Welcome to my latest offerings from my save with Torquay United. If you have been following my journey on the English Riviera you will already know that after 7 seasons we managed to get promotion to the Championship but it was now time to make some tough decisions.
The playing squad fresh from celebrating our promotion all took off on their holidays but for me it was time to get to work on building a squad that I think could be good enough to keep us in the Championship. The board wanted us to fight bravely against relegation and increased our wage budget to just above 90k per week and gave me a transfer budget of £2m.
After a long hard think I decided that I needed to protect the finances of the club, yes I could sign players to a contract at the club but what if I max out the wage budget and we get relegated? On the other hand if I sign players with the quality to keep us in the Championship the club will benefit financially from the revenue that being in the 2nd tier can bring.
Throughout my time at the club I have remained loyal to a core of players who in return have got us in to the 2nd tier and I decided that I shall keep my faith in that core of players and strengthen the squad with 4 or 5 quality loan signings of which we will only be tied to paying their wages for the season ahead in the scenario that we don’t avoid relegation.
Am I being negative in my thoughts? Only time will tell.
I did look at transfer listed players and out of contract players who we could sign without a fee and the first thing that struck me was the wages that these players were demanding now that we were in the Championship.
I switched my attention to the loan market and was pleased with the players that I managed to bring in to the club.
First through the door was 21 year old Danish Central Midfielder Dennis Hestehave on a season long loan from Manchester United. Hestehave looks to have the qualities to play a pivotal role in our season.
Signing number two was 19 year old Welsh Winger Steve Butcher who picked up on loan until the end of the season from Liverpool. Butcher provides us with depth down the right flank.
Signing number three and another season long loan deal was that of Liverpool’s 19 year old Belgian Right Back Chardonie Zola who is highly thought of on Merseyside.
Our fourth signing of the summer was another season long loan and that of 20 year old Central Defender Russell Ricketts from Newcastle United. Ricketts again is a player who adds depth to our defensive unit.
Last but not least we managed to strengthen our Left Wing slot with the loan signing of Kehinde Taiwo from Liverpool who are looking to get their young players out on loan.
EFL Championship 2026/2027
We got off to the worst possible start when on the opening day we travelled to Cardiff who gave no mercy on us in beating us 3-0. Welcome to the Championship was the message in no uncertain terms. A capacity crowd for our opening home game against Nottingham Forest which saw former Forest player Virgil Gomis give us a welcome point with a goal after just two minutes.
Another point gained in a 0-0 draw at Middlesbrough before being knocked out of the EFL Cup by Derby County losing 2-0 at Plainmoor.
Matchday 4 saw us lose by the odd goal in 5 when when Crystal Palace came to town, Chucks Aneke with our two goals was not enough to get anything out of the game. After two defeats and two draws it was nice to get three points under our belts with a 1-0 victory over Birmingham City thanks to a Russell Ricketts goal in the 2nd half.
We then fell at the hands of Swansea City losing 2-1 in the final minutes of a game which we at least deserved a point but it’s a tough league and we must learn from our mistakes. Chucks Aneke got what turned out to be a consolation goal.
We finished the month off with another defeat this time against fellow promoted club Luton Town going down by a single goal in a 1-0 defeat.
With just four games to play this month we started off with a 1-0 win against fellow strugglers Hull City with Virgil Gomis getting on the scoresheet with his 2nd goal of the season to date, and it was Gomis on target again at Pride Park this time we fell to a 2-1 defeat to hosts Derby County .
The squad rose to the challenge when bottom club Shrewsbury came to Plainmoor for the six pointer so early in the season in front of a sell out crowd. Goals coming in the second half from Tolaji Bola, Dennis Hestehave, Yassine En-Nayeh and last but not least Russell Ricketts gave us all three points and a 4-3 win.
We ended the month with a 3-1 defeat at Bristol City after Jake Andrews had given us a 39th minute lead. Overall we are not playing bad football however we are not putting our chances away.
A performance to savour to get the month underway with a tremendous 3-0 win against Leeds United spearheaded by a man of the match performance from Virgil Gomis who managed to get on the scoresheet just before half time putting us 2-0 up after Winger Kehinde Taiwo had given us the lead. Yassine En-Nayeh rounded off the scoring in the second half sending the Gulls fans home with a smile on their face.
A crowd of over 35’000 for our game against Newcastle United at St James Park the biggest we have played in front of during my time saw our hosts beat us 2-0 to put the Magpies on top of the table.
A Virgil Gomis goal just after half time earned us a valuable point against Sheffield Wednesday in front of another capacity crowd at Plainmoor.
Virgil Gomis was on target again against Preston North End but it was not enough to prevent us from losing 2-1 to finish off the month.
The month of November kicked off with a 3-1 win at Huddersfield in a game that saw three of our loan players get amongst the goals, Russell Ricketts, Dennis Hestehave and Kehinde Taiwo were or on target.
The Derby against high flying Plymouth was hard to enjoy despite a good performance against the Green Army which we we lost 0-1 we had totally dominated the game but again we could not convert chances created.
The Derby defeat was the first of three consecutive defeats with the next followed by a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Millwall at Plainmoor in a game which we never looked like getting anything out of the game.
Our third defeat on the bounce rounded the month off when we visited Queens Park Rangers who managed to get the 1-0 win over us late in the game.
Am I worried about about our form? On the whole in most matches we are playing well but the difference seems to be in the quality of finishing and it’s difficult to be hard on the players who have got us to were we are but I think I have under estimated the step up that we have made and will look to bring an additional forward in to the squad in January to try and ease the pressure on our current forwards.
It’s been said many a time but I say it again “it’s a funny old game”, We open the month up on the back of three defeats with a 3-0 win over promotion chasing Aston Villa in a game that could easily have been 5 or 6. On target for us was Tyler Magloire, Russell Ricketts and Olaf Koszela with the latter Koszela given a start in the team to try and shake things up a bit.
Olaf Koszela picks up an injury in training ahead of the Stoke City game but Chucks Aneke comes back in to the side and scores a first minute goal to earn us a 1-1 draw.
Our next game is a 3-1 defeat against Ipswich Town in front of our own fans at Plainmoor, all we can take from the game is a stunning consolation goal from Virgil Gomis.
We earn ourselves a creditable draw at Reading with both sides unable to breach the defence but it’s a valuable point on the road for us has we approach the Christmas period.
I think someone forgot to mention the season of goodwill to Newcastle United when they turn up at Plainmoor and give us a 4-0 hammering. We deliver no cheer to our fans on Boxing Day losing 2-1 to Bristol City with Chucks Aneke on target for us from the penalty spot.
Unfortunately we end the year with our third consecutive defeat when Leeds United beat us 4-1 in front of 25’000. Virgil Gomis gets our goal but we end the year on a downer and need to improve in the new year.
EFL Championship Table
After the first half of the season I decided that we needed more depth and maybe a little more experience up front, so after seven and a half seasons I spent my first pounds when I paid £15,500 to Blackburn Rovers for a 34 year old Callum Wilson in the hope that he can give us a much needed boost to get us out of the relegation zone.
I knew it was going to be a tough season for us but I remain focused on the job in hand which is to try and get us out of the relegation zone. We are normally talking about success at this time in a save usually winning trophy after trophy so this experience is refreshing and enjoyable. Whilst I think many are looking forward to the new release I am still enjoying this save and may even continue until FM21 is fully patched and any gremlins ironed out before starting a serious save. What this Torquay save has given me is a new perspective of the game that is closer to real life than what I have experienced before and that’s a good thing. Whilst everyone chooses to play the game in whatever way they wish it’s nice to be able to switch off from the masses and not talk about how good Sandro Tonali is instead talk to the grass roots fans about how good Jake Andrews is at Torquay playing out wide in a 442 and not be bothered about the next South American wonderkid because I have got Chancel Mutombo on loan from West Ham.