Back in August, Torquay United fan Christina Smart gave us her thoughts just before the Cobblers hosted her Gulls at Sixfields. A lot has changed for both sides since with managerial changes all round and, with both sides stuck in the bottom two, it’s set to be a crunch game this weekend as we meet again. Christina gives her thoughts on the latest comings, goings and happenings at Plainmoor below.
You can follow her passionate Torquay United tweets at @stinadreama…big thanks to Christina for taking time to answer these…
So, Chris Hargreaves! A big win in his first game in charge last week… how has the outlook of the club changed since his appointment?
I understand your disappointment that we won the tug of love for our new manager, I wish you well in your next managerial appointment and you can probably guess a lot of what I’m about to say!
Chris Hargreaves (and his assistant Lee Hodges, another young ex-Gull with management experience, at Truro City) feels as right for us as Alan Knill sadly proved to be wrong, and the less said about that sad time (squirrel jokes aside) the better. All credit to Thea Bristow and the Board for returning to our core values of team spirit and work ethic with this bold appointment.
Known affectionately to us as Jesus or Tarzan because of the long flowing hair in his time here as a player, Chris Hargreaves captained us back into the Football League at Wembley on 17th May 2009, scoring an audacious goal in the process. When he collected the cup he immediately gestured over to us, the fans, yelling “This is for you!”
A staggering TEN of those Wembley heroes are right here, right now: 8 of that playing squad (Hargreaves, Hodges, Poke, Rice, Nicholson, Mansell, Benyon, and the recently reintroduced Danny Stevens; GK coach Kenny Veysey, and physio Damien Davey. It is the hunger to preserve the league status they fought so hard for together, and won, that he can immediately tap in to and hopefully translate into results.
Every point is obviously precious now, but even so, for me a draw at Kingsmeadow would have been a perfectly respectable start. Instead, we were treated to a dream come true with a clean sheet, 2 goals, 3 points, 11 man of the match performances and a team effort which everyone could be proud of.
Another thing that has been transformed is our PR. Interviews are suddenly insightful and entertaining, sprinkled with quips about getting in all the Bournemouth players and not being David Blaine.
Upbeat and positive? “How very unTorquay!” you would have said at almost any time in 2013, but things change, thankfully, and sometimes rapidly!
Any transfer news since the window opened?
Yes and no! I’ve lost count of all the loanees that have come and gone. Yeoman, Thompson and Lathrope have been welcomed back into the fold and are very much part of the survival plan.
Initially, the aim is to see what can be got out of the existing players. That’s clearly working already. Nicholson (completely frozen out under Knill, hence the Lazarus twitter avatar) and Mansell are reportedly rejuvenated, and a reinstated Pearce, who I like a lot, scored on Saturday. O’Connor is now playing at RB where he was so effective last season at Burton.
Jayden Stockley is back on another month’s loan and his Bournemouth team-mate Shaun Cooper is expected to be joining us too. Young Brighton striker Shamir Goodwin has also arrived on a month’s loan. Danny Stevens is dividing opinion by reportedly training with us; he was released after 5 years’ service, is still without a club and has always been commited to the yellow cause.
Vice chairman Alex Rowe has enthused that funds can be available for further reinforcements if needed, and Hargreaves believes bringing in the right character is crucial. Realistically, we are perhaps more likely to utilise the more affordable loan market than to look to buy.
Obviously it’s a huge game on Saturday in terms of the relegation battle but are your sights now set on mid-table and beyond?
Looking back at my blindly optimistic prediction in the summer makes me blush with embarrassment! The goal for now is simply to escape the drop, nothing more, nothing less, game by game, point by point.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say another trip to the Conference wouldn’t be a disaster, because in many ways of course it would be. Chris Hargreaves has astutely not dismissed this possiblilty out of hand because let’s face it, he has inherited a mess: he is our Plan A and our Plan B, which very neatly takes pressure off the players, simultaneously indicating that he is with us for the long haul.
I fully expect an open-top bus survival parade in May with Hargreaves milking it for all it’s worth. I can visualise it now! That’s the least he, and all of us who stand united, will deserve if, by force of character and strength of leadership, he makes Saturdays worth living for again.
Management, staff, players and fans have been united from the very first kick of the new era, and whenever the time comes for us to move from crisis management to longer term progression we have a real chance to build a club to be proud of, a whole philosophy with the open expansive style of play Hargreaves tantalisingly promises. The future’s bright, the future’s yellow. And Where’s the Caravan now? It has a permanent pitch in Babbacombe with a freshly painted picket fence and a budding rose garden.
Who have been the star men amidst the struggle in the opening months of the season?
The last few months have been demoralising and disjointed; we simply weren’t set up to succeed. The stars were there, but for a lot of the time we just couldn’t see them for the clouds. It’s impossible to shine when you have no confidence or belief . Having said that, the rise of Martin Rice on being handed the injured Michael Poke’s goalkeeping gloves has been meteoric. I’ve liked what I’ve seen of Jordan Chapell, and Downes has been immense. Marquis and McCourt did well while they were here, but we still need to uncover some shooting stars.
And finally, a score prediction for Saturday?
I’m hoping for a warm reception for Hargreaves from both sets of fans, and it’s easy to predict an emotionally charged atmosphere. Thank goodness this fixture was scheduled for so early in the New Year; I’d hate for us to meet in a winner-takes-all end of season affair. I predict that it will go to the wire and both of our teams will survive! Turning to Saturday’s 6-pointer, in muddy conditions and with the Chris Hargreaves factor, I think it will be much more like a cup game when anything can happen and probably will. A scintillating 2-2 draw… No, no, we must win. We’ll win. 2-1.
2014 has started astonishingly well and is going to be the year that keeps on giving, I just know it.
Torquay United Links…
Official Website: http://www.torquayunited.com
Local News section: http://www.thisissouthdevon.co.uk/torquayunited
Stadium Guide: http://www.footballgroundguide.com/torquay_united/