THE FOLLY OF PRE-SEASON
“What a load of rubbish”
“He’s bought a load of old crap again”
“How can we lose like that to Plymouth?”
“What was the point of that game?”
Just some of the comments heard during and after Tuesday night’s 5-0 defeat at the hands of once “local rivals” Plymouth Argyle, now so far ahead of Torquay in their manner and professionalism that they are sprinting over the horizon laughing as they go.
Plenty has already been written about the lop-sided nature of the score-line, and there were passages of play when it looked as if the two teams were playing a different sport, but the point of pre-season is surely nothing at all to do with the result and more to do with improving player performance, fitness and – in our case – once again getting more than a dozen new Gulls to know one another.
Being two weeks behind a team like Argyle, who had already played a couple of Championship teams and been competitive with both, was never going to be a pleasant watch and conceding an early goal made it that little bit tougher.
Sure, we were shambolic at times – especially in midfield, which had appeared to be a strength based on 90 minutes against League 2 side Newport on Saturday when Brett McGavin and Shaun Donnellan were two of the new boys to impress.
But there were plenty of positives from the game; Aaron Jarvis could become a real Plainmoor favourite if his hard work is turned into a decent goal tally, new loanee Will Goodwin looked to be a handful alongside him when he came on at half-time, Dylan Crowe continued his lively start to life at right wing-back (especially going forward) and there was an excellent cameo in goal from supposed No 2 Rhys Lovett who, based on a couple of poor goals conceded by Mark Halstead, could soon be No 1.
It’s early days in another rebuild and I think this one has more positive signs than the last one, assuming Tom Lapslie, Dan Martin and Asa Hall aren’t absent for too much longer. Maybe one more defensive addition, either in the centre or on the left to allow Kieron Evans to play further forward, and I think we would be well set for a more reasonable challenge in the form of Oldham on August 6.
And that’s the thing about pre-season – it means nothing. It might even be better for supporters not to go because these opinions about players (like Halstead last summer) become ingrained and hard to forget. Remember there were plenty waxing lyrical about him after some fine saves against Newport…and now he’s the devil all over again.
We’ve all been to games against Tiverton where we’ve lost and we’ve all watched games against Premier League and Championship sides where the Gulls have looked like world beaters. What did they all mean? Precisely nothing.
We beat West Brom six years ago (another reminder of how good Ronald Huth was!) and ended that season fighting for our lives and having to beat North Ferriby on the final day of the season to confirm our fifth tier status. There are countless other examples of this on both sides.
It’s merely a way to get the team ready – nothing more, nothing less. Think more about the minutes in the legs (Plymouth had many more), think more about players getting to know one another (last season’s friendly we had only three players remaining, Plymouth had 13) and think more about the positives.
And I would say getting the run around by Plymouth 18 days before the season starts has plenty more going for it than taking on Chippenham and Bournemouth Embryos XI did last season. I’m just interested to know what plans Gary Johnson and Aaron Downes have for their blank weekend before Oldham travel to Plainmoor – that just seems a little strange.
But for now, don’t worry about pre-season. It’s just an exercise in exercise.
COYY – Andy