Herald Express (Torbay, Brixham & South Hams Edition)

A summer of big changes for fans at Torquay under new ownership

- RICHARD HUGHES Richard Hughes Guy Henderson Torquay United Yellow Army Podcast

ARichard Hughes is the Torquay United correspond­ent for the Herald Express and DevonLive.com

S Torquay United fans we know we are facing a particular­ly difficult summer. Whoever gets the nod to take on the ownership of Torquay United, they are going to have to make some pretty difficult decisions about the future of the club – and clearly, the biggest one of them all is whether Torquay will become part-time or not.

Whether you, me, or your Aunty Jean like it or not, this is something that will save the club money in a time when money is hard-earned and too easily spent.

The National League South is predominan­tly a part-time league and, therefore, the obvious thing to do if Torquay are in this league next year, is go part-time.

This has not gone down well online, with social media debate about the club going part-time getting quite heated.

It was suggested as an option by consortium leader Michael Westcott, who said in an interview on Radio Devon that ‘fans have to be realistic.’ But there is another way. A hybrid way. A neither this or that way.

Torquay has always had a fair spread of players on its books, from the older, experience­d profession­als, who bring valuable know-how to the club, to the younger ones, who are still learning the game, and whose lives are less ‘cluttered’ by the vagaries of familial life that they can live further away from home.

So there is an argument to say that Torquay could go forth with a few profession­als and more part-timers, probably living in the lodge and enjoying the shared and exciting life of being a footballer at a decent level.

Wages have been good at Torquay over recent seasons, and former manager Gary Johnson wasn’t shy in saying the club pushed the boat out with offers to keep the likes of Joe Lewis, Connor Lemonheigh-Evans and Armani Little.

And there is little doubt that players like Aaron Jarvis are on big wages for this level – but I don’t expect the current younger players are getting the kind of money that some of their ex-school mates are on, if they have landed decent jobs, or know how to build walls better than they know how to score goals.

I am not absolutely sure the value of part-time deals, for younger players, will be something that changes much from full-time ones.

What could change, however, is how much time is spent on the training ground. While a liveable wage for someone staying in the lodge might mean younger players have all the time in the world to kick a ball about, there are players who have been excelling in regional football – for teams like Tiverton, Bideford, Barnstaple, Buckland – who are in their mid-20s, have good jobs that pay well, or who have their own businesses, who would relish the chance to play in the National League South for Torquay. They certainly would not be able to train every day.

So I think it is about flexibilit­y. A horses-for-courses approach; players-for-training-pitches – a logical approach to how Torquay United operates in the future.

Administra­tion is harrowing – for anyone who goes through it, not just footballer­s. But as long as the current crop are paid this month, and their contracts are honoured, not much is different from most seasons. How many players at this level can be confident that they will have a club next year anyway?

At this level of football, if players don’t earn a move upwards, they often fall into the churn and reappear somewhere else, ready to score against you on their return. Don’t we know it.

But that’s where being in Devon, or Cornwall, or another outlying area comes into play. As the managers of Tiverton, Bideford, Barnstaple, Buckland will attest, you end up with a lot of clubs vying for a small amount of proper talent.

The pool of players in London, in and around cities like Manchester or Birmingham, is considerab­le compared to the one in Devon. How do you tempt the better players to the Bay if the club is part-time?

And then there’s the question of the manager. Whether you would want to give Aaron Downes a chance to stay and prove himself next season or not, would he want to stay? Would the new owners be able to meet his wages? Would a new manager be full-time or part-time.

As we all wait for news about those new owners – and apparently there could be some quite soon – I guess these are questions that we will all be pondering. The what-ifs and what-abouts of Torquay United’s future. Scary times, but perhaps exciting times too – with so many important questions to find answers to this summer.

Listen to the Herald Express’ every Thursday evening. There is always much to discuss as

and tackle the week’s talking points and revel in the Gulls’ rich and vibrant history. Go to www.devonlive.com/sport

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