He’ll run through brick walls to succeed PAUL BUCKLE FACTFILE
NOT every player gets to begin his career in a plush academy – not least new Cheltenham boss Paul Buckle. “No, he didn’t have a glamorous start,” said Steve Perryman, the first-team manager at Griffin Park when Buckle joined Brentford as a 16-year-old in 1987.
“I remember when he first joined us on a YTS, there was no room in digs. So he eventually ended up staying in my mother’s spare room for the first three months!”
But you can bet Mrs Perryman didn’t have any complaints. Because if there’s one thing Buckle is famous for, it’s his standards.
Inspired by his friendship with ultra-professional veteran Chris Hughton (with whom he drove to training at Brentford), Buckle fastidiously looked after his body, even as a young man in the beerswilled early nineties.
Though he lacked the raw ability to ever make the highest grade, fitness and a fearsome work-rate allowed him to forge a career as an indefatigable midfield general – never better demonstrated than in his Colchester heyday.
Alongside the equally unquenchable Richard Wilkins, Buckle reached the final of the Football League Trophy in 1997 and, a year later, returned to Wembley to guide the U’s to victory over Torquay in the Division Three play-off final. “Those lads in midfield wouldn’t just run through brick walls,” said thenboss Steve Wignall. “They’d turn around and smash what was left. It was a great team and you could see how much people like Paul and Richard cared for the club.”
A return to the West Country with Exeter brought plenty of games but little material success and, with one eye already on coaching, he dropped into NonLeague with Aldershot in 2002.
Two years later, he began working with Exeter’s youth team under Alex Inglethorpe whilst playing for Weymouth. Then, in 2007 and still just 36, he was named manager of a Torquay side that had just tumbled out of the Football League in disarray.
According to Hughton, Buckle was always going to end up in the dugout.
“I’ve known Paul for a long time and he was always enthusiastic and knowledgeable, always asking questions,” said the former Newcastle and Norwich boss.“So it was no surprise to see his path go into management.”
Yet Buckle wasn’t so sure. “If I’m honest, management wasn’t something I actively pursued,” he admitted. “It was something that came as a consequence of my work at Exeter. But, once the offer was there, I thought why not?’
“He’s a stickler for details,” said Shaun North, his former assistant at Torquay and Bristol Rovers. Born: Welwyn Garden City, 1970 (Age 43) Playing Career: A combative central midfielder , Buckle came thr ough
in six years at the ranks at Brentford and went on to make 74 appearances Griffin Park, in addition to a loan spell at Wycombe. After nine goals in 69 games for Torquay, Buckle joined Exeter in
1995 but was released after 25 games with the club unable to pay his wages.
side and win proHe then moved to Colchester, where he would skipper the motion to the second tier with play-off victory over Torquay at Wembley. After seven goals in 114 games for the U’s, he returned to Exeter in 1999 and spent a further three seasons at St James Park before dropping into NonLeague with Aldershot and Weymouth. Buckle’s final move was a third return
r etirement in to Exeter as player -coach, a r ole he r emained in until his 2007. In total, Buckle scored 48 goals in 544 appearances. Managerial career: Named manager of T orquay in 2007, Buckle led
first season, losthe Gulls to the Conference play-off semi-finals in his ing to former club Exeter. The following year, his side beat Cambridge at Wembley to return to the Football League and in 2010-11, Buckle
to guided his side to the League T wo play-of fs wher e they lost Stevenage in the final. Buckle then joined a Bristol Rovers side newly-relegated to League Two but left after winning just eight of 29 games in charge. A move to Luton in April 2012 saw him lead the Hatters to a
Conference play-off final defeat to York in his first season, then reach the FA Cup fifth round in his second. However, despite a win percentage of 54 per cent, Buckle quit to move to the USA with his broadcaster wife. After a spell working in a US academy, Buckle returned to management with League Two Cheltenham in November. “He’s massively focused on hard work and minute details. He knows what he wants and he makes sure everybody knows what he wants.”
On the pitch, too, there was no room for sloppiness.
“I worked with Gordon Strachan and Glenn Hoddle at Southampton but Paul’s attention to detail is second to none,” added Scott Bevan, the keeper in that Torquay side. “He gets the DVDs out and analyses every little thing. He tells everyone their jobs and if you don’t do what is required then you are out of the team. It’s quite simple.”
The results were instant, with defeat in the Conference play-off semis avenged by promotion in 2009 and, two years later, a place in the top six of League Two.
Yet what worked in Devon was less fruitful when Buckle joined Bristol Rovers in 2011.
There, his ruthlessness served only to rile a squad full of experienced pros and he was dismissed in January 2012 having won just eight of his 29 games in charge.
Though a move to
HEYDAY: Buckle playing for Colchester United