Gulls pledge to restore youth scheme

Former Under-18s striker Olaf Koszela became a pro last season Photo: Sean Hernon/PPAUK

Former Under-18s striker Olaf Koszela became a pro last season Photo: Sean Hernon/PPAUK - Credit: Sean Hernon/PPAUK

Manager Gary Johnson says he and his staff at Torquay United are determined to restore the club's youth scheme to its former status – and there has never been a more important time to do it.

The Gulls, who have given pro contracts to four local teenagers over the last 18 months, have made the galvanisation of their youth operation a major priority this summer, alongside completing a squad to challenge for promotion back to the Football League next season.

Johnson said: 'The way the game is going now, with the new financial pressures that all clubs are under, it is even more important to work very hard on your youth programme.

'The bigger clubs' Academies are funded but we are still determined to improve our own scheme every year unti we can move it into a fully-fledged Academy.'

Former Under-18s striker Olaf Koszela and defender Louie Slough became pros last season, and United have just given similar deals to midfielder JJ Evans and left-back Owen Price, both out of their close link with South Devon College and youth coach Chris Todd.

'A lot of great work has already been done here, but we have certainly got to improve and we are committed to doing it,' said Johnson, who was Academy director of Watford during a 30-year career in coaching and management.

'You have got to have a vision for the future, and there are two main aims.

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'First, to have a pride in playing for Torquay United at all ages, with everybody believing in the structure and the programme.

'Second, if you look after a lad over several years, you hope that he maintains his quality and potential to go through to the pro ranks.

'Even if a young player doesn't make it as a pro in the end, we need to help him grow into a good adult that we can still be proud of.

'I always say - you have to earn a reputation, and then you guard it with your life.'