New Year could spark a flurry of new faces into Owers’ Torquay squad

As a National League club, Torquay United may not be bound by the limits of the January transfer window, but head coach Gary Owers says that it will still play a key role in his transfer efforts because several of his targets are with Football League teams.

The Gulls’ boss has not ruled out any new faces before United travel to Eastleigh on Boxing Day, for the first of what he calls two “massive” holiday games against the Spitfires. “I wouldn’t say there’s no chance, because of the sheer volume of people we are speaking to,” he said.

But Owers, who this week said goodbye to loanees Callum Evans, Rhys Murphy (both Forest Green Rovers) and Josh McQuoid (Luton Town), explained: “We will be able to bring players in until a certain (deadline) date in March.

“But although we are not governed by a window, January 1 is still significant because some (League) players we are trying to bring to the club are on loan at other clubs.

“So seven or eight days might be the period of time we have to wait.

“I knew this would happen. We will get through the next week or so, and then it will be all systems go trying to get the players to see us through to the end of the season.”

The Gulls meet Eastleigh away on Tuesday and at Plainmoor on New Year’s Day, sandwiching a tough trip to Boreham Wood next Saturday.

Eastleigh were seven points ahead of Torquay going into this weekend – the Gulls did not have a game, but the Spitfires, under new manager Andy Hessenthaler, travelled to Dagenham & Redbridge.

“The Eastleigh games are massive,” says Owers.

“You could look at it as a sort of cup tie. If we can come out on top over two ‘legs’, we will win it as it were, but also close the gap on them.”

United have had to deal with a fair bit of fall-out from their 4-0 home defeat to Maidstone United in the FA Trophy last Saturday.

Owers, who made five changes, insisted: “I think I was more scathing on myself than on the players. But it was a cup game and, in the context of the season, it won’t have anything to do with what we are trying to do. We had taken eight points out of 15 going into the Trophy game and, if we maintain that run of form to the end of the season, we will get out of trouble.

“It’s taken time, I admit, but we are closer to safety than we have been for a while. I am aware of the fact that, if we get a run of bad results, the picture would change pretty quickly. But we just have to grind away, picking up points and closing the gap.”

l Torquay United should hear soon whether their application to relaunch a ‘reserve’ team in Division One (East) of the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League has been successful.

The Gulls want to push through the idea as part of a drive to create a pathway from their new and still-developing Academy towards the first team, much as Plymouth Argyle have done in the Peninsula League over the past couple of years.

General manager Geoff Harrop said that they have received “positive feedback”.

If successful, it would set up a tasty range of local derbies against clubs like Newton Abbot Spurs, although they currently top the table, Stoke Gabriel, Teignmouth, Bovey Tracey, Galmpton & Roselands and Liverton United.

l Sent-off loanee Jazzi Barnum-Bobb may have counted himself out of all three of the Gulls’ holiday games, but he will have at least one more match before his current loan from Newport County expires.

Attacking right-back Barnum-Bobb earned a straight red card just after half-time in the 4-0 FA Trophy defeat to Maidstone United last weekend, and he now misses the two Christmas/New Year games against Eastleigh and the trip to Boreham Wood (Saturday). He will be back for Wrexham (away) on Saturday, January 6, by which time a decision on his future will almost certainly have been made.

l With Vincent Dorel about to become a dad, veteran Ryan Clarke suddenly has a chance to prove that he is Torquay United’s No.1 goalkeeper after all.

Dorel has returned to France to be with his wife, who is expecting to give birth any day, and Clarke is poised to step in against his former club Eastleigh on Boxing Day.

Clarke, 35, actually took over from Dorel for the FA Trophy game against Maidstone last Saturday.

It was his first competitive appearance since August 19, when he was sidelined by a back problem and, ever since Dorel was signed in the wake of loanee Dan Lavercombe’s own injury, the ex-Plymouth Argyle man has been immoveable.

But head coach Gary Owers reports: “Vincent has gone back to France, slightly earlier than expected. Because of the time of year, there is always a question of ‘Can he get back here at short notice?’

“But I’ve still got an experienced goalie in Ryan, and the way he played last week was just as you would expect from someone like him.”

l Nearly 500 people packed into Teignmouth’s St James’ Church on Wednesday for the funeral of former Torquay United great Ian Twitchin.

It was standing-room only as family, friends, former team-mates, yellow-and-blue decked fans and many other South Devon football figures gathered to say “Farewell” to Twitchin, one of only five players to make more than 400 appearances for United (1969-81).

Among ex-Gulls team-mates in attendance were Colin Lee, Clint Boulton, Dave Rudge, Les Lawrence, John Turner, Peter Coffill, Steve Morrall, Andy Provan and Robbie Robbins, as well as former manager Mike Green.

Centre-forward Lawrence travelled from Staffordshire and winger Coffill, a close friend since their days at Plainmoor together, from Essex.

A reception was held at Teignmouth FC, Twitchin’s hometown club, where many stories about him were exchanged.

In the late 1970s Twitchin and Coffill supplemented their Fourth Division wages by renting out deckchairs on Teignmouth seafront during the close-season.

Coffill also recalled that, on days when his car was out of action, Twitchin was known to ignore the bus, run from Teignmouth to Plainmoor, put in a full day’s training and then run home again! The proverbial butcher’s dog would always have come a poor second to ‘Twitch’.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.