“Mid-table is not our enemy, it’s a base to build our hopes on”
The Ed blogs about TUFC
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
MID-TABLE MEDIOCRITY and TORQUAY UNITED have rarely been friends over the years. Sure they’ve bumped into each other down the pub occasionally – recognising each other but only meeting with a brief gaze and knowing nod before heading their separate ways.
This season is different. With Torquay United firmly entrenched down in 15th position in a very average National League and doing the mid-table hoky coky (win one, draw one, lose one…ra ra ra), a season of consolidation is staring us sternly in the face. But is that such a bad thing? Have we become so accustomed to pushing up the top or rallying at the bottom that this spring chaos has become a Yellows addiction?
Certainly the season has taken a turn for the dull in recent months. The early season beatings of Stockport and Halifax had us licking our lips and dreaming of League Two, before the winter blues set in. Since then we’ve never really recovered. The team is not finding the higher gears, but is strong enough to make relegation very unlikely. For that we should be grateful. I’m seen enough ‘good enough’ TUFC teams lose game after game to plummet down the league table and have us panicking. Runs of ridiculously bad form are very Torquay United after all.
Social media makes every defeat feel worse. The debate rages on and on (and on), with hyperbolic characters winding up supporters who can’t understand the over-the-top views. Suddenly little things become big things and defeats feel like the end of the world…social media demands such black and white views. In reality the Sutton defeat was another example of A) TUFC’s general inconsistency and B) Inability to play adequately on a 3G pitch. A poor afternoon at the office (and credit to Sutton for taking us to the cleaners), but not one to spell the end of the world. Our position in the NL isn’t very good, but it’s also nothing to be ashamed of.
Last season’s fireworks built up our expectations and rightly so, but the early season run of form pushed them up unrealistically. The 7 losses in a row then put us all in gloomy mood, but since Xmas and with key players like Asa and Reidy returning to fitness the team have just levelled out into what we probably were all along – a mid-table-ish outfit, with a small inexperienced squad able to beat a Halifax one week and lose to a Sutton the next. A season of learning is in progress and Gary Johnson will be plotting his next moves to take us to the next level.
I think mid-table would be easier to stomach for us all if the National League didn’t reek with the stench of mediocrity, which means literally any team can get a result against another on a Saturday afternoon (or Tuesday evening). You can see it in Gary Johnson’s frustrated eyes, the chance has been there to be real contenders this season and the squad have not stepped up to it. I cannot lay claim to knowledge on GJ’s summer dealings in the transfer, but you can bet there were NL proven players who were ear-marked but could not be enticed down to Plainmoor. Two or three of those could have tipped us over the edge and given the youthful Gulls assurance in tough games – but it wasn’t to be.
However, take the emotion out of the equation for a minute, ignore our rollercoaster campaigns that brought stress and chewed finger nails, and think of it factually.
Torquay United are:
1 – A newly promoted team with no divine right to challenge in the their first season back in the National League. The jump from part-time NLS opposition to full-time NL is a big one.
2 – Budgetary-wise not at the level of many of the teams in the division. I can’t give you in the facts on this but GJ is certainly working under constraints, the small squad and number of loan players echo this.
3 – A squad with numerous young players who had never played regularly at this level. In facing senior pros they have come up short at times…unsurprisingly.
Our trump card remains the manager and with any luck he’ll remain with us for 2020-21. He’ll face the same budgetary constraints this summer and will have to unearth more diamonds than he managed in 2019, making the squad mentally tougher and physically stronger for the weekly arm-wrestles that the National League throws up.
For the time being mid-table is not our enemy (you can quote me on that!), it’s a base to build our hopes on. If the end of the season is stress-free I can cope with that. We can still enjoy some lively away days, get behind the lads and hope that the higher gears can be retraced. There’s enough guys in Reidy, Whitfield and Andrews to have us purring once more – heck even the lethargic Kalvin Kalala (my tip as 19-20 Young Player of the Year…) may rediscover his mojo as the sun comes out and pitches improve. Let’s keep perspective and keep supporting the lads, it’s our job after all. Brighter times will hopefully follow…(no promises though!).