Tag Archive: Alan Knill



Relegation-battling Torquay United look set to finalise deals for at least one, and possibly two attacking players before Saturday’s trip to Southend United. The Gulls this afternoon confirmed that they had reached an agreement to sign Sheffield United winger Jordan Chapell on loan until the end of the season, while just hours previously, former Torquay striker Taiwo Atieno hinted on his Twitter account that a return to Plainmoor could be on the cards.

21-year-old Chapell, able to play both on the wing and as a striker, joins straight from Sheffield United’s reserves. The youngster only made his league debut for the club’s senior side in December, and has only made one other appearance in League One this season. Finding first-team opportunities limited at Bramall Lane, Chapell was loaned to Torquay’s fourth-tier rivals Burton Albion in October, scoring just three minutes into his debut against Port Vale, just hours after the move was finalised.

Jordan Chapell joins on loan until the end of the season

Four appearances in all competitions for Burton followed, but was recalled in early December by his parent club after The Blades suffered injuries to several other wingers. This paved the way for Chapell’s league debut on 29 December in a 3-2 defeat to Hartlepool, but the youngster has been consigned to the club’s youth team and reserves ever since.

Since taking over the managerial reigns at Torquay in February, Alan Knill has preferred to use forward Ryan Jarvis on the right-wing, with Billy Bodin occupying the left-hand side of midfield. However, Bodin will miss crucial games against Chesterfield and York next week after being included in the Wales under-21 squad, and Knill may also have to move Jarvis up-front to replace the ineligible Benyon, who is unlikely to be able to face parent club Southend.

Knill revealed that his northern base helped him to spot Chapell several months ago, and was clearly pleased to have got his man: “Jordan is quick, direct and the important part is that he knows the league – he was out on loan at Burton and did really well. I live in Sheffield and when the United youth team had a good cup run, I watched a lot of their games and Jordan was one of their outstanding players,” adding that the Chapell “can play either wing or behind the striker, and he is technically very good.”

Although Torquay have yet to confirm it, ex-Gulls forward Taiwo Atieno today claimed on his Twitter page that he was “going back to Torquay”, matching Knill’s belief that the club needed to add “another new face at the top end of the pitch before Saturday”.  Kenyan international Atieno joined United in July 2011 in a one-year deal, and despite helping The Gulls to an impressive fifth-placed finish in 2011-12, scoring six times in 43 league appearances, he was released at the end of the season.

Taiwo Atieno could be on course for a return to Plainmoor

Jarvis was the cause of Atieno’s release then, with manager Martin Ling – currently absent through a long-term illness – admitting that he could only choose one of the two forwards due to budget constraints. He chose Jarvis, saying: “It came down to a flat choice between Tai and Ryan Jarvis. I feel I’ve had the peak of Tai but not the peak of Ryan Jarvis, and I feel the peak of Jarvis will be better. I only had the money to keep one of the two and that was the big issue.”

Atieno then chose to take several months out of football, returning from his half-season hiatus in late December to join a struggling but Edgar Davids-inspired Barnet side. However, the 27-year-old went on to make just four appearances for The Bees, netting his only goal for the club in the 2-0 victory over Barnet on 5 January. He left the club by mutual consent on 1 February, but challenged claims that he had been released, revealing “Due to personal reasons I have decided to take time out from football…I opted not to sign a new deal at Barnet and I chose to leave on my own accord.”

Knill had last week made room for new arrivals by loaning out wingers Saul Halpin and Karl Baker to Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division outfit Bideford Town and lending central defender Kirtys MacKenzie to Taunton Town of the Evo-Stik Division 1 South & West league. However, Aaron Downes’ red card in Torquay’s 2-2 draw at Dagenham yesterday – in which The Gulls played with 10 men for 86 minutes – and subsequent suspension means Knill may have to add another defender on loan or recall MacKenzie almost immediately.

Chapell becomes Knill’s second signing for United following the loan acquisition of Notts County midfielder Joss Labadie last week. Labadie made his debut in the 3-1 home reverse against Oxford on Saturday and scored his first goal for the club in yesterday’s game.

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Labadie Loan Lends Lift


Alan Knill has today completed his first signing as Torquay United’s interim manager, adding Notts County midfielder Joss Labadie to the club’s confidence-hit squad. Labadie joins on a loan deal until the end of the season, and Knill will be hoping the 22-year-old can help United avoid the drop in a tense run-in to the campaign.

Croydon-born Labadie arrives with a fine footballing pedigree, having come through the youth system at West Bromwich Albion to sign a professional contract with the Hawthorns club in 2008. As a teenager at a Premier League club, loan spells further down the football pyramid inevitably followed, and Labadie enjoyed two stints at Shrewsbury Town in 2009. His second loan at the Greenhous Meadow was infinitely more successful, with the midfielder netting a 30-yard free-kick in his first game back at the club, and going on to record five goals from 12 league games from the middle of the park.

Unfortunately, his relationship with Shrews boss Paul Simpson was less smooth, and following a 40-minute dressing room lock-in after an FA Cup defeat to Staines Town in late 2009, Labadie was sent back to the Midlands, with Simpson explaining “I’ve been disappointed with his recent attitude.”

Labadie has struggled to break into Notts County’s starting XI this season

First-team football at his parent club remained elusive and Joss was forced to settle for temporary stays at Cheltenham Town and Tranmere Rovers, the latter stint resulting in a permanent contract in July 2010 following Labadie’s release by West Brom. Despite becoming a regular fixture in his first season at Prenton Park, and still making over 30 appearances in his second campaign, he was released by the Merseyside outfit at the end of the 2011-12 season.

Tranmere’s loss proved to be League One rivals Notts County’s gain, with ex-Torquay boss Keith Curle signing the 6 foot 3 in youngster last summer on a one-year deal with an option of a second year. Just four league starts have followed, with Labadie struggling to hold down a regular place in a talented County midfield also containing the likes of playmaker Alan Judge, captain Neal Bishop and Trinidad & Tobago international Andre Boucaud.

Although Labadie has shown signs of promise and impressed County fans in some of his 16 cameo appearances from the bench, the player appears eager to play regular first-team football, and the loan move suits both him and the club – the Magpies are thought to be looking to slash their wage bill as the end of the season approaches. With it unknown whether County will choose to keep Labadie on for another year, the midfielder will be looking to use his loan spell at Plainmoor to put himself in the shop window for League One and Two clubs.

Torquay have struggled for quality and creativity in midfield this season, with playmaker Eunan O’Kane leaving for AFC Bournemouth at the start of the season and captain Lee Mansell struggling to emulate his fine goalscoring form of 2011-12.  Manager Martin Ling, his assistant Shaun Taylor – who took over in February due to Ling’s illness – and current boss Alan Knill have generally preferred to parter the industrious Mansell with a defensive midfielder like Damon Lathrope or Craig Easton. To the dismay of the club’s supporters, Welshman Nathan Craig, believed by many to be the most creative player in the squad, has been deployed on the right-hand side of midfield (despite being left-footed) and even left out of the matchday squad in recent weeks.

Knill is thought to be looking for further additions before the visit of Oxford on Saturday

Knill will be hoping that Labadie can add some much-needed quality and help United in their battle to survive in League Two; he hailed Labadie as a “big powerful player who can also pass the ball,” adding “He has always been someone that I thought I’d like to sign and never really had the opportunity.” County have a 24-hour recall on the midfielder after an initial 28-day stay in Devon.

United’s interim boss also confirmed that Labadie, his first signing for the club, would go “straight into the squad” for Saturday’s clash with Oxford United. Further loan arrivals may also be on the cards, as the Western Morning News today reported that Knill was looking to free up wages and squad space by loaning young wingers Saul Halpin and Karl Baker to Bideford and first-year pro Kirtys MacKenzie to Taunton Town, whilst simultaneously concentrating on “another forward signing”.

BBC Sport’s Brent Pilnick similarly expects Knill to make further additions in the coming days, revealing that he believes “at least one more” player will join United before the end of the week. That can only be good news for Torquay who need all the help they can get, having gone without a win since the 1-0 Devon derby victory over Exeter City on 28 January.


Torquay United finally ended their mammoth seven-game losing streak yesterday, grinding out a 0-0 draw with fellow League Two strugglers Accrington Stanley. In doing so, Torquay avoided equalling an unwanted club record of eight consecutive defeats. The club have slipped down the league table since Martin Ling’s absence through illness, and their freefall began under assistant manager Shaun Taylor’s temporary reign before the board appointed former Scunthorpe boss Alan Knill in late February in a bid to stop the rot.

United are without a win since the defeat of Exeter on 28 January, and the seven consecutive losses since that game saw the side drop from a position of mid-table anonymity into the depths of an incredibly close relegation battle. Just two points now separate the Gulls from bottom club AFC Wimbledon, and although Torquay have the best goal difference of the bottom nine clubs, they unsurprisingly have the worst form of those around them.

United goalkeeper Michael Poke helps earn a much-needed draw

United goalkeeper Michael Poke helps earn a much-needed draw

However, the point gleaned from the draw with Accrington – themselves only one point above the drop zone – should provide a much-needed injection of confidence into a United side that has scored just twice in their last five games (and even that goal was heavily deflected!) and provide a platform for further improvement. Supporters will be hoping that ex-Bury boss Knill can use his contacts at Everton and Manchester United to deliver the handful of loan signings necessary to freshen up his squad, but as new Plymouth manager John Sheridan has found out, attracting players to clubs based in the South West is more of a challenge than some would imagine.

Indeed, despite previously  predicting new signings to arrive before the Accrington game, Knill admitted earlier this week: “It is proving quite difficult [to sign players] but the players are definitely there. We’ve tried for about 10 players; some have said ‘no’ straightaway because the location is such that they don’t want to move.” Knill now has a full week to complete any loan deals before mid-table Oxford United visit Plainmoor next Saturday, and it is crucial that he delivers. Although goalscoring remains a huge problem, central defence cover may be a priority for Knill with key defender Aaron Downes sidelined for a further 2-3 weeks.

York have relieved Gary Mills of his duties with 10 games to go

Elsewhere in League Two, the division’s other side in freefall, newly-promoted York City, have sacked manager Gary Mills after a torrid run of 11 winless games. Mills had been in charge at Bootham Crescent since October 2010 and guided the club to both promotion from the Conference and the FA Trophy last season, but his board felt a change was necessary after this weekend’s 2-0 reverse at home to Bradford if they were to avoid an immediate return to non-league football. The club’s directors must now move quickly to appoint Mills’ successor, with York now only four points clear of the League Two trapdoor, and with limited time for the new man to turn things around.

One Knill To Torquay


League Two strugglers Torquay United yesterday announced the appointment of Alan Knill as the club’s interim manager until the end of the season. Knill will work with assistant manager Shaun Taylor, who had taken over the first-team reigns following normal boss Martin Ling’s illness which has kept him out of action since late January. Knill, a former Wales international, now has fourteen games to save Torquay from the relegation battle that they have slipped into in Ling’s absence.

Since hanging up his playing boots in 2001, Knill has managed Rotherham United, Bury and Scunthorpe United, enjoying most of his managerial success to date at Bury. The 48-year-old’s first foray into management came in January 2005 as caretaker boss of Rotherham, and despite only leading the side to two victories in his 11 games in charge, Knill was given the job permanently in December of that year. Knill was slightly more successful during his permanent spell at Millmoor, recording a win rate of 28.13%. However, was sacked by Rotherham in March 2007 after a dire run of 14 games without a win, and it took him just under a year to find another job, as manager of League Two side Bury.

Knill has a tough job on his hands at Torquay

Knill’s stay at Gigg Lane was vastly more successful, and after saving the club from relegation to the Conference after his appointment in February 2o08, he led the club to a fourth-placed finish in his 2008-09, his first full season in charge, only missing out on automatic promotion by one goal. The 2009-10 campaign followed a similar pattern until February, when a disastrous run of form saw The Shakers drop out of the promotion race and end the season in mid-table. Towards the end of 2010-11 Knill left for Championship strugglers Scunthorpe United; shortly afterwards Bury finally secured promotion to League One, with new manager Richie Barker building on the foundations that Knill had laid.

Knill could have been forgiven for soon questioning his decision to leave a Bury side on the up – his first game in charge of Scunthorpe was a 6-0 loss to Norwich – and with only eight games remaining, he was unable to prevent the second tier’s bottom club from relegation to League One. His first full season in charge culminated in a disappointing bottom-half finish, and on 29 October 2012 the club lost patience with Knill and sacked him. Two months earlier he had been lucky to escape without serious injuries after a cycling accident caused by a squirrel; his subsequent comment that “the situation we [Scunthorpe] are in at the moment, I don’t cherish, but there are worse situations” possibly led the board to believe he was not the man for another relegation battle.

However, that is exactly what Knill finds himself in now after joining Torquay, who are currently five points clear of the drop zone, having lost their last five games under makeshift boss Taylor. It’s a far cry from last season, in which Ling’s side rallied after Christmas to push for automatic promotion, only missing out on the final day of the season. Knill will inherit a squad low on confidence, and with his first game against rampant league leaders Port Vale, he will do well to avoid a repeat of his first game at the helm at Scunthorpe.

It appears that Tuesday’s 1-0 loss at fellow strugglers Aldershot Town was the final straw for United chairman Simon Baker, who had revealed Taylor had previously turned down his offer of a coach to provide assistance. One Torquay fan even claims that when asked during the defeat to Aldershot if Taylor knew “what he was doing”, Baker replied “I don’t think so, no”!

Shaun Taylor has been shown to be out of his depth in Ling’s absence

The chairman yesterday revealed that Knill’s appointment came on the back of recommendations from his former colleagues: “Alan was suggested to us by some people in the football industry,” said Baker. “We had drawn up a shortlist and we checked up on Alan with people he had worked with, and they all gave him a glowing reference.” Baker also hinted that Knill’s contacts and “good relationship[s] with Manchester United and Everton” could lead to an influx of loan players to aid Torquay’s fight for survival.

With the new man having attended the Aldershot game in order to run the rule over the club’s players, Torquay fans will be hoping Knill recognises the need to move creative midfielder Nathan Craig – too often wasted on the right-hand side, despite being left-footed – into the middle of the park, and to make more use of recent loan signing Elliot Benyon, who has been borrowed from Southend United. Despite being brought in by Taylor to score the goals needed to convert 1-0 losses into draws and victories, Benyon has played just 55 minutes, all from the bench, in the three games he has been available. Supporters will also have been encouraged by Knill’s reputation as a fan of passing football, developed at Bury – too often this season United have resorted to playing aimless long balls in the vague direction of targetman Rene Howe.

Torquay remain in the dark about the extent of Ling’s illness – although Baker vaguely revealed that the manager is “making progress”, it is still unclear whether or not he will be able to take over the reigns from Knill at the end of the season.