TT 2020/2021 SQUAD REVIEW
Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96
The TT Twenty-Twenty/Twenty-Twenty-One Squad Review continues apace, and thankfully it’s much more entertaining to write (and hopefully read) than its title is easy to say. We move on to midfielders: an area of the squad that has seen a core of almost-ever-presents surrounded by a combination of injury-riddled stars and short-term flops. There are plenty to get through, so let’s get on with it.
Asa Hall: 9
There was a fear at the start of this season – a fear held by totally rational people, a fear with which I didn’t entirely agree but certainly sympathised – that this year might be one too far for Asa. That perhaps the Conference South campaign was his crowning glory, and that the curtailed 2019/20 was the last chance for the increasingly cranky old midfielder to drag this increasingly cranky old football club out of the non-league doldrums. Of course, that was nonsense. He’s scored more than anyone else despite being, supposedly, our most “defensive” or “holding” midfielder. But that doesn’t scratch the surface of what Asa brings to Torquay. He’d be the first to admit that he’s not the most flashy or technically gifted player in the squad – far from it – but what he lacks in flair he more than makes up for in nous, in doing the simple things well, in providing a structure around which a young team can be built. It came as no surprise to me when researching this piece that of the five league games Asa hasn’t appeared in this season, we’ve won just two. His consistency, brought about by his much-improved fitness, have been crucial to us finishing second this season, and regardless of the overall outcome the goal at Sutton will go down in history as one of the greatest for me.
Long-haired, armband-wearing midfielder heading into a play-off campaign for The Gulls? You know the rest.
League Appearances: 37, Goals: 10 (plus 2 in the FA Cup), Assists: 6
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans: 8.5
Another absolutely outstanding player this season. There have been times in his multiple spells at Plainmoor where The Lemon’s ability has been on the wane, but so often this season he has been our most creative and offensively dangerous player. The late winner at Weymouth was one of this season’s Great Moments: a sweeping attack in the last minute, finished coolly, celebrated with a gloriously shithouse shhh to the home fans represented everything that’s been great about Gary’s Gulls in this term. Despite being used in multiple positions, by far the Welshman’s best performances have come in the number ten role, where he’s kept his head and fitness while all those around him have been losing theirs. He’ll have to play there, and play well, if we’re to have any success in the coming days and weeks.
League Appearances: 42, Goals: 10, Assists: 13
Adam Randell: 8.5
It frustrates me immensely that the other two Devon clubs are so good at consistently developing talented young footballers. It was for this reason alone that I opted for The Lemon in my vote for Young Player Of The Season over Randell, who has been just as impressive as the Welshman but is inflicted with the Green Disease. Genuinely, though, this lad is going to be an annoyingly good footballer. He started the season in a formidable midfield partnership with Hall, before being forced by injury to fill in on the right of defence and midfield. He’s settled in pretty well out wide, and although he’s probably better in the centre, his ability to cross a ball with either foot and beat a full back means he’s very well-suited to the challenges of being a winger too. He’ll be a Football League player next season – probably above the fourth tier – regardless of how we fare, but the Argyle man will rightly go down as a crucial cog in this Yellow promotion pushing machine.
League Appearances: 42, Goals: 2, Assists: 10
Ben Whitfield: 8.5
Talking of people who are very well-suited to the challenges of being a winger, we move on to Ben Whitfield. The Ballerina from Bingley is probably the best winger I’ve seen in a Torquay shirt, but to say “he’s better than Courtney Cameron, Jennison Myrie-Williams AND Jake Gosling!” does him an enormous disservice. Whits has spent the last season and a half terrorising National League defences all across the country – from being the best of an excellent bunch at Hartlepool to wreaking genuine havoc in the Boxing Day hammering of Yeovil. His performance at Aldershot was perhaps his peak. It was a perfect distillation of what Ben Whitfield is trying to do almost every time he gets the ball: minutes after beating his man and floating a delicious left-footed ball in for Wright (a man seemingly lab-built to be Whitfield’s ideal teammate) to head in, Ben attacked the same full-back on a rapid counter-attack, danced around the ball and curled a gorgeous right-footed finish beyond the ‘keeper and into the top bin. Whits in his purest form. If he’s out for the playoffs, we’ll miss him dearly.
League Appearances: 27, Goals: 6 (1 in the FA Cup), Assists: 13
Jake Andrews: 7.5
It’s testament to how good Ben Whitfield is, that until his injury he kept Andrews out of the side. The ability of his superior left winger, and injuries elsewhere, meant many of Jake’s appearances this season came at left back. He’d be the first to admit those didn’t go especially well. But it’d be unfair to judge a player solely on his performances in a position that is clearly not his own, and since being given a chance on the wing he’s done very well. Andrews is never going to be the superstar of this team – in a year where our squad has been stretched to its limits he’s still only played ninety minutes fifteen times – but he’s absolutely done his job when called upon and clearly has talent in droves. One gets the sense that he’s a big occasion player, and he’ll have plenty of opportunity in the playoffs to write his name into Yellows history and make me look a tool for rating him lower than his mates for the season.
League Appearances: 39, Goals: 5, Assists: 6
Aaron Nemane: 8
Just like that of his wing-partner, Nemane’s injury has been felt hard by Torquay. We played our best, most attractive football this season when both he and Whitfield were fit – the aforementioned maulings of Aldershot, Hartlepool and Yeovil show that – and have had to settle for a more clean-sheet-first way of playing since. But let’s not define Nemane’s season by his absence. Pep’s Biggest Mistake was, and there’s no better or more PG way of saying it, shit hot at the start of this season. Quick, skilful, dangerous. His goal in the FA Cup where he gave the opposition defender a 5-yard head start, knocked it about thirteen miles ahead of him, got on the end of it and slotted past the ‘keeper was absolutely insane. Football League quality player.
League Appearances: 21, Goals: 3 (plus 1 in the FA Cup), Assists: 3
Armani Little: 6.5
I really really don’t want to criticise Armani Little. His injury troubles aren’t his fault, and must surely have contributed to him not quite looking up to speed for a good chunk of this season. I just wonder whether we’ll ever seen him fulfil the potential that we were all convinced he had when he signed in the summer of 2019. It probably doesn’t help that he’s rarely played as a number 10, or that for the time he’s been fit our forward options have been limited. But the fact of the matter is, aside from the free-kick on Boxing Day, he hasn’t really done it this season. He’ll get time on the pitch, you’d have thought, in the playoffs. Again, I really hope he makes me look a tit.
League Appearances: 24, Goals: 1, Assists: 2
Matt Buse: 6
I mean, what did you expect from Matt Buse? His average TT rating is probably about a 7 – the performance on the wing at Solihull was quite sensational, bordering on groundbreaking – but he’s never put together a run of games to really warrant a high score. A squad-filler and leak-plugger for when the treatment room became a treatment hotel, the lad from Taunton has been entirely adequate. Functional. And well worthy of his cult status and lager-induced songs for those occasional flickers of Beckhamian brilliance. I bet Matt Buse looks good on the dancefloor, I don’t know if he’s looking for a pass or, I don’t know who that pass was for.
League Appearances: 13
Miscellaneous: Lucas Tomlinson and Max Sheaf
It’s been a season where some of Gary’s loans have come off brilliantly, while others have not. If all goes to plan, One Direction’s Lucas Tomlinson will join Bobson Bawling and Iyeseden Christie as Pointless answers in the “people who played for Torquay United in promotion seasons” round. So will Max Sheaf, presumably, whose failure doubly disappoints me because his name is so ripe for great jokes.
COYY – Matty