Torquay United manager Gary Johnson - Credit: Pinnacle

Torquay United's Gary Johnson looks back on this season

Torbay Weekly

The similarities with two summers ago are uncanny and Torquay United manager Gary Johnson clearly hopes that the outcome will be the same - or even better (writes Dave Thomas).

At the end of the Covid-curtailed 2019-2020 season, the Gulls had finished in a mid-table, but steadily improving, position. It was 15th then, 11th now.

Having developed a relatively new squad, Johnson managed to keep most of them together that close-season and then made a handful of key experienced signings, Danny Wright in attack and Dean Moxey and Gary Warren in defence among them.

Clear at the top of the National League by Christmas, Torquay were only pegged back by a desperate run of injuries and the form of virtually injury-free Sutton United.

They were pipped for the title and then, dubiously denied two disallowed goals, lost the traumatic Play-Off Final to Hartlepool United on penalties at Ashton Gate.

We all know the personnel losses United sustained in the weeks following that defeat. Without the riches available to Stockport, Wrexham, Notts Co & Co, Johnson almost had to start again.

Fast forward eleven months, and he's just announced his latest retained list.

Just as in 2020, Johnson has kept the bulk (13) of his current squad together, players who know his methods and tactics, and the physical and mental demands which go with them.

A couple may eventually leave, but Johnson now has to top up his squad rather than rebuild it.

He's even kept his three veterans - Dean Moxey (36), Danny Wright (37) and Asa Hall (35) - stressing: "You always need your core. We've had to push Danny and Asa straight back after injuries this season, and it hasn't done them any favours. They both played until they had nothing left.

"But they and 'Moxe' are all leaders, they'll have a good break now and come back like young chickens.

"You can't keep filling your squad with 'bench' players.  I've got to have a bigger problem picking the team, and with the players we're trying to bring in, I'll hopefully have that."

It's a while, two years in fact, since Johnson, even at 66, has looked as energised about the season ahead.

It may be summer, but the next couple of months should be interesting…