Former Torquay United goalkeeper Lucas Covolan believes the Gulls will use their near-miss experience of last summer and force their way into the National League promotion race again this season.
Covolan, who headed a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser in the 2021 play-off final, joined League Two Port Vale in the wake of United's 'shoot-out' defeat to Hartlepool United, and he is now the number one keeper for the promotion-chasing Valiants.
"I know the players and the fans may have been a bit frustrated, because they want to be winning every game like last season," said the 30-year-old Brazilian.
"But it's quite a new team, and it takes a little time to get that chemistry that we had last season.
"Nobody is better at developing that mentality than the Gaffer there.
"I remember all those 'Gary-Time' goals. We believed that we could always pull something out, and other teams became frightened, because they knew it was coming.
"It's happened a few times again this season, and I still think Torquay will be up there."
Covolan played 55 games - and scored that one memorable goal - in two seasons at Plainmoor after arriving in England in 2016 and spells with Whitehawk and Worthing.
"I'm very lucky to have had Gary Johnson as my manager. When I rang him to say I was leaving, I said 'Thankyou very much for everything' and I meant it," he said.
"He could be a harsh guy at times, but it was always to bring the best out of you and he taught me so much.
"If we had won the play-offs and had the same group with a few new faces, I think we would have had a very good chance in League Two.
"It has always been my ambition to play in the League, I had interest from other clubs and, if we had gone up, it would have been a very difficult decision to make.
"It was still tough to leave but I am very happy with where I am now.
"Cheshire, where I live, is beautiful but not as beautiful as Torquay!
"I will always remember my time there with happiness. I still follow the club all the time - once a Gull, always a Gull!"
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