Torquay United 11 questions and answers as Gulls await takeover

Every Wednesday in the Herald Express, our Torquay United correspondent Richard Hughes takes a sideways look at what's going on in the world of the Gulls. This week, he takes a look at 11 questions that need answering as we wait for news that the takeover gets completed

We now know the names of the people trying to save Torquay United from going out of business – and hopefully talks between the Bryn Consortium and the club’s administrators are going well.

But with the future of the football club being weighed up in business meetings, pubs and front rooms, here are some of the key questions that fans are asking, and other concerns they are raising.

Some of the answers will be determined by how much money the consortium has to spend, and others will be influenced by restraint or ambition. But for now – here’s my take on some of what needs to be addressed...

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Will the Gulls go part time?
The argument that Torquay United would be financially better off being part time in a predominantly part-time league is strong. However, being full time would surely be better if the new owners want promotion back to the National League.
Michael Westcott said in an interview with Radio Devon before his Bryn Consortium was named as ‘preferred bidders’ that fans might have to be realistic about going part time. But a move to part time might not go down well with some fans, who would see it as a backward move.

How about a hybrid solution?
Some younger players can live in the Gulls Lodge and survive on less wages than experienced players and older players.
Once the ownership is sorted it will be time to look at what model works best. But perhaps the best way forward is bits of both a full time, and bits of a part time model.

Will we see any of the players from last season in next season’s squad?
Maybe. One player – understood to be Austen Booth – is already under contract for this coming season.
But among those who finished the season with the Gulls, there are a handful who, as long as they haven’t been offered deals elsewhere, that might be worth giving another year. These include veterans Asa Hall and Dean Moxey, midfielders Tom Lapslie, Brett McGavin and Ethon Archer (who really flourished late in the season) and striker Brad Ash. I can’t imagine no-one tempting Aaron Jarvis with a good offer to leave, but you never know.
Did Ollie Tomlinson, Jack Stobbs and Ross Marshall do enough for you? Mark Halstead is a good goalkeeper at this level, as is his back-up for the last two seasons Rhys Lovett. Lewis Collins has already said he is leaving football.

What about the young players?
There were some decent young players on the pitch when the under-18s completed their third double in three seasons at Plainmoor with that 3-0 win against Bridgwater United in the South West Youth League’s Gary Else Memorial Cup.
Attacking midfielder Jacob Wellington made his league debut late-on in the 5-0 win against Havant & Waterlooville, and set up Queens Park Rangers loanee Arkell Jude-Boyd for his goal that day.
But there are one or two others, including captain Liam Poole and Thomas Chastey, who was playing at Willand Rovers at the end of the season, who might be good enough for this level. Did first year pro Callum Thomas do enough to get another year?

What about a manager?
If Aaron Downes gets the manager’s job he will have his own thoughts on who he would like to keep from the end-of-season squad.
Downes did enough for me by keeping Torquay away from the relegation zone, with an 11 point penalty hitting them hard, after the exit of Gary Johnson. He conducted himself well after coming out of Johnson’s shadow – but fans are split on whether they want Downes back, or someone new.
The internet is awash with rumours, as ever, with one man being touted as a possible Torquay manager being Luke Garrard, who was released by Boreham Wood at the end of the National League season, after his team was relegated.

What about the off-the-field structure?
The Bryn Consortium is made up of five men who are now directors of a company called Scoring Goals Limited: Michael Westcott, Thomas Allen, Mark Bowes-Cavanagh, and Simon Robinson and Rob Hawes. If Scoring Goals does buy the football club, it is likely that one of these men will be the chairman. The chairman is not always the lead actor in these situations.
The question of whether George Edwards, the chief executive officer, will remain at the club should be answered pretty quickly if a deal goes through with Westcott & Co. The same for the future of director Mel Hayman.
The Bryn Consortium may also have other people waiting in the wings to take on roles. Former Premier League manager Neil Warnock having been a guest of Westcott at games recently, and saying he would like to help whoever takes on the club. Warnock says he won’t be a manager again, but what about a director of football, or even chairman?

Is moving from Plainmoor now unlikely?
Clarke Osborne bought Torquay United because he wanted to make money from real estate. He wanted to build a stadium away from Plainmoor but that didn’t happen.
It is unlikely the Bryn Consortium would even consider moving away from the ground that has been Torquay’s home since 1921.

But what about an artificial pitch?
That is a serious possibility. An artificial pitch at Plainmoor would generate some much-needed income. A plastic pitch (fourth generation or whatever) would be a huge money-spinner with local schools and clubs becoming customers day-in-day-out. The ground is owned by Torbay Council, with the club paying rent, but the income from a pitch that could be played on every day from sunrise to lights out would be an attractive idea to those running the club. It would also mean the team could train on the pitch.
The only real downside: you can’t play in the EFL with a plastic pitch. Sutton United ripped theirs up and replaced it with grass, which cost them a lot more than grass seed, when they won promotion in 2020. Last week they were relegated back to the National League.

Can Torquay get back to the Football League?
Yes, of course they can. If Bromley – who just won the National League play-offs to get into League Two – can do it, then Torquay definitely can.
But the first focus is getting back into the National League. A full time, or hybrid, Torquay United should be good enough, and get enough support to be the biggest team in this division next season.
Promotion must be the target from day one of the new ownership.

Will TUST be part of the new ownership model?
Not sure. They were going to be part of Michael Westcott’s old ownership model, before he got told his bid wasn’t the preferred one. Then Torquay United Supporters’ Trust were going to try to raise enough money to have a 50% stake in the club. The thing is, that plan might have changed since the Bryn Consortium was given the green light to start talking. That idea seems to have not been mentioned since...

There are of course many, many more questions, concerns, considerations. But for now, these are perhaps the pressing ones. We are heading into a summer of uncertainty, but it feels more positive now that the Bryn crew are making the future of Torquay United their business.

What happens if this bid fails?
This is probably the last chance. This bid fails and I reckon we are looking at some kind of pheonix club – but one still playing at Plainmoor at least. Lower down the football pyramid, but still at Plainmoor – as long as Torbay Council keep their promise. But let’s not think negative thoughts right now.
Keep the faith, keep your fingers crossed, and keep an eye on Devon Live for any further updates.

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