The news that Torquay United are cranking up their youth operation makes absolute sense in a post-Covid era when money is likely to be tighter than ever and the business of developing ‘in-house’ talent has seldom been more important.

The Gulls, who have twice shut their schemes in cost-cutting moves, do not have the same financial Academy backing that Football League (EFL) clubs do.

But the evidence is clear - whenever United have committed themselves to ‘youth’ and stuck with it, the results have come.

In many ways the original ‘father’ of youth development at Plainmoor was manager Eric Webber, who started an ‘A’ team which first gave a chance to local teenagers like the Northcott brothers, Tommy and George, Graham Bond and Ernie Pym.

All of them were in the 1959-60 team which won the club’s first-ever promotion from the old Fourth Division.

During the 1960s the story continued with ‘apprentices’ like brothers Kenny and Phil Sandercock and 400-game club ‘legend’ Ian Twitchin and in the 1970s with Steve Morrall, Richard Goslin and Maurice Cox.

The 1980s saw the likes of Robbie Herrera, Jimmy Smith, Ian Bastow, John Morrison and Mark Loram, who both played in the Sherpa Van Trophy Final at Wembley in 1989.

The old Youth Training Scheme (YTS) had its first major financial ‘hit’ when Lee Sharpe was sold to Manchester United for £185,000 in 1988, but from then on the successes came thick and fast.

The list includes players like Paul Hall (Portsmouth), Chris Curran (Plymouth), Chris Myers (Dundee Utd), Darren Moore, Duane Darby and Scott Colcombe (Doncaster), Scott Stamps (Colchester), Garry Monk (Southampton), Matthew Gregg (Crystal Palace), Wayne Thomas (Stoke), Mike Williamson (Southampton) and, after a lengthy closure from 2004 onwards, finally Liam Prynn, who was sold to Aston Villa for £50,000 in 2013.

That lot, many of them proteges of youth coach Paul Compton, generated transfer fees totalling almost £1.5 million!

And they don’t include more lads - Ellis Laight, Tony Bedeau (350+ games), Steve Tully, Matt Hockley, Leon Hapgood, Ryan Northmore etc - who all made it through to the first team.