“Keep an open mind and give these players your support from the off”
The Ed blogs about all things TUFC
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
Hurray…the season start date has been announced, b#####ks it’s the 3rd of October! Confirmation of a start date for the National League season 2020-21 was a welcome shot in the arm this week, but seven months without Torquay United football will feel like an eternity. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the wait will go on a little longer. But there is no point in non league football restarting until supporters can attend, so it’s the right decision. Teams would only lose money from behind closed doors games, with a shortage of TV £ to fill in the financial gaps.
The next step will be ascertaining what capacity clubs like ours will be allowed to allocate to supporters and how, so plenty still to clear up before season tickets can proceed. I am certainly looking forward to going back, but in the back of my mind I think the experience post-Covid disruption will be difficult to get used to. Going to footie is about enjoying the highs and lows with friends and family around you. Pre-match this means diving into a busy Gulls Nest and catching up with whoever is about, such spontaneity won’t be possible in October. On Bristow’s I sit next to 3 people I don’t live with – if there’s three seats between each of us then this shared experience suffers. So I’m tempering my expectations a little, and hope TUFC can do the best job possible to welcome us back to Plainmoor.
The additions to the squad this week sees Gary Johnson reloading and evolving the squad for 2020-21, and my main take so far is the sense that GJ is focussing on a improved mentality and toughness from his team. It’s the next step to becoming a League club again and hopefully turning a mid-table outfit into challengers. Since becoming our manager GJ has A) Filled the team with attacking talent and won the NLS B) Ensured United become a competitive National League club. Now for the most difficult part C) Winning promotion with a small but quality squad of players. Do this and I guess it would be amongst Gary’s best achievements in the game. His status as a United legend would be complete!
Last season saw a team do okay; with talent balanced off by consistently soft centre. Too often the players reacted badly in the face of adversity (rabbits caught in headlights some might say..) and going a goal down was regularly the prelude to us losing the game. Some of that can be blamed on inexperience and bad luck with injuries, but there was also a lack of leadership and mental edge to turn the tide. Danny Wright is a player in his mid-thirties, so that raises eyebrows. But to me it’s GJ saying ‘I need characters at the club who can lead from the front and drag the rest along with them’. This doesn’t necessarily have to be on the pitch, but in the dressing room and the training ground – setting examples and the tone for these youngsters to follow. Danny has won the division with Cheltenham and has an outgoing personality that I’m sure Gulls fans will warm to come October. He may not score 20 goals and stop us missing Reidy, but maybe just maybe his influence around the club will make the difference.
Otherwise defensively the Gulls just have to do better this season and the additions of Fraser Kerr and Gary Warren could do the trick. ‘Dawlish’ brought reassurance and calm to the shaky back four during his brief stay last season and can be brilliant for us again. He’ll have to be managed a little through the campaign I guess, as they’ll be plenty of Saturday/Tuesday double headers to navigate through – but our goals against column will surely make better reading come May. Otherwise we’ll have to pray that injury problems from 19-20 do not linger on. We’re due better luck on that score aren’t we?!
Meanwhile Fraser Kerr seems like somebody who’ll make an impact one way or another! There appears to be differing views on the centre back depending on which club’s supporters are talking – but I’ll judge him like any new signing from how he plays! It’s easy to make snap judgements these days with the amount of information and views available online. Often you can see YouTube clips of players and it’s always nice to see your new signing scoring some cracking goals or making crunching tackles, but anybody can look outstanding in highlights mode. Keep an open mind and give these players your support from the off.
The other newbie so far is young Andrew Nelson, who joins us after a spell at Dundee. We’ve had many many players with Nelson’s sort of playing record coming to Plainmoor. Guys in their early 20s who have transferred around a few clubs and not quite proved themselves at any of them. These players can sometimes become special at United, settling in well and reaping the benefits of being an important first team player whilst enjoying life in the bay. I hope the narrative on Nelson’s TUFC career will go something like that. Lads very rarely sign for United as the finished articles and it’s up to us to try and mould them into something, squeezing the very best out of their abilities (before they inevitably move on!). Gary Johnson knows how to do that.
If the new signings can settle in nicely and Gary can instil a tougher winning mentality into us this season then good things are possible. We rarely approach any season with a settled squad, but this time around a number of these players know and trust each other. No need for 10-15 introductions in 2020 and that can only be a positive thing. I think the likes of Wynter, Cameron and Andrews have progress to come in their careers and someone like Armani Little is ready to take the NL by storm if he can stay fit, so we can feel quietly optimistic I reckon. These Gulls may not have the va va voom of last October but maybe they’ll gather more points overall in 20-21.
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