As we are fast approaching the end of the decade, the TT Team have decided to create a Torquay team of the past decade. Up first, Sam Druiff talking about goalkeepers.
Sam Druiff – @samdruiff
This decade has been an incredible rollercoaster for Torquay United (aren’t they all – Ed!). Starting in 2010 during our first season back in the Football League, and ending it on the brink of the league again! I’ve come up with a shortlist, and ultimately my ‘keeper of the decade.
The gulls started life in 2010 with previous season’s play-off hero Michael Poke in goal with the ginger legend Scott Bevan on the Bench. The Gulls first game of the decade was an FA Cup defeat (sound familiar?) at home to the hands of Brighton.
Michael Poke (2008-2010 & 2012-2014)
I’m going to start with Michael Poke. Originally Pokey came to the club in 2008 on loan, and made a huge impact. He won the Blue Square save of the season when he tipped a thunderous strike from Histon’s Matt Mitchell-King to help send the Gulls to Wembley (go to 3:36 in the video below to see it in all its majesty. He also kept a clean sheet in the final against Cambridge as Torquay were promoted. Of course, this was all before the current decade! In 2009/10, he alternated with Bevan, although he wasn’t signed the following year. Martin Ling signed Michael on a permanent deal in 2012, and he was ever-present for the tough 2012/13 campaign where United saw Martin Ling spend much of the season away with depression. Alan Knill took the reins and Poke alternated with Martin Rice the next season as injuries played their part. That was the end of his time with the Gulls. A top keeper on his day.
Scott Bevan (2008-2011)
For a couple of years, you couldn’t get a cigarette paper between Poke and Bevan. Scott was a fantastic keeper for the Yellow Army. Signing in 2008, Bevan made 89 appearances for Torquay until he followed Paul Buckle to Bristol Rovers in 2011. Scott pulled off some incredible saves in his time at Torquay, one of his stand-out games being that 1-0 defeat to Crawley in the FA Cup 4th round where he saved two penalties; making team of the round. He was also between the sticks when United recorded an amazing 10 League Two clean sheets in a row between April to August 2010; totalling 998 minutes without conceding a goal. His final appearance was on the losing side at Old Trafford in the Play Off final to Stevenage.
Brendan Moore (2016-2017)
Fast forwarding to 2016, and a Torquay side mounting a ‘Great Escape’ challenge under the stewardship of Kevin Nicholson were left without a first choice keeper when Dan Lavercombe picked up an injury. Kev brought in young American ‘keeper Brendan Moore from Fleetwood, a decision that paid massive dividends. Playing in all of the final twelve games of the season, Brendan contributed hugely to keeping United in the division. Nicholson managed to sign the American on permanent terms for the 2016/17 season, where again he was a key figure in ‘The Great Escape #2’ – excelling especially in saving penalties. A summer move to Rochdale followed, before heading back across the pond to join Atlanta United in the MLS.
Shaun MacDonald (2018-PRESENT)
How can I not comment on a title wining keeper?! Shaun was brought in under Gary Owers from Blyth Spartans to play second fiddle to the on-loan Alex Bass. However when Bass was injured and was recalled by Portsmouth, no-one questioned the decision to stick with Mac. Shaun was a stand-out player as Gary Johnson guided Torquay United to the National League South title and his confidence grew as the season progressed. Shaun remains in the current squad, battling for the number 1 jersey with Brazilian Lucas Covolan.
Before I choose my keeper of the decade, I thought it was only fair to mention some goalies who have been at the club in the last ten years, but don’t quite make the cut!
Danny Potter (2010-2011)
In the 2010/11 season Paul Buckle replaced Michael Poke with Cambridge goalkeeper Danny Potter. Danny was solid and I remember he had better distribution than Scott Bevan.
Martin Rice (2007-2008 & 2011-2015)
Far from perfect, but played his heart out and gave his all. Also saved a penalty at Wembley in the trophy final.
Vincent Dorel (2017-2018)
Vincent Dorel came in during that disastrous season under Gary Owers. The confident goalkeeper was arguably the best player we had during that campaign, and dare I say it could walk into the current United team.
And the keeper of the decade is…
Bobby Olejnik (2011-2012)
You probably guessed it…my keeper of the decade is Austrian born Robert ‘Bobby’ Olejnik. Bobby signed under Martin Ling, along with Martin Rice and replacing the departing Potter and Bevan. Bobby had been with Falkirk in Scotland before joining the yellows. He was a pivotal player in a season that saw United narrowly miss out on automatic promotion and ultimately fall short in a play-off semi-final to Cheltenham. Olejnik was part of a defence which set a record of clean sheets for a season and also deservedly made the League Two team of the season. His contributions were understandably recognised by bigger clubs and a summer move to Peterborough followed in a £300,000 deal. In the years I have supported Torquay, only Andy Marriot comes close to Olejnik.