Interview – Kevin Nicholson

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The United Mates Keitel and Joe are joined by Torquay United’s legendary ex-player/manager, Kevin Nicholson, to discuss his career in the National and Football leagues as well as his current role as head of coaching at Exeter City.

On Kevin’s childhood and discovering his talent:

Kevin grew up playing a variety of sports like cricket and tennis as well as football. Kevin started playing Sunday league football around the age of 9 in his hometown just outside of Derby and was soon noticed for his ability and began playing in his local district team. He says his physique helped him stand out at youth level as he was “one of those kids who started shaving when he was 12.” Back then he was a goal scoring midfielder . From there Kevin was taken into an academy at Stoke City’s school of footballing excellence.

On his earlier career:

Kevin played for Sheffield Wednesday’s youth academy under ex-England international Ricky Hill who he describes as “A legend”. Kevin says that Ricky was still probably “the best footballer at the club.” Kevin was loaned out to Forest Green Rovers(a club he would later return to) and joined Northampton Town briefly before he signed for Notts County, the oldest football club in the world. At Notts County Kevin was part of a club who hold the record for the longest ever spell in administration, 3 years . Kevin reflects on him and the squad downing tools during this unstable time at Notts County but fondly remembers the winning goal he scored on the last day of the season to rescue Notts County from relegation.

On his time with non league clubs:

Playing for Scarborough, a club which was liquidated soon after Kevin left . Meeting Delia Smith at Scarborough’s McCain stadium, otherwise known as the “chips” stadium after the famous McCain oven chips . Moving to Forest Green Rovers and enjoying their vegan pies . Scarborough have reformed since their liquidation and are working their way up the English football ladder. Forest Green Rovers are flourishing in League 2 where they fly the flag as the most progressive football club in the country, having adopted a vegan mentality at the club and even playing on an organic grass pitch. One of their owner’s in Arsenal’s Spanish defender and environmentalist, Hector Bellerin.

On Torquay United:

Kevin didn’t know much about the town of Torquay before he moved there but has since become a club legend. In his first season he would infamously lose out in the play offs to local rivals Exeter after a traumatic second leg defeat. A win would have seen Torquay return to the Football League. The club would also lose a cup final this season . Becoming the non league answer to Rory Delap with his long throws. The following year Torquay won promotion at the historic old Wembley Stadium, a highlight of Kevin’s career . Kevin was then forced out of the team in League 2 and made the decision to practice twice as hard so as to at least secure a future elsewhere at the end of the season.. but, as the club became relegation threatened he was brought back into the side and managed to find a new level to his game and revive his Torquay career . Being named in the PFA League 2 team of the season . Upon another eventual relegation to the National league Kevin was released by Torquay.

On his return to Torquay as a player/manager:

Taking the wheel at Torquay during a time of financial difficulty and balancing playing and coaching. Having to drive the players to and from games in a minivan. Seeing his players take more responsibility and perform better when he stuck to coaching and stepped off the pitch. Subbing himself on to make it to 350 appearances. The great escape, avoiding relegation and earing the nickname the ‘Ranieri of the Riviera’.” Avoiding the sack at Christmas due to the club’s financial hardships but losing his job 4 games into the following season (which Torquay would eventually be relegated at the end of).

Head of coaching role at Exeter City:

Finally working at a stable and well run club. Coaching for a top youth academy that has produced the likes of Ollie Watkins, Ethan Ampadu and Matt Grimes etc. The role that Exeter plays in the local community. Leaving his stamp on the club and ambitions of stepping back into management.

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