Football: Torquay culture shock for Waddle

A former England enigma finds life a struggle at Plainmoor after gracing more illustrious grounds.
Click to follow
The Independent Online
ONE MOMENT in Saturday's scrappy 1-1 draw between Torquay United and Plymouth Argyle summed up Chris Waddle's afternoon.

Two minutes after half-time, the former England enigma enjoyed a rare moment of unhindered possession in the centre-circle. Shoulders hunched as ever, he looked up briefly and delivered an immaculate long pass to Scott Partridge on the right wing. The Torquay striker, who otherwise had a good game against one of his former clubs, controlled the ball with his first touch - but his second was a dreadful fumble which sent the ball out of play.

Plainmoor, as Waddle may have realised at that moment, is a long way from the Stade Velodrome, Marseilles, and the other grand arenas he has graced in his 18-year career since he left Tow Law Town and his job in the sausage factory to join Newcastle United.

The Third Division is alien territory for the 37-year-old Waddle. He made 31 appearances as Burnley's player-manager in the Second Division last season, but the gap between the Second and the Third is as big as that between the Premier and the First, and he often looked out of place on Saturday.

He is, though, not yet match-fit. This was only his second appearance for Torquay, whom he has joined on a non-contract basis as a favour for his old Newcastle team-mate Wes Saunders, who became the Devon side's manager in the summer.

Playing in a central midfield role, Waddle was only an occasional nuisance to Plymouth, Torquay's local rivals. The vision is still intact, and he can still pass the ball beautifully, but he rarely played at anything above jogging pace.

"I've lasted two games, and I've felt pretty strong," Waddle said, "but I still feel as though there's a bit to come. I did 10 days of hard training before I came here, but I need to play some games now."

Waddle is clearly fed up with people suggesting that he should have retired by now. "I just want to play," he said. "I enjoy football. It's no big deal if you're 37 or 47 as long as you can do the job. Too many people make a fuss about age in this country. It's sad."

How long Waddle, who lives in Sheffield, stays at Torquay remains to be seen. He admitted that, when he was first approached in the summer, he was put off by the travelling. "If a club in a higher division comes in for him, or he gets offered a managerial job, we can't stop him going," Saunders admitted.

However, after his not very happy year in charge at Turf Moor, Waddle is clearly enjoying playing and not managing. "It's not my responsibility any more," he said. "It's a lot easier. But hopefully I'll have another go at that one day when the time is right."

For now, though, his sole concern is helping Torquay up the Third Division table. Even without his presence, there were plenty of talking points on Saturday. It was more than just another Devon derby: Plymouth had persuaded Torquay's managerial team of Kevin Hodges and Steve McCall to jump ship and take over at Home Park in the summer, and there were some scores to settle.

Partridge put Torquay ahead early in the second half when, sent clear by a Steve Tully pass, he cut in from the right flank and neatly lifted the ball over Jon Sheffield in the Argyle goal. The Pilgrims equalised late in the game when, after Sean McCarthy had been brought down by the otherwise highly competent Torquay goalkeeper Matthew Gregg, Paul Gibbs scored from the penalty spot.

The game's most controversial incident was not the penalty award, but a brawl that was provoked by a bad tackle by Tully on Plymouth's Martin Barlow late in the first half. The Torquay substitute Andy McFarlane jumped off the bench to join in the melee in front of the dug-out - and found himself being sent to the dressing room by the referee, Barry Knight, for violent conduct. Although no red card was shown, McFarlane was in effect sent off - without having played in the match.

Waddle watched all the fuss from the fringes of the pushing and shoving, taking a much-needed drink. "It was a hard game, derby games always are," he said. "There was a lot of tension, but the atmosphere was good and there was plenty of banter."

A draw was a fair result, and it will have preserved domestic harmony in the Gibbs household. A Torquay player last season, he shares a house in the town with the Gulls' scorer, Partridge. As Waddle is discovering, the Third Division is tough - but it can also be quite a cosy world.

Goals: Partridge (57) 1-0; Gibbs (pen 81) 1-1. Torquay United (5-3-2): Gregg; Tully, Monk, Gurney, Robinson, Herrera; McGorry, Waddle, Leadbitter; Partridge, Donaldson. Substitutes not used: McFarlane, Hill, Bedeau.

Plymouth Argyle (5-3-2): Sheffield; Edmondson (Marshall, 61), Collins, Heathcote, Wotton, Gibbs; Barlow, Mauge, McCall; Power (Jean, 72), McCarthy. Substitute not used: Beswetherick. Referee: B Knight (Orpington).

Torquay: Bookings: Torquay: Tully, Monk, Gregg. Plymouth: Barlow, Gibbs, McCarthy, Collins.

Sending-off (from substitutes' bench): McFarlane.

Man of the match: Partridge.

Attendance: 5,719.

WADDLE'S WANDERINGS

Year Club App

1980-85 Newcastle United 170

1985-89 Tottenham Hotspur 138

1989-92 Marseilles 107

1992-96 Sheffield Wednesday 109

1996 Falkirk 4

1996 Bradford City 25

1996-97 Sunderland 7

1997-98 Burnley 31

1998 Torquay 2

Total appearances 593

Waddle also played 62 times for England, scoring six goals

GOLDEN OLDIES: THE THIRTYSOMETHINGS STILL TEASING THE TERRACES

DAVE BEASANT (NOTTINGHAM FOREST)

Age: 39

Previous Clubs: Wimbledon, Newcastle, Chelsea, Grimsby (on loan), Wolves (on loan), Southampton.

One of the original cast of Wimbledon's Crazy Gang, Beasant was signed from Edgware Town for pounds 1,000 in 1979. He played under his current manager, Dave Bassett, for six years during the Dons' rise through the ranks of the Football League. Capped his Wimbledon career with his spectacular save from John Aldridge's penalty as Liverpool were sensationally beaten in the 1988 FA Cup Final. Sold for pounds 800,000 to Newcastle just weeks after the Wembley triumph, he moved back to London with Chelsea less than a year later. Career seemed to be petering out with loan spells at Grimsby and Wolves, but Southampton gave him a new lease of life in 1993. Forest signed him on loan during an injury crisis last season and he proved so effective the move was made permanent.

MARK HATELEY (HULL CITY)

Age: 36

Previous Clubs: Coventry, Portsmouth, Milan, Monaco, Rangers, Queen's Park Rangers, Leeds (on loan), Rangers.

Hull City's player-manager has had a torrid time since taking over at the start of last season. Any thoughts that Hull's fortunes would be turned around when the tennis entrepreneur David Lloyd took over the club have disappeared as Hateley has continued to operate on a shoestring. A Coca- Cola Cup victory over Crystal Palace last season was a rare highlight as Hull finished 22nd in the Third Division. Results have not improved and Hateley's team must be one of the favourites for relegation to the Conference. All a stark contrast with Hateley's earlier career, when he found fame with England and fortune with two of Europe's richest clubs, Milan and Monaco. Rangers brought him back to Britain with great success, but a brief return there last year could not revive former glories.

PETER BEARDSLEY (BOLTON)

Age: 37

Previous Clubs: Carlisle, Vancouver Whitecaps, Manchester Utd, Vancouver, Newcastle, Liverpool, Everton, Newcastle, Manchester City (on loan), Fulham (on loan).

Newcastle-born Beardsley eventually signed for his home-town club in 1983 after a second six-month spell with Vancouver Whitecaps. Beardsley had failed to realise his potential with Manchester United, but he flourished at Newcastle and a pounds 1.9m move to Liverpool followed. One major honour at Anfield under Kenny Dalglish before moving to Everton in 1991. Kevin Keegan brought him back to Newcastle two years later and Beardsley enjoyed a new lease of life as Keegan's swashbuckling Toon Army marched up the Premiership table. Moved to Bolton for pounds 450,000 a year ago but could not establish a regular place in the team and was loaned to Manchester City and then Keegan's Fulham. Loan spell at Craven Cottage ended on Saturday but the move could become permanent.

RAY HOUGHTON (READING)

Age: 36

Previous Clubs: West Ham, Fulham, Oxford, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace.

Born in Glasgow, Houghton has played in England throughout his professional career, while at international level he represented the Republic of Ireland. Many of his finest moments came while playing under Jack Charlton with the Irish, including a spectacular goal which earned a famous victory over Italy in New York during the 1994 World Cup. At club level he emerged as a player of true potential at Oxford. He moved on to Liverpool where he earned a succession of trophies and honours during a five-year spell from 1987. After two years at Aston Villa, he moved on to Crystal Palace and helped the London club win back their Premiership place when they sealed promotion in 1997. He joined Reading just over a year ago.

PAUL BRACEWELL (FULHAM)

Age: 36

Previous Clubs: Stoke, Sunderland, Everton, Sunderland, Newcastle, Sunderland.

Bracewell is a walking tribute to modern medicine, having come through countless operations and injury problems to continue his career with Kevin Keegan's Fulham. He was Keegan's first signing when the former Newcastle manager took over the London club with Ray Wilkins last year. Any doubts about his fitness were erased when he made 36 League appearances for the club last season. A fine passer of the ball, Bracewell played for Sunderland three times in his career, but his finest moments were with Everton. A crucial member of Everton's championship-winning teams in 1985 and 1987, he was the cornerstone of Howard Kendall's midfield. Left for his second spell at Sunderland in 1989. Spent three years at Roker Park, where he returned again three years later after a spell at Newcastle.

Comments