“I can feel that upward momentum and with the best boss in the National League holding the reins, we can be a match for anyone”
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
Optimism flows through the paws of everyone related to Torquay United at the moment doesn’t it?! Well it sure feels like it. From exciting new signings to scintillating new kits, it just feels like momentum has swung in our favour for once and the sky is indeed the limit for Gary Johnson and 19-20’s likely lads.
I’m normally pragmatic in regards to United and with good reason. Times rarely stay good for long when you’re a Gulls supporter, and I’ve had to put up with so much in my years at Plainmoor…it’s lucky my pain threshold is high! But this summer feels different. For a start I cannot see any struggles ahead in the Conference. With GJ at the helm and a strong squad coming together, we can compete – I am absolutely sure about that.
The latest incoming Frankie Vincent is a real sign of intent from Gary Johnson. Vincent settled cosily into the midfield towards the end of 18-19, and started pulling the engine room strings like he’d been there all season. He wasn’t afraid to take control, switch play and most importantly find a fellow Gull with the football – a playmaker. His signing along with Jake Andrews illustrates just how GJ wants his team to play their football; fast-flowing and preferably on the deck. Just what the Plainmoor faithful love to see.
More often than not our midfield has been dominated by triers rather than playmakers over the years. Case and point, Danny Racchi has been linked constantly by supporters since he spent a few months here under Nicho. Danny was a welcome game-changer that season no doubt, but not good enough to be mentioned again and again (and again) after leaving! But because we’ve been starved of midfield diamonds, those who shine even temporarily are elevated quickly to god-like status. Only some of them (Alex Russell, Mark Loram) actually deserve it!
However, the times they are a changing in the bay. Armani, Jake and Frankie provide us guile and imagination around that midfield area – and out wide you also have Kalvin Kalala, a man with X-Factor to spare. This is a United team ready to entertain and the big kick-off on 3rd August cannot come soon enough. Boreham Wood will make for a cracking first fixture I am sure and it’ll be nice for the travelling BW supporters to see a proper National League crowd for a change!
Before that we have five further pre-season fixtures to play and fitness to sharpen up. Saturday sees United make the short journey to Buckland Athletic and I’m sure a decent number of Yellow Army followers will soak up the sun, to see United in action. It’ll be a hot one which probably means a livelier 1st half, before the fatigue and numerous substitutions take their tole on the 2nd half. Another handsome win should be on the cards, but the main thing is progression as we edge towards that Boreham game.
The Bideford game saw Gary field a surprisingly strong line-up, even in pre-season we are getting on the front foot early! It’s never too early to forge partnerships on the field and the Reidy/Duku twosome got a decent run-out, inevitably both scored. Meanwhile Jake showed some versatility and filled in at left-back – it’ll be interesting to see whether he’ll keep this position going forward. Elsewhere ‘Trialist A’ (sounds likes a suitable rapper name) Great Nii Okai Evans stole the show in the second half. If he can keep impressing, then the clamour will continue to sign up Mr A!
TT’s first match verdict for 19-20 was penned by debutant Ryan Etches. Ryan is well-known to the group (for good reasons I may add!), but had been reluctant to put anything in writing – after viewing his report I’m glad he did. A nice summary of a nice evening for the Gulls. RE will be back this weekend talking about Buckland – this time I’ve asked him to focus more on individual performances. I know it’s a team game, but in pre-season I really want to know how the likes of Armani, Manny and others are settling into life down here. I’m sure he won’t let us down, so watch out for another verdict this weekend. Covering every game is just one of my TT obsessions, it’s what we do after all!
One player who eased his way back into action on Tuesday was Kyle Cameron. It was a pleasure this week to interview the young centre back and get his thoughts on how 18-19 went (bloody well), pre-season (the less running the better) and 19-20 (optimistic). I was most impressed by his response to my question on ‘how he could improve as a player’. “In every respect” was the answer and the motivation is clearly there to push up the divisions, whilst maximising his own potential – exactly what I want from a TUFC player. Someone who deals in self-improvement and is hungry for more – Gary Johnson wants this attitude from his squad and that’s just one of the reasons why 19-20 could be another special campaign. We’ll hopefully catch up with Kyle occasionally as the season rolls on, we are after all his away sponsor – did I mention that?!!
The squad currently includes 17 now Frankie has signed on (see below). Where do we still need to strengthen? Centre-Back for sure and one player linked today is Aaron Martin from Exeter City. Aaron is a 29 year-old who struggled to make a first-team place his own last season at St James Park, so it’s one that could happen. Apart from that I’d like one utility defender (Sendles-White but better…sorry Jamie), a winger (Opi Edwards is still a possible) and a striker – that would take us up to 21. I really feel like the squad is nearing promotion quality and finding the right final acquisitions could give us that final jolt in the arm. This may feel like over-confidence but I don’t care – I can feel that upward momentum and with the best boss in the National League holding the reins, we can be a match for anyone.
The TUFC squad currently contains the 17 below:
Goalkeepers – MacDonald, Covolan
Defenders – Davis, Wynter, Cameron, Niate, Baxter
Midfield – Dickson, Hall, Little, Kalala, Andrews, Vincent
Strikers – Duku, Reid, Koszela, Keating
The positivity glowing from TUFC supporters extends to the new kits and what a bunch of bobby dazzlers (any excuse to use that expression) they are! I have quickly gone ahead and purchased the new yellow home shirt, but could easily have plumped for one of the other two. White shirts and two young kids do not mix, and the very smart navy just got pipped. Outstanding work by ProDirect and kit designer Scott McRoy, who is a United fan with real passion for his work. Being the only club in the top five divisions without a standard sponsor name on the front of the shirt is interesting – the 1899 looks great though, so I’m not complaining.
FINAL WORD: The quest to provide a merry mix of suitable summer articles has I think been a success. We’ve had interviews, blogs and recurring features that have been well-received and rightly so. This will be our biggest season yet and we aren’t afraid to push the boundaries, and pack the site with more content than ever. If you have ideas you’d like to mention, or if you’d just like to do a match verdict sometime get in touch. Before you know it, perhaps you’ll be discussing memories of Les Afful on a Friday morning with the rest of the contributors through the TT WhatsApp group. Yes that is what actually happens, we are that obsessed (with TUFC not Les Afful!) and I love it! Enjoy the pre-season fixtures – they can’t compare to competitive games but with Gary in charge, they’ll most probably be worth the trip.