Torquay United’s players are planning to celebrate with their fans, but in front of live TV ‘streaming’ cameras, if they score in Saturday’s opening game of the 2020-2021 season against Stockport County at Plainmoor.
As the National League and the Government thrash out the details of an ‘emergency package’ of grants to enable the campaign to start, Gulls manager Gary Johnson and his players have been stressing the importance of their bond with the ‘Yellow Army’.
“The fans are always our 12th man, and we’re going to miss them,” said Player Of The Year Ben Whitfield.
“We’ll still go out to win every week, that doesn’t change. But the cameras will be there, so we’ll have the fans in our minds no matter what.”
Johnson said: “The boys have to get their mental state right, show their passion, work-rate and ability, and do it when there’s not a lot of noise about. Everything we do is being watched by our loyal fans, and we want to make sure they have as good an experience as we can give them.”
The opener against promotion favourites Stockport, followed by Eastleigh (A) on Tuesday night and Bromley (A) next Saturday (October 10), comes after news this week that the Government will provide help, rumoured to be £2-3 million, to help clubs cover the lost revenue from having no fans in grounds.
United fans group TUST had lobbied local and national politicians, including Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, and warned of ‘dire consequences’ for all NL clubs if help was not forthcoming.
United, who beat Exeter City 3-2 (Cameron, Lemonheigh-Evans, Moxey) in a final friendly this week, face a hectic schedule.
“October, with eight games, is going to be so important,” said Johnson, who celebrated his 65th birthday on Monday. “Especially this year, you never quite know whether you’re ready or not, and a lot of ‘Conference’ teams had poor results at the weekend. But it was a good win for us and a good performance against a strong Exeter side, and great for our confidence.”
• Stockport match preview tomorrow on www.torbayweekly.co.uk