’s just get this job done and get out of this league.
FINAL WORD: One player with no new contract and the advice to find another club is Samir Nabi. I cursed Samir last summer by saying he could be the answer to our playmaker conundrum, unfortunately this could hardly have been further from the truth. My glimpses of Samir have been brief, so it’s hard for me to make any judgements on what this guy can do – clearly Gary hasn’t seen anything in training to impress him. Even Sendles-White was preferred in midfield over Xmas, and no offence to Jamie but he looked very uncomfortable (lost sheep some would say!). It’ll be interesting to see if Nabi can relocate his mojo and find a way back up the football pyramid. And finally on an entirely different note, check out the Fan Zone back at Plainmoor this Saturday, always plenty on offer for youngsters and something to add to the United experience – if the games aren’t exciting enough these days! COYY