Dom Roman – @DomRoman
The Ed discusses Leroy Rosenior
There was something rather iconic about Leroy Rosenior. When he stepped out at Plainmoor before games to survey the Gulls squad warming up, arms folded and a picture of concentration, he demanded your attention. He simply had a presence, and in his walk past the dug outs, the old Grandstand would reverberate with cheers and shouts for the man we called ‘LEEEEROY’. He was the right man for us, a man to make us dream and for a brief moment those times felt like they would never end. Of course, eventually they did end, as the success dried up and United fumbled down the League 2 table. But that last chapter can be forgiven and forgotten, because the early chapters were so bloody marvellous!
It all began in the summer of 2002. Roy McFarland had just departed after a falling out with that rogue Mike Bateson, and then Merthyr Tydfil manager Leroy Rosenior was the unlikely choice for the Plainmoor hot seat. An unlikely but exciting appointment. McFarland’s tenure at Torquay was an unremarkably dull one and the team were nothing much to look at, but he had brought in some very talented players such as Steve Woods, Alex Russell, David Graham and Jason Fowler. Those players would soon enjoy playing for a new boss with new ideas.
The 2002-03 campaign was the starter before the main course – a season in which Leroy established how he wanted his team to play. An adventurous build from the back passing game, all patience and probing, something which is more common nowadays but back then bucked the trend of how lower league clubs wanted to set up. With Jo Kuffour and Martin Gritton arriving, the Gulls suddenly looked threatening on the attack and amassed 71 goals that year (the previous year’s total was 46!). Exeter City were beaten at Plainmoor, and whilst the Grecians dropped down to the Conference, we were seemingly on the up (those were the days!).
And then onto 2003-04. Leroy realised the team needed more stability and leadership at the back, and found two diamonds in Craig Taylor and Brian McGlinchey who would become key components…and then some. I don’t need to go into much more detail about that season, but it was very much a dream of fantastic football, goals and victories. Opponents turned over with ease at Plainmoor, Davey Graham rocketing net-busters in from anywhere, Russell pulling the strings, Woods and Taylor solid at the back, Hilly and Hockley rushing around…and Leroy’s stature growing by the game. A sense of possibility hang in the air from the start, and despite some bumps along the way the United faithful could feel it was our season. Almost like fate had brought everything together for one glorious period – ‘You’ve suffered enough Yellow Army…here’s your reward’.
It ended as we all know with Southend (a), an afternoon so packed with incident and ferocious nail biting, that it probably deserves it’s own book. Even Leroy’s cool persona was tested fully that day, and the joy and crazy relief at the final whistle will live forever in those who attended the game. For what he had created at Torquay with a small squad training in the middle of a racecourse, for the beautiful and ambitious football he wanted to display and for the memories he had given everyone, Leroy deserved that magical Saturday in May….we all did to be honest.
He continued to play the game his way in League 1, and with the odds stacked against us we could and should have stayed up for another season, but it was undeserved last day heartbreak at Colchester. In 05-06, Torquay’s relegation hangover could not be cured and in early 2006 Rosenior’s tenure as United manager was sadly up. It wasn’t meant to be that way, he was meant to leave on a wave of emotion and onto bigger and better things. But football (like anything) is not perfectly scripted, and United lurched on depressingly until a new local ownership broom and Paul Buckle arrived to stir our emotions upwards once more.
We will always have 2002-04 though, a time where all the pieces unusually fell into place at Torquay United and it felt like anything was possible. I will always cherish LEEEEROY for that. Top man.
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