Saturday’s game was a mixture of celebration and misery that Torquay United specialise in. With the game just about in our grasp thanks to two goals from Asa Hall, the skipper had a brain freeze and the 3 points, and National League status was (unless real miracles take place on Saturday) thrown away. We stood as supporters staring out to the pitch and slowly clapping the players for their effort, whilst the players stood staring into the open terrace (Asa particularly un-consolable), slowly clapping the supporters for their efforts. This wasn’t a moment for booing and abuse from the Yellow Army, this team had after all just gathered 16 points from the last 21…but it was time for sadness and utter despair all round. A chorus of ‘Torquay Til I Die’ was stirred by our very own Thomas Kelly, we all agreed at these sentiments and eventually shuffled out of the ground solemnly shaking our heads and wondering how and why the f##king hell this had happened to United AGAIN.
For much of this season I have been angry and aggrieved at what this club has thrown out, from poor recruitment, to managerial decisions, tactics and more, there’s been so many mistakes made that have contributed to us being in this position. No way should a club like Alty be a division above us (no disrespect to them). But the over-riding emotion has just been ‘GUTTED’ since Saturday. I have put a massive amount into this season for TT, my focus has never been deeper, which makes it all the more painful considering how whole heartedly we have covered every game. This agony has been mixed with pride at the amount of supporters who made the long trip up north and the enjoyment I had found mixing with various people who are unfailingly loyal to their football club. This club is so much more than football for me, it’s a big family who I enjoy getting to know more every-time I venture on an away day. We are a community after all who are obsessed by this silly football club, Clarke Osborne would never understand this that’s for sure, how could he?
My chosen transport to the match on Saturday was the TUFC Travel Club, organised tremendously by Mark and Harry. These chaps epitomise the phrase ‘die-hard supporters’. They are a group who have been, for some reason, dismissed by Torquay United’s hierarchy as trouble makers, people who they do not associate with. This is a mystery to me, one of United’s few advantages is the strong away followings that follow the team around the land. Considering the result, the spirits of the coach remained reasonable on the way back, whatever division the Gulls were playing in, these people WOULD be there cheering them on, undeterred by the pain that is regularly part of the trip. For all the dejection that I felt (and still feel now), it was reassurance that we will not give up on our club, just in case I needed it.
It was somewhat surprising to hear from Clarke Osborne this week, perhaps prompted by our fate just about being sealed (and prodded to chirp up by George), his statement provided good news that the club would remain full-time, whilst the rest of it could be ignored as woolly rubbish as he congratulated Wrexham and looked forward to the excitement of life in the NLS (no doubt sipping on a beer away at Chippenham and starting a chorus of ‘Bye Horse’..). We’d all love to hear more, reasons for what went wrong, plans to get Torquay United back in the NL, explanations why they stuck by the manager etc, but this is a business man rather than football person, he feels no need to provide his consumers with any more than minimal details and that’s all we will no doubt continue to get.
There was no mention of Gary Johnson being involved in the planning process for next season, and the manager’s comments after Altrincham gave you the impression that he will not be coming back for another shot at the coveted NLS title! It’s possible that Gary Johnson could indeed bring us back up again, but my over-riding feeling is that he should pay for this relegation with his job. He has failed after all. He is, I’m guessing, the highest paid person at the club, and he simply has not been up to the task, a manager lacking the dynamism and magic wand he once had. We can look back fondly at what GJ achieved in his first couple of years at the club and the joy we felt, and the blame should be spread across the club rather than just at his door, but I am absolutely sure it is time for someone else to get a go in the Gulls’ hot seat.
I would love new people coming into the club who freshen up all aspects of Torquay United, bringing imagination to the training ground, new ways of thinking to the club and more honesty to everything we do. The United management structure appears to be a cosy environment where failure has become acceptable and nobody is learning from their mistakes. Who’s questioning decisions, who’s making people accountable and who’s taking responsibility for what’s gone wrong? Who’s keeping the standards up at Torquay United and formulating a plan that should make sure we never touch regional football? Are these owners canny enough and determined enough to take advice and make better decisions in the future? Plan A, B & C should never depend entirely on the manager, even when it’s someone as experienced as Gary Johnson, there has to be a more effective approach.
A new Gulls manager could be very experienced, or not, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the attitude, energy and ideas they bring to the table. They must understand the importance of harnessing the Yellow Army’s support, and they must bring players into the club who have the right balance of mental strength, skill levels and upward momentum to make us a force in the National League South. It’s no easy rebuilding job, because there will be a lot of work to do, but I think managing Torquay United should still appeal to plenty of capable candidates. People who want to enhance their cv, people who fancy the challenge and people who see the potential of the club. If Gary Johnson’s time is up, this appointment is absolutely crucial, who knows maybe a decision has already been made?
But it’s not all over just yet. The low key visit of Wrexham is our final hurrah on Saturday, and with them celebrating promotion, the contrast in emotions between fanbases can hardly be starker. The Hollywood owners have gone all in at the Racecourse, pumping big money into the project, whilst fully engaging with the local community and kicking every football as they cheer the team on. Who knows, this dream may fade in the coming years, but for the time being I can only be envious at what is going on at this club and the upward momentum that will no doubt push them into the EFL with a bang. We had what felt like our ideal situation around 10-15 years ago, owners who loved the club and EFL security, only to eventually lose it in 2014. Mismanagement and poor planning has littered Torquay United’s history, and that’s why a fixture at Taunton Town now sits on the horizon.
If you’re attending the game or not on Saturday, I’d like to thank you for engaging with our busy site this season and for your wonderful support of this football club. It feels to me like Gulls supporters have been making more effort than ever to attend Torquay United games, despite being disappointed time and time again. Let’s be honest it would be easy to make other plans, but there is a stubborn refusal to do this. With social media bubbling along, supporters discussing the Gulls more than ever and 354 turning up at Altrincham, I do feel hope for next season, and much of that is because I know the Yellow Army will not turn their backs on the club, despite the tests that are constantly thrown in their direction.
It is so important that TUFC are protected for future generations (Join the TUST), so of course this hope is shadowed by much trepidation revolving around the bigger picture. What does our future hold under these owners? What happens if we fail to gain promotion next year? What about the debts that will only keep increasing? What are these owners really thinking? Plenty of questions that linger over all of us, but for now let’s get this infuriatingly agonising season over, take a breath, assess the changes as they occur and then….go again! We’ll be pushing hard as always across the summer and into 2023-24, hoping for the best for the Gulls, supporting the manager (whoever that may be) and supporting whoever wears that yellow shirt. I am lucky to be surrounded by supporters who will talk ‘Torquay United’ any time of day, whatever form the Gulls are in…Havant, Tonbridge, Eastbourne, hopefully Weymouth, we’ll be there, you can count on it.
2 thoughts on “THE TT BLOG – GUTTED by Dom Roman”
I feel as you do Dom but as someone wedded to the cause for nearly 70 years I have no faith whatsoever in “The Board” or whoever remains behind the scenes whatever happens to GJ.
Our club is not being run as it should be and I am seriously concerned that the people being charged to take us forward are not fit for purpose.
Hope I’m wrong and perhaps miracles do happen 🙄🥺Tony Counter
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Cheers Tony, hard to swallow isn’t it mate. These owners have done good things at the club, but the structure just doesn’t seem to work and we’re being left behind by clubs who are smaller than us in every respect. Testing times.