Dom Roman – @DomRoman
The Ed looks back at September 18’s clash with Chippenham
Any mention of Chippenham Town takes me back to 8th September 2018. The Gulls, under Gary Owers, were searching desperately for confidence and 3 points to brighten up what had been a dire start to our first ever campaign in the National League South. With Owers’ job on the line, United had managed a rare victory the week before, but the Yellow Army had not been won over (far from it) and #OwersOut was the most popular hashtag of the period by far…fun times at Plainmoor…
What transpired that afternoon was another insipid and pathetic performance from Torquay United. Jake Andrews and Opi Edwards had joined on loan and you could sense their initial enthusiasm flattened by a couple of weeks spent on the training ground with this dreary manager. Chippenham believed it could be their day, and with a merry bunch of supporters enjoying the occasion and only a meagre 1454 turning up in total, Matt Smith scored the decisive header on 25 minutes (no marking at all). What followed was a familiar huff and puff from United, with not enough imagination or cutting edge to prise open the defence. It was the type of 0-1 we’ve seen plenty of times before, but this was regional football, full time versus part time, this was a real low in our club’s history.
Defeat was inevitable, and on the final whistle we trudged out of Plainmoor slowly and painfully, our club in tatters, marooned in the middle of a part-time league and going nowhere. The manager could surely not continue? With a full time budget he had assembled a mixed bag of players, including lethargic lads such as Chris Regis and Jason Banton who frankly looked like they could not be bothered, whilst upfront a frustrated Jamie Reid toiled and struggled to win over his home crowd. With Brett Williams a very unlikely captain and low morale amongst the squad, plus a toxic atmosphere in the stands, this was Torquay United at it’s downright worst and change was demanded on the terraces. But would Clarke Osborne make the right decisions before it was too late?
THE LINE-UP – United (4-4-2: 1 Alex Bass; 2 Ben Wynter, 4 George Essuman, 17 Kyle Cameron, 3 Liam Davis; 21 Opi Edwards (10 Jason Banton 70), 8 Asa Hall (capt), 20 Chris Regis, 18 Jake Andrews; 7 Ruairi Keating (9 Brett Williams 56), 19 Jamie Reid (12 Andre Wright 85). Substitutes (not used): 11 Bobson Bawling, 13 Shaun MacDonald.
In the end, just a few days later, we got our answer and the rest is history! Let’s not pretend it’s all been plain sailing under Gary Johnson – we’ve had ups and downs – but the transformation from that club on 8th September 2018 to this Saturday 7th August 2021, is like night and day. Back then Torquay United had become an embarrassment, a club that had lost it’s identity and become a laughing stock around footballing circles, with unpopular owners, not to mention an even more unpopular General Manager and Gary Owers. The hardcore support remained, but attendances dwindled and we all begun to question how long the club could continue. Let’s be honest our sanity was hanging by a thread!
Now fast forward 3 years and a lot had happened! We have one of the best managers around; a continuity and belief amongst a motivated squad; an evolving youth system; many more people wanting to come through those Plainmoor gates and excited to see the team in action…and we also have another decent chance this season to return to the holy grail of the Football League. Sure it’s not all perfect, but don’t tell me the pride in our club hasn’t returned to Plainmoor.
So when we have some hiccups this year, let’s cast our minds back occasionally to those dark 2018 days, just to remember how far we’ve come and to appreciate the 2021 version of Torquay United. Everything has improved in the last 3 years, as Clarke Osborne and his team have focussed their minds on making the best of the football side rather than a new stadium, and with a little bit of luck we’d already be knocking about in League Two this weekend. We’ve all experienced the lows that Torquay United have had to offer and there’s been plenty of them, in contrast these are good times to be part of the Yellow Army.
So I say a thank you to Chippenham Town for that 0-1 defeat in 2018, one of those rare times when a loss was hugely beneficial – though it didn’t feel like that at the time, it eventually helped alter the course of our recent history. I just hope the upturn in our fortunes hasn’t finished yet…
COYY – Dom