Martin Ling retains fondness for Exeter City but yellow is his colour for derby
Exeter City was his first professional club, where he spent six years before setting off on a career which reached a peak in the Premier League, but now Torquay United manager Martin Ling insists: "When I bleed now, I bleed yellow and blue, not red and white!"
In the week of Saturday's npower League Two Devon derby between the Gulls and the Grecians at Plainmoor, London-born Ling revealed: "I first went to Exeter when I was a 14-year-old lad, and I stayed there until I was 20.
"I had six years there, and when somewhere is your first club, you always have a little affinity with them.
"Exeter is one of the first scores I look for, along with my other clubs, but more now because they're in the same division as ourselves.
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"I've always understood the rivalry there, between the two sets of fans. But, as far as I'm concerned, it's definitely them and us now."
Ling played 117 Football League games for City, scoring 17 goals, before moving on to his first spell with Swindon Town in 1986.
He also played for Southend United, Leyton Orient, plus Brighton and Hove Albion , but it was in his second stint at Swindon, from 1991 to '96, that he and his Plainmoor assistant Shaun Taylor, who also started out at Exeter, helped the Robins into the Premiership under Glenn Hoddle in 1993.
Ling stresses that he is not looking at Saturday's derby in isolation.
"I know for the fans that the derbies against Exeter and Plymouth [at Home Park on Boxing Day] are a highlight of the season," he said. "But I see it as four big games over the Christmas and New Year period with 12 points available in a very short time which can have a huge bearing on the season as a whole.
"The way things go over the next four games will have a big influence on league positions for a while."
United are hopeful that forward Billy Bodin will be fit to face Exeter after his ankle ligament injury, especially in the wake of the fractured rib and punctured lung which Ryan Jarvis sustained in last Saturday's 1-1 draw with Northampton Town.
However, Ling has still decided not to offer a contract to former Leicester City, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Denizlispor (Turkey) forward Eric Odhiambo, after the free agent spent a two-week trial with United.