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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fan Files: Torquay United

The latest in our series of interviews with lower league fans takes a look at Torquay United.

The Devon club were promoted back into the Football League in May after spending two years in the Conference.

Gulls fan Shaun Murphy has been following his team for 11 years. Unsurprisingly, he considers demotion to Non League as his worst moment supporting Torquay.

Conversely, last May's play-off final win over Cambridge at Wembley which secured their place back in the Football League ranks as his favourite memory.


So then, Torquay are back in the Football League. You must be delighted?


It's good to be back where, in my opinion, we belong. Going to places like Barrow had a certain amount of charm but it was all about getting back into the Football League as soon as possible.

How's the season going so far then? You're towards the bottom of the table - has it been a tough transition back?

You could say that. Initially we started the season OK, but it wasn't long before some established League Two clubs taught us a lesson.

We've gone back to basics in recent weeks though and, although it hasn't been pretty with more draws than wins, it's been effective enough.

What were those two years like in Non League for the club? Can it be a pleasant change or was it just a nightmare?


Bit of a mixed bag. For me, the biggest adjustment was being seen as a big scalp in that division, which is something the club, or indeed myself, wasn't at all used to.

We had to deal with it pretty quickly and, as we're seeing with the likes of Wrexham and Luton, it's not an easy adjustment to make.

In a way it was refreshing though - we won more games than we lost, and the coverage we received on Setanta was favourable. And did I mention the two trips to Wembley?

Having said all that, I won't miss the rubbish away followings, or the scandalous officiating.

Torquay were Conference play-off winners in May

Having seen the top level of Non League and the bottom of the Football League, what would you say are the differences between the two levels? Is there that big a gap?


It's an interesting one. You look at Exeter, who went up from the Conference to League One with pretty much the same crop of players, and you'd have to say no. Looking at ourselves, you'd say there is.

For me, it all depends on the manager and the players and, at Exeter, they were always geared up to do well once they got out of Non-League. Personally, I think we're only a couple of players from being a competitive side at this level.

It was only fair we gave the current crop of players the chance to prove themselves after 12 games or so, and then see where we're at, but it's clear we need more quality and perhaps a bit more league experience in the squad.

What about the gaffer, Paul Buckle? A promotion, two Wembley appearances, good FA Cup runs, and a former player to boot. He must be pretty popular with the fans?


You'd think so. Quite frankly, the club was on it's knees when he took over - the less said about those days the better - with only five players on the books.

We had to adjust to life in Non-League pretty quickly, and in Buckle, we had a man capable of helping us do that. He built a new squad from scratch, and had us competing at the top end of the table in his first season in charge.

Sure, it took him two seasons to get us back up, and people will bemoan his man-management style, but people have short memories, and forget the good job he's done for us. He doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves.

Buckle is in his first managerial job at the Gulls

What's the quality like in League Two this term then? Any sides who have impressed or surprised you?


Despite us beating them on the opening day - I really liked the look of Chesterfield.

They look strong all over the park - with Ian Breckin's leadership at the back, David Perkins's class in the middle, and Jack Lester will always get goals. If they can sort their away form out they'll be promotion contenders.

Surprise packages? You have to say John Still's done it again at Dagenham, hasn't he? He's uncovered another couple of Non-League gems, and once again they're punching well above their weight. I'd be surprised to see them last the pace, though.

Where do you see the future of Torquay being? You spent a season in League One a few years ago, can you get back and this time stay there?


I don't see why not. Our last tenure in League One ultimately ended in disappointment, but that was partially down to a lack of ambition from the previous owners.

The new regime has come in, invested heavily, and has bigger plans than merely surviving in the Football League. Good luck to them.

And finally, what's the best thing about being a Torquay United supporter?


The fact we don't do mid-table mediocrity. The last five seasons have seen two relegations, two trips to Wembley, and a promotion for good measure. It's not boring, that's for sure!

Shaun, thanks for speaking to Soccer AM/MW.

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