The 1990s Team of the Decade by Clive Hayward

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Clive Hayward – @ByeHorse

TEAM OF THE 90S – Basement Jack’s

Hello again everyone.

Writing about the 90s isn’t really a trip down Memory Lane. Crikey, it’s barely a wander up the garden path. I’m not convinced that it’s even far enough to breach Social Isolation.

It just isn’t that long ago is it? Oh, wait…

It was a pretty big 10 years for me. Torquay United gave me and a female work colleague something to talk about across the filing cabinets. Reader, I married her!

By 1999 we had started a breeding programme (sorry Matty) and bought a house close enough to Plainmoor to hear the laughter when Mike Bateson got half a million quid out of Crystal Palace for our reserve team goalkeeper.

If you ignore finishing bottom of the entire Football League in 1995/6 and Wes Saunders taking to management like a fish to concrete (see also Chris Hargreaves) there was quite a lot to cheer. Three fantastic play-off seasons, the climaxes of which can perhaps be described as:

• Bamber’s Right Foot (90/91: never to be forgotten Wembley shoot-out win)
• Bruno’s Right Hook (Preston 93/94: Booooooooooooooooooooooo Paul Rayner)
• Gittens’ Right* Arm (Colchester 97/98: dreadful penalty decision but we wouldn’t have scored all night so at least we got home a bit earlier)

I found it quite easy to pick this team. Kevin Hodges got hold of two fantastic wing-backs and they were so good in 97/98 that I’m going to go with a 5-3-2. My only real dilemma was who to pick alongside Rodders.

Goalkeeper

Neville Southall

If a better goalkeeper has missed out on playing in the World Cup, I’d love to meet him. The Wales and Everton legend had plenty to do behind a struggling Torquay team at the fag-end of the decade. He started as he meant to go on, saving a penalty in his first match and generally showing that whilst form is temporary class is permanent. He was absolutely magnificent for us, making survival relatively comfortable with a string of epic draw-saving displays. The Mechanic & the Taxman also saw him destroy a hotel breakfast in York one Saturday morning. The waitress had to go off with cramp!

Defenders

Andy Gurney

This Bristolian had power, pace and goals in his locker. He was one of the stars of our unexpectedly good second season under Kevin Hodges, employed as a wing-back. Younger readers may not realise that Brighton haven’t always played in a lovely, South Downs spaceship of a modern stadium. After their “owner” sold their ground WITHOUT HAVING A NEW ONE TO MOVE INTO** the Seagulls found themselves playing home games at Gillingham in 1997/98. We had “one of those” journeys down to Kent – at least 2 rail replacement buses led us to miss Torquay conceding an early goal. No problem: Andy spanked in a stunning free kick (just one of his 10 in 64 games) and we ended up romping to a 4-1 win. Or, as far as we were concerned, 4-0!

Paul Gibbs

This son of Norfolk also had power, pace and goals in his locker. Mainly penalties, including a thunderously-dispatched winner at Luton in the FA Cup. He was one of the stars of our unexpectedly good second season under Kevin Hodges, when Paul was employed as a wing-back. I hope he won’t mind me describing him as a poor man’s Stuart Pearce. I mean it as a compliment. He had a relationship with the lovely Helen Chamberlain. A real one. Not a Fashanu/Lynch one. Followed Hodges to Argyle. Pity, that.

Torquay/Hodges/signings
Andy Gurney and Paul Gibbs (+Jamie Robinson and Kevin Hodges) – Photo Courtesy of Torbay News Agency

Matt Elliott

Colossus. He went on to win the League Cup with Leicester (2 goals in the final!!) and also played for Scotland, despite appearing to be more English than Terry Butcher’s jockstrap. He was a young, raw centre half when he joined us from Charlton. He was not unknown at the much-maligned Hideaway Club in-er-Temperance Street. Legend has it that he had to go to Scunthorpe to further his career because the nightlife up there was inferior, so he was able to concentrate on his football. No matter: he was brave as a lion and formed a really solid partnership with Wes Saunders. Apparently, Matt’s Granny once weed on a thistle, which was why he missed out on playing for the Three Lions. I think he was good enough to have done so.

Wesley Saunders

You know that rubbish “goal music” that some teams used to play? Tom Hark, it’s called, by the Piranhas. You know it. “Nah nah nah nah, Nah nah nah nah, Nah nah nah nah, Nah nah nah nah”. That was our Wes song. We just added “Wes” after every fourth “nah”. We loved him. Way too good for the Fourth Division. Or League 3. Or whatever it was called during the season that he demonstrated the innate superiority of Geordie Footballers Whose Boots Paul Gascoigne Used to Clean. Oh Wes, you were top quality mate. He scored in the play-off final in ’91. Bruce Rioch was “summarising” for TV that night, and his comment was: “Wes Saunders has been awesome”. So good: so good in fact, that, we named our beloved son after him. Honestly. We did. Despite the later managerial shambles. Matthew Wesley Hayward! It was lovely to see Wes many years later at a “legends” night, where Cav presented him with a Tommy Tynan Memorial kettle (google it, kids!).

Darren Moore

We called him Bruno. Which was probably a bit thick of us but he was a bruiser alright, even if Paul Raynor did take a dive. Darren was a John James signing, plucked from inner-city Birmingham to join our fabled YTS scheme. I remember him getting sent around the back of the old Babbacombe End to retrieve balls in reserve games. Once he got into the team he was a big lump of Jamaican beef: always headed for better things, including playing at international level for the Reggae Boys. He’s now a manager, and a folk hero at West Brom after giving them a bit of pride back when he stepped in towards the end of their most recent relegation season.

Midfielders

Steve McCall

Another top class footballer who put in a brilliant pre-retirement shift for Torquay. Played a million games for Ipswich in the top division before fleeing Home Park and parking his Rolls Royce passing game in our midfield. Although Rodney would have made most playmakers look good, Steve’s ability to pick a pass was uncanny. Stick a helmet on him, deflate the ball and he could quarterback all the way to the Superbowl.

Paul Trollope

Paul, I am so sorry. I once shouted angrily at you (from the away end at St James Park). I didn’t think you could play. I got that wrong. You turned out to be a very decent box-to-box midfielder who was, in fact, a bit too good for us. You played in the top division for Derby & Fulham, played for Wales (despite, obviously, not being Welsh) and have coached at a high level. It was in the genes of course. Your Dad John holds the record for Football League appearances for one club, having turned out 770 times for Swindon. I feel particularly guilty for giving you stick when you were very young because a couple of years afterwards I was in Galway after watching you and Don O’Riordan’s entertaining team win a pre-season friendly, and out of the goodness of your heart you sorted me and my friends out with some post-match clubhouse curry.

Kevin Hill

“Two Reids please Victoria”
“Steady on: one will suffice. Anyway, What links…….
Torrington- Torquay- 417 appearances- Leaps like a Salmon”

Strikers

Justin Fashanu

On balance, I’m going to pick Justin. Sorry Paul. Sorry Jason. A complex character. From what I can gather, Justin and his brother John were abandoned as young boys, fostered to a less-than ideal lady in Norfolk and both went on to have impressive football careers as muscular centre forwards in the days when tackles from behind and racial abuse were considered par for the course. Justin could have had it all. His homosexuality was well-known and “the great man manager” Brian Clough couldn’t handle it*** By the time he came to Torquay Justin was desperate for money, attention and – probably – love. He held it together well enough to give us several glimpses of what was by now fading ability. Scored some belting headers as we beat Exeter, West Brom and Stoke (!) at Plainmoor and cared enough to get himself sent off at The Hawthorns. Justin took his own life in the East End in 1998 after a disastrous return to Canada, in the same week that we were blowing automatic promotion at Leyton Orient.

Rodney Jack

“So Rodney: apart from signing on a free from a Caribbean Select XI named after a dance craze (Lambada FC), scoring lots of goals, terrifying Northern defenders and netting us £650,000 from Crewe, what else did you contribute?” The St Vincent & the Grenadines international caught pigeons, destroyed Scarborough and was a wonderful, raw talent. He was the footballer Usain Boult wanted to be. But probably quicker.

Subs

A little history lesson – (I am naming three, which I think is appropriate because the 90s but the 90’s did see an expansion of the numbers of bench-warmers and one has to move with the times.

I think the occasional sub is ok. I’m not an animal! I was alright about it going up from one to two in 1987.

Not sure about the 1992 innovation of having a goalie on the bench though. If I was in charge I would have continued with sticking the worst outfield player between the sticks if the custodian went off.

In 1994, for the first time, it became possible to make three replacements out of the three you could name on the bench. Getting a bit flaky now.

By 1996/7 you could play three out of 5 (five). It was getting silly, and as we know it’s now got worse, to the extent that only cities with populations of over 10 million can fill their benches.

Anyway:

We don’t need more defenders. I’ll go 4 at the back if need be. So:

Paul Baker

Decent lower division centre forward. Recalled by Missus. Never settled down south, despite Helen Chamberlain’s support (see also Paul Gibbs).

Jason Roberts

Nephew of Cyrille Regis. Played with Rodney on loan for a few weeks. Unbelievable! Pace, power, muscle.

Don O’Riordan

Terrific footballer. Financially, player-managers make a lot of sense. There are noble exceptions like Kenny Dalglish (and maybe even Bruce Rioch) but it rarely works well. Don was another Rolls Royce on the pitch though. He also scored a late winner in front of the away end at Exeter on Boxing Day. For this, I will forgive him having been in charge when Scunthorpe stuck eight past us at Plainmoor. Not even Bromley managed that!

Footnotes:
* or left. Not sure.
** the fans organised themselves. The council helped. He was ousted. WE COULD DO THAT
*** just like he couldn’t handle Leeds team that he inherited as league champions and who despite their advanced years then went on to reach the European Cup Final under Jimmy Armfield after Brian’s ill-fated 45 days in charge

Clive

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