Torquay FanZoner Matt Parkman pays tribute to Stevenage and says they are a great example for other clubs.
No-nonsense Boro deserve respect
Last year, around this time, I was very much NOT a Stevenage fan. Torquay were to play them at Old Trafford in the League Two play-off final. There was some far less important match on at Wembley, Champions League or something...
I really did want to beat Stevenage, they were an ugly, spoiler of a team who did everything they could to disrupt the flow, for fear that they became embroiled in a football match involving skill and ability. Had this happened at any stage, their merry band of thugs and chancers would surely have been doomed to a heavy defeat.
This season, however, I find myself in an entirely different camp. In a world now dominated by Manchester City, and to a lesser extent, Crawley, I am gravely disappointed not to see Stevenage get promoted to the Championship. The internet tells me, as reliably as it can, that Stevenage have spent precisely zero pounds on transfers this season.
They may even have made a small profit in the market, having sold a few men to other clubs. Similarly, they did not spend a penny the year before that either, and the year before that (season 2009/2010, for those who have lost count), they sold Steve Morrison to Millwall for £130,000, so it's not like they didn't have the cash to spend.
This, really, is remarkable. They were aiming to become the first professional club to achieve promotion in three consecutive seasons. Had they pulled it off, they would have gone from the Conference, with the likes of Histon and Tamworth up to the Championship to play Leeds United and Nottingham Forest. They'd have done all this without a sugar daddy. No 'saviour' has been forthcoming, to blindly inject piles and piles of cash into the team.
They haven't employed a convicted cheat or courted controversy at every turn. They haven't had supporters caught on camera having what can only be described as a hissy fit simply because their team is a goal behind. They have simply collected a group of talented but not exceptional footballers, and through a combination of hard work and a little good fortune, they have formed those footballers into a team capable of being more than just the sum of their parts.
They were not unlucky not to beat Sheffield United. In truth, given the game in the Steel City, it would have been absolutely unjust had Stevenage made it to Wembley, for they were thoroughly outplayed. That doesn't stop me preferring them, infinitely, to the likes of Manchester City and Crawley Town.
In Torquay related news, we seem to have run out of steam at just the wrong time. All our games are the same now, and sadly, we haven't quite got the quality required to take advantage. We start brightly, knocking it about, looking a cut above the opposition, no matter who we play.
We just can't capitalise on our chances though, with shots going narrowly wide, hitting defenders, or seeing 'keepers make 'never to be repeated' saves. This is then followed by one, fairly tame attack from our opponents, which inevitably results in a goal. This deflated the players and we gradually start to look more and more tired. Sadly, this means we go on to lose the game, and that, in the play-offs, is deadly.
Still, onwards to next season, almost certainly in League Two, with one or two additions, we could perhaps go one further than this year and win automatic promotion. Whatever happens though, everyone connected with Torquay United can be very proud of what the club has achieved this year, even if it isn't quite on the scale of Stevenage.