“It was an away day of celebratory knee-slides, fist pumps and fun times ahoy as the TUFC entertainers strike again”
The Ed blogs about the latest from the world of Torquay United
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
“You won’t win anything with kids” uttered ex-Liverpool legend Alan Hansen at the start of the 1995-96 season, after Man United had been beaten by Aston Villa. We all know how that ended up; 9 months later the Red Devils were double winners and the exalted ‘Class of 92’ had begun their domination of English Football. For Torquay United we now have the ‘Gary Johnson Class of 2018’ and the doubters regarding a promotion challenge (and even a second title win in a row..) are slowly and surely becoming believers.
We’ve been on a marvellous run of form, but heading to Halifax I still expected a tough 90 minutes for the lads, where a clichéd draw would have been a decent result…news for you we don’t do draws! The Shay held no concern for these talented bunch and a nervous home team were despatched by a TUFC team full of attacking verve and intent from the off. Grabbing the game early by the throat and choking the life out of Halifax, to the raptures of an amazing Yellow Army* following. In the end it was an away day of celebratory knee-slides, fist pumps and fun times ahoy as the TUFC entertainers strike again.
*The Yellow Army amaze me again and again with their travelling numbers, what other team has such a big percentage of fans following them up and down the country, whatever the weather? Massive respect to all.
Saikou Janneh started; no surprise there. The young man simply demands a place in the first XI. 4-4-2 is not utilised as much in the modern game, where the emphasis on the midfield battle is key and strike partnerships are not forged in every team like they used to be. But Saikou is no normal front man! His boundless energy and work rate means the midfield gain extra leverage when required – whilst he can also support Reidy and stop him from becoming isolated. The difference between Duku/Keating and the Bristol City youngster is like night and day, and opposition defences should be trembling at the thought of the JR/SJ combo running wild, just like Saturday afternoon.
Other youngsters are also growing in stature by the week (not literally, though Kyle Cameron’s beard is certainly developing at an impressive rate!). Frank Vincent is maturing as we speak, using his first proper run in the team to hone his skills and sparkling at the Shay, along with Matt Buse in midfield. Clive Hayward’s low mark for Matt in his Wrexham report prompted more complaints than we’ve ever had at TT. ‘The Busesters’ were out in force and Clive soon concluded that he was indeed too harsh in his comments – comparing MB to a hybrid of Matt Hockley and Kevin Hill before the day was out! Our player ratings don’t always meet with mutual agreement and I wouldn’t expect them to. Even I’ve been tempted to edit some in the verdicts over the years…but that would be unfair on the contributor. TT is all about opinions, and I love it like that.
Elsewhere in the team Ben Wynter’s assured consistency is just never in doubt these days. He’s quietly confident, makes the right decisions and takes no unnecessary gambles that could harm the team. Sure, we conceded another 2 goals on Saturday, but the game was won early and those goals had no impact at all apart from glossing over United’s superiority a little. TT’s sponsored player (have we mentioned that before?!) Kyle Cameron scored his first goal of the campaign as well, watched on by 6 TT lads who enjoyed every minute. Kyle has looked uneasy at times this season with the step-up, however he is clearly feeling more comfortable with Robbie alongside him. The centre back should score more goals with his strength and aggression attacking the ball, and we await one at Plainmoor to celebrate!
Overall I’m just very proud with how this team is progressing under the amazing tutelage of the wise sage Gary Johnson. Frustration seeped out at early season losses (and the latest at Notts County was a dire performance), but since the first game in August, you can see the squad maturing week by week and understanding what’s required to compete in the National League. GJ asks them to play with no fear and that’s been translated into the sharpest goal-scoring team in the division – 38 goals and counting for the men in yellow is a tremendous return. I’ve supported the club for 30 years and entertainment on the pitch has very rarely been so enjoyably forthcoming; so for that and many other things I thank our Yellow Army lucky stars for his appointment. From doldrums to delight, he’s been absolutely magic.
REIDY TRANSFER SPECULATION
Things with TUFC are rarely clear-cut and they’ll still be many hurdles to clear this season before we even think of winning promotion. One thing looming is the possibility of January transfer bids for Jamie Reid. If the likes of Wynter, Vincent and Buse are TUFC’s versions of Neville, Beckham and Butt, then No.19 is our Eric Cantona. An increasingly iconic Gulls figure who is smashing the National League to pieces (without the need to karate kick someone in the crowd). 14 goals by the first week of November and to think I said he’d only get 18 in total! Speculation of interest from Salford, Coventry and more recently Luton Town has surfaced in the past week or so, and it’s just made us think of United life without Reidy banging in goals left, right and centre.
I’ve already tweeted some thoughts about this and Ben Currie has made similar points on the excellent TT Podcast (episode no.17, see link below) so I won’t go on too much. In regards to our owners, they are still fairly mysterious but appear to be committed to TUFC for a while at least. Even in these good times the club is losing them money and the temptation of a cash windfall could be dangled in front of their noses this winter. But can they see the bigger picture of League Two football and the financial gain that will bring? I’d hope so and with a steer from Gary Johnson in the right direction, I’m quietly optimistic that any bids will be resisted. With GJ here promotion could still be achieved without JR, but the effect it would have on everyone would be quite some challenge to overcome, even for him.
In regards to the player, Jamie Reid loves life at Plainmoor and I bet he’d like nothing better than leading his hometown club back to league football. The team play to his strengths and he’s well on the way to having a fabulous season – disrupting that and moving somewhere new would be a gamble on his part. January is an uncertain and rushed time for teams, where bosses can often panic-buy and players struggle to fit into squads that have already been formed. Make the wrong decision and your career can suddenly stutter to a halt, we’ve seen that with numerous players in the past. I’d like to think this irreplaceable striker will stay until the summer at least; if teams are interested in him they’ll come knocking again I am sure. By then he’ll probably have over 30+ goals in his 19-20 collection and he can reassess. In the meantime enjoy this guy; we’re running out of superlatives at TT and I’m sure he’ll be relishing adding to his goals tally on Saturday.
Onwards to Saturday and another very important FA Cup clash, with a trip to Maidstone United the challenge as we look to progress to the 2nd round for the first time in years. No disrespect to the Stones, but I’d say our main enemy in winning this tie is complacency and over-confidence. Such has been the talk about TUFC and their brilliant form this week from various social media accounts that the players must be feeling like they are unstoppable. We must guard against sloppiness and approach the game in a professional manner – if we do that then a place in the hat for Monday will be ours. Lose focus and edge to our effort, and the Stones (in front of an enthusiastic crowd) could sniff out a shock. We were masters of winning away games against lesser NLS teams last year, and a repeat of those performances will be enough.
We had some (Red Button) fun in the Cup last year before falling with a bump to a Woking team (and a very debatable penalty), so I’m sure GJ is determined to go further this time. The trophy has lost much of its lustre these days and the final is no longer watched by an entire nation (my first memories of football are the 1986 all-Merseyside final), but in the early rounds clubs can transform their finances and fortunes with a suitable draw. Ties like Exeter City have had in recent years can capture the attention of the whole town and bring so much attention to the club, and we must be due something decent if we progress? We’ll soon find out, win the tie and get a ball first, then cross your fingers!
FINAL WORD – Mid-week saw the postponement of the Devon Bowl clash against Elmore. A shame I suppose as the squad periphery figures of Duku, Keating, Lewis etc might have enjoyed an extended run-out (or not!). We’ve not got the squad to field a strong team in that sort of game – with Opi’s continued absence on match-days, Asa still looking to overcome injury and Ryan Dickson shipped down to Cornwall, even the upcoming FA Trophy appears like an unwelcome distraction. However, this smallish squad didn’t need buffering last season and I don’t think it does this year. The team spirit is superb and with Connor hopefully arriving back into the mix in the New Year we have a lot to look forward to. Safe travels to those who are making the long trip to Maidstone. The right honourable Matt Roberts and Thomas Kelly will be reporting back for TT, whilst later on that trouble-maker Clive Hayward is penning another ground-hopping blog for your entertainment! TT have got it covered.
*If you would like a TT mug, as modelled below, get in touch using the Contact TT option on the website or through Twitter/Facebook, and I’ll come back to you asap.
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