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A Brief History of Torquay United...

The 1999/2000 season marked the Centenary year of Torquay United. Although Torquay United may be one of the smallest clubs in the Football League, it has a proud history. Through this brief history of the club, you can relive some of the most memorable matches and incidents, and recall some of the characters who have helped to shape the club's history. It is a reminder of the good, and bad, times for fans and followers who have enjoyed and endured the fluctuating fortunes of the League's most frustratingly entertaining team.

Mayday 1899 Torquay United formed following a meeting of former Torbay Public College students at the Tor Abbey Hotel in Belgrave Road. Home games played at Teignmouth Road.
16 September 1899 First game against Upton Cricket Club ends in a 5-0 victory.
1900 Enter the East Devon League. Play home games at the Recreation Ground.
1904 Play home games at Barton Road.
1910 Torquay United amalgamate with Ellacombe and become Torquay Town. Home games played at the current stadium, Plainmoor.
1921 Torquay Town amalgamate with Babbacombe, and revert to Torquay United. Torquay United join the Western League and turn professional..
1922 Torquay United join the Southern League, and finish sixth. Application to join the Football League results in no votes.
1925 Winter storms blow away the grandstand roof. Donations from the local public, and games against Plymouth Argyle and Exeter City provide the club with enough money to avoid bankruptcy.
1926/27 Torquay United became Champions of the Southern League, after declining entry into the FA Cup to concentrate all their efforts on winning League status..
30 May 1927 For the first time in League history, the ballot for League membership results in a tie, with Torquay and Aberdare tying with 21 votes each. A new ballot sees Torquay defeat Aberdare by 26 votes to 19 and gain entry into the Football League.
27 August 1927 First Football League game played at Plainmoor against Exeter City. A crowd of 10,749 sees the game end in a 1-1 draw.
1927/28 Torquay United's first season sees them concede 103 goals and finish bottom of the League. Fortunately they successfully apply for re-election.
1931/32 A bizarre season sees Torquay United lose 10-2 at Fulham; 7-0 at Crystal Palace; 6-3 at Watford; and 6-1 at Luton - yet beat Bristol Rovers 8-1 at Plainmoor.
1932/33 Torquay United repeat their record defeat losing 10-2 at Luton.
October 1935 Ralph Birkett (following his transfer to Arsenal and then Middlesborough) becomes the first Torquay-produced player to play for England.
1947 Dennis Lewis starts his Torquay career which sees him make a record 433 appearances for the club.
1948 Don Mills is signed on loan from Queens Park Rangers. Although he departed at the end of the season, he returned to Plainmoor two years later. Don Mills was recently voted as the "Greatest Player ever to play for Torquay United" in the Football League Hall of Fame.
7 October 1950 Largest League attendance at Plainmoor - 16,388 - sees Torquay United defeat Plymouth Argyle 3-2.
1951 Eric Webber appointed as player-manager, and destined to become Torquay United longest serving manager, signals an upturn in Torquay United's fortunes.
1955 A record attendance at Plainmoor - 21,908 - sees Huddersfield Town win 1-0 in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup. This followed Torquay's 4-0 victory over Leeds United in the previous round.
1955/56 Sammy Collins scores 40 League goals in one season. His 204 goals for Torquay United makes him the clubs leading goal scorer.
1956/57 Torquay United miss promotion to Division Two by 0.48 of a goal. Goal difference leaves Torquay United in second place in Division Three (South) just behind Alf Ramsey's Ipswich Town.
1958/59 After the removal of regional football, Torquay United become founder members of Division Four.
1959/60 Torquay United win promotion for the first time in their League history after finishing Third in Division Four.
1961/62 Torquay United relegated after finishing 21st in Division Three.
1964/65 Robin Stubbs scores twice to see Torquay draw 3-3 against Tottenham Hotspur in the Third Round of the FA Cup at Plainmoor (unfortunately they lost the replay 5-1 at White Hart Lane with Jimmy Greaves scoring a hat-trick).
1965/66 Frank O'Farrell appointed as manager. Torquay United finish Third in Division Four and are promoted.
16 March 1968 Torquay United featured for the first time on BBC TV's Match of the Day. Torquay United beat Bury 3-0 at Plainmoor.
1967/68 A poor finish to the season, sees Torquay United finish fourth in Division Three (their highest position since the four divisions were introduced).
17 March 1971 For the first time, a league match had to be abandoned after 63 minutes after heavy rain caused the Plainmoor pitch to become waterlogged.
1971/72 Torquay United finish 23rd in Division Three and are relegated.
January 1977 Pat Kruse, centre-half for Torquay, creates a world record by scoring an own goal after just six seconds in the league match against Cambridge United at Plainmoor.
1982/83 Torquay United beat Hartlepool United 3-2 in Plainmoor in a match which will be remembered because Hartlepool finished the match with just 8 players. Two Hartlepool players were sent-off for throwing lumps of mud at each other !
1983/84 The Dark Years begin. Dave Webb (the former Chelsea player) becomes Managing Director.
2 May 1984 Only 967 spectators watch the 1-0 victory over Chester at Plainmoor.
1984/85 Torquay United finish bottom of Division Four and have to apply for re-election.
17 May 1985 A "suspicious" fire destroys half of the grandstand. This together with the away end being turned into a used car lot slashes the capacity of Plainmoor to just 4,999.
1985/86 For the second successive year Torquay United apply for re-election. At least Stuart Morgan had now been appointed manager.
November 1986 Riot police assigned for the first time in Torquay following the visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
9 May 1987 THE GREAT ESCAPE (Part I). This season introduced automatic relegation into the Conference League. With the final game of the season to go, Torquay were second from bottom on 47 points, below them was Burnley on 46 points. Lincoln City had 48 points and seemed in least danger.
The final game was against Crewe Alexandra (featuring David Platt) at Plainmoor. At half-time Crewe were leading 2-0 ! Two minutes into the second-half Torquay's centre-half, Jim McNichol, scores from a free kick. Despite an all-out attack, Torquay seem unable to get the equaliser - even hitting the crossbar.
Seven minutes from time a piece of football folklore is created. A Police dog by the name of Bryn believes that Jim McNichol is running to attack his handler, and sinks his teeth into the centre-half's thigh. It was from the resultant four minutes of injury time that Paul Dobson scored possibly the most important goal in the clubs history, and kept them in the Football League. As history shows it was unfortunate Lincoln City that was sent into the Conference League.
1987/88 The dawn of a new era. Cyril Knowles (of 'Nice One Cyril' fame) becomes manager, and so begins one of the most successful periods in the Club's history. The season started with a 6-1 victory over Wrexham at Plainmoor, and ended with Torquay just missing out on automatic promotion but earning a Play-Off place - losing in the Play-Off Final to Swansea (over two legs).
In between, Torquay United beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 at Plainmoor - Derek 'The Dude' Dawkins scoring the important goal - in the first leg of a League Cup game.; and reached the southern semi-final of the Freight Rover Trophy.
May 1988 Lee Sharpe (a former YTS apprentice) transferred to Manchester United for £180,000.
28 May 1989 Torquay United make their first appearance at Wembley in the Final of the Sherpa Van Trophy. A crowd of 46,513 sees Dean Edwards put Torquay 1-0 against Bolton Wanderers - unfortunately Bolton won 4-1.
30 December 1989 John Barlett, a former Town Crier, is banned from the ground - and almost incites a riot - for ringing his bell.
May 1990 Mike Bateson becomes the owner, and Chairman, of Torquay United. He has been responsible for much needed ground improvements and putting Torquay United on a very sound financial footing.
31 May 1991 Torquay United make their second appearance at Wembley. After finishing seventh in Division Three the Gulls win through to the promotion Play-Off Final against Blackpool. Goals from Wes Saunders and Dean Edwards earns Torquay a 2-2 draw after 90 minutes. No further goals in extra time results in a penalty shoot-out. Successful penalties by Mick Holmes, Wes Saunders, Paul Holmes, Chris Myers and Gareth Howells (the goalkeeper) make Torquay winners 5-4 on penalties. The Gulls are promoted to Division 3.
1991/92 The Gulls finish 23rd in Division 3 and are relegated. Following the creation of the Premier League and the restructuring of the Football League, Torquay are relegated from the Third Division to the 'new' Third Division.
1993/94 Torquay United finish sixth and are again in the Play-Offs. They miss out on another trip to Wembley after an ill-tempered Play-Off semi-final against Preston North End. 2-0 up after the First Leg, Torquay United lose 4-1 at Deepdale in the final match played on their artificial pitch.
1995/96 THE GREAT ESCAPE (Part II) Torquay United finish bottom of Division Three. They are saved from automatic relegation from the Football League when Stevenage's ground was deemed unfit for League Football.
1997/98 After finishing fifth, Torquay United are once again in the promotion Play-Offs. An emphatic 7-2 (on aggregate) victory over Scarborough in the semi-final results in Torquay United's third appearance at Wembley. A 1-0 defeat against Colchester United means that the Gulls miss out on promotion.
May 1998 Rodney Jack is transferred to Crewe Alexandra for £650,000 - a club record. Wes Saunders becomes the clubs latest manager.
March 1999 Eifion Williams is bought from Barry Town for a club record fee of £70,000.
May 1999 Torquay United celebrate their first 100 years.
28 August 2000 First recorded sighting of a (male) streaker at Plainmoor. During the League game against Blackpool, an away supporter anticipating a victory over Torquay United, streaked across the Plainmor pitch. During the 4 minutes of extra time added on as a result of the disturbance, the Gulls scored twice to beat Blackpool 3-2.
March 2001 Following an unsuccessful season, Colin Lee (former Torquay United player) is brought in as a consultant for Wes Saunders. Weeks later, Wes Saunders is sacked and Colin Lee becomes caretaker manager.
5 May 2001 THE GREAT ESCAPE (Part III) - The final game of the 2000/2001 season was Torquay United away at Barnet. Before the start of the game Barnet wre bottom of the Third Division, and one point ahead of them was Torquay United. The Gulls needed to avoid defeat to keep their League status, Barnet needed to win. The day before the game, Barnet had celebrated 10 years since winning promotion to the Football League, and it was to be the last ever game at their Underhill stadium - famous for its sloping pitch.
Playing down the slope, and with a strong wind behind them, goals from Jason Rees, Kevin Hill and David Graham gave the Gulls a 3-0 half-time and goalkeeper Stuart Jones has saved a penalty. Despite a fierce second-half comeback the Gulls won 3-2 and ensure League football for another season. The attendance (5,523) contained over 2,000 Gulls fans, with a further 350 locked outside unable to watch the match.  
August 2001 Roy McFarland, the former Derby County player, appointed manager of Torquay United.
23 April 2002 After finishing 19th in Division 3, Roy McFarland becomes the first victim of cost-cutting as a result of the collapse of the ITV Digital contract with the Football League
June 2002 Leroy Rosenior became the head coach (the post formerly known as manager) of Torquay United.
7 May 2004 On the last day of the season Torquay United finish third in Division 3 and gain automatic promotion. A 2-1 victory away at Southend United enables the Gulls to gain promotion on goal difference over Huddersfield Town (who were only able to draw 1-1 away at Cheltenham Town). 
15 November 2005 Goalkeeper Andy Marriott makes FA Cup history as he becomes the first goalkeeper to score the winning goal in a FA Cup tie. In the First Round of the FA Cup the Gulls were held 1-1 at home to non-league Harrogate Town. The replay finished 0-0 after extra time, but in the penalty shootout, Andy Marriott saves two penalties and then scores the winning penalty himself as the penalties become "sudden-death". 
25 January 2006 Leroy Rosenior leaves Torquay United by mutual consent following 1-3 home defeat against Rochdale. A result which put the Gulls into a relegation place. 18 games left in the season to save themselves from relegation to non-league football.
3 February 2006 John Cornforth appointed manager of Torquay United
4 Februay 2006 Torquay United v. Leyton Orient (Football League 2). With Gulls leading 2-0 and only 7 minutes left to play the floodlights fail at Plainmoor. The game is delayed for 40 minutes as the club electrician fixes the problem. Despite Leyton Orients protests for the game to be abandoned, the game eventually restarts and the final 7 minutes played. Torquay United continued to hold their lead and won 2-0.
13 April 2006 Ian Atkins, brought in to be an advisor to John Cornforth, appointed Manager with just six games of the season left. 
6 May 2006 THE GREATEST ESCAPE (Part IV) When Ian Atkins took over as Manger the Gulls were 5 points adrift at the foot of League 2.
  P D L F A GD Pts
Rochdale 39 12 10 17 59 63 -4 46
Chester 40 12 10 18 50 56 -6 46
Bury 41 11 13 17 39 52 -13 46
Oxford 41 10 15 16 37 49 -12 45
Barnet 40 10 15 15 40 53 -13 45
Stockport 40 9 17 14 52 70 -18 44
Rushen & Diamonds 41 11 11 19 40 64 -24 44
Torquay United 40 9 12 19 43 63 -20 39

Following four consecutive victories, the Gulls went into the final day of the season as one of 7 clubs facing possible relegation out of the Football League. The Gulls needed one point to ensure safety, which was achieved following a goalless draw at home to Boston United. In the end Oxford United and Rushden & Diamonds were relegated.

  P D L F A GD Pts
Bury 46 12 17 17 45 57 -12 53
Torquay United 46 13 13 20 53 66 -13 52
Notts County 46 12 16 18 48 63 -15 52
Stockport County 46 11 19 16 57 78 -21 52
Oxford United 46 11 16 19 43 57 -14 49
Rushden & Diamonds 46 11 12 23 44 76 -32 45
12 October 2006 After 16 years as Chairman of Torquay United, Mike Bateson sold his controlling interest to new owner Chris Roberts and his company Torquay United Holdings.
9 November 2006 New owner Chris Roberts announces plans to relocate Torquay United away from their Plainmoor ground to a new stadium at the Recreation Ground on the seafront. 
21 November 2006 Despite not previously having a reputation for cheating, new owner Chris Roberts launches the "Torquay Initiative". Under the initiative, if a Torquay United  player is judged (by the Board of Torquay United) to have feigned injury, or attempted to have ‘Conned' the Referee, then the following disciplinary action will occur: 
1st Time Offence : A Disciplinary Letter and Caution about future Conduct 
2nd Time Offence : The Player receives a Final Warning and maximum Club Fine
3rd Time Offence :  The Player is either placed on the Transfer List or Dismissed for gross breach of conduct.

 Either way the player will not play for Torquay United again. 

27 November 2006 Despite leading the Gulls successful fight against relegation the previous season, Ian Atkins is replaced as manager by Lubos Kubik - a former international with the Czech Republic who appeared in the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European Championship.
10 January 2007 After failing to secure a league win under Lubos Kubik, Colin Lee is once again brought in as a "consultant" to assist the manager.
26 January 2007 The Gulls 4-0 victory at home to Grimsby Town ends a club record of 19 consecutive league games without a victory.
5 February 2007 After just two months, 15 games in charge, Lubos Kubik leaves Torquay United.
6 February 2007 Following the departure of Lubos Kubik, Colin Lee is appointed "Director of Football Development", charged with the radical restructuring of the footballing side of the club.
7 February 2007 Colin Lee's first appoint as Director of Football Development is new Head Coach, Keith Curle. Keith Curle was a former player for Torquay United (1983/84), who appeared three times for England and was previously manager at Mansfield Town.
21 February 2007 Chris Roberts resigns as Chairman of Torquay United after his position at the club became untenable. Following his departure details on his Business Plan were revealed which included:
  • reducing the squad wage bill by one third in 8 month by replacing players on an average salary of £850 per week - and the highest-paid player on £1,100 a week - with young foreign players 'on low salaries averaging around £500 a week';
  • increase ticket prices by 20%; and
  • replacing the 'unattractive' club colours with a new football kit 'more akin to the azure blue and antique gold of the 2006 Italy home shirt which they wore at the World Cup finals'.
23 February 2007 Keith Richardson, the owner of the Grand Hotel in Torquay- as well as six other hotels - agrees to become the new Chairman of Torquay United for a two year period.
7 March 2007 After Torquay United Holdings fail to maintain their payments for the purchase of the club, ownership of Torquay United reverts to Mike Bateson. Keith Richardson is fired as chairman of the club and replaced by Mr Bateson.
14 April 2007 THE END OF LEAGUE FOOTBALL - Despite there being three matches left in the season, the Gulls are relegated from the Football League following a 1-1 draw at home to Peterborough United. After a tumultuous season which saw four different managers; five changes of Chairmanship; 44 different players appearing in the first team; and the aborted sale (and associated broken promises) of the club; the Gulls face life as a non-league club.
5 May 2007 The Gulls "ANNUS HORRIBILUS". Torquay United play their last league game (a 0-0 draw at home to Hereford United) following a season which saw no less than four managers; five changes of Chairman; 19 consecutive games without a win; 44 different players appearing in first team matches; and yet the club was unable to field a full complement of substitutes for a number of matches. It saw the brief disastrous sale of the club to Chris Roberts who promised a new stadium and yet brought in a manager who was unable to communicate with the players; and intended to reduce the wage bill by replacing the "high earning" players with cheaper Easter European players (whilst the star players were allowed to leave they were never replaced).
14 May 2007 Mike Bateson, the club owner, announces that he is no longer going to be involved in the day to day running of the club and appoints Mervyn Benney as club chairman. Within 10 minutes of his appointment, Benney announces that Colin Lee (Director of Football) is to leave the club due to financial constraints.
15 May 2007 It is announced that Keith Curle (manager) will not have his contract renewed at the end of the month.
17 May 2007 At a press conference, former manager Leroy Rosenior is introduced as the new manager of Torquay United. Within 10 minutes, Rosenior receives a phone call from Mike Bateson informing him that Mr Bateson has accepted an offer to sell the club and that Rosenior is to be sacked as manager. Leroy Rosenior had been manager for 10 minutes ! Officially the shortest managerial reign in football history.
25 May 2007 The start of a new era. A consortium of local businessmen lead by Chris and Mark Boyce (sons of a former Torquay United chairman, Tony Boyce) are the new owners of Torquay United. Alex Rowe is to be the new club Chairman. The first appointment of the new owners is to reinstate Colin Lee (sacked 11 days earlier) as the Chief Executive of the club.
5 June 2007 Former Gulls midfield player Paul Buckle is announced as the new manager of Torquay United. 
12 August 2007 Torquay United begin the new season in the Blue Square Premier League (named after the new sponsors of the old Conference League). Their first match (home to Grays Athletic) is shown live on Setanta Sports (a satellite TV channel) but ends in a 0-0 draw. 
11 November 2007 The Gulls First Round FA Cup tie at home to Yeovil Town is shown live on Match of the Day on BBC1. Yeovil Town hold the record as the non-league team to have completed most giant-killings in the FA Cup, however it is the Gulls that upset the form books and beat Yeovil 4-1.
15 March 2008 Torquay United win the two-leg semi final of the FA Trophy (2-1 on aggregate against York City) to confirm their place in the FA Trophy final at Wembley against Ebbsfleet United.
26 April 2008 Gulls end their first season in non-league football in third place and hence qualify for the play-offs. Considering how they ended the previous season, it has been a remarkable turn around in the fortunes of the club.
5 May 2008 The Gulls face local rivals Exeter City in a two legged semi final for the promotion play-offs. The Gulls won the first leg 2-1 away at St James Park. In the second leg at Plainmoor, after 1 hour the Gulls score to make it 3-1 on aggregate. However Exeter City stage a remarkable fightback and score 4 goals in the final 20 minutes to win 5-3 on aggregate.
10 May 2008 Just 5 days after the disappointment of losing out in the play-off semi final, the Gulls appear at the new Wembley Stadium in the final of the FA Trophy against Ebbsfleet United (the team that had been taken-over by 30,000 internet subscribers earlier in the season. Despite saving a penalty, the Gulls lose 1-0.
10 May 2008 Kevin Hill, midfield player that had been with Torquay United since 1997 enters the record books after playing as a substitute in the FA Trophy Final. It is his 474th appearance as a Torquay United player.
17 May 2009

Having finished 7th in the league, Torquay United qualified for the play-off final after defeating Histon Town in the semi-finals.

Cheered on by 10,000 Gulls fans in an attendance of over 35,000, Torquay United beat Cambridge United 2-0. The goals were scorded by club captain Chris Hargreaves (35 minute) and leading scorer Tim Sills (75 minute).

After two seasons in non-league football the Gulls had returned to the Football League. 

Torquay (4-4-2): Poke; Mansell, Robertson, Todd, Nicholson; Stevens (Hodges 84), Hargreaves, Wroe, Carlisle (Carlisle 90+3); Sills, Benyon (Thompson 86). Subs not used: Green, Rice

8 Aug 2009 Torquay United first game back in the Football League was a 2-0 victory at home to Chesterfield.
28 Aug 2010 Torquay United win 2-1 away at Port Vale and set a new club record. It is the first goal conceded by the Gulls in 998 minutes of league football - 11 games.
6 Apr 2011 Torquay United deducted 1 point and fined £10,000 for fielding an unregistered player in the home match against Hereford United on 1 February 2011. The previous day (31 January) had seen the closing of the mid-season transfer window. Jake Robinson had been signed on loan until the end of the season from Shrewsbury Town. However the registration paperwork was not logged with the Football League by the required deadline.
By strange coincidence Hereford United had similarly played an unregistered player in the same match that Hereford had won 2-1 (Jake Robinson having scored the Torquay United goal).
28 May 2011 After finishing the 2010/11 season in 7th place, Torquay United qualified for the League 2 Promotion Play-offs. An aggregate 2-0 victory over 4th placed Shrewsbury Town, saw the Gulls in the Play-off final.
The final was held at Old Trafford, Manchester but Torquay United lost 0-1 to Stevenage and missed out on promotion.
30 May 2011 Two days after leading his Torquay United team out at Old Trafford in the League 2 Play-off Final, manager Paul Buckle leaves Torquay United to manage Bristol Rovers (just relegated to League 2).
In four seasons as manager, Paul Buckle guided the Gulls to the final of the FA Trophy, promotion back into the Football League; and into the League 2 Play-off Final.
13 June 2011 Martin Ling is appointed manager of Torquay United. Previously manager at Cambridge United and Leyton Orient. A former player at Exeter City, Swindon Town, Southend United, Leyton Orient and Brighton. 
May 2012 At the end of his first season in charge, Torquay United finish in 5th place and qualify for the end of season promotion play-offs. The Gulls lost 1-4 on aggregate in the two-legged semi-final against Cheltenham Town
20 Oct 2012 Rene Howe equals a club record after scoring in each of seven consecutive games
28 Jan 2013 Martin Ling goes on sick-leave from the club with a stress related illness
20 Feb 2013 Alan Knill appointed interim manager for the remainder of the season
27 Apr 2013 ANOTHER FINAL DAY DECIDER - Torquay United go into the final game of the season, needing to avoid defeat to ensure league football for another season. A 3-3 draw at home to Bristol Rovers meant the Gulls finished the season in 19th place
28 Apr 2013 Martin Ling is relieved of his duties as manager of Torquay United. A club statement said "The decision is based purely on footballing grounds, after falling from play-off contenders last season to just escaping relegation this time around, and early exits in all three cup competitions"
7 May 2013 Having successfully guided the Gulls to league survival, Alan Knill is appointed as the new manager of Torquay United
26 Oct 2013 Jordan Chapell scores the fastest recorded league goal for Torquay United - after just 17 seconds - at home to Portsmouth. The match ultimately ended as a 1-1 draw.
2 Jan 2014 Following a home defeat to Exeter City (1-3) and an away defeat to Plymouth Argyle (2-0), Alan Knill is sacked as manager of Torquay United
6 Jan 2014 Former player Chris Hargreaves is appointed as manager of Torquay United
26 Apr 2014 THE END OF LEAGUE FOOTBALL - Despite winning 3-1 away at Mansfield Town the Gulls are relegated from League Two with one game of the season left. 

The timeline is by no means comprehensive, indeed there is much more that could be added. In order that this this timeline may become more comprehensive, please feel free to e-mail any suggested additions (including as precise a date as possible and a brief description of the event) to the Gloucester Gulls.


 
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Page last modified : Saturday, 26. April 2014 . E-mail comments to gloucester.gulls@lineone.net