Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Torquay United in Second Life

Second Life is an internet-based virtual world, developed by Linden Lab. It is a 3D virtual community created entirely by its members. Members assume an identity (a customised 3D representation of themselves - an avatar) and can then move around the virtual world using the keyboard and mouse.

A number of real-life places and buildings have been created within Second Life and it is possible for your avatar to visit and explore these different places.

In order to use Second Life it is necessary to download a small program - the Second Life Viewer - and to register with the virtual world, and thus become a "resident". It is possible to become a member for free, but the virtual world does have its own currency (the Linden dollar) and their is a recognised exchange rate between the Linden dollar and the pound.

Residents can buy property, start businesses, play games with other residents, create objects, join clubs, attend classes, or just hang out. The detailed look of Second Life is remarkable, making it an instant guilty pleasure.

For those of you that are missing out on following Torquay United in the "real world" during the summer months, A Second Life group has been created - "Torquay United Supporters" so that fans can meet up and talk all things related to Torquay United Football Club.

Disappointing... but what a difference a year makes

And so the Gulls first season in the Blue Square Premier League has ultimately ended in disappointment. Despite being in the top two positions since the start of the season, the Gulls finally finished in third place (on goal difference) behind League Champions Aldershot Town and Cambridge United. This meant the Gulls would take place in the end of season Play-offs for the opportunity to regain their place in the Football League.

The final league positions meant that Torquay United would be playing local rivals Exeter City in the two-legged play-off semi-final. Finishing with the higher league position, the Gulls in theory had the advantage of playing the second leg at Plainmoor. As a result of a change of tactics, Torquay United took an early advantage and won the first leg 2-1 at Sid James' Park.

Unfortunately the Gulls lost their way in the final 20 minutes of the second leg and ended up losing 5-3 on aggregate. The dream of a quick return to the Football League was over, and the Gulls would be a non-league team for another season at least.

Six days later, the Gulls made their first appearance at the new Wembley stadium in the Final of the FA Trophy. Over 40,000 fans saw the Gulls take on Ebbsfleet United (the team owned by over 30,000 internet subscribers), but despite saving a penalty the Gulls eventually lost 1-0.

To have two such big disappointments within a week was hard to accept, but when you consider the transformation within the club, season 2007/08 marked a significant change of fortunes for Torquay United.

At the end of the previous season the club was in disarray, and looked to be plummeting even further. However, the introduction of new ownership and board of directors was the start of radical changes within the club. It is perhaps ironic, but it took becoming non-league for the club to become more professional. A new manager (Paul Buckle) together with a complete new coaching set-up was appointed and the commercial aspects of the club were similarly overhauled. Suddenly their was a new belief and positivity around the club.

The season started brightly with the Gulls seeming in free-scoring motion, their attacking style of football and commitment to attack right up to the final whistle meant that the Gulls took part in some thrilling matches - the FA Cup victory over Yeovil Town being a particular highlight.

After the Christmas period, it seemed that opposing teams had learned how to nullify the attacking play and the Gulls attack was not so potent. However, the transformation had begun. We can only trust that the appearance in the play-offs and the Wembley final is the start of a new successful period for the Gulls.