Victories can be United's hangover cure

Torquay United's Manager, Paul Buckle thanks the fans for their support

Torquay United's Manager, Paul Buckle thanks the fans for their support - Credit: Dan Mullan/Pinnacle

The 'hangover' Factor is often used to doubt a club's promotion chances after a near-miss the previous season, but Torquay United shouldn't stay down in the dumps too long after the trauma of Ashton Gate last month. 
For the Gulls have suffered similar Play-Off heartache, in recent memory too - and bounced straight back to triumph only a year later. 
In the wake of United's 2008 Semi-Final defeat to local rivals Exeter City - they led 3-1 (agg) in the second leg at Plainmoor before losing 4-3 - and a Wembley loss (1-0) to Ebbsfleet in the FA Trophy Final five days later, Torquay supporters wondered what else could go wrong. 
And when Paul Buckle's rebuilt side kicked off the 2008-2009 season, things got even worse. 
United won only one of their first seven games, losing at home to Ebbsfleet and Salisbury, and took five points out of 21. 
It took a 90th minute penalty by Tim Sills to beat Northwich Victoria 2-1 at home in Game No.8. 
On such moments can whole seasons turn. 
United went 16 games unbeaten, reached the FA Cup 4th Round and secured their place in the Play-Offs with a last-day 2-1 home win over champions-elect Burton Albion. 
A 2-1 aggregate victory over Histon in the Play-Off Semi-Finals set up another trip to Wembley, where United upset favourites Cambridge United 2-0 to clinch promotion back to the Football League. 
The potential parallels between then and now are intriguing. 
In 2008 Buckle said 'Goodbye' to goalkeeper Simon Rayner, club stalwarts Kevin Hill and Matt Hockley, goalscoring winger Chris Zebroski and striker Lee Phillips among others. 
In 2021 two goalies, Lucas Covolan and Shaun MacDonald, long-serving duo Liam Davis and Kyle Cameron, winger Ben Whitfield and strikers Billy Waters and Josh Umerah have all left. 
Buckle still had right-back Lee Mansell (2021 Ben Wynter) and a veteran left-back Kevin Nicholson (Dean Moxey), promising centre-back Chris Robertson (Joe Lewis) to go with experienced Chris Todd, a veteran but forceful midfield captain Chris Hargreaves (Asa Hall) and a been-there-done-it centre-forward Tim Sills (Danny Wright). 
Buckle added a new goalkeeper, Michael Poke, started to push raw young prospects Mark Ellis, Elliot Benyon and Danny Stevens up the pecking-order, signed experienced defender Lee Hodges, two wingers in Wayne Carlisle and Mustapha Carayol, midfielder Nicky Wroe and young striker Matt Green. 
Gary Johnson, who is also hoping to develop homebred youngsters like Louie Slough and Olaf Koszela, has a transfer agenda which is almost exactly the same as Buckle's was. 
And don't worry overmuch about the opposition. For Grimsby, Southend, Stockport, Notts County and Wrexham next season, United in 2009 had to contend with Mansfield, Wrexham, ambitious Rushden & Diamonds, Stevenage, who won the title the following season, and Oxford United, who followed them up from the Play-Offs  
It may have taken a while for Buckle's new-look squad to hit top form, but when they did, the end result was one of the best days in United's history. 
Thirteen years on, can history repeat itself…? 

Torquay United's Danny Stevens in action

Torquay United's Danny Stevens in action - Credit: Dan Mullan/Pinnacle