Greenwich Gull

A League 2 blog with an overwhelmingly pro-Torquay United bias

League 2 Season Preview: Torquay United

Recap of last season

The Gulls’ young side surprised everyone by reaching the playoffs, playing an attractive passing style which belied their modest budget, but couldn’t break down Stevenage in the final. Manager Paul Buckle wasted no time in departing for Bristol Rovers thereafter, taking several key players with him and leaving his replacement Martin Ling with some urgent recruiting to do.

Personnel in

Ling has had to add to every area of the squad:
  • In goal, former Aston Villa and Austrian Under-21 Robert Olejnik was a truly impressive capture, although the return of Martin Rice to provide cover proved significantly less overwhelming.
  • In defence, young right back Daniel Leadbitter has joined from Newcastle to cover the one position that the Gulls never really solved last season, while centre back Brian Saah has teamed up with Ling once again to fill the void left by player of the year Guy Branston’s departure.
  • In midfield, the versatile Chris McPhee has re-joined the club from Kidderminster with a lot to prove after a forgettable role during Gulls’ relegation from the Football League, along with the much more encouraging signing of cultured left winger Ian Morris from Scunthorpe after a respectable loan spell in League 2 with Chesterfield last season. To add to the optimism, promising and versatile defensive midfielder Joe Oastler has converted his loan from QPR into a permanent move.
  • Up front, the stocky Rene Howe has arrived from Peterborough to provide a much-needed physical presence, with Taiwo Atieno also joining from Stevenage after a successful trial (see this excellent profile from @twounfortunates).

Personnel out

I’m sure that Paul Buckle’s failure to tie goalkeeper Scott Bevan and on-loan midfielder Craig Stanley to long-term deals towards the end of his reign has nothing to do with them both joining him at Bristol Rovers for free over the summer. A similar reluctance to extend the stay of player of the season Guy Branston has allowed him to depart for Bradford, while Buckle came back to liberate top-scoring winger/striker Chris Zebroski for a suspiciously undisclosed fee. Back-up goalkeeper Danny Potter has also moved on.

Strengths

One disappointing season at Cambridge aside, Martin Ling has a strong track record and has already coaxed vastly improved performances from some of his fringe players in pre-season. While he’ll have a point to prove, he’s under no pressure from the Board to repeat last season’s promotion challenge, which should relax both staff and players alike while helping the new squad to settle. Perhaps due to their remote location, the Gulls have a strong record at Plainmoor and few sides created more chances last season. Their tendency to go on runs (admittedly a double-edged sword) could see a late surge up the table.

Weaknesses

Drawing one of the division’s smallest crowds creates obvious budgetary constraints: bad luck with injuries or the departure of a few stars could expose a lack of squad depth. The number of new faces this season could mean a shaky start while the side gels and Ling refines his tactics. Under Buckle, Gulls were prone to giving away too many needless fouls and shipping late goals, so the new manager will have to iron out these costly habits. There’s also the possibility that a few of the necessary gambles on unproven youngsters and non-league players fail to come off. As alluded to above, a propensity for going on runs works both ways: this is still a young team and heads could well drop if things aren’t going well.

Key man

Eunan O’Kane – a young attacking midfield all-rounder with great technique, vision, passing range and a decent shot. This could be the year he sets the division alight, particularly if his understanding with fellow Northern Ireland Under 21 international Billy Kee continues to develop. If he picks up where he left off last season, Gulls will do well to hang onto him.

One to watch

Saul Halpin – an exciting young left winger with an eye for goal who broke into the first team squad from the youth system last season. Halpin is held in high regard by his team-mates and has already attracted interest from Championship clubs. The departure of several players ahead of him in the pecking order means he should get his chance to stake a regular starting place this time around.

Outlook

A mid-table finish is a realistic hope in what will be a transitional season. Expect a stuttering start to the campaign while the new manager and players get used to each other, but don’t rule out a late upwards surge if Ling can harness the obvious potential of his younger charges.

Predictions

Ben: I’m backing Martin Ling to get the best out of us, but a repeat of last season may be too much of a stretch. Just outside the play-offs. (EDIT: Ignore everything after this sentence)

Danny: Maybe a transitional season in mid-table for the Gulls (sorry Ben!)

Maxi: As Danny, transition for the Gulls. Mid table at best.

Links to other teams in this preview can be found here

Advertisements

4 comments on “League 2 Season Preview: Torquay United

  1. Pingback: League Two Preview 2011/12: Swindon Town | A Load Of Cobblers

  2. Pingback: League Two Preview 2011/12: Southend United | A Load Of Cobblers

  3. Pingback: League Two preview 2011-2012 | Maxi Hobbs

  4. Pingback: League 2 Season Preview 2011/12: Round-up « Greenwich Gull

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on July 30, 2011 by in Season Preview.
%d bloggers like this: