Knill more than happy to play loan market in search of quality
No doubt the brows were as furrowed as usual at this week's monthly Plainmoor board meeting. When you are trying to make ends meet at a club like Torquay United, it is a never-ending battle against the odds, on and off the field.
The directors will probably have been cheered up a little when manager Alan Knill told them what sort of wages they are having to shell out for his two latest loan signings, Ade Azeez and Anthony O'Connor, from Championship clubs Charlton Athletic and Blackburn Rovers respectively.
Football's finances have been grossly distorted by the obscene amounts of TV-fuelled money being paid in the Premier League, although Manchester City's Middle Eastern owners must have wondered what sort of value they are getting as they watched their multi-millionaires being given the runaround by Bayern Munich this week.
One of the more helpful spin-offs of the madness at the top of the game is that higher level clubs are pretty keen to ease their wage bills at least a little, and give their younger players much-needed experience of the real world, by pushing them out on loan. And they are eager to pick up most of the tab.
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Different managers see this scenario differently, and United's former boss Martin Ling made no secret of the fact he was a reluctant dipper into the loan market. He distrusted the here today-gone tomorrow feel of the deals. Fair enough.
Knill sees loans as a way of accessing quality that he almost certainly could not afford normally, and he already has three loan players on his books. His opponent at Plainmoor today, York's Nigel Worthington, has five.
Discussing his search for a replacement for the injured Aaron Downes this week, Knill revealed: "As it happened, there was definitely no shortage of offers. Clubs have been throwing players at us in recent weeks."
So Torquay United have been able to pick up Azeez and O'Connor for a fraction of their full wage-packet. The key to "buying" in the loan market is knowing the players, and that's only done by long hours of travelling and research.
Knill, who was based in Sheffield until he moved to Torbay, and his assistant Chris Brass, who lives in the Bay during the week but whose family is still in Lancashire, pride themselves on having seen almost every pro or semi-pro player worth the mention, outside the top Premier League first teams. And they know most of them too.
From several scouting missions, long before they signed him this week, they know O'Connor's strengths and weaknesses as well as he does himself. And they first took note of Azeez's ability in a Bristol City v Charlton Athletic Under-21 midweek game at Ashton Gate last season.
If they have any doubts about a player's potential, they have also developed a wide network of trusted friends and advisers.
They are no different to most managers in the Football League, but when you are working at this end of the country, it's even more important.
When the late Tony Boyce, who was the respected chairman of United for 20 years, was asked for the quality he looked for most in a Torquay manager, he replied: "Contacts – and lots of them."
They can pay off on the pitch. And these days they can save money off it.