DE­CLINE 0F GULLS SAD, BUT IT IS NO SUR­PRISE

The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY -

IT’S sad to see Torquay re­turn to the Con­fer­ence. I was at Wem­b­ley the day they fought their way out, Chris Har­g­reaves’ thump­ing drive and Tim Sills’ soar­ing header seal­ing a 2-0 win over Cam­bridge. Though it was 2009, it feels like last week. To their sup­port­ers, that sun-dap­pled af­ter­noon must seem like a dif­fer­ent century. This, though, is the sad re­al­ity of life in the fur­thest flung cor­ner of the Bri­tish Isles.

Un­like cash­strapped clubs in Manch­ester or Lon­don, the Gulls do not have a steady stream of academy re­jects beg­ging for a game. The near­est Pre­mier League club is Southamp­ton, three hours and 130 miles away.

They can find lo­cal play­ers easy enough, but 16 of the req­ui­site qual­ity? That’s tough. The only way is to grow your own or pay out­siders hand­somely. And with­out se­ri­ous back­ing – which Torquay do not have – both are im­pos­si­ble.

Even then, it may not be enough – I re­mem­ber striker Billy Kee telling me that no amount of cash would have per­suaded him to stay at Plain­moor. He was a 21year-old city boy ma­rooned in an iso­lated sea­side town. He was bored stiff. If at­tract­ing play­ers is hard, keep­ing them is even harder.

These are is­sues that the vast ma­jor­ity of clubs sim­ply do not face. And un­less an oli­garch re­tires to Devon, it is had to see Torquay ever sur­mount­ing them. BRIS­TOL CITY man­ager Steve Cot­ter­ill once told me he seen didn’t want to be

as a fire fighter. “You can get tags said. in foot­ball,” he

“You can be a rel­e­ga­tion a man who goes specialist, trou­ble. in and saves clubs

I don’t want in known that. I want to be

as a win­ner.” Which is un­for­tu­nate. now added City

Be­cause hav­ing to re­cent res­cue mis-sion­sat Not­ting­ham Portsmouth, For­est and

it’s fair to say that Cot­ter­ill is cur­rently

the Foot­ball League’s

ver­sion of Red Adair.

GOAL HERO: Chris Har­g­reaves

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