Clive Hayward – @ByeHorse
TEAM OF THE 80S – A tale of two Cyrils
I would have to consider the eighties as the time when I really became a Torquay fan. I entered, endured and exited my teens during that decade and although I did have a dozen or so games under my belt thanks to my Grandad taking me along to stand down the front of the Popside a few times from 1976 onwards he would only occasionally leave the fireside (shrewd man, Cyril) and after he passed away in 1979 it was the 1981/2 season before I felt bold enough to start going to games on my own.
There wasn’t a great deal of success in the early years, although when you’re 13 or 14 watching professional football under floodlights is brilliant just for the novelty of it and early cup trips to places like Bristol City and Oxford also got the heart thumping: a heady mixture of excitement and terror.
Then, in 1984, Dave Webb arrived. He ran the club into the ground, got rid of Saturday night football and broke my heart. By 1986 we were on our knees: bottom of the league two years in a row and in the aftermath of Heysel, Bradford and a decade of hooliganism football fans in general were about as popular as Jeremy Corbyn at a bar mitzfah.
But the next few seasons saw a reawakening for Torquay: Stuart Morgan’s team scraped survival by the skin of a police dog’s teeth and then Cyril Knowles built a team in his own image: loads of Northerners, hard as nails and very happy to win ugly (shrewd man, Cyril).
What a ride it was. Most of my selection come from Cyril’s time, and here they are:
Until the advent of Neville Southall and Bobby Olejnik, John Turner was my favourite. Very high class stopper, who we signed from Reading in 1978. John left Plainmoor in 1980, but the bright lights of Chesterfield couldn’t compete and he returned to play for us again in 1983/4. He went on to have a couple of seasons at Peterborough before taking what used to be the traditional former footballer’s career of running a pub: the now defunct Post Horn in Torquay.
Jim McNichol (RB)
Another post-football publican. Anyone that can survive being bitten by a police dog and 20 years in the licensed trade in Ashburton must be hard as nails. Jim was good enough to play for Scotland under 21s in the late 70s (when they were still a respectable football nation). Although he actually played more games for Exeter City than he did for us, he forever redeemed himself with a towering late winner at St James Park in 1987. That broke a spell of several defeats to the old enemy and sent me off to University with a song in my heart.
Phil King (LB)
Phil signed for us from Exeter aged 19 in 1986 and played two dozen games as the baby of a struggling side. Too good for us. Talented youngsters didn’t hang around long in those days, and Swindon secured his services. He was too good for them too, and he went on to have a really good career at Sheffield Wednesday, winning the League Cup in a tremendous performance in the Final against Man U. He also got picked for England B (whatever happened to them?). 10,000 Walsall fans were treated to a 2-1 victory over Switzerland B.
Phil Lloyd (CB)
One of those defenders who just got on with it. Not flash or particularly physically imposing, but an integral part of Cyril’s teams. He hailed from the mining village of Hemsworth in Yorkshire. A tough lad who always had a knack of getting to the ball first. My wife also lived near him and reported him to be: “a very nice man”. Career effectively ended by a broken leg at Maidstone, where nothing much has gone right for the Gulls over the years!
David Cole (CB)
Another of Cyril’s glorious defensive unit. Born in Barnsley. Tall, blond, missed nothing in the air. He played over 100 times for us and was a proper stalwart before leaving for Rochdale. I’ve just noticed that picking him allows me to call my back four “Lloyd, Cole & the Commotions!” Sorry to say that in researching this article I have discovered that in 2007 the Swindon Advertiser reported that he had admitted a charge of possessing child pornography. Very disappointing! Must have been led astray in Rochdale.
I wanted a journeyman in amongst the genius, and for me Roger was just a bit better than our 80s doyen Derek Dawkins. We didn’t have him for long. He was a refugee from Newport when County imploded and scored some important goals for us during our Sherpa Van season of 1988-89. He had started at Spurs, notched the winner in the FA Youth Cup final for them and went on to play over 600 games in a career, during which he represented all the pro clubs in South Wales, as well as the long forgotten New England Tea Men in the USA.
Genius. Such a good player. Starred for Sheff United (where he’s still idolised), Leeds and QPR before Dave Webb used his contacts to bring him down to the English Riviera in his footballing dotage. Tony was in his mid-30s, his legs had gone and he probably wasn’t all that bothered. He only played for us 14 times. Nobody who saw his free kick against Hereford (or possibly Northampton??) will forget it though. 30 yards out, pace, swerve, top corner. Got us a one nil win in a season when victories were rarer than hens’ teeth. Cheers TC!
Cor. What a player he was! Another good example of a young ‘un who we were never going to keep for long. For some reason Bristol Rovers hadn’t fancied him and the young winger (as he was then) lit up his debut at home to Bury in 1983 with a goal of pace, power and control. Keith was quickly snapped up by Bristol City and went on to play for England (admittedly under Graham Taylor!) during a distinguished career with clubs including FA Cup winners Wimbledon and Man City. In 2007 he returned to Torquay with Colin Lee in a doomed late attempt to keep us in the league in the dying days of Mike Bateson’s regime.
I had to get Mark into the team. Brixham’s favourite son. He was always supposed to be more interested in beer than football (a man after my own heart!), and he would have been plenty good enough to play in the top division with QPR, but he got homesick…and thank goodness for that! He played 262 of his 269 pro games in a Torquay shirt and had skill to burn. His close control was incredible, and many was the time we would be holding on for three points away from home and Loz would just keep the ball by the corner flag with ease. Scored his share too, including the never-to-be-forgotten screamer at Molyneux in the Sherpa Van semi-final to secure our first trip to Wembley.
I have probably let my heart rule my head here, and I am going to start with an apology to Steve Cooper. Coops is a bona fide Torquay legend. A lion-hearted centre forward who would regularly out-jump, out-fight and overcome centre halves twice his size in the days when the tackle from behind meant that he was normally playing injured. I would dearly love him to coach Jamie Reid: headed goals were his stock in trade.
But DC was ridiculously good value. At one stage he was as likely to get sent off as to score: both these things happened a lot! He was a warrior for us. We had a cracking little FA Cup run in 1987/88, and I was privileged to be behind the goal at Ashton Gate when he won our second round tie with a last minute diving header. Limbs!! I will never forget his battle with “Killer” Kilcline in the Third Round at Coventry. So proud of them all that day- we was robbed! He terrorised Swansea in the play-off final second leg, but as so often we fell just short. I don’t care. I will never forget that season. Thanks for the memories.
Mr Reliable. Dobbo was such a good finisher, never more so than when he showed the ice in his veins and buried that late equaliser against Crewe in 1987 to keep us in the league when all had seemed lost. When he got to play in a better team the following year he was able to take advantage of getting more chances, and 42 games in 96 games probably speaks for itself.
Steve Cooper and Derek Dawkins