Dom Roman – @DomRoman
So with Connor Lemonheigh-Evans joining, the TUFC signed on squad for 20-21 is just about complete (another defender and striker would be nice though GJ…). Summer signings at Torquay United over the years have been particularly random, and the expectations have not always been matched by the players form – whilst virtual unknowns have quickly turned into diamonds before our eyes. It’s always a case of ‘we shall see’. Gary Johnson is a pretty good judge of character, think back to the clear-out he made on arrival in 2018, but even he has struggled at times (cough…Manny Duku…cough).
But what of players who were nearly men at Plainmoor for one reason or another? Players who could have become legends (or at least given us some decent service) but fell short or just made other plans. I’ve delved into a few names from 2000 onwards and thought I’d share them in my latest blog…
Brian Healy – 1998-2001
Brian Healy had a bit of everything as a midfielder, and after joining in 1998 settled in nicely at Plainmoor, showing his poise on the ball, a decent shot and solid leadership – Wes Saunders making him club captain for his efforts. Disaster struck and Healy suffered a cruciate ligament injury, missing the 2000-01 season. On return he never regained his place in the team, and left for Darlington before slipping into non-league football. For a splendid footballer who should have been entering his prime that was a terrible shame.
Mark Ford – 2000-01
Healy’s replacement as Torquay captain? Mark Ford, a tenacious youngster who moved to Plainmoor after a spell with Belgium team Lommel. Mark, as his very short haircut would suggest, was a central midfielder who liked to get stuck in and make his presence felt. The armband appeared to have been passed on wisely, but by early 2001 Ford was happier to move back up north – leaving for Darlington, before like Healy falling into non-league football. My memories may be fading but I thought he was better than that.
Ryan Ashington – 2000-02
Another midfielder, this time blonde haired bombshell Ryan Ashington, a local lad who was given his debut at the tender age of 17 by Wes Saunders in 2000. Ryan did well that season, and looked confident enough to forge a fine footballing career. However, injury struck (maybe we are cursed) in 2001 and he never found his way back into the United team – loaned out by Roy McFarland to Newport and never returning.
Craig Woodman – 2004-05
Craig Woodman joined the Gulls on loan from Bristol City during the 2004-05 season, as Leroy juggled his squad to try and avoid relegation. The steady full back showed enough in around 20 league games to hint at a decent career in the offing and even came back for a brief cameo in early 2005-06. No permanent deal was forthcoming though, the defender eventually finding a new home at Wycombe in 2007 before spending a long time up the road with the Grecians.
Alan Connell – 2005-06
Leroy signed an awful lot of (awful) players in the summer of 2005, and many in hope than expectation, but Alan Connell looked a safe bet. A well-rated striker with Bournemouth, Alan seemed like the new frontman we needed, someone to give us 20 goals and bring back the good times to Plainmoor. What transpired was a frustrating season for Connell in a struggling side. The striker could not find the requisite sharpness or fitness to become a success, and he left for Hereford in 2006 – going on to do okay with numerous clubs thereafter.
Alex Lawless – 2005-06
Lawless was released by Premier League Fulham in 2005 and was snapped up by United for 2005-06. In what was a mostly wretched season, Lawless only featured sporadically and left for Forest Green in 2006. Alex has gone to play for a number of league teams, it’s a shame we didn’t see more of him in a United shirt.
Matt Green – 2008-10
After losing out in the 2008 play-offs, Paul Buckle was desperate to add more firepower to the United squad. Enter Matt Green, who had just been released by Cardiff City. Unfortunately the signing never worked out, Matt’s style of game not really suited to United’s hussle and bussle approach. The pacey frontman could play no doubt about that, scoring a beauty to beat Blackpool in the FA Cup. He spent much of 09-10 on loan at Oxford United and joined them permanently. Perhaps the right man at the wrong time (for the wrong manager).
Ashley Yeoman – 2008-2015
Ashley Yeoman spent what felt like an eternity at Plainmoor, making his debut in late 2008, with high hopes around the place that he could be something special. Yeoman didn’t feature again until 2011, and then season after season the striker would be given occasional appearances in a yellow shirt, scoring a goal here or there, signing new contracts but then failing to find the faith of each new manager (this was interspersed with loan spells away). The cycle was ended in late 2015 as he was released by the club. Ash’s position and timing upfront was there, it’s a shame things never worked out.
Billy Kee – 2010-11
Billy Kee’s personal problems are well documented and this ‘what if’ story is certainly neither the fault of Torquay United or the player. Kee was signed by Paul Buckle in 2010, and showed excellent versatility as the season progressed to Old Trafford. Unfortunately Billy could not settle in Devon and left for Burton in 2011, before finding success at Accrington Stanley. I wish him well.
Billy Bodin – 2012-2014
Billy Bodin looked a great signing for Martin Ling in the summer of 2012. He’d already sparkled on loan during 2011-12, what could go wrong? The easier question would be what could go right? The club’s form on and off the pitch nose-dived and Billy lost his confidence very quickly. Often marooned on the wing, the Welshman struggled to influence games and suffered a bad injury at the end of 2013-14, never playing for the club again. His talent would shine in the end for Bristol Rovers and Preston North End, looking back we just did not utilise him properly. A player who’s skill and shooting ability could have illuminated Plainmoor week in, week out. Not to be.
Sam Chaney – 2014-2017
Who would become the playmaker that the Yellow Army craved in 2014? Sam Chaney apparently. The youngster looked the part, wooing fans with a silky home debut – an adhesive first touch and an eye for a killer pass…interesting. After that it never really happened for Sam. Kevin Nicholson handed him a 2-year contract, but he never found a regular place in the team – finishing his United career bizarrely at full back in the ill-fated early fixtures of 2017-18. Lower non league football beckoned soon after. A waste of talent I’d say.
Danny Racchi – 2016
More clubs than Nick Faldo! Is that still a phrase? Well hairy midfielder Racchi arrived at Plainmoor in early 2016 and soon made a big impression. Racchi was tenacious, comfortable on the ball and could begin attacks on the flip of a coin. A big influence on the great escape that season, Danny was a hit. Despite numerous links and supporters mentioning him endlessly for months, the midfielder never returned after season end. Nicho sighting lack of funds to help relocate him and his family down to the bay. A player who enjoyed the affection of United fans, it’s a shame it finished so soon.
Kieffer Moore – 2016
Let’s end with a bang shall we. Local lad Kieffer found his way back home in late 2016 on loan from Forest Green and was simply a revelation, scoring 5 goals in 4 games to give Nicho’s struggling Gulls a welcome jolt. The brilliant striker was then linked to making the move permanent, and it was certainly a possibility during January 2017…before Championship side Ipswich Town rudely swooped in to sign him instead. His signing could have transformed not just that season, but also our future finances – well assuming we could have negotiated something decent anyway! What might have been indeed…
COYY – Dom