Kevin Nicholson, manager of Vanarama National league club Torquay United, has now spoken to his entire squad with his view on their future at Plainmoor.
Two players have been released, two return to their parent club, two have a contract in place for next season and the rest have either been given a definitive new contract offer or a period of grace for both parties to consider their options.
The first week of the close season is a notoriously anxious time for players up and down the country.
“There is no denying it was an incredibly tough final six weeks to the season and I’m just very proud of the players for standing up to the pressure of a relegation fight, and playing with courage, on and off the ball,” said Nicholson. “Winning the last three games was obviously a terrific achievement and our form generally at the end was very good, backed by magnificent support from the Yellow Army. When we needed them most, our fans were at their very best, and noisiest.
“I have now held the initial close season talks with the owner Clarke Osborne and I feel hugely enthusiastic for the summer ahead. I have also held discussions with general manager Geoff Harrop and our head of recruitment Dave Hedges, which has all helped to give me a clear pathway to build a strong squad.”
The first place to start on the list is a farewell to loan players Jamie Reid and Jordan Lee, who both return to their respective parent clubs of Exeter City and AFC Bournemouth.
“Jamie has been with us the entire season and gave every ounce for the United cause,” said Nicholson. “He is a Torquay lad and played with great passion for his hometown club.
“Jordan joined us late in the campaign and, after a tough debut at home to Woking, he slowly grew into his surroundings. His performances from the right flank over the final month were truly outstanding, culminating in a hugely impressive man of the match display against North Ferriby United on the final day.”
Two players who can enjoy their summer break without the worries of contract talks are the midfield duo of Damon Lathrope and Sam Chaney, who now move into the second year of their agreements at Torquay.
“Damon has had to battle back from a long injury over the winter and showed with his performances over the closing months of the campaign that he will again be a fantastic asset to our midfield, providing the anchor for others around him to pour forward,” said Nicholson. “Sam is still a very young player but he is growing in experience with every season. We all know he is blessed with wonderful natural talent in his feet and I will be pushing for next year to be the time he really comes of age.”
The two lads saying goodbye are Ben Gerring and youngster Charlie Duke, who have been released by the club to pursue their careers elsewhere, while Will Hancox is considering a non-contract offer.
“Ben has been a true warrior for Torquay and I know how proud he was to represent his home-town club,” said Nicholson. “He is such an infectious character, a courageous defender and none of us will ever forget his dramatic winner against Forest Green Rovers on Boxing Day.
“Charlie Duke and Will Hancox have both been victims of circumstance. They are very talented young players but it was so hard to give them game-time in the midst of a desperate fight against relegation.
“Charlie will go back to his native north-west and I am sure he will achieve success in the game. Will is a local lad and, therefore, it was easier to offer him non-contract terms with the club but without being on the budget.
“I know that may seem harsh but one of the lessons I have learned over my first two years of management is the need to scrutinise every decision from both a football and financial perspective. We have a real chance to be a force next season and the door is still open for Will to become part of our journey.”
The players offered a new contract at Plainmoor include Luke Young, Brendan Moore, Sean McGinty, Ruairi Keating, Courtney Richards, Aman Verma and Dan Sparkes.
“While I obviously won’t disclose the nature of the offers given to this group, I see them all as integral figures in building strong foundations at the club,” said Nicholson. “Youngy is an obvious place to start and after such a cruel run with injuries, it was a special moment to see him pick up the player of the season award.
“Plain and simple, Luke is a very good footballer.
“His attitude through the dark times of injury and the hard work put in with our physio Gareth Law finally reaped their reward. We now await Luke’s decision but I know we would all love to see him remain as the heartbeat of a bright future at Torquay United.
“Brendan Moore was another easy decision and a goalkeeper developing into one of the very best in our league. Brendan is a great lad and a leader with his performances, and his terrific positive attitude around the club.
“Sean McGinty thoroughly deserved his Young Player of the Season prize and I see him as a potential future captain of the Torquay United. I know people are often surprised by his young age but Gints is learning all the time, and a proper defender.
“I think the whole Yellow Army has been impressed with Keating since he forced his way into the squad and Ruairi scored some massive goals in our survival bid. He brings energy, enthusiasm and quality in front of goal. He absolutely deserves a full contract and I hope it is with us.
“Courtney Richards is now a long-term servant of the club and my captain through some difficult times over the first half of the season. Injury cruelly ended his campaign early but Courts is a leader, a tenacious midfielder and a player you want in the trenches for a scrap.
“The versatility of Aman Verma has been massive for us and I think people under-estimate how difficult it can be adjusting to full-back from centre-midfield, and vice versa. Verms is a brilliant lad around the group, the type of person and player we want for the new season.
“Sparkesy is a real talent and the stats will tell you he is one of the leading players for assists in the whole division. He is blessed with a special left-foot and gives the side real balance. If we can add a few more goals to his repertoire, Sparkesy has the ingredients to really progress.”
The final group of players within the squad are in a middle ground where both parties are looking to consider their options before a firm commitment is made by either side.
These players include Giancarlo Gallifuoco, Brett Williams, Shaun Harrad, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner and Myles Anderson.
Nicholson added: “First of all, I want to make it very clear that any one of these players would be a valuable asset to our squad for next season and the door definitely remains open for a possible new deal at Torquay United.
“Giancarlo has been so important for us with his ability to play at right-back and centre-back. He has the class of a player who has grown up in a Premier League academy and a young man developing with the physical rigours of football in the National League.
“When it really mattered, Brett came in with the goals that kept us in the division. His performances against Braintree and Dover were massive for the club, and we all know he is a special finisher. It is now time to reflect before deciding the next path for Brett, but if he does re-sign for United, we know there are guaranteed goals in the squad.
“Shaun Harrad came back to us at a time of real need in January and his workrate remains fantastic. Shaun brings the calmness of experience to our young squad and he can still score goals at this level. The next decision is where Shaun sees his career going over the next couple of years.
“Rowe-Turner, or Snoop as we know him, has been a friend and team-mate of mine for many years. I know from first-hand experience the challenge of playing at left-back and his form over the last two months has been at the level I know he can achieve. If he stays, Snoop will keep getting better.
“Myles is another of those to join us when our season was in a desperate situation and his attitude has been outstanding from the start. He has put his head in where it hurts, formed an excellent partnership with McGinty and scored the goals to ensure our survival on the final day.
“The coming weeks will naturally bring a lot more clarity and I await with great interest the response of the players to these initial discussions.
“At the same time, we all know football is a progressive game and I have worked on a comprehensive list of targets with Geoff and Dave Hedges. It is going to be a fascinating summer and I can’t wait”.