Dom Roman – @DomRoman
What a ridiculous week in the world of football! Super League? What a load of rubbish. Whatever made these owners think they could slide this idea onto the table without feeling an almighty backlash is beyond me, but when you’re a billionaire then I guess you’re used to getting your own way aren’t you. It was gratifying to see fan power win out, that’s for sure.
Back to what matters and the National League. Notts County are the visitors and in contrast to Woking and our trilogy of previous fixtures with them, it’s been a while since we regularly took on the ‘world’s oldest professional football club’ (granted, two games were scheduled last season but COVID cancelled the second). The last meeting at Plainmoor was in 2010. Paul Buckle’s Gulls had finished their first season back in League Two with a flourish, the Pickler Guy Branston bossing the back four to bring us clean sheets galore. Meanwhile Notts County arrived in the Bay as League Two champions (after a crazy season under Sven-Goran Eriksson the year before!), so the atmosphere was happy and convivial on a nice sunny day in May (get me back!).
Let’s take you back to Torquay’s line-up as they battled out a 0-0 draw with the Magpies:
TUFC: Collis, Nicholson, Robertson, Charnock, Ellis, Mansell, Wroe, Stevens (O’Kane), Rendell, Zebroski, Benyon – BBC Report
Not a bad team that! Let’s be honest a team the size of Notts County should never be languishing in the National League 11 years later. The January stream made that clear, with the size of Meadow Lane impressive on the cameras (normal seated capacity over 18k), and a reminder of what a big club they are at this level. But that’s what can happen in the world of Football. Anything can happen and any club can climb up or fall down the pyramid at any point. That’s the unpredictability and competitiveness that we are used to. Eventually County will no doubt bounce back to the Football League, but they’ll have to earn it.
Indeed my memories (if I may hark back in time a little!) of Notts County go back 30 years to when they had a brief dalliance in what was the 1st Division in 1991-92. Manager was future Gulls boss Neil Warnock (check out his thoughts on the shambolic Super League below), and in midfield was future Gulls boss Don O’Riordan, whilst some other notable players included Tommy Johnson and Craig Short (all included in my pro set card collection). They unsurprisingly only lasted a season, and haven’t been back since – but that must have been fun while it lasted.
The 2020-21 team look on paper there for the taking tomorrow. The managerial change from Neal Ardley to Ian Burchnall has not kick-started their season, in fact it’s just made it worse and they will be lucky to reach the play-offs at this rate (6 points from the last 6 games). But that’s doesn’t mean it’s going to be a cakewalk for United. Notts skipper Michael Doyle is returning to action to lead the team and they may also have (there’s only one) Mark Ellis at the back. If picked (he was a sub versus Eastleigh), the defender will no doubt clear the Popside with a clearance at least once during the game and also get his head on a few set pieces. Mark is rarely out of the action for long! Upfront Kyle Wootton has 14 goals this season, and could trouble Sherring and Lewis given the right service.
TT PLAYER PROFILE – MARK ELLIS
Position: Centre Back
Date of Birth: 30th September 1988 – 32 years-old
Former Clubs: Bolton Wanderers, TUFC, Forest Green, Crewe Alexandra, Shrewsbury, Carlisle United, Leyton Orient, Tranmere Rovers
National League 20-21 Stats: Played 9, Goals 3, Bookings 1