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.
With Babbacombe gaining bragging rights for the first time in 1919/20 courtesy of their 6th placed finish, Torquay Town were tasked with establishing themselves as the top side once more.
Sharing the same Plainmoor ground, as well as the same division, had intensified the rivalry between the two sides and 1920/21 was to provide further evidence of their somewhat prickly relationship.
The Plymouth & District League was again decimated, and although Looe, Oreston and most triumphantly, Torpoint, were to all make returns to the division, the disappearance of KOSB, 5th Dun Old Boys, 1st Devon Regt and Exeter City Reserves meant the league operated with just 12 teams, having held 16 sides nine years earlier.
With just 22 league fixtures scheduled, mid-season friendlies were once again on the agenda, and it was during one of those that Torquay Town recorded an emphatic opening win of the season, with their opponents from Torquay Wed. League offering precious little resistance, as Town romped to a 9-0 victory.
Their first competitive matches were to prove less decidedly impressive though, with a 2-1 defeat against RMLI followed up by an early FA Cup exit away to Street (3-4).
A mixed-bag of friendly results against 2nd KOSB (2-0 at home), Exeter Reserves (1-3 away) and Royal Munsters Fus. (1-1 at home) preceded two heavy league defeats against Looe (1-4 at home) and Millbrook (2-6 away) in early October, as Torquay failed to shake off the poor form from their previous campaign.
With results proving hard to come by, Town would have dearly loved their 7-0 friendly win over league rivals Tavistock to count for more, however despite no points being gleaned from the fixture, it clearly gave the players the boost in confidence they needed, as they embarked on a run of just two defeats in nine league and friendly games.
Wins against St. Austell (3-0), Oreston (3-1), KOYI (6-1), RMLI (3-0) and most importantly, Babbacombe (2-1) raised spirits amongst players and supporters alike, as the side ended a difficult calendar year in respectable form.
New Years Day saw Torquay go down to defeat in Cornwall though, as eventual champions Torpoint registered a 3-1 win, before ending the month with a 2-2 draw at Plainmoor. In between those matches, Town gained their first point of 1921 with a 1-1 draw at home to Green Waves, before crashing 6-1 at RN Barracks the following weekend.
The side played just one match in February – a 2-0 defeat at Oreston Rovers – before back-to-back friendlies against RMLI (2-3) and Babbacombe (1-0) once again gave Town the impetus to put together another good run, to finish the season strongly.
With the 2-3 defeat at Plymouth Argyle Reserves their only loss in their final eleven matches, league wins over Tavistock (2-0 at home), Looe (3-0 away), Babbacombe (1-0 at home) and Green Waves (3-2) eventually proved enough for Torquay to finish 6th and usurp their neighbours, with Babbacombe finishing six points worse off, in 8th.
Having emerged on top in both league encounters, as well as a mid-season friendly, Town will have taken great pride in restoring themselves as the top team in Torquay, particularly as another unfortunate event during the course of the season had again highlighted the bad feeling between the two outfits.
With Torquay’s application for the Devon Senior Cup arriving at County headquarters late, it was decided that Town could still compete in the competition, subject to the agreement of all the other competing sides. It was not hard to determine the identity of the one exception to the vote, with Babbacombe’s rejection meaning Town’s County Cup run ended before it had even begun.
Locally, there was a great deal of frustration that Devon’s two other major sides, Plymouth Argyle and Exeter had both been elected into the Football League, whilst the internal disagreements between the two sides within their own town were putting their own hopes for a professional team on hold.
At the end of the season, serious negotiations finally got underway, and eleven years after Ellacombe and Torquay United joined forces to form Torquay Town, Babbacombe finally followed suit, with a new, professional club replacing the three separate entities.
The name for Torquay’s newly-formed professional football club may well have been a difficult discussion, however upon reflection, the one chosen really couldn’t have been more appropriate.
After years of pulling in different directions, the town could finally seek a new, brighter future as one combined team.
Step forward, the ‘new’ Torquay United AFC.