IT'S APPROACHING 'crunch time' as Torquay United prepare to draw up a shortlist of contenders for the vacant managership at Plainmoor.
A board meeting today is due to narrow the field down to a select group of men who will be interviewed over the next few days.
United would like to make an appointment by early next week, possibly sooner.
Chairman Simon Baker said: "We are planning to draw up a short list of, maybe, five candidates.
"Our hope is to announce the next manager by next Monday afternoon, but it may be earlier if things progress quickly.
"We've got a difficult choice, and there will be some pretty good candidates who won't get the job, which is reassuring in itself."
Some contenders have been mentioned since rumours of Paul Buckle's departure to Bristol Rovers first surfaced.
They include three former United midfield players – ex-Rovers boss Paul Trollope, Alex Russell and Chris Hargreaves – and former Gulls defender Lee Hodges.
Trollope is still away on holiday, and he remains on 'gardening leave' from Rovers, a contractual arrangement which is due to run for another six months.
Russell, who recently agreed a new one-year playing deal with League One Yeovil Town, remains a solid candidate, along with popular ex-captain Hargreaves.
Hodges has made an excellent start in management with Truro City.
But the Plainmoor vacancy has also thrown up some intriguing contenders from further afield.
Nicky Forster, 37, who was caretaker-manager at Brentford for the last three months of the season, has made little secret of his interest.
Forster enjoyed a 200-goal playing career with Gillingham, Brentford twice, Birmingham, Reading, Ipswich, Hull and Brighton before committing himself to a career in management.
He led Brentford from Andy Scott's sacking in February until the end of the season, but didn't get the job permanently there.
Ex-Ilkeston and Mansfield manager David Holdsworth, 42, is thought to have applied.
And an intriguing figure from Scotland may be Lee Bullen, 40.
Bullen enjoyed a fine playing career in several countries abroad, as well as with Dunfermline and Sheffield Wednesday, before turning to coaching at home.
Bullen has been building a reputation with Falkirk, at reserve and recently first team level.