GOAL CELEBRATIONS for Brett Williams of Torquay United, during the Vanarama National League match between Torquay United and Braintree Town, at Plainmoor on April 17 2017 in Torquay, England, – PHOTO: Sean Hernon/PPAUK

The big four: what to expect from 2019?

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

In our final edition of 2018, we look forward to the next year and what might await our Big teams going forward in their respective sports and competitions.

We welcome back Torquay United for this one edition only (unless they get promoted of course!) to our Big team round-up.

Torquay United

The National League South side didn’t have a very auspicious start to the season under Gary Owers, winning just three of their first nine games.

However, things turned around after the club replaced Owers with former Yeovil, Bristol City and Cheltenham Town boss Gary Johnson as manager.

Under Johnson’s stewardship, the Gulls lost only one game up to the middle of December and two new directors have been appointed.

So, what shall we expect from United in 2019? Currently they are flying high at the top of the table and they are in a good position to see themselves promoted at the end of the season.

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t let anybody knock us off our perch if we can help it,” Johnson said.

“The boys are enjoying winning and winning does become a habit and we’ve got to keep it as a habit. There’s a fantastic camaraderie. Although boys aren’t screaming or shouting about winning the league yet they are obviously very pleased to, as quick as we have been, get to the top.”

Exeter Chiefs

Chiefs have had another storming start to the season. They continue to make the top of the Premiership table their home and, along with Saracens, have already created a considerable gap between themselves and the other teams.

However, performing in the Europe continues to be their Achilles heel. Their bonus-point win at Gloucester has given them a slender lifeline of progressing to the
quarter-finals having failed to pick up a victory in the first three rounds.

In terms of what this tricky passage in Europe means for Baxter, this is all part of his development as a coach. Recognising that Europe is a different challenge is one thing, but you cannot let it be a heavy weight on your shoulders.

The best teams adapt to the circumstances of each contest, which is why the likes of Leinster and Saracens win the big games. Make the necessary changes and Exeter can join that European elite. This win against Gloucester could now give them the impetus they need to kick-on further in the competition.

In terms of the Premiership, do not be surprised if Chiefs make it four finals in as many years. Quite possible against Saracens for the third time.

Plymouth Argyle

This season hasn’t gone to plan in the slightest. They linger near the bottom of the League One table after a failure to re-find the form that got them promoted two seasons ago.

Derek Adams has been under pressure from the fans after some dismal performances from the Pilgrims but his position was buoyed when new Argyle chairman Simon Hallett said the manager is ‘wonderful’ and his job is not under threat despite poor recent results.

“It’s not just about results on the pitch,” Hallett said.

“While we’re struggling a little in League One, Derek’s the third most successful manager in Argyle’s history in terms of win to loss ratios.”

He continued: “He’s the same bloke he was last year, the same bloke he was three years ago, so with Derek it’s not just what you see on the pitch, it’s what you see behind the scenes and Derek sets standards throughout the club that we want everybody to adopt.”

Moving into 2019, Adams is planning a January transfer overhaul: “There are players that will have to move on in January for new players to come in, and that’s only natural.”

Adams and his backroom team have already begun identifying players that will boost the squad when the transfer window re-opens on 1st January.

“Planning is in place, we’re trying to get players in,” he added. “We have to identify players, which we have done, but that all comes from players that are with clubs and it takes time.”

Argyle started to show some glimmers of form in December with a well-earned draw at Bradford City and a win away at Rochdale.

However, it’s a long season and Adams has a task to get Argyle to safety.

Exeter City

In terms of results, City have not fared much better than their Devon rivals having gone almost two months without a League Two win between October and December under manager
Matt Taylor.

However, the competitiveness of League Two means that City remain in and around the play-off places and are in a good position to challenge for promotion going into 2019.

Like his fellow coach Derek Adams, Taylor is looking to start the new year off brightly with the successful January transfer window: “It will change again come January. We might lose a couple of players, but we built what we felt was a squad that could compete in this league at the start of the season, but a couple of injuries have hurt us at times.

‘We are not making excuses and we will build again on January and we will look to improve the squad each transfer window and implement our way of playing onto the squad as best we possibly can.

‘The January window generally takes care of itself. There are ones that we can’t affect in terms of targets and players going out of the club, but we have got our players that we want. We know who they are, the problem is that other clubs want those players as well.

‘That’s the way that the window works. We aren’t blessed with hundreds of thousands of pounds of money we can spend on a whim. We have to be sure about our signings, but we recruited well at the start of the season and if we recruit well again, the squad will be better for it, definitely.”
If Taylor gets the squad he is after, there is no reason why City couldn’t push for promotion in 2019.

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