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Alan Knill has time on his side to emulate miraculous feat of Ian Atkins

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 23, 2013

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In 1993 it was Neil Warnock, in 2001 Colin Lee, in 2006 Ian Atkins and now, in 2013, Alan Knill has been brought in by Torquay United to stop the club sliding towards relegation from the Football League.

Warnock, Lee and Atkins all pulled off "miracles" of varying magnitude – Atkins the most remarkable of the lot – so the Gulls have been here before.

It is only fair to recall one year when it did not work. Keith Curle, in tandem with Lee, was asked to repair the wreckage, on and off the pitch, of Chris Roberts' disastrous season in charge in 2006-07. They could not do it, and United went down to the Conference.

Current chairman Simon Baker and most of his board were either around or supporting the club then and, once the decision had been taken to bring in a new man to cover for the ill Martin Ling, they knew that they had to give him enough time to do the job.

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Fourteen games will fly by – two of them in the next four days – and, unless Ling's players suddenly transform themselves and put Port Vale today and Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday to the sword, it will surely be a matter of "when" and not "if" Knill uses some of the money which Baker and his colleagues have ready to support him and goes into the loan transfer market.

United are not in as bad a position as Atkins, certainly, faced before he pulled off the greatest escape of all in 2006, winning four and drawing one of the last five games, including a 2-1 upset of champions-elect Carlisle United at Brunton Park.

But even Atkins needed a couple of point-less matches to get to grips with the situation, and nobody should expect Knill to come in and wave a magic wand over a squad which has taken only six points from 11 games and lost five on the trot.

They say that there is always one team which drops into trouble from apparent safety, and at the moment United are in jeopardy. There a couple of others, including York City, but no club is having quite as lean a spell as Torquay.

These situations are never easy and seldom comfortable. Some noses are inevitably put out of joint. On top of everything else, 16 members of the current United squad are out of contract in the summer, so jobs are on the line.

But all the pain and all the upset will be worth it if United – and Plymouth Argyle, for that matter – kick off in the Football League next August. That's the thing that counts. The only thing.

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