After a one-season absence from non-league's top tier, Torquay United have stormed their way back to the National League via the VNL South title in 2018/19.
Name: Torquay United Football Club
Nickname: The Gulls
Manager: Gary Johnson
2018/19 League Position: 1st (Vanarama National League South)
Notable Honours: Football League Fourth Division (League Two) automatic promotion (1960, 1966), Football League Fourth Division (League Two) play-off winners (1991), Football League Third Division (League Two - restructure) play-off winners (2004), Conference Premier (National League) play-off winners (2009), Vanarama National League South Champions (2019).
How they got here
After some stiff opposition from Woking in the National League South title race, Torquay triumphed come the end of April 2019 sealing the honours ten points ahead of their nearest rival in second. The Gulls began the season in dreadful form languishing in 14th come September, and boss Gary Owers was sacked. In came experienced manager Gary Johnson who turned around United's fortunes losing just twice in his opening 22 games in the hot seat. A run of 10 wins on the spin took his side top of the division and the free-scoring Devon side flattened the competition to earn not only promotion but their first league title win since they clinched the Southern League (Western Division) title just shy of a century ago.
Manager Gary Johnson is a somewhat legend in the South West of England. The London-born boss has managed the likes of Yeovil Town (twice), Bristol City, Cheltenham Town and now Torquay in that part of the world. That's where his football career has generally stayed - other than a two-year hiatus as manager of the Latvian national team. Working on a football holiday business before taking over Latvia, he returned to the UK in 2001 to take over non-league Yeovil Town and guided them to the FA Trophy in his first campaign. In his second he took the Conference Premier title in spectacular style, clinching it 17 points clear and with well over a hundred goals scored. In their first Football League season, they just missed out on promotion before Johnson claimed the League Two title in the tricky second season. he went on to take over Bristol City, losing in the Championship play-off final to Hull City/Dean Windass' right boot. After stints with Peterborough United and Northampton, he returned to Huish Park and Yeovil in 2012. Within three seasons Johnson took his side from League Two to the Championship as one of the smallest teams in the division's history. His 2015 departure lead to taking over Cheltenham Town in the National League, winning the division before leaving in 2018. It seems wherever he goes, Gary Johnson has the right touch when it comes to management.
Ones to Watch
Striker Jamie Reid was perhaps the most influential player in the National League South last term winning the division's golden boot with a staggering 29 goals. Reid was a key factor to his side's free-scoring attitude whilst the attacker has a long affiliation with United. Having began in the youth set-up at Exeter where he spent 13 years, he had three loan spells at Plainmoor before signing permanently in 2017. Having signed a new deal in January Johnson will be putting his faith in Reid to step up in the National League.
Haven't We Met Before?
We've met on a number of occasions over the last few decades, with the latest instalment coming at the Racecourse in January 2018. Wrexham's biggest win of that campaign, goals from Manny Smith and a trio from Chris Holroyd cemented a 4-0 win in Wrexham's favour. Our last trip to Plainmoor finished in the opposite fashion, a 0-0 draw. Wrexham have had some good memories against the Gulls in recent years, including a 3-0 win in Devon - our biggest margin of victory at Plainmoor - to book a place in the FA Trophy in 2015. It's a game with goals in it historically, our first meeting in 1964 ended in a 3-4 Wrexham win at Torquay.
Plainmoor, the home of Torquay United was built in 1921 and has been home to the Gulls since it was opened that year. The 6,500 capacity ground was originally home to Torquay Athletic RFC but eventually, the Rugby club moved to Torquay's recreation ground leaving United without a home. They merged with Ellecombe who's home became Plainmoor in 1910, then just a plot of land before facilities such as a grandstand was built for their first Football League season. The record attendance is just over 21,000 for an FA Cup game against Huddersfield Town in 1955, whilst it was in 2019 that the record away attendance was officially diarised, coming from Truro City who brought 2,760. However, last season saw Truro ground share with the Gulls - which can explain the larger crowd.