BARNSTAPLE Town have opted for youth to lead them forward, with the appointment of new manager Tom Bulley, one of the youngest men ever to hold such a role in the Western League.

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Barnstaple-born Tom, who will be in charge of his first Town game away to Bridport this Saturday, will be 23 in January. But he has a remarkable amount of experience under his young belt, having already been coaching for seven years.

He gained his UEFA B licence at Level 3 when he was just 19 and is working towards the A standard.

A former Devon U16 player, Tom has also played for Buckland Athletic and Topsham and at just 17 became manager of the Devon and Exeter Premier Division side Heavitree United.

He has worked in a community development role with Exeter City and with Plymouth Argyle youth development centres and has contacts within these clubs and with Torquay United. For the past two years he has also worked in the United States, at soccer academies in Michigan and Massachusetts.

At Barnstaple, “there is a little bit of work to be done,” said Tom. He will be starting twice a week training and looking to bring in two or three experienced players, including a goal scorer and a solid defender.

“There are players there who I can work with and I will be inviting any other local lads who would like to try out. I would like to keep it local if I can. There are players out there in the North Devon League I would like to take a look at,” he said.

Chairman Warren Crossley said some people might raise their eyebrows about Tom’s age.

But he had a wise head on his young shoulders. He had worked in a professional environment and knew what they wanted to install at Barnstaple, he assured.

Saturday’s game at home to Bishop Sutton saw Barnstaple beaten 8-0 to remain rooted at the bottom of the Western League Premier Division table.

“We seem to lack the ability to create chances and when we do, we don’t take them,” said the chairman. “It was just 1-0 for 35 minutes on Saturday, but then we let in two sloppy goals before half-time and there was no way back. We have some good players, but we seem to have lost direction.

“I know there has to be some team strengthening or the inevitable will happen. Tom has already been on the phone to a few of his contacts. We have a budget which we have not used to capacity. We have had a busy December in the clubhouse and a Boxing Day derby with Ilfracombe to come. We will not be able to pay stupid money, but if Tom can find some players, we will talk about it.”

l ILFRACOMBE Town’s game away to top-of-the-table Brislington fell victim to the weather. Their next game is on Saturday at home to Bitton.

Boxing Day brings the Barnstaple v Ilfracombe local derby at Mill Road (ko 3pm).

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