Steve talks about 2007 and Leroy’s very brief 2nd spell as manager!
LEROY’S 10 MINUTES
Leroy Rosenior is one of six managers to win a promotion with Torquay United and he is also the Gulls’ fourth longest serving post-war boss behind Paul Buckle, Mike Green and Gary Johnson.
However, he is probably best remembered by many football fans for his infamous – and unwanted – ten minute spell in charge during the summer of 2007.
The previous 2006-07 season had been a campaign of great instability for United; Chairman Mike Bateson had handed over the reins to Chris Roberts, which proved to be a period of turbulence for the club. During the four months of his chairmanship, Roberts introduced an anti-diving policy which was christened as the ‘Torquay Initiative’. The policy stated that players would be sacked for diving if they committed the offence three times. Although some sections of the media praised Roberts for his stance on something regarded by many as cheating, others weren’t quite so enthusiastic.
Roberts also pushed for a potential stadium move for the club from Plainmoor to the Recreation Ground on Torquay seafront – the home of Torquay Athletic Rugby Football Club – and even met with the then Mayor of Torbay Nick Bye to discuss his proposals.
He offered Ian Atkins the position of Director of Football, which he declined. Atkins subsequently left the club to be replaced as manager by former Czech international Lubos Kubik. He had enjoyed a successful playing career representing Czechoslovakia in Italia 90 and the Czech Republic in Euro 96, but the only managerial experience he had was from a spell in Poland with Slask Wroclaw.
Kubik’s arrival tied in with another of Roberts’ ideas which was to bring in young players from the Czech Republic and Poland, but Kubik soon realised that the foreign players that the Gulls could afford were not good enough for League Two football. Following a home defeat against Macclesfield Town on 30th December 2006 Kubik admitted: “We need English players.”
During January 2007 Colin Lee returned to the club to work alongside Kubik, as the Gulls set a club record of 19 games without a win. The partnership of Lee and Kubik would last just under a month. Following Kubik’s sacking in early February 2007, Lee assumed the role of Director of Football and former Gulls’ defender Keith Curle was drafted in as head coach.
Curle had played for United during the 1983-84 season when he was brought to Plainmoor from Bristol Rovers for £5,000 by Bruce Rioch. He was later sold to Bristol City for £10,000 before going on to play for Wimbledon, Manchester City and England.
Lee and Curle’s efforts to turn the Gulls’ fortunes around were severely hampered before they had even started. The sale of Jamie Ward to Chesterfield for £95,000 on the final day of the January 2007 transfer window had robbed the Gulls of their star player. Financial constraints also meant that the duo were forced to dip into the loan market for the majority of their signings.
Also against the backdrop of this, the club’s Supporters Trust declared a vote of no confidence in Roberts’ ability to lead the club. Off-the-field matters later came to a head on 10th February 2007, when vice-chairman Mervyn Benney and fellow directors Ian Hayman and Brian Palk resigned from the United board in protest at the way Roberts was running the club.
Torbay MP Adrian Sanders also voiced his concerns and called on Roberts to find an honourable way of leaving the club. Indeed, Roberts did eventually stand down as chairman on 21st February 2007, and a day later local hotelier Keith Richardson was appointed as his successor in a bid to stabilise the club. Whilst he was in charge, Richardson staged a public meeting at the English Riviera Centre to discuss the situation surrounding the club with the fans.
Bateson later regained control of the club from Roberts’ consortium, who had initially purchased 34% of Bateson’s 85% stake in United, on 7th March 2007, after they failed to meet the latest payment of their staged buy out of the club, and replaced Richardson as chairman. Benney, Hayman and Palk also returned as directors.
Unfortunately, Lee and Curle weren’t able to salvage the situation on the field, as relegation was confirmed with a 1-1 draw with Peterborough United in the Gulls’ penultimate home game of the season.
Once the campaign had ended, Bateson announced that he didn’t wish to continue as owner of United. Nevertheless, Curle’s contract wasn’t renewed and Lee was made redundant from his role as Director of Football and he needed to appoint a manager.
Bateson then turned to Rosenior and in Rosenior’s 2017 autobiography, It’s Only Banter, he recalls the then United owner saying to him: “What I need is someone to come in and look after it for me. I trust you and I’d like you to come in and oversee things until I find a buyer. It could be six months, it could be a fortnight. What do you say?”
Rosenior then promptly said yes and a press conference was then hastily arranged with him being unveiled as manager, alongside chief scout John Milton. It is also worth mentioning that United only had four players under contract at this point – centre back Steve Woods, midfielders Kevin Hill and Lee Mansell and striker Lee Thorpe.
Unbeknownst to Rosenior, several members of a local consortium who were looking to buy the club, headed by Alex Rowe – who would later become chairman, were meeting with Bateson at his home in Coffinswell. Bateson had previously turned down a bid from the consortium, who also included Cris and Mark Boyce – the sons of former chairman Tony Boyce – and lottery winner Paul Bristow. However, on this occasion they agreed a deal to buy Bateson’s majority stake in the club thus becoming the new owners of Torquay United Football Club.
Once the press conference had concluded, Rosenior recalls receiving a call from Bateson in his autobiography. He said: “It’s Mike, Leroy, you’re not going to believe this.” Rosenior replied, “What, Mike?” He then told Leroy the news, “I’ve sold the club.” Initially thinking Bateson was joking, he said: “You’re winding me up, Mike.” Bateson then replied,” I’m not. The consortium interested saw the press conference on the television and realised, having appointed you, I was serious about keeping the club and they’ve agreed to terms. I’ve sold it. Oh, and they want their own manager.”
And with that Rosenior had gone down in history as having the shortest managerial reign in English football of ten minutes. The following Friday also saw him appear as one of the answers on the Odd One Out round on the satirical quiz show Have I Got News For You.
The consortium then unveiled Paul Buckle, who had left his role as assistant manager of Exeter City, as the Gulls new manager, with Colin Lee also returning to the club as Chief Executive.
Two years later, the Gulls returned to the Football League after beating Cambridge United 2-0 in the Blue Square Premier play-off final at Wembley.
Rosenior went onto become a highly successful TV pundit, appearing on Setanta and the BBC’s Football League Show amongst others, and was awarded an MBE in 2018 for his anti-racism campaigning.
One thought on “MEMORY LANE – LEROY’S 10 MINUTE TENURE by Steve Harris”
Surely Eric Webber is our longest serving post war manager and I would imagine Frank O’Farrrell fits into the top four somewhere.