Torquay United : Club Background
The impression one has of Torquay the town doesn’t say “football heartland”, and the history of the club that carries the name rather bears that out. Formed as an amateur team, Torquay Town, on May 1st 1899 they played in the likes of the East Devon League and the Plymouth & District League in the early years.
The progress of local clubs Plymouth Argyle and Exeter City up the ladder saw pressure for Town to follow suit, and in 1921 they amalgamated with Babbacombe (with whom they had already shared the ground at Plainmoor since 1910), and Torquay United was born, joining the Southern League.
In 1923 they made their first application to join the Football League, receiving no votes. In 1927 (the first year Yeovil applied) they tried again, having won their first significant silverware – the Southern League (Western Section) Championship – and come runners-up in the Western League, that season. They tied for second place with Aberdare, and in the run-off ballot the Welsh club lost its League status, and Torquay was elected 26 votes to 19. (Yeovil & Petters United got one vote.)
Their start in the EFL was a real struggle and they had to apply for re-election in 1928. However they continued in Division Three South and, although it took them until 1949-50 to achieve a top ten finish, never flirted with getting kicked out again during this period.
The Fifties saw Torquay’s greatest F.A. Cup moment. In the 1954-55 season they pulled Second Division Leeds United out of the velvet bag in the Third Round, and after drawing 2-2 at Elland Road destroyed them in the replay at Plainmoor 4-0. A visit from then top flight Huddersfield Town was the reward in Round Four, and a record crowd of 21,908 packed in to see the Gulls go down 1-0.
On the reorganisation of the League for the 1958-59 season Torquay went into Division 4. In 1960 United were promoted to Division 3, but only lasted two seasons. In 1966, under Frank O’Farrell’s first spell, they achieved their second promotion, this time surviving in Division 3 until 1972. The next dozen years were almost completely uneventful, Torquay troubling neither promotion campaigns nor relegation struggles.
However by the mid-Eighties the wheels were coming off at Plainmoor (rather coinciding with the presence in various guises of a certain Mr David Webb). Re-election was required in both 1985 and 1986. The following season saw the establishment of the first ever automatic promotion place into the Football League. Torquay were to write themselves into football folklore, in a story that rivals that of Jimmy Glass – saved by a police dog.
On the last day of the season Torquay were 23rd, with Burnley one point behind them. A win would secure survival. However United were soon 2-0 down at home to Crewe and the news was that Burnley were winning. United did pull one back but despite throwing everything and the kitchen sink at Crewe they couldn’t get another. As the match reached frantic heights, in the pandemonium a police dog bit a player. The game was stopped for four minutes; news then arrived that although Burnley had won, Lincoln City, seventh at the turn of the year but on a horrendous run since, had lost at Swansea and that if Torquay could get a point they would escape on goal difference. Three minutes into time added on for the police dog Paul Dobson scored, and Torquay retained League status with seconds remaining on the clock.
After this narrowest of narrow squeaks Torquay got to Wembley in 1989 in the Sherpa Vans Trophy Final, where they lost 4-1 to Bolton Wanderers; and had four goes at the play-offs, gaining promotion once (in 1991) after a final against Blackpool that went to penalties. They were immediately relegated back to the bottom tier again the following season.
In 1995-96 Torquay finished bottom of the Football League for the fourth time in their history, but Conference Champions Stevenage Borough’s ground, Broadhall Way, did not meet the necessary criteria. Despite attempted ‘bribes’ (that saw Stevenage hit by an FA fine when they came to light) and then a subsequent High Court action by the then Stevenage chairman Victor Green, Torquay retained their place once again.
Torquay surprised everyone – including themselves, one suspects – at the end of the 2003-04 season by claiming one of the automatic promotion spots in League Two. Manager Leroy Rosenior got the plaudits for not only taking a small club up to the third tier, but also getting them playing some impressive attractive football. Unfortunately for them, once again they could not defy gravity. The sale of star player David Graham to Wigan and the continuing indifference of the South Devon paying public meant that the Gulls only lasted a single season and they swapped positions with the Glovers at the end of the 2004-05 season.
Down and down they spiralled, with a real crisis of confidence enveloping the club when it returned to League Two. Not even Rosenior, whose star had appeared to be in its ascendancy barely 18 months previously, could arrest the decline, and reluctantly the Gulls parted with the man that had brought nearly four years worth of relative success to their club. Languishing close to the bottom of the Football League now, the Gulls made a series of puzzling decisions as their club lurched from crisis to crisis. Rather than rely on one man to save the situation, they got into the bad habit of changing managers every five minutes, this all whilst matters were also going pearshaped off the field as well. Rosenior’s successor John Cornforth only lasted three months, and although Ian Atkins (yes, him!) saved them from relegation he only made it through six months, three of which was the summer break.
By this time long serving Chairman Mike Bateson was busy handing over the reins to Chris Roberts, a local businessman who had agreed to purchase the club. Roberts came to the club with an apparently strong CV but shortly after his arrival, a local newspaper began to gradually debunk a large number of the claims made, and the clear inference was that Roberts was a Walter Mitty style charlatan. Every week, the soap opera took another twist and eventually the directors that were sat on the new board began to walk one-by-one. Roberts was to only last five months at the helm and it was perhaps fortunate that Bateson had never tied up the paperwork that was intended to transfer his shareholding of 51% to the Roberts consortium.
Inside a year Torquay managed six changes of Chairman – Mike Bateson to Chris Roberts to Mervyn Benney to Keith Richardson, back to Mike Bateson and then Mervyn Benney again – a clear sign of a club in turmoil. By now things were from from bad to worse on the pitch as well. A run of one point from nine games saw Atkins sacked, and Roberts had brought in Hungarian Lubos Kubik as manager. He lasted a rather bemusing couple of months in which the Gulls only won one game. So out he went and in came Colin Lee and Keith Curle in February 2007 to try to salvage the mess. That proved impossible and a shambles of a season ended in relegation and Torquay’s exit from the Football League.
As if things couldn’t get more farcical, Torquay then gave us the the infamous ‘ten minute manager’ episode, with Leroy Rosenior being unveiled as their manager on May 17th 2007. He lasted as long as the press conference – reportedly being fired as soon as he left the room, with new owners having agreed a deal that day, and having different views on who should be appointed to the job.
To be fair to the new owners, they’d chosen a decent alternative – Paul Buckle spending four seasons at Plainmoor. He needed two seasons to get them promoted back up to the Football League, during which time he inflicted a rather painful 4-1 defeat on Yeovil Town in the FA Cup in November 2007, a 2-0 victory over Cambridge United in the play-off final sealing the return. He then took two seasons to get the Gulls as far as the League Two play-off final but lost to Stevenage, resigning the next day to end his time in Devon – switching to Bristol Rovers for an ill-fated period at the Memorial Stadium.
In came Martin Ling, who took them back to the play-offs again in 2011-12 but they lost out in the semi-finals to Cheltenham Town. The following season the club was mid-table when Ling fell seriously ill just after the turn of the year. Assistant Shaun Taylor took up the reins but the Gulls began to plummet towards the relegation zone. Alan Knill was brought in as interim manager and just managed to keep them up. His reward was to get the job on a permanent basis. He was possibly to wish he hadn’t accepted, with Torquay relegated out the EFL again in 2013-14.
Meanwhile the off-field chaos in the boardroom from the previous decade was repeating itself, with the club sold for £1. Out went Chris Hargreaves (manager) and Lee Hodges (assistant) and the new consortium brought in Paul Cox. He was to walk out three months later claiming he hadn’t been paid. Former player Kevin Nicholson returned as player-manager and hauled them out of the relegation to avoid a drop into National League South by three points.
The next season, 2016-17, the club was up for sale yet again, and yet again struggling near the foot of the table, only staying up on the final day of the season. The next campaign didn’t start any better so Nicholson was out and in came Gary Owers with Martin Kuhl as assistant. It was another disastrous season, and after dicing with relegation in the previous two campaigns Torquay were finally relegated into the National League South at the third time of asking.
Perhaps surprisingly, given the years of managerial revolving doors, Owers was kept on for the start of the 2018-19 season; but it didn’t start well and on 13th September 2018 a certain Mr Gary Stephen Johnson arrived at Plainmoor. He didn’t lose a game until 19th January 2019; and then followed up with another 10 wins and 2 draws from 13 to see Torquay crowned National League South Champions by ten points, their first title since 1927.
The truncated 2019-20 campaign saw Torquay finishing 14th on PPG.
Last term the Gulls looked odds on to be the third club Johnson would get promoted out of the National League as they topped the table from October all the way through to March. However a late dip in form saw them overtaken by Sutton United, to finish second. In the play-offs Torquay knocked out Notts County 4-2 after extra time. The final, at Ashton Gate rather than Wembley, had the extraordinary and dramatic moment of Torquay goalkeeper Lucas Covolan equalising in the 95th minute, 1-1. However it was Hartlepool United who went up, 5-4 on penalties after neither side could break the deadlock in extra time.
Torquay would have been among most people’s favourites to be there or there abouts towards the top end of the table again this season. Perhaps the impact of losing the title from what appeared to be a winning position, followed by so narrowly missing out in the play-offs, left the team shell-shocked. Their form has so far been very patchy with some unexpected losses against lowly opposition. They currently lie in 16th.
Torquay United : We’ve Met Before
Previous Results for Yeovil Town First Team vs Torquay United
|19/03/1959||Home||Test||W||4-0||Travis, Edwards(2), O Donnell|
|12/01/1966||Away||WCC||W||4-1||Albury, Harding, Hirst, Foley|
|22/01/1975||Home||WCC||W||2-0||Own Goal, Verity|
|07/04/1975||Away||WCC||W||2-1||Irwin, Own Goal|
|14/11/1992||Away||FAC1||W||5-2||3453||Batty(3), Spencer, Wilson|
|03/04/2004||Away||DIV3||D||2-2||6156||Way 17, Edwards 27|
|31/07/2004||Away||Frnd||W||4-2||1429||Tarachulski 37, 39, 55, Caceres 84|
|28/09/2004||Away||LDV1||L||3-4||1610||Stolcers 42, Caceres 67, Tarachulski 84|
|03/08/2007||Away||Frnd||D||2-2||1621||Stewart 31, Guyett 77|
|26/07/2008||Away (Barnstaple)||SWCC||L||1-1||Schofield 83, (3-5 pens)|
|16/10/2012||Away||LDV2||W||2-2||1280||Hayter 38, 90, (5-4 pens)|
|15/07/2014||Away||Frnd||D||2-2||Leitch-Smith 54, Chergui 79|
|22/07/2015||Away||Frnd||W||2-1||823||Jeffers 27, Dolan 49|
|26/12/2019||Home||NLP||W||6-2||5056||Hippolyte 3, Skendi 7, Duffus 15, 60, 87, Dagnall 72|
|01/02/2020||Away||NLP||W||2-0||4165||Duffus 16, Murphy 90+3|
|02/01/2021||Home||NLP||W||2-1||0||Neufville 87, Wilkinson 90|
Results Summary For Yeovil Town First Team vs Torquay United
Torquay: Club Statistics
|13/11/2021||Dover Athletic||Home||NLP||W||2-1||2892||Little 34, 90|
|27/11/2021||FC Halifax Town||Home||NLP||L||2-3||2269||Lolos 88, Little 90|
|04/12/2021||Weymouth||Away||NLP||W||2-1||1559||Lewis 65, Armstrong 70|
|11/12/2021||Stockport County||Home||NLP||W||2-1||2156||Collar 19 (og), Hall 45+4|
|18/12/2021||Tonbridge Angels||Away||FAT3||L||1-2||719||Wright 35|
Highest League Attendance: 2892
Lowest League Attendance: 2097
Average League Attendance: 2408
CURRENT LEAGUE SEQUENCE STATISTICS
|Games Without A Win:||0||Games Without A Home Win:||0|
|Games Without An Away Win:||0||Games Without Defeat:||2|
|Games Without A Home Defeat:||1||Games Without An Away Defeat:||1|
|Games Without A Draw:||6||Games Without A Score Draw:||6|
|Games Without A No-Score Draw:||19||Games Without Scoring:||0|
|Games Without Conceding:||0||Home Results Sequence:||WWLW|
|Away Results Sequence:||LLDLLW||Overall Results Sequence:||LLWDWLLLWW|
Torquay United : Club Information
Click for map.
Telephone Number : 01803 328666
Chairman: Clarke Osbourne
CEO: George Edwards
Media Officer: Dominic Mee
Manager: Gary Johnson
Covered Terrace : Yes
Record Attendance: 21,908 (29th January 1955) v Huddersfield Town, FAC R4
Nickname: The Gulls
Tickets for the 26th December trip to Plainmoor (which as it falls on a Sunday may or may not officially be Boxing Day, who knows?) have gone on sale. Yeovil fans get 237 seats in Section A of the Bristow’s Bench Stand and the whole of the Wollens Terrace which has a theoretical 1,100 standing capacity (assuming Health & Safety is still allowing this). Kick-off 3.00 p.m.
Tickets must be bought in advance – no sales on matchday – from the on-line Torquay Ticket Portal. Sales end at midnight on Christmas Day. Once booked, tickets will be sent out via email, with the e-ticket containing a QR barcode that can either be printed off at home, or alternatively can be downloaded and stored on a mobile device, prior to being scanned at the turnstiles.
Concession (65+): £16
Under 18: £10
Under 7 (with paying adult): FREE
Concession (65+): £14
Under 18: £10
Under 7 (with paying adult): FREE
Disabled Info: The club operates a specific non-discriminatory ticketing policy and the relevant age charge will be made to the person with the disability. In the case of fans with a disability that requires a carer to attend the match the carer will receive free entry to the match. Away wheelchair dependent supporters and carers have access to a designated area in the Bristow’s Bench Stand.
There is very limited parking available at the stadium and therefore requests for parking have to be considered on merit and the club doesn’t guarantee parking spaces for fans with a disability. Fans with a disability who require a parking space should contact the club at the earliest opportunity, and at least 48 hours in advance.
For further information or special arrangements, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Reception on 01803 328666, choosing Option 0.
Official Away Travel
The Green & White Supporters’ Club is running away travel to Torquay on Sunday, December 26th.
Details are as follows:
Members: Adults £14, Concessions £14
Non-Members: Adults £16, Concessions £16
Coach departs Huish Park: 11.00 a.m.
To book, call Paul Hadlow on 07736 044570 or email him on email@example.com.
If you are getting in touch by email, please make it clear which match you are booking for and that you give your full name, the names of people that are travelling and a contact telephone number.
You may be asked to pay a £5 deposit to reserve your seat.
Directions To The Ground
Something of a novelty this – one of our relatively rare journeys westwards! The distance by road from Huish Park to Plainmoor is 67 miles.
The initial option is whether to get on the M5 early or follow the A303/A30 route to Exeter and then joining the motorway at Junction 29. When the motorway runs out (at Junction 31) take the A38 (Devon Expressway).
A couple of miles along the A38 the road splits going up the very steep Telegraph Hill. Take the left hand A380 option signed Newton Abbot and Torquay (South Devon Expressway).
Exit the A380 onto the A3022 towards Torquay (Riviera Way). Exit the A3022 onto the B3199 (Hele Road). After about half a mile, at the double roundabout take the first exit then the second exit on to Westhill Road. Around six hundred yards along Westhill Road is the righthand turn into Marnham Road. The stadium is a hundred yards on the left.
The Gulls have been discussing moving away from Plainmoor for around 15 years. So far it’s got no further than that – discussion. This means the club is still in its home since 1921 when football stadiums were squeezed into urban residential areas, not stuck out on industrial or retail parks. Therefore there’s basically no parking at the ground for fans. The nearest public carparks are in the centres of the suburbs of St Marychurch and Babbacombe, so between 0.5 and 0.7 miles (10 to 15 minutes walk) from the stadium. Nearer than that to the stadium you are looking for on-street.
As the game is on a Sunday (and may or may not be officially Boxing Day) it would appear to be the case that parking restrictions and charges are lifted (but obviously do double check the immediate signage) across the Torbay Council area. If not, payment varies from site to site between pay & display and the RingGo app.
There will be no train services to or from Torquay on Sunday 26th December.
It’s the Christmas hols. Bus services in the area have been suspended for four days.
Torquay United: Web Resources
The Official Site Torquay United Football Club. A bit soulless, but at least it is organised, relatively easy to navigate and kept up to date unlike some official sites at this level.
Torquay Talk – “BY TUFC FANS, FOR TUFC FANS. YOUR ONE STOP SHOP FOR TORQUAY UNITED MATCH REPORTS, NEWS, INTERVIEWS AND FEATURES” it says.
Web Message Boards & Social Media
TorquayFans.Com – easy to use dedicated forum site with decent amount of traffic.
TheTFF – another forum.
TUFC1899 – Torquay United’s Official Twitter presence.
Torquay United Chat – unofficial Twitter @TheGullsForum.
Torquay United AFC – club’s Official Facebook page.
Torquay United : Food & Drink
Given this match is being played on a Sunday over the Christmas period business hours (or even if open at all) may vary from what is normally advertised. The three closest pubs are in a line along St Marychurch Road to the north of the stadium: from east to west The Fortune of War, Union Inn (below) and The York (a Sports Bar & Grill). All are just three or four minutes walk from the stadium. Apart from those the next nearest are east of the stadium in central Marychurch/Babbacombe, mostly strung along or just off the A379; and a little sprinkling south-west of the ground towards the northern edge of central Torquay. The biggest density is down around the harbour / marina, but that’s around a mile and half from the stadium.
Club Bar :
There is a bar/restaurant facility, Boots & Laces, that opened around 20 years ago on the Marnham Road side of the stadium, underneath a stand, which is the main Supporters’ Club. Normally away fans are admitted – there has been no charge being levied when we’ve tried it (which admittedly was a long time ago). Drink is the expected range of keg beers, lagers, the world’s best known pressurised stout etc. In recent times an Official Torquay United Beer has been added, Bryn 1899 brewed by Red Rock which is Devon based. Always available bottled, they sometimes have it on cask there too. It is a large venue and has Sports TV. The Liverpool v Leeds United fixture will be showing from 12.30 p.m. and the Aston Villa versus Chelsea match from 5.30 p.m.
Update 22/12/21: Torquay has announced that Boots & Laces will NOT be open to away fans for this fixture – see here for the host club’s latest statement on procedures at Plainmoor in response to the UK Government’s ‘Plan B’.
In the ground the pies and pasties are recommended as large and good value but (we hear) unfortunately not served from the mobile unit on the away terrace, which is restricted to Burgers, Hot Dogs and Bacon Baps.
Local Pubs :
Buccaneer Inn: Located on the highest clifftop promenade in England has spectacular views across Lyme Bay from both the lounge bar and patio: website here (note the warning that opening and food service times are subject to change during Christmas and other holiday periods). Real ales are by St Austell and there’s Rattler cider by Healey’s; keg beers are from multinationals. Disabled access and adapted toilet, BT Sports, beer garden and outside patio. Standard opening hours are noon – 10.00 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday, noon – 11.00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 0.7 of as mile from the stadium so just under 15 minutes walk.
The Buccaneer Inn, 41 Babbacombe Downs Road, Babbacombe, Torquay, TQ1 3LN. Tel: 01803 312661. Map: Buccaneer.
Dolphin Inn: Taken over in 2019 and seeing major refurbishment inside and out since the accompanying photo was taken, this is now an independent family run pub. Opening from 12.00 noon every day, to 11.00 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and midnight Friday & Saturday, with food served all day up to 8.00 p.m. except Tuesday when the kitchen is closed and Sunday when it’s lunchtime only. Family friendly, with children welcome and baby changing facilities. Disabled access and adapted toilet, Sky Sports, pool table and darts, outside courtyard area. Real ale is from Dartmoor Brewery and St Austell; keg, both beers and ciders, from multinationals. Food in the English Pub Grub style with separate chid menu. A half mile (ten minutes walk) from Plainmoor.
The Dolphin Inn, 36 Fore Street, St. Marychurch, Torquay, Devon, TQ1 4LY. Tel: 01803 328462. Map: Dolphin.
Molloy’s: Half a mile (so no more than ten minutes walk from the ground), the first hostelry one comes across on turning into the pedestrianised main shopping street of St. Marychurch. Was an ‘Oirish Theme Bar’, hence the name, but no longer. Now an outlet for Platform 5 Brewing Company, which was based in a disused part of Newton Abbot railway station until moving into Torquay in 2021. Disabled access (but no disabled adapted toilet), Sky Sports, smoking area. Doesn’t do food. Opening hours are 11.00 a.m. – 11.30 p.m. everyday.
Molloy’s, 20, Fore Street, St. Marychurch, Torquay, Devon, TQ1 4LY. Tel: 01803 311825. Map: Molloy’s.
Union Inn: Along St Marychurch Road, three minutes walk (0.2 of a mile) from the ground. The two regular cask beers are Jail Ale by Dartmoor Brewery and Take Courage Best (Marston’s). Fizz is the likes of Carling, Foster’s and Thatcher’s Gold. Disabled access. Has Sports TV, pool, darts, a jukebox (but the skittle alley present when we first reviewed appears to have been ripped out and turned into a Function Room). Pub garden with sheltered smoking area. Popular with the home fans. Facebook Page. Opening hours: from 1.00 p.m. weekdays and noon weekends, to 11.00 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and midnight Friday and Saturday.
The Union Inn, 127 St Marychurch Road, Torquay, Devon, TQ1 3HW. Tel: 01803 431476. Map: Union Inn.
Likelihood the Natives Will Understand You :
Natives? What natives? Torquay is full of wealthy retired Londoners seeing out their twilight years on the Devon Riviera wearing yachting caps; retired Northerners eeking out their state pensions wearing flat caps; and holiday makers who retired from the drive to Cornwall when they found it further than expected.
Try out your Basil Fawlty impressions – we’re sure the residents of Torquay have never heard them before : What did you expect to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window? Sydney Opera House perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically…
Other Points Of Interest
This is part of the English Riviera, which attracts a million visitors a year – or so says Torbay Council – so it must have something. Check out Torquay harbour on this live webcam if watching paint dry is a little too racy for you. Don’t waste your time looking for Fawlty Towers in Torquay though. The building used was actually Wooburn Grange Country Club in Buckinghamshire, and it was demolished after a fire in 1991.
[No responsibility is taken for any inaccuracies. This page is entirely the product of bias and prejudice.]