Matt Roberts – @MatthewVA438
It’s safe to say that this year has been more bad than good, but over recent months Torquay United have provided welcome respite from the almost constant doom and gloom pervading every other facet of life. I know that lists are sometimes quite clickbaity but I thought I’d share my highlights of the season so far. Perhaps the thumbnail for this article can say something like “You won’t believe what number 4 is!” or something to that effect for the full click bait experience?
1) Being top of the league
Not exactly surprising but who saw it coming at the start of the season? We play exciting football and always look a threat going forward. Over the years I’ve always expected Torquay to concede in the last few minutes when defending a lead or at least a point, but now the shoe is on the other foot. You get the feeling that if we need to, we can pull one out of the bag like at Halifax last week, or against Chesterfield and Stockport at home. I’m not used to being this happy and optimistic as a Torquay supporter.
2) Individual improvements
While the entire squad has exceeded expectations so far, some players have really stepped it up a gear. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans had a difficult season last time out, mostly due to injury. This season, however, his true potential is coming to the fore. Playing in the hole between midfield and Danny Wright, CLE has been able to dictate the flow of games, threading defence splitting passes and creating chances seemingly out of nowhere.
Aaron Nemane joined relatively late last season, featuring a number of times and most fans would probably have expected him to be a squad player at best this term. However, Nemane has risen to the challenge and improved considerably since March. His driving runs on the wing and skill on the ball have been a key part in several goals scored this season. I’m excited to see what he can do going forward.
3) The club’s streaming service
It’s nowhere near the same as being at Plainmoor obviously, my bathroom is a lot cleaner than the Popside toilets for one. However, the club has done a damn good job delivering a streaming service since the start of the season, especially considering they (like all other clubs) are learning as they go. The video quality has been decent, no real issues to speak of, it looks professional and it’s getting better as time goes on.
4) Dave Thomas on commentary
Following on from the club’s streaming service, maybe it’s just me but I’ve enjoyed hearing Dave taking us on a journey down memory lane during a game, telling us a story about when Torquay last fielded wing-backs in 1976 or reminding us of a particularly interesting game involving whichever team we’re playing from the 1980s, then regaling us of that for about 10 minutes.
5) Our kits being so much better than everyone else’s
I didn’t think our kits could look much more stylish than those worn last season. I was very wrong, and pleasantly surprised when I saw what Pro:Direct had come up with this time. Who else has palm trees on their kit? “Not just any palm tree either – it’s the famously hardy Torquay Palm known for its resilience and durability”, as the club’s press release informed me. This was top notch marketing speak. A bonus? A lack of reports of the palm trees coming off in the wash, unlike the kits last season which quickly disintegrated when introduced to a washing machine.
It’s a bit of a combination of the above but the successful roll out of the streaming service, the snazzy new kits and the way season tickets were handled gives the impression that the people behind the scenes at Plainmoor actually know what they’re doing, something which wasn’t altogether apparent in years gone by. Clarke Osborne and George Edwards may be opaque with communication still a problem, and many fans will still be sceptical of their future plans for the club. However, there is air of professionalism emanating from Plainmoor at present. I’ll take that over the manager driving players to games and having 420 Skatestore on our kits.
7) The imminent return of fans
So it hasn’t happened yet but the news that (albeit limited) crowds will be allowed from next week came as a bit of a shock when it was announced. How long it lasts before the gates are barred once more is anyone’s guess if infection rates shoot up. Still, despite the long list of precautions that fans will likely have to bear in mind on matchday, having 2,000 fans in Plainmoor is better than none. Having supporters in the ground as the team that’s top of the league walks out with Children playing will bring a welcome sense of normality and joy to what has been a mostly rubbish year.
My highlights by The Ed
1 – Fireworks at Hartlepool – Torquay’s finest Conference performance since relegation in 2014? Possibly. A masterclass from the Gulls.
2 – Wynter Wonderland – Chesterfield at home was drifting to a frustrating draw when Ben popped up with a scrambled winner.
3 – Whitfield Worldie – After an abject 1st half at Aldershot, Ben’s quick turn and perfectly placed banger had United on the way to 3 points.
4 – GJ’s Fist Pump – Stockport (H) felt weirdly emotional. Gary’s trademark celebration into the cameras was a superb touch from a superb chap.
5 – Kyle Cameron – Kyle’s form has been a key factor to United’s rise to the top. We are proud to sponsor this top man.
6 – Armani’s Return – Granted there has been recent setbacks, but Armani’s return to action after so long out warmed the cockles.
7 – Smells like team spirit – United’s team spirit is spot on this season. A team working together to get the best out of each other. Nice.