Uncertainty hangs over Torquay United drawing up list of players for next season

Joe Lewis of Torquay United Picture: Cameron Geran/PPAUK

Joe Lewis of Torquay United Picture: Cameron Geran/PPAUK - Credit: Cameron Geran/PPAUK

The business of drawing up player retained-lists and starting preparations for next season might seem an immediate and obvious option for Torquay United after the National League ended the 2019-2020 campaign ahead of this weekend's final round of matches.

But it is far from straightforward. And, in fact, players are now looking like the biggest potential 'victims' of the NL decision.

Gulls manager Gary Johnson and chief executive officer George Edwards have been discussing plans for 2020-2021 for a while now.

But not only does the Covid-19 crisis hang over the prospect of next season even starting on time, it affects areas like season-ticket prices, sponsorship and kit deals, practice matches and, crucially, players.

Most of the current squad's contracts run out on May 2, and Johnson is keen to let his players know their futures as soon as possible.

But that is complicated by the fact that all United's staff, in common with most lower division clubs, are currently 'furloughed'.

Football League (EFL) player deals do not run out until June 30. Not so National League players, who face two months in financial and employment 'limbo'.

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Johnson has hinted that he would like to retain most of his contracted players.

But under the current restrictions, the idea of offering new permanent deals is highly problematic, even if clubs with little or no revenue could afford them.

How can clubs sign any players, either retaining their own or new ones, when they don't even know when next season will start?

United were due to play their final game of 2019-2020 at faraway Hartlepool United this Saturday, with a squad numbering 16 contracted pros, plus six loanees.

Four of the 16 are believed to have contracts to next summer (2021).

Player No.17, left-back Ryan Dickson, has been on an extended loan at Truro City and it has already been announced that he will not be returning.

This season has been halted with six men on loan at Plainmoor - Joe Lewis (Swansea City), Frank Vincent (AFC Bournemouth), Jackson Longridge (Bradford City), Ade Azeez (Newport County) and Bristol City pair Connor Lemonheigh-Evans and Robbie Cundy.