If we can tear you away from the unadulterated exuberance of our latest Chubby Checker Trophy tie this week, it would be an achievement. Much like the third, second and (quite frankly) first seasons of Mrs Brown’s Boys, our ‘Remember Them’ series is one that you’re not too sure who’s calling out for more. Let it never be said we listen to our audience, however. Our weekly wander down wemory wane (Thanks there, Elmer Fudd. Ed.) risks the opening of a can of worms that is almost 20 years past its Use By date. Woah now, it’s Torquay United.
Torquay United: Who Are They?
Formed in 1899, the Gulls from the English Riviera briefly went under the name Torquay Town after merging with Ellacombe Football Club in 1910. A fierce rivalry was born with Babbacombe too, which was a problem when Plymouth and Exeter were both elected to the League in 1920. That’s because, as Wikipedia says, there were calls for the Gulls and the Babbas (we think, we haven’t checked) to merge. And merge they did. It came about in 1921; the name reverting back to Torquay United and the club taking a spot in the Southern League.
In 1927, the club achieved Football League status thanks to that wonderful election system. It was the death knell for Aberdare Athletic; the side who the Gulls replaced. And, despite finishing rock bottom in their debut season after shipping 103 goals, Torquay United secured re-election. From then on, life in the League settled down; the odd promotion here, the odd relegation there after the Second World War Two. The 80s were a bit hairy, mind you; having to apply for re-election in 1985 and 1986 after finishing bottom two years on the trot.
If the Gulls finished bottom for a third straight season, they’d have been the first club to be relegated to the Conference automatically. It was only goal difference that meant that honour went to Lincoln City. Squeaky.
Torquay United: Us And Them…
Less than a decade later, and the Gulls were rock bottom of the League again. The year is 1996. Buckeroo! A certain club from Hertfordshire win the Conference. But, alas, ground regulations come into play. Yep, our first encounter with the Devon side came off the pitch, instead of on it. Victor Green took the League to the High Court for not letting us in. That court action, however, ended up in an FA inquiry against us; one that led to a suspended £25,000 fine. Why? Well, this Independent article tells you what we think you need to know.
Our first meeting on the pitch didn’t happen for another 11 years. Sadly, it wasn’t because we finally got past the League gatekeeper. No, it was actually because Torquay’s luck ran out. In finishing bottom of the League (again), there was no salvation. Down they came, into the Conference; their first non-league adventure since 1927. And they certainly enjoyed playing us to start with. Four goals for them in our first-ever meeting; three more in the return at our place as Peter the Tailor masterminded our route out of the playoffs.
The return of GW didn’t help either; the Gulls putting another three past us in October 2008. Then, a little bit of respite. In the return that season, we broke our duck against Torquay. It was only a point, admittedly. And it we didn’t score. But, it was something. Not that we had a chance to build on it, however. After our promotion challenge fell apart at Cambridge in the playoffs, Torquay did the decent thing of beating the Us in the final at Wembley to secure a return to the League after two seasons away.
Torquay United: And Then What?
Just two seasons later, a reunion. Nothing much had changed, however. Torquay United still had the measure of us; a goalless draw indoors was followed up by a 2-0 defeat at their gaff. That result was a blip for Boro’ on our ascent up the table during the second half of the 2010-1 League Two campaign. But it didn’t alter the fact that we still hadn’t been able to record a win at their expense in six attempts. So, you won’t have picked them as ideal opposition for the playoff final that term. And, yet, that was the situation we found ourselves in.
Talk about picking a time and place to buck a trend. John Mousinho’s goal, Old Trafford and a second straight promotion. Stevenage 1-0 Torquay United. Wonderful. For the Gulls, probably heartbreaking. Probably, like. The following season, they had another shot at League One via the playoffs. The following season, they were found wanting. After that, it has all unravelled. Inside two seasons, Torquay went from League Two promotion hopefuls to the Conference – finishing bottom of the League once more in 2013.
Unlike their first taste of Conference life, they weren’t back in the League inside two years. In fact, they didn’t come close; the Gulls finishing 18th and 17th respectively. More worrying for them, however, is the start they’ve made to the current campaign. As things stand, there is a very real danger they could fall further still…
Torquay United: Boro’s Record
P7 W1 D2 L4 F4 A12 – League Points: 2, Cup Meetings: 0, Win Rate: 14%
• BoroGuide’s Torquay United club profile – for old time’s sake…