Torquay United manager Gary Johnson says he’s glad that he gave defender Ali Omar a new contract at the end of last season, even if the decision hung in the balance at times.
Former QPR and Barnsley starlet Omar, 22 and 6ft 3in tall, has been one of the ‘hits’ of the Gulls’ summer so far, and nobody is happier than his boss.
“Ali had a lot to learn when he joined us – about positioning, when to do this, when not to do that. He just had to learn the game,” said Johnson.
“At one point it was touch-and-go whether to let him go. But he got through not playing at times really well – he never moaned – and he’s a great listener and learner.
“Ali is also a terrific competitor – he would block a train coming through.
“He came in at the end of last season, determined to show us that he wanted to be in the team, and we felt he deserved a chance and that we could definitely carry on improving him.
“Aaron (Downes) has done a lot of work with him, and some things still need more work, but Ali has carried on from last season, he’s still improving and that’s all you can ask.”
With new signings Ross Marshall, Ollie Tomlinson and Ryan Hanson, plus Dean Moxey and club captain Asa Hall around, there’s proper competition at centre-back, but 6ft 3in Omar has held his place with some aplomb.
It wasn’t always like that.
He was sent off in his second game, a 1-1 draw at Notts County, and looked ‘novicey’ at times as United conceded too many goals in the early weeks of last season.
But Gulls fans have always liked the friendly Londoner, who played 27 games in 2021-2022.
Johnson added: “Ali is also one of the most selfless players I’ve ever met.
“He looks after every new player who comes in the place, and he’s a great ambassador for the club and for Torquay.”
After tomorrow’s in-house training game at Plainmoor, free for season-ticket holders, followed by the club’s Community Fun Day, United meet Truro City at Bolitho Park, Plymouth, on Saturday, their final friendly before the National League opener at home to Oldham Athletic on August 6.
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