Archie had told me he’d booked a few nights at a caravan site in Torquay and had asked if I’d like to come along. I’d had an incredibly hectic, probably over-active couple of months, so I decided a short break would do me some good and took him up on his offer. We’d be away for just the three nights from Monday to Wednesday, having to get back for the Wales v Austria match on the Thursday.
I’d checked and seen that Torquay had a home game while we were away. I had been to Torquay once before to watch a Cardiff game around twenty years ago. That had been entertaining. Cardiff were 1-0 down at half time, and came back to win 4-1, with Earnie notching up a hat-trick. The ground has been revamped a fair bit since then.
I also visited Plainmoor in around April of 2021, towards the end of one of the flockdowns in a little trip I documented, visiting ten grounds, mostly ones I’d been to before, in three days. So I was really quite keen to get along to this fixture.
Looking at the National League table, there didn’t appear to be much riding on the game with Torquay quite a few spots from the play-offs and Aldershot faring even worse, but probably safe from relegation. This, the fact that it was £18 for a non-league game…for various reasons, Archie was very disinterested in attending.
We’d spent a nice day travelling around Brixham and Paignton by bus, popping into a few pubs etc. But when it came to the evening, Archie’s arm would not be twisted, but he at least dropped me off at the ground after we’d returned to our caravan site base.
All day, I’d been wearing a blue, white and yellow bucket hat (Cardiff’s colours, of course), and wasn’t sure to keep it on for the match. I didn’t even know what colours Torquay played in, but a quick look at their badge indicated that they played in blue, so I thought I’d keep it on. This turned out to be absolutely the right decision as in fact their strip is mainly yellow and blue, with yellow being the predominant colour, and with a white trim.
I wasn’t sure exactly where to go in the ground – my experience at Swindon was that the most vocal support was behind the goal. I decided this time I’d go on the side, but couldn’t pay cash at the turnstiles, so had to go and buy a ticket. It turned out that a standing terrace ticket was £16. This turned out to be the most popular section, on the one side of the pitch. I got in just after kick-off, and it was pretty full up. I honestly think that standing sections like this, that you only get at the grounds of lower league teams, are the best way to watch football matches. Somehow, it adds to the atmosphere of the occasion.
I really did think Torquay played exceptionally well. This was probably one of the most one-sided football matches I have ever watched. And that’s not even taking too much away from Aldershot who weren’t horrifically bad. Torquay played with a fantastic team spirit, there was a hell of a lot of pace, some really classy shows of skill, some really good inter-passing and good physicality. I just had to wonder how on Earth they were not higher in the table. I’m not saying these could be Premier League standard players, but for players at this level, they were very impressive, showing great commitment.
Torquay went 3-0 up within 30 minutes, and they could easily have been 5-0 up even by this time. It honestly looked as if they could literally score any number of goals. The number of attempts on goal was just ridiculous, and of those chances that were spurned, most of them should have gone in.
The Torquay faithful were in good cheer, but not amazingly noisy. I suppose this may have been in part because in all likelihood there was not that much riding on the game as mentioned. They may have been just a little more sombre than might have been expected because unbeknownst to me, only recently their well respected former manager, Frank O’Farrell had passed away. Tribute was paid to him at the start of the match, which I missed due to my slightly late entry into the ground.
Nonetheless, there was a guy with a drum who couldn’t have been too far from me, and a few songs for the lively yellow team were sung.
At half-time, I was able to buy a very reasonably priced pint (£3.80 and served in a proper glass compared to £5.80 in a plastic cup at Cardiff). The only downside for me was that there was no provision for smokers which always annoys me.
Like when I went to Swindon, I again found it a little odd not exactly being a neutral but not being able to fully get into the swing of getting behind the home team. I did shout out “It’s just like watching Brazil” (particularly fitting giving the team’s colour and the quality of their play) and after Torquay had scored their fourth goal, when at one point Aldershot’s keeper was close to the touchline, I called out “Who let the goals in?” emulating the fantastic chant Cardiff fans came up with when we scored four against Torquay all those years ago. But I didn’t really make any effort to get people to join in with my “chants”. I’d have probably have needed a few mates with me for this to possibly happen. In the main, I just enjoyed being a passive spectator.
It really was getting ridiculous how many goals Torquay might have scored, to the extent that the 4-0 scoreline, in the end, was actually slightly disappointing! I think if they’d really wanted to notch up a big tally, it might have been sensible to simply stick to the starting eleven and not make any subs, but on the flipside, with the win being a certainty, it made sense to give a few others a go – I think Torquay made three subs.
Aldershot made absolutely no impact at all – they had a player called Oxlade-Chamberlain, presumably a relative of Alex, but he was no great shakes. They also had a player called Whittingham (also of no real merit) who played in No.7 just like Cardiff’s beloved Whitts who has recently joined the Bluebird heavens. Even their hundred or so fans taking up a small section in the corner of the stand opposite the one I was in were silent for virtually the entire game – perhaps understandably in the circumstances – lthough they did mock a few Torquay fans who made the decision to leave before the game had finished.
I had planned to get a taxi back to base, but two taxis outside, despite having their lights on told me they were booked, so I just kept walking, going the wrong way at one point, before finally resorting to using my phone’s satnav to guide me. That was another thing – I hardly saw anyone using mobile phones in the terrace section – it really was like a blast from the past, to the extent that I almost felt embarrassed getting my phone out to take just a couple of photos.
I put The Prince of Orange pub into the Satnav, knowing that this was a short walk from the caravan park and this was around a twenty minute walk from the part of Torquay centre I’d found myself in.
I popped in there for a breather – it was mostly uphill going back – a half of beer and a fag. Just three customers in a largish pub, with one guy giving another a right ear bashing about, I think, his former football-playing days. “Did you see the Torquay score?” I asked them. They had, and I then said it could have been eight. It honestly could have been ten or eleven, and I was a bit amazed when the apparently over-modest Torquay manager didn’t express this in his post-match interview which I watched on getting back to the caravan soon after leaving the pub.
But I suppose it was nice that Torquay kept it to four – the same number Cardif had scored against them back in 2000. And after all, it is still possible Torquay could make the play-offs, so it wasn’t a totally meaningless fixture. On this performance, they 100% deserve to.