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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 March 2007, 09:48 GMT
Can Curle save Torquay?
By Chris Bevan

Torquay United head coach Keith Curle
You don't buy team spirit in the bar, it comes from working hard together

Torquay head coach Keith Curle

"Paul Ince said at the weekend that he has a five-year plan at Macclesfield - mine is more like five minutes."

Given that Torquay United are on to their third manager - and third chairman - of the season, it is probably for the best that the Gulls' current head coach Keith Curle is not getting ahead of himself just yet.

It has been a chaotic campaign behind the scenes at Plainmoor and predictably that has spilled on to the pitch too.

Torquay have been bottom of League Two since Boxing Day and are eight points from safety.

So what was Curle - a former England international defender who has managed at Mansfield and Chester City - thinking when he arrived at the club to help director of football Colin Lee on 8 February?

"I came into the job with my eyes wide open," Curle told BBC Sport. "I knew then it was going to be a massive task to stay up - and nothing has changed.

"Results have not been as we'd have liked but the way the players have responded has been very encouraging."

"And Colin and I have managed to give the football side of the club a foundation and installed the work ethic we both wanted."

Ian Atkins 13 Apr-23 Nov
Lubos Kubik 23 Nov- 5 Feb
Colin Lee (dir of football) 7 Feb-
Keith Curle (head coach) 8 Feb-

The drop down from the Football League to the Conference is a big one - and, with time against the Gulls, Curle admits he has had to sacrifice some of his footballing ideals as he looks for the answers to his side's problems.

"Every manager and coach has their own ideas," Curle explained. "Unfortunately what you can't do is walk in and make sweeping changes within the first two or three weeks.

"The first thing you have to do as a coach is identify the ability levels within the squad which is what we have been doing for the last couple of weeks.


"You can't think about how you are going play before you get there either - because the players at the club may not be suited to that style. What you have got to do is very quickly find a formula that suits the playing staff at the club.

Just as important as tactics when it comes to staying up will be team spirit, something Curle knows the importance of from his days as part of the 'Crazy Gang' at Wimbledon.

"That mentality came about from a special group of players," Curle said. "But you don't buy team spirit in the bar, it comes from working hard together - and bonding at the club.

"The one thing that you want wherever you are is leaders in the dressing room.

"That is what we are trying to implement at the minute - players taking responsibility not only for their own cause but for the cause of the football team.

"If players are doing more than looking after themselves then it is only going to help the club."

And things are starting to improve - albeit slowly.

The Gulls' 1-1 draw at Chester on 2 March was the first point the Gulls have picked up since Curle came on board - but with only one league win in the bag since 16 September they cannot afford to be picky.

And the way his side got that result at the Deva Stadium - a last-minute penalty equaliser by Lee Thorpe - gives Curle encouragement that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dim and distant.

"It has been well-documented that we have spent most of this season conceding goals in the last couple of minutes, so it was nice to have a change in fortune," he added.

"It was also nice to be finishing the game on the front foot trying to score goals and that is down to the attitude of the players. It is a big ask for them but they are prepared to rise to the challenge and you can't ask for any more than that."

Mike Bateson 1990-13 Oct
Chris Porter 13 Oct-23 Feb
Keith Richardson 23 Feb-

Another positive is that Torquay have been here before - last season Ian Atkins arrived late in the season with the club six points from safety and he kept them up.

But while it is clear Curle still believes he can emulate Atkins and beat the drop, his fate remains as uncertain as his team's.

His contract only runs until the end of the season and he explained: "Colin is here on a three-year contract and I am here until the summer - that is as far as it has gone.

"When the last ball has been kicked this season then it will be time for Colin and myself to sit down and talk about what will happen next but until then we are only looking at the next game or the next training session."

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