TT GROUNDHOPPING – The Play-Off Final by Clive Hayward



Clive Hayward – @Byehorse

If you’re reading this, you may be recovering from yesterday rather quicker than me. My strong instinct is to stay under the duvet today and do anything distracting from yesterday’s trauma but a promise is a promise, so here is a personal reflection on the play off final.

This was my first foray onto public transport since March 2020, and it was a joy to be standing on the platform at Newton Abbot with friends and family listening to the morning rain bucketing down waiting for the Cross Country service to Aberdeen.

Matty and I performed the ceremonial first can opening of the day as we passed the racecourse, and we unveiled our “Drinking on Trains” tweet somewhere along the Somerset Levels.

Arriving in Brizzle a respectable 2 hours or so before kick-off we headed to The Ostrich, a quayside pub with a nice line in wooden benches and dripping awnings- standard UK hospitality as at Covid +1. We were joined in the beer garden by precisely no-one and  the general vibe was more Filey in February than Bristol in flaming June.

At this point, I must pay tribute to Matty’s mate Ben, who took one for the wider team. He had been contacted by Track & Trace and asked to self-isolate having apparently been in contact with an infected friend. He did the right thing and thus saved himself a certain amount of grief later on, although finding the referee before kick off and French kissing him might have been marginally more in the public interest.

Handily, we had a ready-made replacement in, err, Ben, who joined us for his first ever Torquay United match. What he made of it all I really shudder to think!

We eventually migrated to The Spotted Cow, mainly populated by fellow mellow yellows. The entertainment du jour was beard painting, and we joined in enthusiastically. I felt I looked like Abel Xavier, although others unkindly suggested it was more like Rolf Harris after an afternoon on the custard. Judge for yourself. 


We made our way to Ashton Gate, hopes very high. I genuinely fancied us to see off the monkey hangers, and seeing Avon & Somerset Police’s equine friends is always as good an excuse as any for a chorus of: “Goodbye Horse”.

But it was not to be “Goodbye Non-League”, as we now know. Lucas Covolan had the game of his or any other lifetime and if there was any justice in this world Shaun Mac would have written his name into Bamber & Sills-type folklore.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a gifted engineer, but he failed woefully to foresee where the folk of Bristol would later choose to put their football grounds. I’ve walked from Temple Meads to The Mem and Ashton Gate more than once, and it doesn’t get any shorter, especially when we’ve lost.

With hours to kill before the first train home, we took refuge in Ben & Sam’s flat for an hour. A sofa, shoes off and a mug of tea whilst watching Italy win another game in their inexorable march to Euro 2020 glory was bliss and somewhat preferable to another draughty boozer (thanks lads).

I shook the replacement Ben warmly by the hand as we left and made him promise that we will never see each other again.

Tesco Metro supplied the necessary anaesthetics for the journey home- along with some dreadful crisps- and all I can really say in conclusion is this: whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, good luck Poolies and Benji: it was nice to see you take aim properly at last! You are now a bottler of the most entertaining kind!

COYY – Clive




INSTAGRAM – torquaytalk



Proud Away Sponsor of Kyle Cameron



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I simply live and breathe Football and have supported Torquay United since 1989. I am a season ticket holder on Bristows and a Trust member. I set up TorquayTalk in 2017 to give true supporters a voice and honest opinions on their club.

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