MY TUFC STORY
The TT contributors look back at their time supporting the Gulls
Clive Hayward – @ByeHorse
Cyril #1 and the 1970s
How & why did I start? 1976. My Grandad had been promising to take me for ages. He was an occasional Pop-Sider, and eventually we clambered into his Morris Minor to make the trip across from Paignton for what was then a regular Fourth Division fixture with the mighty AFC Bournemouth. I was 8, and it was a Saturday night game. The mighty whites (as we were at that time) scored first, Bournemouth equalised but a second half winner sent me home happy & hooked, two points (as it was then) having been secured.
Grandad was the first significant Cyril in my life, and we went to a few games every season after this, until he inconveniently died at Christmas 1979 (a couple of days after what turned out to be a literally heart-stopping 3-3- draw against Swindon in the Cup).
Highlights of those early days included seeing off Portsmouth during their brief sojourn in the basement division and a 4-3 victory over York. It being the 1970s there were a couple of unsavoury memories too.
The only time I can remember my mum coming with us saw Torquay concede goals in stoppage time to a talented Watford side that under Elton John & Graham Taylor’s tutelage was starting it’s meteoric rise to the First Division. A certain future England striker called Luther Blissett was a star that day, but more than a few Popsiders greeted him with monkey chants and shouts of “National Front”.
In terms of hooliganism, I vividly remember bricks flying our way from the Mini Stand after it had been “taken” by some Swansea hard-cases. They hammered us too: John Toshack’s talented side also on their way to much better things.
Torquay had a couple of good strikers at the time, both fondly remembered by most fans of my age. Steve Cooper was a fearless centre forward who was as good in the air as Sillsy despite giving him about 4 inches. Coops was also much shorter in every possible way than his afro-haired strike partner, the incomparable Les Lawrence.
Cyril #2 and the 1980s
It was another Cyril who brought Torquay the first success of my lifetime. Working with a shoe-string budget Cyril put together a fearsome team that hated to lose, almost got promoted in 1987/88 and, quite gloriously, went all the way to Wembley in the Sherpa Van Final in 1989.
We were the first Devon team to play under the Twin Towers and it was a day out nobody there will ever forget. It was one of those occasions when Torquay fans came out of the woodwork from all over the place, including the incomparable Peter Cook and my old man (who had spent the previous decade telling me Torquay were crap and that the 1960’s team would have wiped the floor with them).
The last 30 years….
As we all know, good seasons at Plainmoor are the exception rather than the rule (my old man was actually right about the 1960s team!), so one of my all-time highlights is a relegation escape rather than a promotion battle. Barnet in 2001 was absolutely glorious, with over 2000 Yellows inside Underhill and hundreds locked out to see Colin Lee’s blue-shirted heroes go three nil up by half time, almost blow the lead uphill in the second but hold on for a winner-take-all three points that ensured the first of many Barnet relegations.
Southend in 2004 has to be the high-water mark, with Leroy’s entertainers getting the automatic promotion they so richly deserved and which will ensure I can die happy. Hopefully late on the night we win the European Cup.
Players- ask me tomorrow & I may give a different answer, but my all time favourites would include:
Keeper- Big Nev. The man, the gut, the legend. World class throughout the 80s at Everton and still the best keeper in our league in his forties.
Defenders- Wes Saunders oozed class and it’s hard to see past his partner Matt Elliott as a pairing in the middle. Either of those would have walked into Cyril’s team, but that had an evil defence too, the best combination probably being Jim McNichol, Phil Lloyd, David Cole & Tom Kelly.
Midfield- Alex Russell, Steve McCall or Tony Currie were all way too good for us.
Strikers- Paul Dobson knew where the goal was. Dave Caldwell was mental, explosive and much loved. David Graham is probably the most gifted footballer and natural finisher in my time.
COYY – Clive