TT Team of the Decade: Midfielders

TEAM OF THE DECADE

SJ

Sam Jones – @samuellejones

Over the last 10 years, the Torquay United midfield has been a bizarre concoction of some top players, some bang average ones and a lot downright dreadful ones. For every Nicky Wroe and Eunan O’Kane there was a Fergus Bell or a Damian Mozika (no, me neither). Apparently we have had 30 different midfielders play for us in the last 10 years, so picking out the wheat from the chaff is vitally important (otherwise you’ll be asleep by the ones that actually made more than 5 appearances). Rather than go through all of them, because that will just be depressing, I’ve picked out the ones that are worthy of being in discussion as our top central midfielders of the last 10 years.

Before I start, and to avoid any arguments, Chris Hargreaves left us in January 2010 and Jake Andrews is a winger so neither will be included.

All stats from Torquayfanstats.com

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Photo Credit: Torbay News Agency

The Honourable Mentions:

Let’s start off with the midfielders who where better than average (low bar), but not quite in the top 6. They deserve a mention, but not in serious contention to make the team.

One of these was Joss Labadie who didn’t play many games for the Gulls, but was a very useful player when he did. Scored a few goals in not very games, until he got banned for channeling his inner Suarez.

Another one who springs to mind is Courtney Richards, who divided opinion during his time with the Gulls. He always tried hard, would put in a shift but seemed to always lack a bit of end product. He did score a great freekick away at Bromley to seal the great escape, which was nice of him (skip to 2:42 in the video below).

Aman Verma was another one who always gave 110% whenever he played. And wherever for that matter as he often filled in at right back under Nicho. Had a habit of scoring a useful goal as well. Left us to become a recruiter believe it or not.

Damon Lathrope deserves a mention too. A fantastically feisty defensive midfielder who would improve any midfield he played in. It was sad to hear that his career had been cut short by injury. Fingers crossed for a full recovery.

The Nearlys:

Nicky Wroe 

2008 – 2011, P130 – G23

An underrated player, Nicky Wroe was one of the best passers of the ball we’ve seen at Plainmoor over the last 10 years. The box-to-box midfielder was a stalwart in the midfield with Hargreaves, showing his full ability to help us win promotion out of the Conference. He was never quite the same when Greavsie left, seeming to struggle with the weight of the captain’s armband. Despite this there was still tonnes of ability, as well as a knack of scoring the odd goal. Sold to Shrewsbury in the summer of 2011 in the prime of his powers, we missed his ability for sometime after. Now a bit of a Non-League journeyman, and currently a free agent after leaving Boston United in the summer.

Luke Young 

2014 – 2018, P142 – G18

It was a shock to many in South Devon when Luke Young signed for the Gulls in the summer of 2014. Hargreaves had somehow convinced the Plymouth Argyle youth graduate to move up the A38 and join the recently relegated Gulls. He also gave him the captain’s armband to sweeten the deal. During his first season at the club, he was the best player on the park. His use of the ball was fantastic and would score some absolute screamers, with the volley against Wrexham a particular highlight. However, after his nasty knee injury in the summer of 2015, he was never quite the same. He declined as the team declined, as we drifted painfully towards relegation. Still, on his day he was a massive asset to the side, and would often be the best player on the park in a very poor Owers side. Now bossing it at Wrexham, despite their woes this season.

Connor Lemonhaigh-Evans

2017 – Present, P60 – G8

The Lemon is in his third season with the club, but what a talent he is. When Owers brought him in, he was instantly head and shoulders above anyone else we had at the time. We then somehow managed to re-sign him for last season in the National League South, where he would easily ghost past players like they weren’t even there. He was comfortably one of our top players last season, and showed his ability in this campaign as well before injury struck him down. He’s already been capped by Wales U-21, and I can see him playing much higher up the Football League as his career progresses. We need him back fit, and as soon as possible.

Asa Hall 

2018 – Present, P45 – G8

It would be impossible to leave out our title winning captain, wouldn’t it? The Pony-tailed Prince was brought in by Owers in the summer of 2017, and there was a feeling that we had signed him a few years too late. However, he quickly became a key player in Johnson’s midfield, snapping at the other teams heels and allowing us to launch our counters. Also scored a few important goals for us along the way, as we secured our first ever league title. Has struggled with injury so far this term, as a mixture of a broken toe and hamstring problems have kept him out, and the effect without him on the pitch is clear. That’s the sign of a good player.

Photo courtesy of Dennis Kallmer

The Winners:

Eunan O’Kane 

2009 – 2012, P122 – G14

Was there ever going to be anyone else? Eunan O’Kane was easily one of the most talented players ever to play on Plainmoor’s hallowed turf. The Irishman was signed from Coleraine by Buckle, and it was clear from the beginning that he was a special talent. Playing in the midfield with Mansell, he was a player that always seemed to have time on the ball and could pick a pass like nobody’s business. His pass to Mansell in the 2-2 draw at home to Burton Albion in 2011 springs to mind. He could also score a goal or two, with his double in the Devon Derby showcasing the very best he had to offer (highlights below). He was also included in the League 2 team of the year in 2013, alongside 3 other Gulls. Unfortunately, it was also clear that his immense ability meant that he would be playing much higher in the football League and in summer 2012, Bournemouth came knocking. Since then he has played for Leeds and has seven caps for the Republic of Ireland. He suffered a double leg break while on loan at Luton, which has ruled him out for the campaign. Would be great to see him fit and back on form.

Lee Mansell

2006 – 2014, P391 – G25

Manse was a stalwart in the Gulls midfield for years, becoming a key part of both Buckle’s and Ling’s promotion chasing teams. The all-action midfielder (and sometimes very competent right back) made 391 appearances for us over an 8-year period, putting him 6th in the total appearances list. An integral part of the team that won promotion back to the League in 2009, he would become captain in 2010 as we tried to push our way up to League One. His tremendous form under Ling earned Lee a place in the League 2 team of the year, alongside Olejnik, Nicho and Eunan. Manse’s loyalty to us never wavered, but unfortunately his Gulls career ended on a sour note as we dropped out of the Football League in 2014. The midfielder then moved to local rivals Bristol Rovers, winning promotion with them the following season before eventually retiring in 2017. He is now the Development Squad Manager at Rovers. A true Gulls Legend.

TT TEAM OF DECADE SO FAR..

Goalkeeper – Bobby Olejnik

Right Back – Ben Wynter

Centre Back – Angus MacDonald

Centre Back – Nathan Smith

Left Back – Liam Davis

Central Midfield – Eunan O’Kane

Central Midfield – Lee Mansell

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