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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 August 2007, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Buckle happy beside the seaside
By Pete Oliver

Paul Buckle
Buckle moved to Torquay after ending his third spell with Exeter
New Torquay United manager Paul Buckle is intent on restoring the good name of the Gulls - now that he has got over the shock of his Plainmoor return.

Buckle spent 18 months as a player at Torquay a decade ago, so when chief executive Colin Lee offered him the chance to spearhead a revival it was a challenge he readily accepted.

"I had a good job at Exeter (as assistant manager). We had gone close last year and were looking to build on that this season and go that one step further and gain promotion," Buckle told BBC Sport.

"But everything here appealed to me, the opportunity to start my managerial career at a club I knew from the past."

Unfortunately for Buckle, times had changed and what he found following his appointment at the start of June was a club down on its luck following a disastrous year which saw the Gulls relegated from the Football League last season.

The fact that they had been through three managers and as many chairmen only added to the level of farce that would not have looked out of place at the resort's fictitious Fawlty Towers.

"The first thing I looked at was the pitch and it reflected the club. It was on its last legs, tired and worn out," Buckle said.

If I knew then what I know now I'm not sure I would have taken the job

Paul Buckle
"The pitch needed sorting but we had no groundsman and the training facilities at Newton Abbot, which are nice facilities, had had no care and didn't look like training facilities.

"It wasn't like the club I had known back in the 1990s.

"Looking back, if I knew then what I know now I'm not sure I would have taken the job. There were so many things that needed doing."

Fortunately for Buckle, he had the backing of former Wolves and Walsall manager Lee, who had restored order off the pitch by bringing in new owners and a new board.

But it was still a daunting task for the 36-year-old former Exeter player-coach, who was persuaded to end a third stint at St James Park which had been dotted around spells with Brentford, Colchester, Aldershot and Weymouth.

"You felt you were going from one thing to another but ultimately I had to get a squad in place," Buckle added.

"We had four players but I didn't want to rush in and not get the right players and then be working for nine months with players who weren't up to it.

Chris Todd and Tony Bedeau
Chris Todd and Tony Bedeau were among Buckle's summer recruits
"I had to work at a pace to get the right players and the right people in."

And attracting players was not easy, given Torquay's recent reputation.

"Not many players and agents wanted to speak to us because of what had gone on before," Buckle said.

"It was a circus last year and players are worried about that, that it's all going to fall over.

"I had to instil a belief in them that this was brand new and had to sell to the players that I wouldn't be here if I didn't think we had a chance.

"There are no guarantees, because it is new. But we are all pulling together."

Buckle looks to have recruited well with proven non-League top-flight performers like Chris Hargreaves, Tim Sills and Kevin Nicholls added to the hard core of survivors in Matthew Hockley, Steve Woods, Lee Mansell and the long-serving Kevin Hill.

Striker Tony Bedeau also returned from Walsall, while Buckle wasted no time in buying the ex-Exeter pair of forward Lee Phillips and defensive leader Chris Todd from his former club.

"We have got a willing bunch and every day in training they want to learn," Buckle said.

"I wanted to create an environment where players look forward to coming to work and where the staff and I find it difficult to get them off the training field.

Now we have got a football club to be proud of

Paul Buckle
"That is happening because they players have been so enthusiastic. They also have the support of the fans. They are believing and there is now a good feeling about the club."

A new groundsman was also appointed in June to lick the playing and training surfaces into shape and between himself and Lee, Buckle has overseen a total overhaul of working practices.

Any doubts have vanished and while it remains early days, an unbeaten start to the season underlines the impression that under Buckle, Torquay are getting serious again.

He said: "Whole new structures needed to be put in place on and off the field and we're now somewhere near where we wanted to be.

"When I work I have to be organised and have plans set out. Now everybody knows what they are doing and I think that will serve us well.

"It was so unprofessional, scruffy and untidy. Now we have got a football club to be proud of, although we are nowhere near the finished article and that includes the team."

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