Happy New Year! Seems like an inappropriate comment, considering the lockdown constraints we are currently tied into. Not that Lockdown 3 is a bad idea in the slightest, we had no other choice, but boy it has made the start of January a real grind like no other. I’ve rarely enjoyed the start of the year as we return from the festivities of Christmas, but 2021’s offering is the glummest I’ve ever experienced. Hopefully there’s no competition in the future for that accolade.
It’s been an emotional week in the Roman household, and I don’t just mean our 2 year-old shedding some tears at biting her tongue, or taking a minor fall of some kind, if only that was the sum of it all. With schools briefly opening and then shutting, it’s been an uncertain time – though by Friday the picture had become clearer and due to our key worker status, our oldest daughter merrily made her way back to her usual classroom. I’ve always heard what a resilient bunch children are, and had never truly discovered first hand whether this was true. Thankfully it is. Meanwhile our youngest gets on about her business in her usual manner, this whole period will be forgotten by her as she grows older…probably for the best!
I’ve tried to take a leaf out of their (Julia Donaldson) books this past week, but in truth I’ve been moping around the house a bit (my wife deserves sympathy). With the kids downstairs I’ve been locked away in our smallest room between 8.45ish to 5 on the laptop, emerging every so often to see what the noise is, grab a snack of some kind (10.30 isn’t too early to eat a pasty is it?), or for a brief walk to clear the cobwebs. COVID is pushing me into Mr Grumpy territory! Our last team meeting of the week included the line manager eulogising about a ‘relatively good week’…quite some managerial speak that. I can’t believe anyone was buying it, but you have to respect the optimism if nothing else.
When we look back at this period in years to come it will be with a grimace…and if you’re a Torquay United fan it’ll go along the lines of “Jesus that COVID period was a struggle…but at least the Gulls were good”. The sportsmen and their endeavour to compete for our pleasure have given plenty a welcome lift in recent times. I tuned into ITV Racing on Saturday and a chap in isolation had written in to say that the Horse Racing had brought “A ray of light to his life”. Being a sports obsessive I understand that and so does someone like Neil Warnock, who spoke about the brief joy and respite they could bring to peoples lives at the moment (even if it was to moan about a loss), the distraction taking the focus away from Lockdown 3. A man full of heart, Neil has always understood the relationship between football clubs and their supporters.
Anyway in the Gulls world, I think I’ve just about recovered from that Yeovil Town double sucker punch that started the New Year with a horrendous bump last weekend. I can take the occasionally loss this season and understand we’ll sometimes meet our match. But having suffered a wretched 2 hours of Somerset stream that included no match preview, little or no match sound, a camera that zoomed out when you wanted it to zoom in, hopelessly rambling commentators and for the most part hopelessly rambling football – my hopes were clutching to 3 points, to make the tenner cost at least mildly value for money. In the end it wasn’t to be.
The Glovers were worthy of a result. Their tenacity and work rate increased emphatically from that Boxing Day bonanza for the lads at Plainmoor (is it too early to reminisce about that game!), and made the afternoon into 90 minutes of toil where United never really grasped control of proceedings. Losing right at the death was cruel though, and the winner unsurprisingly came from a corner – a set piece that has been our Achilles heel in recent times. It was a belting delivery to be fair. A miserable last five minutes to set us up for Lockdown 3 perfectly!
In the aftermath there was much disappointment around Social Media circles, directed at two players in particular – Lucas Covolan and Josh Umerah. I felt sympathy for Lucas. Coming in after weeks without a game is never easy. His hesitation for their first goal was critical, but let’s cut the Brazilian some slack. We know in our hearts that neither him or Mac are the finished article between the sticks, but between the two they have kept goal for the top team in the league, a team leading the division by 8 points. So they are clearly not that bad. Whoever starts our next match deserves our support like the rest of this squad, and whoever Gary chooses is okay by me.
Josh Umerah feels like an easy target to me, as discussed by Matty Hayward on Thursday in his post match comments (I’ll have to stop him using up my material!). The striker is no Danny Wright, and I think supporters have to subdue their expectations a little when they see Josh play. He doesn’t have the experience and knowhow of the veteran, and hasn’t got the same awareness to bring others into play….but this young chap isn’t without his individual merits. Witness his charging run to keep the ball in play for Aaron on Boxing Day, or his calm finish at Weymouth, or further back a sweet goal at Sholing. Focus on what he can do rather than his faults as a player and let’s keep positive. With our team doing well there’s no need to plunge into doom and gloom and when a guy is trying his hardest, that’s all you can ask.
The Solihull Moors game felt like a big one, a game to get us back on track and shush any doubters (in true CLE Weymouth style) in regards to our promotion credentials. But it’s frustratingly not to be and with the FA Trophy next Saturday (zzzz), the league will have to wait. This remains our league for the taking, but as postponements mount, glances start to head towards whether A) A Circuit Breaker will be taken and B) When could PPG (points per game) come into play.
With Covid taking hold option A is a looming possibility, we’ll maybe hear more about this soon. Meanwhile B is looking more likely – especially considering someone like Dover have only played a pitiful 10 games. If I were to put a neutral hat on (metaphorically I may add), then I’d suggest three quarters of a season needs to be in the books to make a PPG finish fair. With 44 fixtures due to be played, this means 33 in total and 16 more games for the Gulls.
But who knows what the National League top brass have in mind. Barrow won the league having played 37 out of 46 games in 19-20 (80%), so that sets some kind of precedent for 2020-21. We can only hope that come the spring-time the National League postponements have decreased dramatically, that the Yellow Army can return to Plainmoor and that Gary Johnson’s Torquay United remain on course for League Two. Imagine some kind of normally returning this summer and TUFC back in the league proper, those positive thoughts warm my cockles on these cold nights!
I have been watching US sitcom Seinfeld this weekend and George Costanza bemoans to Jerry that he has “nothing to talk about…well apart from sports” – with little else happening that is me at the moment! So if you fancy some banter about footie I’m always ready and willing to oblige. But seriously look after yourselves and stay safe. More enjoyable times will arrive again…they can’t come soon enough.