Buidling Dreams Together

 

The Council Wouldn’t Sell So He WALKED AWAY! – A Fan’s Perspective: Torquay United AFC

This is Part 2 of 3 separate article’s of the stories of fans who support clubs which were under fire (Whether that be FFP, Chairperson Issues etc.) This is a Fan’s Perspective.

Torquay United AFC – A Club which was once celebrating their victory over the likes of Southend United FC after a promotion win in League One to now being in a state of ruin, ran into the ground by the very people that had been running it.

The story of Torquay is an extremely sad one and I urge anyone who is reading this article to do their very best to share this article around in hopes we can raise awareness for Torquay and their fans who are now watching their clubs history and heritage fade away into nothingness with the club in risk of disappearing of the face of footballing – forever.

Who Are Torquay United AFC?

Just like the team we previously covered in my past article (Southend United FC) – Torquay are one of the teams who had such rich history in the past. The highest league the team had ever reached in its 125 year long history was The EFL League One (The third division of English League Football).

Torquay has such a rich history – the club’s trophy cabinet consists of the Football League Fourth Div Trophy, Football League Third Div South Trophy, Conference National Trophy, Conference South Trophy and the National League and National League South trophy. Torquay have also been runners up in a league trophy (following their 1988 to 1989 season) and have been a one time runner ups in the FA Trophy.

Although this club has fell on very dark times. From being a once thriving League One club to now being nothing more than a national / regional club – Torquay fans have stuck with their team through the very worst of it, in hopes they will one day be rewarded and their club will strive again for greatness.

Sadly, they haven’t been dealt a great hand.

Torquay. Are now at risk of fading away. 125 years of blood, sweat, tears, promotions and demotions, footballing history – are all prepared to disappear very shortly if action isn’t taken soon. With a former chairmen promising the club is fine to then weeks later saying he didnt get financial support and entering it into administration – doing the same thing he did with ANOTHER club just so he could REDEVELOP the club grounds – the story is all too familiar for Torquay. This is how fans feel, this is a fans perspective.

Mark Bithell’s Perspective: Born And Bred In Torquay

Mark Bithell is a 35 year old football fanatic and was born and raised in Torquay – Mark’s boyhood club was naturally the TUFC.

His lifelong love has always been football and he’s supported Torquay for the past 20 years (Since he was 15 years old by the numbers!) – Mark’s first ever season watching Torquay was a special one, the same season where Torquay won promotion at Roots Hall (Southend United FC) to enter the League One (Third Div) of English League Football.

I began discussing with Mark about how he feels about the way Torquay are heading given their recent events of risking being entered into administration even after supporting the club for 20 years – something like this must be devastating for such a lifelong fan who now has to risk witnessing his club’s history be erased.

Mark said the following: “Personally I feel devastated, I’ve seen Torquay as high as League One to now seeing them struggle in regional football. I feel Clarke Osbourne had one agenda at Torquay United – wanting the freehold of Plainmoor”

“The Council Wouldn’t Sell So He WALKED AWAY!”

“It’s heartbreaking to see my club on the verge of administration. but also I see this as maybe the fresh start Torquay needed, I don’t feel the club will go under as I feel there will be people out there who will want to give this club another chance. There’s been people interested before who I believe, only rumoured, to be back in the frame.”

Mark’s words truly resonated with me; seeing your boyhood club hit a new low was something I wished to never see at my local club – but I did.. and it barely pulled through, now it was Torquay’s turn and Mark seemed to believe the fault must’ve been with Clarke Osbourne. I was interested about Clarke and asked Mark if he could give me more information on the former chairmen who had run the club into a state of turmoil.

“Clark Osbourne is a property developer”, Mark said, “His history speaks for itself”

“He has a history of buying sports teams and then promising them the world (Such as new stadiums etc.) then decide’s to not fulfils said promises. He’ll kick them out of their home and build new properties there instead. Yes Clarke may of funded Torquay for 5 years but my belief was that he believed he could persuade the council to sell him Plainmoor. Only a few w eeks ago he and the club released a statement saying plans were positive for a new ground, weeks later he walks away? Seemed all too suspicious to me.

His most recent project is to build a housing estate on top of Coventry Speedway and he also has plans for the same of Poole and Swindon Speedway.”

“He evicted Bristol Rovers from their old Eastville ground and then redeveloped it!”


“My honest opinion? He wanted the same at Torquay. Get the freehold, sell Plainmoor to developers and then leave us without a home and a club.”

This was horrible. Southend United was left in the same state by Ron Martin – notoriously known for making promises and then instead using the proposed ideas and scrapping them to build properties – in my eyes football has became a fools game that is only powered by money. Football isn’t the game anymore. It’s which chairperson can make the most profit out of lies they promise to clubs.

I asked Mark if he was aware of Southend United’s situation and how they unfortunately had to enter administration – was he not worried that if Torquay does enter the same position that it’s essentially game over for not only his boyhood club but a club with over 125 years of incredible footballing history?

“Yes I do worry. If we go into administration it could be a lot worse for us, transfer embargo, points deductions, it’s why I hold some hope that Clarke has some decency into selling before that ever happens.”

“I look at Southend, Bury, Macclesfield, Rochdale more recently and I do worry.. but I try to stay positive. This club WILL be okay.”

I didn’t want to end this piece with Mark on a bad note – I wanted to end on a positive. He wasn’t the only fan I spoke to but I didn’t want to end his segment on such a negative note. I asked Mark to speak to you – the reader. This is the message Mark want’s you – the readers, the fans, the rivals – to understand.

“To all TUFC supporters, now is the time we unite, we get behind the club, Downes and the team and we all rally this club forward!

Buy Merch at the shop, drink in Boots and Laces, sponsorships, show up at Plainmoor in your numbers and let’s show the whole country how united we really are at Torquay United.

As the famous George Edward’s quote reads..”

“WE FINALLY ARE ONE CLUB – UNITED!”

George Edward’s

Robert Tovey’s Perspective: A Loyal Fan Through And Through!

I had the chance to also speak to Robert Tovey – Robert seems to love Torquay from the bottom of his heart and I can tell he is a truly dedicated fan! Robert didn’t waste no time at all with telling me his story on how he fell in love with Torquay and it’s culture.

“It was the Gary Johnson effect that got me interested and effectively ended up supporting Torquay United.”

I asked Robert what was it exactly about Gary Johnson that lured him into a club like Torquay and he had to say:

“He’s an experience and seasoned professional manager walking into a NLS side at the time – That’s the reason.”

Frankly I wouldn’t blame Robert – Gary Johnson has managed clubs like Cambridge United, Peterborough United, Northampton Town, Lativa National Team and of-course Torquay United AFC. I asked Robert whether he believed Gary has done a good job despite all the odds he’s against currently.

“At the very start on the 13th of september 2018, Gary Johnson was appointed as our manager. The club saw a revival in fortunes under him and we even remained unbeaten for fourt months and eventually rising to the top of our table in mid-january. We were crowned champions on the 13th of April 2019 — The first season back in the 5th tier was disrupted by COVID and we finished 14th – the season next saw us miss promotion after a heartbreakingly penalty shootout to Hartlepool.

A Picture Of Robert pointing towards the North Staffs Gull RVCT Plaque – Robert is from Stoke-on-Trent himself!

Although it’s not entirely being confident and happy with the manager – Robert also mentioned that this season alone he has only been able to make two matches (Those being Hemel Hampstead). He mentioned that the result’s hadn’t exactly been great and the gaffer was giving mixed signals to fans.

“The results haven’t been great this season and it felt like Gary Johnson was being negative in his comments about wanting positive fans to turn up!”

Robert then sent me this video of the gaffer himself reacting to a lost to Dartford – where the mixed feelings from Johnson has originated from.

Gary Johnson reflects on a loss to Dartford albeit seeming to deflect any criticism for the loss towards the fans.

Robert said that this interview was frustrating to the entire fanbase – other fans I spoke to even said they felt unheard and somewhat betrayed after having so much trust behind Johnson – who just seemed to now be aiming onto the fans for their recent results and atmosphere even though I would personally say that the fanbase is doing what they can to try and create as MUCH atmosphere as possible to save their club and generate noise.

“This was the kind of interview that frustrated the fanbase, saying it was disappointing and that we didn’t start well.”

To end my piece with Robert; I asked him the same question I asked Mark.

What’s your message to the fans?

“Even though I’m based in the midlands and I don’t get to Torquay very often, maybe once a season or sometimes a home or an away game, but what is apparently clear with the game against Aveley, the support is STILL there at Torquay with 3600 and away support only 30/40 of that number. People from far and wide purchased tickets and who have donated to the club and the trust.”

“This club will thrive; not die!”

Robert Tovey

Torquay United have been through it all. From being a top flight club so close to being in that Premier League every team dreams of being apart of – to now being reduced to a team stuck outside the English League; with chairperson troubles and fans feeling unheard – its crucial everyone bands together. Whether your a Torquay United fan or not. Buy Tickets in the away end – go support the club by offering to donate some money or simply just help spread word.

If you’re interested in financially helping the club and are either a Torquay fan or a footballing fan who doesn’t want to see another club die; then I would recommend donating to TUST. This is the Torquay United Supporters Trust – a team of loyal supporters and footballing fans who are doing their very best to save the club by taking in donations and giving fans of Torquay a chance to see their club – whether that is by hosting events or giveaway’s. I would highly recommend visiting the TUST website to learn more about the website; here is a short excerpt from the website’s about me section:

The Torquay United supporters Trust is one of 170 Supporters’ Trusts that exist within the English football pyramid. We are committed to playing a responsible part in the operation of our football club, ensuring a sustainable future in the heart of the south Devon community – and beyond.
   
Initially gaining momentum during Chris Roberts’ ill-fated ownership of the club in 2006, TUST has been operating independently for over a decade – orchestrating a number of momentous victories on behalf of our membership and ultimately safeguarding the future of Torquay United.  

The TUST is entirely democratic, we operate on a “one member, one vote” basis and invite everyone to join and help secure a prosperous future for Torquay United, together.

To find the website of TUST please go to Supporters | Torquay United Supporters Trust (tust.co.uk) as seen here.

https://www.facebook.com/share/p/4BAeQDtJUwSzG59u/ (Press here to see the update Torquay posted as of 28th of Feb 2024 to see the astounding money raised by fans and the great news of the club having suitors to buy it!!)

Torquay’s story is one story I believe that shouldn’t be unheard. No matter what type of fan you are; the story of Torquay should be heard and their plea for help should be assisted. Our beloved football clubs wouldn’t be where they are today without us. Now. Torquay need us. To be United. Just as Mark quoted by George Edward’s – “We are one club – UNITED!”

That’s the Torquay way. United As One

That’s the fan perspective. A Community UNITED AS ONE.

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A passionate writer with a love for grassroot clubs, local footballing stories and a interest in showing the underdog stories that go unseen.