New Torquay United manager Chris Hargreaves says he will have no hesitation in setting old friendships aside in the cause of trying to keep the Gulls in the Football League.
Former United captain Hargreaves, and his hand-picked assistant Lee Hodges, took their first training session on Tuesday, at friendly local rivals Buckland Athletic’s Homers Heath ground because Torquay’s Seale Hayne HQ is waterlogged.
The new United boss has inherited a squad which contains five players who were team-mates during his successful three years as a player at Plainmoor – skipper Lee Mansell, Kevin Nicholson, Elliot Benyon and goalkeepers Michael Poke and Martin Rice.
“It’s definitely a plus, not a minus, that I know a few of the players here, and plenty of staff as well,” Hargreaves said.
“It can only be a positive. But there’s friendship off the pitch, not on it.
“There is always an element of sentiment in football but, in the position we’re in, I’ve got to judge the players, all the players, on what they do and how they can help us.”
Hargreaves, 41, who has been tempted away from a job as first-team coach at Championship club AFC Bournemouth, admitted: “It’s a challenge, a big one, but I am prepared for that.
“I am confident that we can stay up. The training ground is the best place to be, and there is a good vibe from the players.
“It’s a fight, no doubt about that, but every player who was there at training this morning is up for that.”
Hargreaves stressed: “Team spirit can’t be under-estimated in these circumstances. You must have a mentality to achieve and to work for each other.”
Hargreaves, who captained Torquay to promotion back to the League in 2009, was also head-hunted by another of his former clubs, Northampton Town.
He said: “I was flattered to be spoken to by Northampton, but after the discussions I had with both clubs I was pretty convinced that Torquay was the club for me.
“It wasn’t so much about not moving the family, because I’ve always been prepared to move in my career – I’ve played for ten clubs, that’s the proof of that. But the times I had here were so special, and that was a big pull for me to come back.”
United play the Cobblers in a relegation six-pointer at Plainmoor in ten days’ time, and Hargreaves quipped: “The last time Northampton were here when I was a player, I scored the winner!
“I can’t do that again, but I’ll be trying everything I can to beat them as a manager.”
Hargreaves has called Hodges, 40, back into full-time football eight months after the former Plymouth Argyle and Gulls defender ended three years in charge of Truro City.
“Lee is someone I trust, and someone who has also played for this club,” he said. “He knows the game and, as well as his knowledge and coaching, he will also be a calming influence on the players.”
The first test for the new regime is a League Two trip to AFC Wimbledon this Saturday, and Hargreaves has not ruled out the possibility of a new signing in time for that match.