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.
1904/05 had proven to be a very testing time for everyone involved with the club. After five years of steady progress, the loss of their Recreation Ground home, and with it, their East Devon League status, came as a real body blow to Torquay’s aspirations.
It was therefore with much delight that they secured competitive football once more, as Torquay Cricket Club allowed the football club to use their facilities for a minimal rental charge. Their generosity was hugely appreciated, and although the ground was also prone to flooding – much like the Recreation Ground – the presence of a pavillion and changing facilities gave everyone at United a huge boost.
The East Devon League itself, as well as their opponents, would no doubt have welcomed Torquay’s return, with the league still struggling to attract teams. United, as they were now becoming accustomed to, were again left to fill the gaps between matches by holding friendly encounters against local sides.
Goals from Pridham, Thomas and Jackman kicked off the new season in fine style, as United secured a morale-boosting 3-1 home win over local rivals Ellacombe in mid-September. That result would have helped reaffirm the club’s status as the premier side within the town, having failed to beat the same side in their previous two encounters.
An even more impressive result followed a fortnight later, as White and Deane both netted to pave the way for a 2-1 away win over Exeter City, although a 4-1 league defeat at St Luke’s College the following Saturday may well have quelled some of those growing expectations.
Percy White, who was now gaining the attentions of the Devon County selectors, was once again United’s primary goal threat. His hat-trick in the 5-0 friendly home win over Paignton only served to further enhance his growing reputation, as Torquay won four of their five opening matches.
Handsome wins over the Royal Naval College (9-1 away and 4-1 at home) may well have said as much about the ability of their opponents as it did United’s, with their league results again proving to be very much a mixed bag.
A double over Dawlish would have been very welcome, however those two victories came either side of back-to-back defeats against Newton Town (1-2 away) and Exmouth United (3-6 at home), although the subsequent 5-1 thrashing of 112th Battery R.F.A. did redress the balance.
Babbacombe inflicted a 3-2 defeat over United in mid-January to ensure Torquay wouldn’t have it all their own way locally, whilst the struggle for suitable fixtures was once again on full view a month later, as they were forced to take on their own reserve side to fill another barren spell. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the match ended all-square in a 1-1 draw.
The end of February saw the club again bow out of cup action at the first hurdle, however the side did regain some pride by the end of the campaign, as they suffered just one defeat in their last five matches.
Home wins over St Luke’s College and R.F.A. United Batteries, coupled with a solid 3-3 draw at Exmouth United, gave Torquay the chance to finish proceedings in style at Paignton. Unfortunately, the team’s inconsistencies once came to the fore though, as United signed off with a 6-2 defeat in late April.