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Are Torquay United finally on their way back up?

Wednesday 23rd January 2019

Relegation battle after relegation battle, but finally have Torquay United turned a corner? They currently sit top of the National South.

The football landscape is changing all the time and while a lot of the traditional powerhouses of the game remain at the top, plenty has changed further down the ladder. In lower league football money is just as crucial as at higher levels and for some it has had huge consequences. While many teams have come up through the leagues in recent years, such as Fleetwood Town and Crawley Town, a host of the traditional Football League clubs have fallen in the other direction.

One such side is Torquay United, a team with a great history, but they have fallen under hard times since the turn of the century. This season is the first year the club has spent in a regionalised league since 1958. They are now competing in the National South when not too long ago they were in League One. Their latest spell in the third tier of English football was in 2005 but just 13 years later they have been relegated a further three levels. Twice after relegation to League Two, they reached the playoffs but couldn’t get over the line. However, twice, they have also fallen out of the Football League; most recently in 2015.

They spent three years in the National League, but all three seasons were fighting against relegation before finally facing the drop once again in 2018.

The mood around the club still looked bleak over the summer despite being placed amongst the five or six teams most likely to win the National South this year. However, for teams suffering relegation, bouncing back at the first time of asking happens so rarely nowadays it was always going to be a tough ask. Despite this, half way through January they sit top of the pile with a great chance to win promotion or at the very least have a chance in the playoffs.

Currently, they are a point ahead of Woking who has two games in hand. Torquay’s form in the league though is as good as any team in the country. They lost three games in their first eight which led to a change of manager. Experienced boss Gary Johnson came in and this Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at third-placed Bath was the first time they have lost since. Before this, they had won their previous ten matches in the division. It looks to be a three horse race with a gap to Chelmsford In fourth in third and pre-season favourites Billericay have completely gone off the ball and now outside the top seven.

As they have seen over the last 15 years though success hasn’t led to stability. Promotion from the National League and the two near playoff misses in League Two have shown that. However, Johnson is a key factor in changing the club’s fortunes. He has huge experience in lower league football and in the South West of the country.

Even if they don’t end up winning promotion this season, they have brought the feel-good factor back. Over the last four season’s they have won so few games it is unsurprising the atmosphere around the club has been toxic. However, wins and momentum changes mean everything in football.

Attendances are up both at Plainmoor and away from home, they have taken huge numbers in comparison the other teams in the division despite having further to travel.

Regardless of where they end up in the league table, the 2018/19 season could prove a huge turning point for Torquay United.

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Simon Hahn

Lifelong sufferer following Darlington FC from League Two to the Northern League. Freelance Sports and data journalist. Living for 3pm on Saturday.

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