Matt Roberts – @MatthewVA438
“A great day in our history” said Dean Edwards on the completion of the takeover by the Dave Phillips led consortium from Thea Bristow. I’m unsure whether he was being deliberately disingenuous or just massively under-estimating the scale of the task at hand. Either way it wouldn’t take long for things to go wrong, 24 hours in fact when Chris Hargreaves was placed on gardening leave for refusing to accept what was described as a “significant” wage cut.
A day after that, the new board announced plans to “water down” the academy in attempt to balance the books, the finances of which Phillips described as being in “dire straits” when the takeover was completed. This was the most worried that I’ve ever been that the club was going to fold.
With pre-season rapidly approaching and the club in turmoil (despite Dean Edwards’ statements to the contrary), Paul Cox was brought in as manager (on an expenses-only deal as it turned out) in an attempt to guide Torquay back to the Football League, as he had done with Mansfield two years previous. Again, I can’t help the feeling that the board may have been getting their hopes up a bit too much, giving Cox probably the lowest budget in the league and publicly aiming for promotion seems somewhat contradictory. Less than three months later Cox resigned having won only two games in a poor start to the season, saying that “certain aspects that were agreed were not adhered to” in relation to his contract.
Still, Dave Phillips said that he was sure Cox had plenty of contacts in order to add to the squad that summer so let’s see who he came up with. To say that this was a mixed bag is a bit of an under-statement.
Yes, Cox’s first signing that summer was James Hurst. Described as “perhaps fallen from grace” by Cox (he’d fall a lot further yet) but “as a fantastic athlete” and a “technically gifted footballer”, you get an impression in microcosm of Hurst’s career. He’s a player who had plenty of ability but whose attitude and behaviour were all wrong. Hurst left soon after Nicho took charge, scoring 7 in 17 appearances, much better than I remember. The less said about his post-Torquay career of criminality and (bizarrely) denying the presence of racism in football the better.
Easily the second best of Cox’s signings, Marsh ended up being our joint top scorer with seven goals until he was tempted away from Plainmoor in January by Dover after handing in a transfer request. These were the darkest of times with the forums full of fans resigned to relegation (or a fate much worse) and bemoaning the club’s decision to accept Marsh’s request.
There’s not much of a debate to be had on the best signing of the summer of 2015. Dan Butler was the only signing who would be with the club at the end of the season, being ever-present in the squad amidst almost constant changes around him. Cox was right in his estimation of Butler, “He’s a good player with potential to play at a very high level”.
He made the number three spot in TT’s left backs of the decade article, which is a testament to the quality of players we’ve had in that position over the years.
You can’t accuse Fabian Spiess of being unambitious. “I’ve got high ambitions, I want us to get promoted. There’s no point thinking we’ll sit in mid-table, we always have to aspire to be at the top.” There was definitely no point in thinking we’d be sitting in mid-table, we’d end up far lower than that before Nicho came in.
Signed as competition to Dan Lavercombe for the number 1 spot, Spiess started off well enough, being first choice initially until he was sent off and suspended, which was all the encouragement Lavercombe needed and he never looked back.
“We must make Plainmoor disgusting”. A quote that should be remembered far more than it is, by big Exodus. “We’ve got to make this place a horrible place to come to because it’s a far drive and nobody wants to come to Torquay.” I’m not sure whether he was referring to the opposition or just summing up our difficulty in attracting players to South Devon.
His fighting talk and missile throws aside, Geohagan was a poor signing but somehow managed to stay the season, although he was well down the pecking order by the end, with Nathan Smith and Angus MacDonald forming a brilliant partnership that was fundamental in keeping us up.
After Toby Ajala left the first time round, we were in need of a winger. Murombedzi being young, pacey, developed at Manchester United and Reading’s academies, and above all cheap, seemed to fit the bill and impressed in his initial friendlies. It all fizzled out in the end though, like most players on this list and he was released in January after Ajala came back and established himself back in the starting XI. Hearing him described at the time by one supporter as a “lightweight carthorse” just about sums his time at Plainmoor up.
An experienced player who had goals in him, having scored 10 for Macclesfield the previous season, Fairhurst seemed on paper at least to be a decent signing. However, he’d soon be struck down with injury making only three appearances off the bench. Never had a chance to show what he could do.
Another player who made little impact during his brief time with Torquay. Fenwick made only seven appearances that season. Reading between the lines, it seems his attitude was questionable. After being released in December, Nicho said that he “hopes he proves me wrong elsewhere”. Those hopes went un-fulfilled with Fenwick unable to ever really live up to the potential that Crystal Palace once saw in him. He has, however, carved out a bit of a career in Scandinavia in recent years, playing for a host of Norwegian and Danish clubs.
Signed on non-contract terms in August, Richards never played a single competitive minute for Torquay and warmed the bench for seven games as he couldn’t force his way past Smith, MacDonald and Geohagan at centre back.
Desperate for goals after a poor start to the season, Cox signed Lavelle-Moore on non-contract terms. Failing to score in nine games meant he was soon out the door after Cox resigned. Caretaker manager John Ramshaw summed it very diplomatically, “The fact that Joe [Quigley] and Malachi had scored one goal between them 11 games into the season is maybe indicative of where some of our faults lie”.
“Feed the fish and he will score” went the chant at Wrexham away in August, and that he did, netting five times in 16 appearances. Fisher was believed to be better than most of the other players we brought in that summer, with his hard work rate noticed by fans. Immediately after leaving Plainmoor Fisher secured a move to Inverness Caledonian Thistle. His most memorable moment in a Torquay shirt? Being accidentally substituted when the fourth official held up the wrong number against Woking. Paul Cox ended up being sent to the stands and the whole episode got a mention in the national press.
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