“A maestro on his day and a joy to watch” DR on Mark Loram
The Ed blogs about all things TUFC
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
“How’s your social distancing going?!” (Semi) Lockdown continues and with the sun shining and more cars on the road, we may be in danger of getting complacent I’d say. Our challenge in the Roman house continues. Work (reasonably) hard, get deadlines cleared, entertain children, throw in some learning for the oldest, keep house (reasonably) tidy and stay (reasonably) sane – get up, repeat again!
My work day Monday to Friday starts at the unlikely time of 7am (unlikely considering how slow my brain gets going in the morning). Laptop propelled into action, (strong) coffee poured, check e-mails. Field any issues from them and grind it through until around lunchtime. Then attempt to have lunch before uttering “it’s a bit hot” isn’t it and becoming (reasonably) fun daddy. We’ve been to the beach twice in the past week – a change of scenery, some sea air and ice creams to raise the spirits!
This week I thought I’d discuss my Top 10 all-time Torquay United players, because let’s face it – news about the club is fairly non-existent! Talk of a regionalised combination of League 2 and the Conference is intriguing mind, reported by the Mail on Sunday – so could be tosh…but if we’re talking about making TUFC financially sustainable, then the promise of more derbies, less travel expenses and bigger crowds has some promise. Gary Johnson seems to be warm to the possibility.
So what characteristics does a player need to possess to be amongst my top 10 ever Gulls? Well playing between 1990-2020 is a must. Add to that talent, personality, success, decent longevity (at least a season) and you’re in with a chance!
Anyway let’s do this in reverse order shall we before I change my mind…
10 – Bobby Olejnik – 2011-12
I’ve had trouble with number 10 to be honest! The likes of Tim Sills, Wes Saunders, Nicho, Mansell, Paul Hall, Hargreaves, Paul Gibbs and more were considered but I’m plumping for the best keeper I’ve seen in a United shirt. The start to Bobby’s one and only season at Plainmoor was a slightly jittery as new players adjusted under Lingy, but after that he was imperious. Have we ever had a better man facing one-on-ones than Bobby O? I doubt it. He made the goal look tiny. Add to that his command of the box, strong physique plus spot-on decision-making and you had a terrific player. And as an ex-keeper myself (5-a-side cat 2004-2014) I am only happy to include him in the 10.
9 – Kevin Hill – 1997-2008
I’ve seen hundreds of guys pull on a yellow shirts who have more natural ability than Hilly, but what Kevin lacked in tricks he made up for with heart. My minimum requisite of a player for the Gulls is to give 100% when their feet touch the Plainmoor pitch and that was ‘Mr Jumping Bean’ Kevin Hill. An immensely likeable individual who just wanted to help his team out and fill in wherever he was needed, and then leaving the pitch last – almost certainly looking knackered! Club legend.
8 – Eunan O’Kane – 2010-12
Eunan arrived from Coleraine in 2010 and his early appearances were full of eager running and enthusiasm as he settled into life down in the bay. Over the next couple of years he would transform from raw youngster to fully bloomed Plainmoor superstar. In the 2011-12 season there was more consistent players, and Eunan’s game was still maturing…but the talent was all there. Scaring defences with his ability to turn on a sixpence and drop a key pass or a shot out of nowhere, scoring those beauties against Plymouth and chasing down until the very last minute of the Cheltenham defeat – Eunan had given everything for the United cause and we were lucky to have him.
7 – Darren Moore – 1992-95
How do you replace a beefcake like Matt Elliott at the back? Well you bring in the man mountain that was Dazza Moore! Torquay United used to produce quality trainees on a regular back in the day and big Darren was amongst the best. He was simply a rock, someone who could intimidate attackers just by just standing next to them! Much like Matty Elliott he was sold on for a modest fee to another lower league team (Doncaster Rovers) and his huge presence was immediately missed as our form nose-dived in typical TUFC style.
6 – Matt Elliott – 1989-92
Speaking of brick shithouses! Matt Elliott broke into the United team just as I started going to Plainmoor and found the perfect mentor in Wes Saunders to learn his trade. He was strong in the tackle, could head for miles and always presented a danger on set pieces…and then left for…Scunthorpe in 1992 for not much money! Eventually the big man found success with Leicester City and unlikely caps with Scotland – but it all started at Plainmoor. And yes I do adore a good centre back!
5 – Steve Woods – 2001-09
What is it with Torquay United and centre backs? There’s no other area on the field where United have boasted such quality over the years, but for me Woodsy tops them all (well since 1990 of course…). Steve had a mixed time in his early days at Plainmoor and injuries were a real problem for the defender, but the arrival of Leroy Rosenior signalled a change of luck for Woodsy and by 2003 he had reached the peak of his career..and probably my peak as a supporter! The centre back was calm on the ball, great at finding space on set pieces and most importantly made the right decisions in defence. A tremendous professional and someone who stayed loyal as the club nose-dived into trouble. Loved Woodsy.
4 – Rodney Jack – 1995-98
Don O’Riordan brought Rodney Jack to Plainmoor in 1995, and following on from another talented Caribbean winger in Gregory Goodridge, our hopes were pretty high for the young lad. Those hopes were not only met but eclipsed x 100 by a chap who had pace to burn, skills to excite and tremendous goals to score. In a few years at the club he became one of our best ever players, his finest hour inarguably being that Scarborough semi-final in 1998 as he tore them to glorious shreds. Like so many others his Plainmoor career ended on a bad note (his being at Wembley), but by then his status as a United legend was confirmed.
3 – David Graham – 2001-04
David Graham had the sort of season in 2003-04 that only happens in a blue moon at Plainmoor. He scored from all angles and made plenty too, swerving around the pitch like a Gulls ballerina and effortlessly placing a shot into the top corner before a calm celebration. His leaving was then inevitable and maybe so was his failure higher up the league, as for all his talents he maybe just didn’t have the drive to really make it. But we were blessed to have him and those happy memories of 2003-04 will live on for a very long time.
2 – Mark Loram – 1984-86 and 1987-92
If Torquay Stats had been around 30 years ago and totting up TUFC assists, then Mark Loram would have had oodles of them! Loram oozed class on the wing. Myself and my dad perched towards the left of the family stand in our early years at Plainmoor (near where the players tunnel used to be) and the winger was often pushing down that side. Mark would be fed the ball, and then tease and tantalise the opposition full back with the nonchalant and lazy looking style of his. But then BANG, a perfect left footed curler would be cajoled into the box for a grateful team mate. A maestro on his day and a joy to watch – someone who really should have showcased his ability at a higher level.
1 – Alex Russell – 2001-05
‘You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone’. Alex Russell was loved during his time at Plainmoor but I think the Yellow Army appreciated his talents even more after he left. The ex-Liverpool youngster was all about pass and move, keeping the Gulls ticking and chipping in some sweet goals as well. An exceptional midfielder who took the step up to League One in his stride and almost helped Leroy’s team survive for a second season. That last day heartbreak at Colchester was cruel for all the squad but especially Alex. A Torquay United legend? Most definitely and a guy who will always hold a special place in my Yellow heart.
10 of the worst (just for fun):
In no particular order….
Mo Camera – looked like an 80 year old and played like it.
Conrad Balatoni – looked like he got out of bed just before games.
Lee Andrews – a full back trier but woeful in a woeful team.
Chris Regis – lazy, sloppy and an absolute waste of space.
Habib Sissoko – had something ability wise but never produced and had a poor attitude to boot.
Dale Tonge – had a good cv but experienced a total crisis of confidence on arrival.
Leon Constantine – lazy and lacklustre = waste of money.
James Sharp – shouted a lot but was one of the slowest defenders I’ve seen at Plainmoor.
Karl Hawley – one of many barn door strikers I’ve seen at TUFC.
Exodus Geohaghon – not interested apart from at throw-ins.
That could have been 50!!
All the best. Dom