Liverpudlian Alex Watson joined Torquay United in November 1995, and would prove a mainstay in the Gulls’ defence over the next five years.
We are pleased to announce that Alex is set to return to Plainmoor this Saturday, where he will be making the 50/50 draw at half-time during our match against Oxford City. Make sure you grab yourself a ticket for the chance to win yourself a cash prize, not to mention the chance to meet a true TUFC stalwart! Let’s take a closer look at Watson’s career…
As a youngster at Liverpool, Alex made a handful of appearances for the Anfield club, including playing the full 90 minutes in their 1988 Charity Shield win over Wimbledon at Wembley.
As a young centre back in what was a glorious era for the Reds, it was no surprise when he eventually left the club to pursue first team football, initially on loan at Derby County, and then permanently with AFC Bournemouth in 1991. Watson would then spend a four years at Dean Court before new Torquay manager Eddie May paid £50,000 to make him one of his first signings at Plainmoor.
Unfortunately, despite being one of a number of experienced signings made by May in the hope of revitalising a United side marooned at the bottom of the Football League, 1995-96 will forever be remembered as the season when Stevenage’s ground facilities, rather than league points, saved United’s Football League status.
The majority of the Torquay squad left for pastures new the following summer, but under new Head Coach Kevin Hodges, Alex remained and took on his duties as team captain for 1996/97. The Yellow Army instantly took to his committed displays and he was voted United’s Player of the Season.
1997/98 though was to be the highlight of Watson’s United career as the Gulls went from fighting to stay in the League to fighting to win promotion. Of course, Torquay would fall agonisingly short of automatic promotion following a 2-1 defeat at Leyton Orient on the last day of the season. A point would have seen them promoted to the third tier and Alex himself felt the heartbreak even more keenly than most, as his last minute header smashed off the crossbar to the despair of the travelling support.
Consolation for Torquay’s captain was to follow a couple of weeks later, as courtesy of an emphatic 7-2 aggregate mauling of Scarborough in the Play-Off semi-final. Watson returned to Wembley to lead his team out for the Play-Off final against Colchester. There would be no fairytale ending after a season of such promise though, as a debatable penalty sent Colchester up to Division 2 instead.
Wes Saunders replaced Kevin Hodges as United again took their place in the bottom division, and the team once again left it late before securing their league status. By now though, Saunders had appointed Watson as his assistant manager, and he continued to lead by example as Torquay once again alternated between boom-or-bust by missing out on the Division 3 Play-Offs on the last day of the season after losing 2-1 to Northampton at Plainmoor in May 2000.
For the first time since joining Torquay, Alex now faced a fight for his centre-back place, and by the time United headed for Underhill for the ‘Battle of Barnet’, Lee Russell and Jimmy Aggrey had taken over as the first choice pairing under caretaker manager Colin Lee. It was though, only fitting that a substitute appearance in the dying minutes helped the club avoid the drop into non-league football in what proved to be his final appearance for the club.
In August 2001, local rivals Exeter City signed Watson on a free transfer and he would go on to spend two further seasons in League football, before completing his career playing for Taunton and Clevedon.
Watson made a total of 226 appearances for the club in all competitions for United and netted 9 goals.