“For once we have a clear ethos of how we will play and a management team who have the contacts and charisma to bolster the squad with proven quality”
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
‘Show me the money’ is the Jerry Maguire-type mantra from Torquay United at the start of the post-season! Firstly for the end of season doo (late notice, pricy but a worthwhile event I guess), then player sponsorship (increased cost but with things improving on the pitch understandable), the new 120 years celebratory shirt (sharp design but over-priced for me…an optional extra for those who can afford it) and finally the 19-20 season tickets (reasonable prices I’d say with Gary J in charge of the squad purse strings).
Expensive times if you’re partaking in all those things, but for me it’s all about the Bristow’s season ticket. As my first game was September 1989 (Lincoln City 0-3 if you must ask), this campaign sees me pass the milestone of 30 years supporting the Gulls. The initial urge to pop along to Plainmoor was influenced by listening to the Sherpa Van trophy final on the radio, as TUFC made it to Wembley for the first time in their history – success breeds popularity, that will never change! Before long; myself and my dad were perched on the benches in the old family stand, and surrounded by Yellow Army characters I was hooked by the ‘Plainmoor experience’.
My optimism for 2019-20 is high and my loyalty is unquestionable, so despite missing a few games here or there (bliming kids!!) and an increase to £299, renewing my seat on Bristow’s was an absolute no-brainer. Surrounded by family and TUFC friends, there’s no place I’d rather be bantering (and shouting/singing) on Saturday afternoons (and some Tuesday nights) between August to April. I think with the right signings we could make a real dent in the National League next season and that’s where my blog is directing me this week – what players do we need to become NL challengers?
Let’s split this up into sections shall we; this always helps my focus as a writer! I’m basing this on a 22-man squad by the way, with the right multi-tasking players this could be trimmed to 20, but I like the option of two men in each position.
A – Shaun MacDonald, B – ??
Shaun is our number one, no question there. The Geordie was a revelation in 2018-19 and a reminder that keepers don’t necessarily need to be 6’4” to excel between the sticks. However, we need an understudy. This deputy will fall under one of two categories; experienced stopper looking for a new club OR youthful upstart looking for a leg up at the start of his career. Previously I’d have probably have preferred an experienced head, but the proof was in the pudding last year as young Shaun Mac did the business. Promising youth player it is, though they don’t have to drive 24 hours in the middle of the night to get here!!
A – Liam Davis, B – Ben Wynter, C/D – ??
Liam Davis and Ben Wynter will almost certainly remain first choice for 19-20, but this time around GJ definitely needs more full back options – we can’t expect both players to stay injury-free or suspension free again this season. Preferably it would be motivated guys who are happy to be part of a squad and when called upon, provide energetic defence and attacking intent. Those types of utility players can be the difference between challenging or not, and with our attacks so often being focussed on the wing – full back is a hugely important role in this TUFC team.
A – Kyle Cameron, B – ??, C – Jean-Yves Koue Niate, D – ??
Is centre back the most vital part of any side? Maybe. Kyle Cameron is a shoe-in for 19-20 after his impressive first season at Plainmoor. The Geordie has all the attributes to be a league player in the future (please tell me it’s with United!). Alongside him Niate has done well for United, but his performances stuttered towards the tail-end of 18-19 – with GJ preferring Sendles-White at times, there certainly appears to be doubts about the KC/Jean partnership. For me, we need a new CB who has oodles of valuable experience (without being a grizzled veteran), someone who can help guide Kyle through the toughest games and ultimately avoids the panic we saw in frantic fixtures such as Woking and Bath away. Additionally to that a fourth CB could be useful – with the number of energy-sapping games we’ll play, we may need him. I’m thinking Mark Ellis circa 2007, that type of youthful exuberance would be ideal.
A – Asa Hall, B – ??, C – Ryan Dickson, D – ??, E – ??
In central midfield we are basically back to where we were at the start of 2018-19 (minus Chris Regis thankfully!), and yes that does worry me a little! Asa will remain captain and also remain a massively important cog in the Yellows machine. Alongside him will be another vital signing TBA. Asa does the dirty work, but somebody needs to pull the strings and that’s what CLE did so well last season. All the best United teams have had playmakers who keep possession and keep calm when the pressure is on – finding one of those type of players may be GJ’s most difficult challenge this summer. Due to the competitive nature of midfield and the long campaign to come, I think we’ll need another two as well – players who can adapt to different situations and give us defensive and attacking options. We cannot expect Asa to play 50+ games, so capable deputies are a must have. The likes of Frankie Vincent, with his tidy distribution or impact-player Jake Andrews could return to fill one or two of those roles. Guys with that quality are very welcome back.
A – Jamie Reid, B – Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala, C – ??, D – Ruairi Keating, E – ??, F – Olaf Koszela, G – ??
Reidy and KLK are obviously two of the first names on the team-sheet and I think they’ll carry on where they left off, but a partner for Reidy is a huge priority this summer for GJ. A few names have been banded around, including exciting Oxford City goalscorer Kabongo Tshimanga. The Congolese striker was very impressive at Plainmoor and that sort of young guy seemingly on an upward curve, ticks the boxes for me. We are generally obsessed about signing a target man, but Reidy showed last season he is more than capable of holding the ball up and bringing fellow attackers into play. I’d prefer a Janneh-like striker alongside him any day. Give me pace, movement and attacking verve – it’s what the new Torquay United under Gary Johnson is all about. Apart from that the wings need bolstering considerably, something that may well be aided by one or two Bristol City youth players (Opi Edwards returning is a possibility I’m sure). The ongoing partnership between the Johnsons should reap benefits for us again next season – and the talent they possess could be a game changer.
FINAL WORD – There is plenty of work to be done on the squad, but in writing this blog I am so enthused by the prospect of which players Gary Johnson and Aaron Downes will bring to the club in the coming weeks. For once we have a clear ethos of how we will play and a management team who have the contacts and charisma to bolster the squad with proven quality. Prospective players should see the possibility to join Torquay United as an enticing opportunity rather than a last-resort, and let’s be honest that’s all down to GJ. Alongside that, we have a rejuvenated fan-base who are packing the terraces once more and have regained faith and trust in their club. That trust in TUFC has clearly been mirrored across the Yellow Army as season ticket sales go through the roof – nobody wants to miss out. Exciting times…now when does that fixture list for 19-20 come out?!
*Watch out for more TT features this summer, including Andy Charles programme series (see below), Dream Teams from various fans and other blogs from the TT team as the site keeps buzzing merrily along.