Kevin Nicholson faces fight to win back Torquay United first-team place from Tom Cruise
Kevin Nicholson has been left out of Torquay United's first team before, but not often during nearly six years in which he has staked a strong claim as one of the best left-backs to play for the club and a firm place in the affections of Gulls fans.
Determined to head off any potential arguments, Nicholson put himself through a demanding strength and fitness programme last summer, and he had been a league ever-present this season, missing only a Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie against Yeovil Town, as regulars often do.
So when he found himself on the substitutes' bench at Dagenham & Redbridge on Tuesday night, and Tom Cruise in his place at left-back, it didn't quite seem like just another selection "tweak".
Cruise, the young ex-Arsenal defender signed by Martin Ling eight months ago, duly played well, and now Nicholson finds himself with a fight to win "his" place back.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Wednesday, May 22 2013
It is not for the first time. Former United manager Paul Buckle, who signed him from Forest Green Rovers for the club's first season in the Conference in 2007, dropped him more than once. Each time Nicholson, with most supporters solidly behind him, forced his way back into the side.
New Gulls boss Alan Knill was well aware of the significance of his decision at Dagenham. And he has been quick to acknowledge it since.
Knill also predicts that Cruise now has to stay on top of his game to keep Nicholson at bay. "In the short time I've been here, you watch training as well as games, and Tom has been one of the stand-out players each day," he said.
"Sometimes you have to make a call. We made the call on that one, and Tom did well. I'm sure it's just a case of a rest as far as Kevin is concerned.
"Players react differently when they come out of the side. We had a frank conversation about things, but Kevin reacted positively, as I expected him to do. He's an experienced player. I'm quite sure that 'Nico' will play a big part from now to the end of the season."
The bonus for United is that, in a position which often poses problems for lower division managers, they have two left-backs who would probably command a place in most other teams in this division.