Danny Burnell

Danny Burnell – @dannyburnell_92

With the ‘Return of the Mac’ trending, I thought i’d take a look at some of the past players who made a triumphant (or not so) return to Plainmoor after a spell away. Let’s get to it………………..

David Graham

Prolific in front of goal, and one of the major factors why the Gulls survived relegation at Barnet in 2001 and got promoted in 2004. Graham was electric in front of goal, forming a formidable strike-force with Kuffour/Gritton. It was no surprise that come the summer of 2004, a bigger club would come in for the Gulls top-scorer, and that club was Wigan. A £215,000 fee was coughed up by the then Championship side, and Graham played a minor part in helping them reach the Premier League. It didn’t quite work out in Lancashire, as he moved onto Sheffield Wednesday, where he once again struggled to establish himself and was sent on loan to Huddersfield & Bradford.

Graham made what was being hailed as a ‘triumphant’ return to Plainmoor in the March of 2007 when Keith Curle re-signed the striker on loan. Unfortunately for Gulls fans, the return wasn’t quite the fairy-tale we all wanted, as Graham ended his second spell with 7 appearances and no goals to his name. And, as we all know, Torquay’s relegation was confirmed that season.

1st TUFC spell: 2001 – 2004

120 league appearances, 47 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 2007 (loan)

7 league appearances, 0 goals

John Impey

From one TUFC legend to another. John Impey. The defender was brought into Torquay in 1983 after over 280 league appearances with Bournemouth, and a spell out in the USA with Seattle Sounders. Impey enjoyed 2 seasons at Plainmoor before moving up the road to Exeter. But that would last only a solitary season as he re-united with the Yellows at the start of the 1986 season. 

Knowles appointed Impey captain in ’87 and was part of that famous Spurs giant-killing and a part of the team that narrowly missed out on the play-off’s. Once again, Impey left Plainmoor as he retired from professional football, and played lower league football for Weymouth & Tiverton. However, Impey once again returned to Plainmoor, but this time in a youth coach role, and then eventually manager. Impey guided Torquay to fourth division play-off success in April ’91 over Blackpool at Wembley, before being sacked 6 months later after a poor start to the season.

1st TUFC spell: 1983 – 1985

72 league appearances, 0 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 1986 – 1988

58 league appearances, 2 goals

3rd TUFC spell: 1991 (Manager)

Elliot Benyon

You might be surprised to hear Benyon made close to 200 league appearances over his various stints with the Gulls. Buckle brought in Elliot as one of his first signings, following relegation to the conference, but after playing primarily a bit part role in the first season, Benyon established himself in the first team more often than not. The striker formed a partnership with Sills which boosted Torquay back to the Football League.

Benyon left Plainmoor in January 2011, where he made a transfer deadline day move to Swindon. Short spells at Wycombe & Southend followed, before returning to the Bay initially on loan in 2013. He later made his move permanent. 

1st TUFC spell: 2007 – 2011

125 league appearances, 39 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 2013 (loan), 2013 – 2015

58 league appearances, 7 goals


Gregory Goodridge

Fresh off the Lambada conveyer belt, was pacey winger Gregory Goodridge. Signed by Don O’Riordan a year before Rodney Jack, the Barbados international shone at Plainmoor, hence earning his move to QPR in a deal worth £250,000. After struggling in the Capital, Goodridge settled at Bristol City were he made over 100 appearances for the Robins. He joined Cheltenham briefly on loan before re-joining the Gulls in 2001.

Unfortunately the second spell was less successful as he managed just a handful of appearances in the 01/02 season, before moving back to his native Barbados to continue his footballing career.

1st TUFC spell: 1994 – 1995

38 league appearances, 4 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 2001 – 2002

17 league appearances, 1 goal

Robin Stubbs

The greatest TUFC player of all time?  I’m sure there are people more qualified to answer that question than me, but his stats don’t lie. After signing for Torquay for a then club record fee of £6,000 from Birmingham City in 1963, Stubbs cemented his legendary status with his brace in the 3-3 draw over Spurs. After leaving Plainmoor in ’69, Stubbs moved to Bristol Rovers, were he equally shone, scoring 32 goals in 93 league games. 

Following his stint in Bristol, Stubbs made a landmark return in ’72, but wasn’t quite as prolific. He stayed for a couple of seasons before injuries took their toll and he retired.

1st TUFC spell: 1963 – 1969

263 appearances, 133 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 1972 – 1974

21 appearances, 1 goal

Chris Zebroski

Another one of Paul Buckle’s summer signing in the July of 2007, and arguably his best. Zebroski took the Conference by storm as he notched an impressive 19 goals, mainly from the wing, in our play-off losing campaign of 07/08. Unfortunately for Gulls fans, Zebroski was predictably picked up by a Football League side in Wycombe, and equally impressed.

Much to the Yellow Army’s elation, Buckle re-signed Zeb on loan in November 2009, before making the transfer permanent in the January transfer window. After shining again for the Gulls in his second spell, Zebroksi left Plainmoor to follow Buckle at Bristol Rovers.

1st TUFC spell: 2007 – 2008 (loan)

46 league appearances, 19 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 2009 (loan), 2009 – 2011 

74 league appearances, 23 goals

Tony Bedeau

The legends keep on coming, and Tony Bedeau was no different. After starting his career at Chelsea, the Grenadian played 300+ games over two spells for the Gulls. Tony made his Gulls debut in 1995, and made the right wing position his own over an 11 year Plainmoor stay. Only a short loan spell at Barnsley in 2002 broke that run.

In 2006, Bedeau left for pastures’ new as he moved up the M5 to Walsall. After failing to establish himself there, and a loan spell at Bury, he returned to Plainmoor just a year later, making his second debut in the 0-0 draw against Grays Athletic. It didn’t work out that season, and he failed to nail down a starting spot, and subsequently made a loan move to Weymouth, before being released at the end of the season.

1st TUFC spell: 1995 – 2006

307 league appearances, 58 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 2007 – 2008

23 league appearances, 0 goals

Kevin Nicholson

Of course I wouldn’t leave out one of TUFC’s greatest ever left back. Another one of Buckle’s 2007 summer signings, and a case that this was also his best! Nicho joined from Forest Green, and quickly established himself as a key component, helping the team earn promotion back to the Football League. 

The set piece specialist spent 7 years at TQ1, before moving onto Kidderminster in the summer of 2014 where you stayed for a solitary season. He moved onto Bath City the following season, but made just 11 appearances, before being re-approached by Torquay to take up a player-manager role. Nicholson masterminded the great escape after a season of turmoil. 

1st TUFC spell: 2007 – 2014

314 league appearances, 13 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 2015 – 2017 (Player-Manager role)

19 league appearances, 0 goals

Kevin Nicholson

Mark Loram

Usually, the first spell is better than the second. But in Loram’s case, and judging by the stats, it would appear his second was superior. The Paignton-born striker made the switch to Plainmoor from local side Brixham Villa in January 1985 and established himself as a regular.

After one full season with the Gulls, the striker made the switch to QPR, but after no appearances and just a few months, he returned to Plainmoor in the following March. He went onto represent the Yellows over 200 times, with loan spells at Stockport & Exeter also.

He once again left Plainmoor in 1992, and went into regional football with Yate Town & Minehead, before making a third re-appearance for the Gulls in 1994. However, the return would be short and sweet.

1st TUFC spell: 1984 – 1986

52 league appearances, 8 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 1987 – 1992

209 league appearances, 41 goals

3rd TUFC spell: 1994

1 league appearance, 0 goals

Martin Gritton

The other half of the 03/04 strike partnership, Gritton showed his class when partnered alongside the slightly more prolific Graham. Signed from Devon rivals Plymouth, he went onto become a very important player in Leroy’s promotion heroes squad. 

In December 2004, Gritton was allowed to leave, and made the switch to Grimsby where stayed a couple of seasons. Further spells where had at Lincoln, Mansfield, Macclesfield & Chesterfield before he returned to Plainmoor on loan, 6 years after he left South Devon. He only managed 12 appearances, mainly from the bench, before he returned to his parent club.

1st TUFC spell: 2002 (loan), 2002 – 2004

88 league appearances, 22 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 2010 – 2011 (loan)

12 league appearances, 0 goals

Ryan Dickson

Two Torquay spells, 11 years apart. Dickson joined United in 2007 on loan from Plymouth. 11 years later, and after notable spells at Brentford & Yeovil, Owers signed Dickson for his NL South squad.

1st TUFC spell: 2007 (loan)

9 league appearances, 1 goal

2nd TUFC spell: 2018 – 2020

30 league appearances, 0 goals

Chris Hargreaves

Torquay United legend, and one who has probably been back to Plainmoor more than most since leaving, given his punditry duties. Once again, one of Buckle’s overhaul summer signings, and i’ve said this before….but arguably his best! After already making over 500 appearances for the likes of Northampton, Brentford & Oxford, he made the switch to Plainmoor aged 35. Some say he had passed it………how wrong they were.

After over 100 games for Torquay, Hargreaves left in 2010 for one last hurrah at Oxford, before hanging up his boots. Torquay re-approached Hargreaves for the manager position in January 2014. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way we all wanted, and Hargreaves left the post 18 months later. 

1st TUFC spell: 2007 – 2010

105 league appearances, 10 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 2014 – 2015 (Manager)


Don Mills

Mills initially started his Torquay career just 5 years after WWII ended. He signed on loan from QPR, where he made a massive impact scoring 13 goals in 34 league games. The inside-forward joined Cardiff & Leeds before returning to Plainmoor in 1952 where he spent a further decade.

1st TUFC spell: 1949 – 1950 (loan)

34 league appearances, 13 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 1952 – 1962

308 league appearances, 68 goals

Jim McNichol

Bitten by Bryn, and part of the Spurs giant-killing team, the Scotsman had an eventful first stint in South Devon. After a very decent spell with Exeter, Jim made the switch in 1986 where, for a centre back, he scored a fair few goals!

After 3 years at Plainmoor, McNichol went back up the road to St James’ Park for a couple of seasons before re-joining the Gulls again. The return wasn’t as hoped as injuries caught up with him as he made just 2 appearances.

1st TUFC spell: 1986 – 89 

124 league appearances, 13 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 1991 – 1992

2 league appearances, 0 goals

Toby Ajala

Ajala made the switch to Plainmoor in July 2014 and became a fans favourite with his high work rate and tracking back. He only had one season before joining NL rivals Dover. But again, after just half a season, he returned to Plainmoor until the end of that 2015/16 campaign.

1st TUFC spell: 2014 – 2015

45 league appearances, 5 goals

2nd TUFC spell: 2016

18 league appearances, 1 goal

COYY – Danny


New (ish) Gull Profile: Shaun MacDonald




INSTAGRAM – torquaytalk





One thought on “OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE……..OLD

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.