With 2019/20 marking 120 years since Torquay United AFC’s opening campaign, we continue charting the history of the club, following its formation at the Torre Abbey Hotel on Monday 1st May, 1899.
The 1903/04 season was not one that would live long in the memory from United’s perspective, however as the club edged towards its fifth anniversary, interest in the game of Association Football was growing throughout the town.
Once again, the club were using fixtures against local sides to fill the gaps left by a sparse East Devon League fixture list, with Torquay’s progress on the field beginning to show, as they emerged from a raft of friendly fixtures relatively unscathed.
A season-opening 2-0 home win over Cockington, thanks to goals from Edwards and Keeling, saw United make a comfortable start, however less than a month later the same opponents were dispatched in much more ruthless style, as Torquay romped home 8-0.
One of the standout performances of that particular match came from White, with his four-goal show typical of his superb form during 1903/04. United’s new goal threat had netted 14 goals by the time the season was out, a tally made all the more impressive by the fact that, even including friendlies, the club’s matches only amounted to 24.
Although it should be noted that only two of White’s strikes came against more organised league opponents, his presence in the side gave the team their first genuine goalscorer since William Clarke-Pitts.
Another memorable match took place on 5th December 1903, as Torquay faced Dartmouth, in a match played at Plainmoor. With the Recreation Ground once again unavailable, the team took to their new surroundings in style, with both White and Munro helping themselves to hat-tricks. Scott-Evans also got on the scoresheet to seal an excellent 7-1 win.
On the league scene, three defeats in their first three games had again put the side on the back foot following a disappointing 1902/03 campaign. Gane’s solitary strike in the 1-0 home win over 112th Battery R.F.A on 28th November was therefore all the more welcome, and after following this result up with a 2-0 win over Dawlish in January, United did just enough to pull clear at the foot of the table. Dawlish did get some measure of revenge the following month though, as they once again confined Torquay to a first round cup exit, making home advantage count with a 3-0 victory.
An otherwise unremarkable season was eventually brought to a close on April 23rd, with goals from Kember (2) and Mann securing an entertaining 3-3 friendly draw at home to H.M.S Northampton.
Although their progress on the pitch had somewhat stalled, the club had gone a long way to establishing themselves within the Torquay sporting community, with a team, stadium and league they could call their own.
However, once the footballing action had been brought to a close for another year, the club was about to face arguably its biggest challenge yet.