Saturday didn’t go as planned did it! This is Torquay United after all, why would we expect any different? I have said a few times to contributor Matty Hayward this season that we should always be wary when the odds are stacked in the Gulls favour. We have often struggled with the favourites tag, a ‘fighting underdog looking to prove a point’ position is always likely to bring the best out of this club. But never mind that, this blog isn’t focussing entirely on the football (don’t go away though), this blog is more about the enjoyment of returning to Plainmoor, and despite the result there was plenty of that.
I am never the best and most committed family member on a matchday. By late morning I am looking at the clock and thinking about the drive down, meeting up with whoever and how the game will pan out. I struggle to do much else! Last Saturday I did manage a weekly shop at Tesco (other supermarkets are available), then the press was on to get lunchtime started at 12 (to be honest that could be any day!), before I gathered up my beautiful yellow shirt, checked and double checked my season ticket was tucked in my wallet and then made a dash for it. My wife was not entirely impressed, and wasn’t totally won over by my ‘It’s been 6 months rhetoric”. But my conscience was clear – people to meet, 2nd home to visit.
The Union pub and a couple of TT mates awaited. Doing this website has given me much joy over the last 4 years, much of that revolves around meeting a new group of friends and that alone has made it all worthwhile. The welcome at the Union wasn’t the best. “No tables available lads, you’ll have to look elsewhere”. Before we could turn and utter our discontent, the decision was overturned, almost in VAR fashion. A table was available – hurrah! In the corner, just facing the legend that is Cav and his group of mates (him crying at Southend is always an abiding memory of that day!).
The next hour was filled with general catch up chatter and plenty of Torquay United debate, deliberation and banter, the simple joys of which I hadn’t experienced in person for a while. Sure, we have Whatsapp groups, but nothing beats company first hand and what you find out about each other. A couple of drinks later and with the Torquay United world put to rights, it was time to take a stroll to the ground.
Credit to the club, the entrance was quick and efficient and I pushed through the creaky turnstiles in no time. A quick glance up to the Gulls Nest was taken, a natural reaction to being back and an indication of how many times I’ve been up there pre-match! The pitch looked wonderful, the weather was decent, supporters wandered round and the lads were warming up – perfect. F##k the sofa it was terrific to be back in amongst it, even if the smell of cheesy chips wasn’t wafting in the air. People who don’t go to football in the flesh in normal non-COVID times miss out on so much.
Up to Bristow’s and catching up with the usual crowd and enjoying the wonderful view we have stationed around the halfway line – the whole view at our mercy and close enough to hurl some friendly abuse at the opposition manager, what’s not to like. One person missing from our lovely gaggle was Paul Rockett, whose name was included on the pre-match announcement prompting a minutes silence. A nice gesture from the club and an emotional moment to remember Paul and what a great chap he was. Perspective to us all, whatever happened on the football pitch, his presence would be hugely missed.
The game came and went in a blur of chaos, as TUFC lost their way and Barnet looked anything but the terrible team we expected them to be. The main disappointment apart from Torquay United’s performance was probably the lack of atmosphere created by the Yellow Army. There was pockets and moments of noise and obviously we all came to life when the goals went in, but overall the crowd struggled to get going. I wouldn’t like to be too critical of this. With the Popside unable to gather together properly in their usual huddles, all supporters wearing sweaty face masks and only 1500 or so in attendance, it could never replicate our usual end of season fixtures.
What I couldn’t quite understand is the booing at the end – which is something picked up by Sam Swann in his talking points blog. Was this for Barnet’s time wasting or for the United team? If this was indeed aimed at our lads, then it’s an absolute nonsense. What would have been anyone’s predictions last October? 5th, 6th, 7th or lower? Gary Johnson and his squad have exceeded almost everybody’s expectations, and dug deep so many times to keep us in the title race. In the end it hasn’t been enough, but they deserve our respect and support for how far they’ve taken us. This is a group to be proud of and I have real faith that we can still achieve promotion.
In the meantime, it was just fantastic to be back and on the plus side the play-offs give us another chance to make our presence felt and cheer United on. Football is all about being at the ground, sharing the experience with your mates, sharing some laughs and banter whatever the result. Trips to Plainmoor should never be taken for granted ever again, COVID has seen to that. Losing out on proper matchdays has meant losing out on so much, now let’s make some real noise in a couple of weeks time and inspire the team to Wembley…I mean Ashton Gate!