I have to start with a local side of mine, a team who many friends of mine support, and one for whom my Dad played for three years – that’s Torquay United.
Plenty of even the most hardcore Gulls fans will tell you that Torquay have been like a cat with the proverbial nine lives over the last two decades. Richard Coyle, who plays Jeff in Coupling, would undoubtedly describe them as “unflushables” up until now. You, those irritating little, er, jobs that you just can’t get rid of, but keep popping up.
Despite being a Plymouth Argyle fan, I’m deeply saddened to see Torquay slip out of the league. It’s good for Devon football to have as many teams as possible, and with Exeter already having slipped out of the league three years ago, things don’t look too rosy down this way, apart from Argyle of course.
My worry for Torquay is that unlike Exeter, who have reached the play-offs and could still go back up this year, although they have to turn around a 0-1 deficit to Oxford, they do not have a reserve team, no youth academy, and a small, rather dilapidated ground. They also have far fewer supporters to call on than Exeter, who attracted 8,659 fans to St James Park for their first leg play off game last week.
If you are a Gulls fan, or sympathizer, I’m begging you to get down to Plainmoor next season, because Torquay United are in massive trouble, and without the support of fans and local communities, they may very well be doomed, and even as a Green, that would be a footballing tragedy.
Staying with links I have, I’m really pleased to see Swindon claim the third automatic promotion spot in League Two, for the man who turned around Plymouth Argyle’s fortunes, Sir Paul Sturrock. ‘Luggy’, as he is affectionately known, wasn’t the same kind of bubbly character that our current gaffer, Ian Holloway, is, but Paul Sturrock didn’t need catchy sound bites or anything like that – he had sheer class running through his veins.
If what I understand is true, James Beattie and various other fancy dans who forced him out of Southampton should be ashamed of themselves. Paul took us to two promotions, indeed two divisional championships, took over a struggling Sheffield Wednesday side and got them up through the play offs in first season, and then kept them safe, with plenty to spare, in their first season back in Championship.
To get a fourth promotion in six years is a fantastic achievement. Congratulation, Luggy. I’m sure Swindon fans will be more than looking forward to facing a Leeds side managed by a certain D. Wise next season.
I read an article a few days ago about what a cracking season it has been for the West Midlands clubs. A forgettable one for Villa, but this article talked up the success of Birmingham, Wolves and West Brom, but shamefully neglected to mention the outstanding year that Walsall have had.
They won the league ahead of Hartlepool on the last day of the season, having been relegated from League One the previous season – as indeed, were Hartlepool and Swindon, more on that in a minute – and proved you do need Money to go up. In their case, Richard Money. Rumoured to be a friend of Petr Cech, Craig Cash and the little known Scottish player, Angus McBankersdraft, Money hadn’t managed in the football league for 12 years before taking over at Walsall just over 12 months ago. Not a bad response.
Walsall have recently changed their kit, their sponsor and even their club badge. More importantly, they will be changing division next year as well.
The top four in the league are all clubs that were relegated lasted season. Walsall, Hartlepool, Swindon and MK Dons were the quartet who dropped to the basement division last year. Talk about bouncing back.
It remains to be seen whether Milton Keynes can join their comrades in 2005-6 relegation in returning to the third tier, but seeing as they finished ten points clear of any other ten in the play-offs, they must surely be favourites. But we all know the play-offs don’t always work that way. They play Shrewsbury, while Lincoln take on Bristol Rovers.
We’ll return to Bristol, looking at City’s season, as well as glancing towards Rotherham, Brentford, Bradford, Chesterfield, and……*gasp*…..Scunthorpe. Yes Scunthorpe!