Gary Goes Looking To Restore The Gulls' EFL Pride

Gary Johnson has never been shy when it comes to keeping his hands busy around the house.

The experienced manager is always happy to get down to work on a Sunday if a shelf needs putting up, or there’s another DIY task that needs some attention.

That attitude served him well, as he had an almighty restoration job on when he answered Torquay United’s plea in September 2018.

The club were 14th in the National League South when he walked in, attendances were plummeting and the Torbay air was fast turning blue.

Now fans’ profanity has been replaced by a relentless chorus of Sweet Caroline.

Touching me, touching you? Maybe not quite yet in the heat of a second socially distanced summer.

But one game away from an EFL return, these good times never seemed so good.

The Gulls are one match away from heading back to League Two, three years after surrendering their spot.

It’s mainly down to the south west’s ultimate football fixer-upper - and Johnson has his eyes on another prize back at Bristol City on Sunday.

Looking for his seventh promotion, the third oldest manager in English football’s top five divisions isn’t feeling his age.

The 65-year-old told us: “It really doesn’t matter if you are 60... odd. Anyway, my Mrs keeps me on the straight and narrow!

“I’m still loving it, I’m still loving it just as much as I was when I was starting out. It never leaves you, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“You have to be enthusiastic about what you do, and if you are, it makes you feel 30.If everyone has that belief then the world’s your oyster.

“Whatever age you are, you have to go with the times. Players’ personalities can be different but football is still the same. It’s the same, fantastic industry. If you love something, why stop?”

Success seemed to be so alien to the Devon club that Johnson joked had to teach the players how to pop the champagne bottles during their title celebrations of 2019.

“You make decisions in life, some good, some not so good, and whatever happens on Sunday this has turned out to be a good one,” he said.

“The club was in the doldrums and I just felt I could take them out of it.

“I was always looked after so well when I came here. When we used to loan the club players, or pay a visit.

“I met the owners and the CEO and I had an immediate bond with them.

“I felt I could offer what the club needed and do for them what they needed. So far, and regardless of what happens at the weekend, it has proven to be a good fit.

“When we came in it became clear the place needed a lift and thankfully everyone got behind what we were trying to do.

“Now we’re one game away from taking the club back to where we all feel it should be.”

But he knows that will be no easy task.

“Hartlepool are a really good side,” he added. “We know this will be tough, but there’s no doubt they are saying the same thing.

“It will be a wonderful occasion and it will be great going back to Bristol City for me personally.

“My son helped build the changing rooms. He took part in what they wanted there, so it’s got that attachment for me. We’ve got this far so we’re doing something right.”

To hear more from Torquay United boss Gary Johnson ahead of Sunday's Promotion Final with Hartlepool United, order the official matchday programme from Curtis Sports for just £5.

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