A brief guide to football on the English riviera from Nick House
1927 Torquay take Aberdare’s Football League place following a controversial second ballot. The new boys promptly lose 9-1 at Millwall and finish in the bottom five in all but two of their first seven seasons. Unusually bad results each August suggest the signing of holidaymakers on fortnightly contracts.
1951 Eric Webber’s appointment as manager heralds The Halcyon Days I. Nearly 50 years later Don Mills is voted the club’s all-time great by people who never saw him play. Those who voted otherwise speak of collecting Don’s autograph when he was a traffic warden.
1957 Alf Ramsey’s first, and possibly greatest, triumph. Ipswich pip Torquay to the Third Division (South) title on goal average as United stumble on the last day in London. Torquay soon take pride in becoming founder members of the Fourth Division. Ipswich go on to win the League title.
1965 Frank O’Farrell’s arrival ushers in The Halcyon Days II. Robin Stubbs emerges as the Riviera George Best and marries local beauty queen Anthea Redfearn, later of the Generation Game. An implausible 16,469 watch the away game at Darlington as United’s 1966 promotion avenges Alf by overshadowing his achievements of that summer.
1968 United blow promotion. Match Of The Day screens the home game against Bury, the biggest televisual experience in south Devon since the Coronation (and better remembered).
1977 The new year starts uncertainly as Torquay’s Pat Kruse takes just six seconds to score the world’s fastest own goal. This proves to be the club’s international claim to fame, recorded by the Guinness Book of Records. Even today holidaying fans visit bookshops throughout the world to stand and reminisce.
1984 Years of tranquillity gave way to The Dark Ages with the arrival of Dave Webb as player-manager-owner-charlatan (see WSC No 142). The club twice finishes bottom of the Fourth Division, the hat-trick only being averted by Webb’s departure and a 94th-minute goal in the final game of the third season. This ensures May 9th 1987 will always be remembered as the club’s Holy Day.
1991 Wembley glory as Torquay win promotion after 19 years in Fourth Division captivity. They do it in style: a penalty shoot-out as one of five promoted teams. Relegation duly follows in 1992. A Sherpa Van final in 1989 and another play-off in 1998 mean Torquay now play at Wembley more often than Home Park.
1994 Torquay complete a record four unbeaten seasons against League opposition in the FA Cup. Games against Farnborough, Yeovil, Sutton and Enfield prove more tricky.
1996 St Vincent & the Grenadines 7 (Jack 3), Puerto Rico 0. The most recent example of a Torquay United player scoring a World Cup hat-trick.
From WSC 143 January 1999. What was happening this month