TORQUAY United fans may be impatient, and understandably so, but all the signs are that it will be Saturday’s home game against Chester FC when the successor to Kevin Nicholson makes his ‘debut’ as manager.
Caretaker boss Robbie Herrera, Nicholson’s assistant, prepared and picked the team for yesterday’s home game against Solihull Moors, and he is also expected to take them to Woking tomorrow afternoon.
General manager Geoff Harrop spent several days over the past week away from Plainmoor, conducting a series of interviews with leading candidates from the list of more than 70 applicants.
United, who have made no official statements on the subject in recent days, are looking for an experienced man with a proven record in the National League (Conference) or lower divisions of the Football League.
Mark Yates (Kiddermin- ster, Cheltenham and Craw- ley), Marcus Bignot (Solihull and Grimsby), Garry Hill (Dagenham, Weymouth, Rushden and Woking), Gra- ham Westley (Stevenage x3, Preston, Peterborough and Newport) and Richard Money (Walsall, Luton and Cambridge) have all been linked with the job.
The sudden resignation of former Gulls boss Paul Cox at Vanarama National rivals Barrow on Thursday sparked speculation that the promotion-winning ex- Mansfield Town manager might be set for a return to Plainmoor, although that could be an outside bet.
Even the name of the man who first brought Harrop to Torquay to run the club’s Academy in 2010, Paul Buckle, has hit the rumour-mill.
Buckle gave United four years of almost unbroken success (2007-2011) before leaving for much briefer spells with Bristol Rovers, Luton Town and Cheltenham Town.
But the slight problem with Buckle is that he is currently trying to lead Sacra- mento Republic into a second successive play-off season in the second-tier United Soccer League, and he is well thought of at the California club.
Fresh and interesting ap- plications have continued to arrive on Harrop’s desk over the past few days, which may also prompt a delay in making the final decision.
It’s not as if Herrera, who may well have a future role to play in a new regime, has stepped into a straightfor- ward situation by any means.
He is trying to lift a struggling side that had conceded 13 goals in four defeats before Solihull Moors came to Plainmoor yesterday – and against a background of worrying injuries to key players.
The continuing absences of experienced defenders Josh Gowling and Liam Davis, with loanee Jordan Lee’s illness thrown in, haven’t helped.
But Herrera also had a concern this week about goalkeeper Ryan Clarke, with a back problem, and the Gulls’ caretaker had to spend as long on his mobile, trying to arrange some cover for the 35-year-old shot-stopper, as he had on the training ground.
Veteran Clarke, who has been United’s best and most consistent player so far, is the last man whom they can afford to lose right now. But Herrera’s hours on the phone were rewarded late on Friday when he secured the return of young keeper Dan Lavercombe on a one-month loan.
The 20-year-old signed for Wigan Athletic for an undis- closed fee in January last year, although he remained on loan at Plainmoor for the rest of the season.
A product of the club’s former Academy, Lavercombe made his Gulls’ debut against Aldershot Town in April 2015 and always dis- played a maturity way be- yond his years.
‘There were quite a few names that we went through and in the end we have gone for Dan, and Wigan have kindly allowed him to join us on loan,’ said Herrera.
‘We had Dan here with the the youth team and Geoff (Harrop) and I have coached him. He had 23 games at first-team level, so he knows this level and he knows what it is all about. He’s done well at Wigan so he will be itching to show people what he is about again.’
Lavercombe, who was born in Torbay, will wear the No.21 shirt. ‘I’m enjoying my time at Wigan but I could do with a few games as I have been away for a while with a few injuries,’ he said.
Torquay United’s squad of senior pros was also swelled in the week by a triallist who has already played at Plainmoor this year.
Ashford Dawkins, a pacy winger or striker, is the son of former Gulls favourite Derek ‘The Dude’ Dawkins.
Dawkins, snr, served United for six years (1984- 90), playing more than 200 games and scoring 11 goals, including a famous winner against Spurs (1-0) in a League Cup first leg tie at Plainmoor in 1987.
He turned his talents to coaching the youth team, helping to launch the career of a young Lee Sharpe, be- fore eventually moving to Spain.
Dawkins answered the call of a reunion game for his old United team-mate Paul Compton at Plainmoor in May, bringing 21-year-old Ashford and his older brother Luke, a former Torquay apprentice, with him.
Ashford has been on the books of Hercules FC of Alicante for many years. He scored a couple of goals in the Compton Reunion game, and that led to Herrera inviting him back for a trial.