These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the National League South in a swanky new ground. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

THE TORQUAY TUMBLE

Printed in the National South League game v Torquay United on Saturday 18th August 2018.We drew 0-0 in front of 1244

When the dust finally settled and the league allocations set, I excitedly scanned the fixtures for possible weekend trips away with the family. These trips always involve proclaiming in a surprised tone – well what's the chances of booking a B&B in Weymouth the same weekend Slough are playing them! So thanks a lot league computer for putting two of these seaside away fixtures in January. 
One game that caught the eye was Torquay United. While Slough are riding the crest of a wave, the same can't be said of our opponents who were relegated last season to the National League South. Just six years ago they were playing in the Division Two play-offs.

I spoke to Dominic Roman whose been supporting the club for 30 years and is editor of independent blog Torquay Talk

Can you describe the last decade being a Torquay fan. From dropping out the football league to playing regional football? 

Dominic '10 years ago we were an upwardly mobile Conference club, with a promotion chasing squad, a brilliant young manager and a local board who knew and respected the local community. We got promoted to the Football League and had two brilliant play-off campaigns, and everybody was very proud. So to find ourselves down in the National League South (NLS) now is horrible really and we still believe we are a football league club, with a league ground and league support.
Around 2012 things started going awry as bad decisions were made behind the scenes (and kept being made) and even though we had a lottery winner (Thea Bristow) who put significant money into the club, she soon realised that it was moneypit that would suck the life out of her and it took a local consortium to save us in 2015. The consortium soon realised they were well out of their depth and the team worked on a meagre budget, only narrowly avoiding relegation in 2016. The consortium borrowed money from Clarke Osborne that summer and eventually he took over the club as other bidders either dropped out or couldn't raise the necessary funds. Since his arrival Clarke has promised numerous things to fans but generally kept his distance and failed in footballing matters as the club eventually got relegated. He has backed the youth system and kept us full time, but when we needed the club to step up it didn't happen.
The NLS is a complete unknown to most of us but after all the mess and what's happened, over 2,000 still turned up for our first home league game on a Tuesday, which is amazing! It been an awful rollercoaster ride, and things have just kept getting worse and worse - leaving us where we are now. To put simply what could go wrong has gone wrong!'

How optimistic are you for the future?

Dominic 'At the moment I'm not overly optimistic to be honest although I think we'll be contenders in the NLS. Overall the club has good people working at it, but lacks leadership from an owner who never attends games and a general manager who is not up to the job. Longer term the owner will continue to push for the stadium and he'll be around for a while trying to make this happen, but if the plans fail then there's a good chance he'll soon lose interest and at that point we'll need someone else to step in. The supporters trust are trying very hard to increase numbers and make better inroads with the club, but generally Clarke Osborne is keeping them at arms length whilst putting out statements here or there to try and appease the fans. I don't particularly fear for our immediately future at least, but things can change very quickly and I really hope to see Torquay turning back into a club the local community can be proud of.' 

What do you think of plans for the new ground given your chairmans previous record at other clubs?

Dominic 'Clarke Osborne's CV is chequered to say the least in delivering projects and anybody who really believes he'll deliver this new stadium without any trouble is kidding themselves. The local Mayor seems to have bought into the idea Clarke is selling him and would clearly love to see this multi-purpose stadium benefit Torbay which is fair enough. However, local councillors and fans are not buying into it, and I'd say it's pie-in-the-sky - a pipe dream that is unlikely to happen. The cost of it is apparently 40 million and the capacity will be ten thousand. Ridiculous figures - even when we were in League One our crowd average was only around 3,000 and at the moment we'll struggle to get over 1500 for most games. He will keep pushing for it and I hope the Torbay top brass will not roll over for him, and of course keep the ownership of Plainmoor out of his hands. That's the main fear, Plainmoor is sold off, we are shipped to another ground whilst the new ground is built - only to suffer difficulties and struggle to survive. Or alternatively we get a big new ground with big overheads and still only have 1500 through the gates.' 

What can Slough fans expect when they come to Torquay? Any places you can recommend? What's the ground like? How much to get in?
Dominic: 'Crikey now you're asking! Torquay has seen better days really and desperately needs investment/regeneration especially around the High Street area, but the seafront and the harbour are still lovely places to walk round and grab a bite to eat - and you have a number of nice beaches dotted around the area. There's quite a few tourist attractions. The model village in Babbacombe is excellent, so is Paignton Zoo which is only a few miles from Torquay. Plainmoor is a pretty good ground I think! Bristow's Bench is the main stand and was developed only 6 years ago - and I think you'll be seated at the end of that. Its not the noisiest ground as sound tends to get lost, and the capacity is around 6,000, so a lot of empty spaces these days. There is a bar at the ground 'Boots and Laces' which is welcoming to away fans (within reason), and also a few pubs fairly nearby in St Marychurch and Babbacombe area. I'm not sure of the price, around £15-20 I think but as a season ticket holder I don't look!' 

Are there any towns/grounds you are looking forward to visiting?
Dominic 'I was looking forward to days out in Oxford, Western Super Mare and Bath, but they have all been scheduled as Tuesday nights so any visits will be for the game only. Apart from that Truro was an option but now they play here! Gloucester for the bank holiday will be a popular one, though I believe even they play in Evesham! The Yellow Army will bring supporters wherever we play, and we have a decent following around London so plenty for them to get stuck into this season.' 
Cheers Dominic and best of luck for the rest of the season.

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