Fans’ frustration growing as owners continue the hunt for a new manager


Two Vanarama National League clubs have sacked their managers, and replaced them with new regimes, since Torquay United parted company with Kevin Nicholson three weeks and three days ago.

It means either that the Gulls’ de- termination not to be rushed into appointing a new boss is canny and thorough, or that their increasingly frustrated fans are right to be worried.

Former Gulls boss Paul Cox and Paul Bignot, both of whom had been linked to the Plainmoor post, have already started work at Guiseley and Barrow respectively.

But after three defeats and a draw, Robbie Herrera tackled his fifth game as United’s caretaker manager at home to Wrexham.

Whichever way you look at it, this is surely not exactly how general manager Geoff Harrop and owner-chairman Clarke Osborne planned it when they gave Nicholson the bad news just four games into the season.

Money is nearly always at the heart of these things, and the two key areas will have been the new manager’s salary, plus other terms and conditions, and the cash available to strengthen a bottom-of-the-table squad which was still looking for its first win of the season.

Nicholson’s successor will certainly be on more money than he was – he always described himself as ‘the cheap option’ – and Plain- moor insiders have been adamant that money has been kept in re- serve for new players.

Owners Gaming International have already invested a considerable amount since they took over just before last Christmas, and they are thought to have earmarked around £100,000 to cover the two imminent commitments.

We are talking about the fifth tier of English football here, and the next manager’s pay packet should place him maybe not at the top of the League ‘table’, but almost certainly in the top-half.

On team strengthening, most of the best players have already been signed up by now, so the new man’s key areas for recruitment will be free agents and the loan market.

United may well have received some knockbacks with the sort of experienced managers they have interviewed.

For all its attractions – an excel- lent stadium, fan base, infrastructure and training-ground – the Torquay job is not an easy one, especially in the modern game.

Plainmoor is seen by many as a geographical outpost, demanding managers as well as players to up-root and relocate, and Torquay is not the cheapest place to live.

Even a club of Plymouth Argyle’s size have found recruitment far from easy in recent years, while Exeter City have fuelled their first team at least as much from their extraordinarily successful youth Academy as from the transfer market.

Just when Torquay’s own relaunched Academy was starting to produce a better quality of graduate, the previous regime shut it down in 2015, citing the need to cut costs.

All the signs are that United have been sticking to their insistence that ‘experience with contacts’ are the key qualifications for the new manager.

Ex-Rotherham, Tranmere, Oldham, Hartlepool and Eastleigh boss Ronnie Moore, who definitely has been down to talk terms and see the facilities, and former Scunthorpe, Luton and Cambridge manager Richard Money fit the bill and have been among the leading candidates.

But if they, or United, have had second thoughts, then another contender, who is thought to have been interested all along, might now have moved up the pecking-order. That man could be Graham Westley. The former Stevenage, Preston, Peterborough and Newport County manager has a certain reputation in the game, but United are looking for someone to take them in a new
direction over a period of time. Westley has come through some career knockbacks of his own, but he proved at Stevenage, probably a smaller club than Torquay, that he can achieve remarkable things when he gets his feet under the
table.

United are believed to have been close to finalising a deal for several days now, and that long-awaited appointment must surely come before United travel to Bromley on Tuesday night…

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.