Taylor enjoys challenge of piecing together new defence for Torquay
Assistant manager Shaun Taylor, who knows about these things, is relishing the job of producing a new-look defence as good as the one which nearly nudged Torquay United to promotion last season.
The Gulls take on Port Vale in the Potteries today (3pm) with 18-year-old first-year pro Kyrtis McKenzie poised to replace suspended newcomer Aaron Downes in the heart of their defence.
Michael Poke is also settling into the goalkeeping spot vacated by Peterborough-bound Bobby Olejnik, leaving full-backs Joe Oastler and Kevin Nicholson and centre-back Brian Saah as the survivors of a defence which set new clean-sheet records and proved itself one of the best in League Two last season.
Taylor, 49, played more than 600 senior games at centre-half for Exeter City, Swindon Town and Bristol City, and he is now charged with, among other things, forging a tight defence for Martin Ling's ambitious Gulls.
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"I don't know whether our defence will prove better this season than last – I certainly hope so," said Taylor.
"In some ways, this could be a bigger test, because you do need to score goals to be successful in this division, and we are trying to play a slightly more attacking game this season.
"Getting beat 4-0 by Leicester in the [Capital One] Cup in the first game came against a very good side, but it was still a bit of a wake-up call for us.
"We got back on the old straight and narrow at Fleetwood [0-0], and then conceded two against Cheltenham [2-2] and Rochdale [4-2].
"Michael has come in for Bobby Olejnik and Aaron Downes has taken over from Mark Ellis [now at Crewe], and it's important to think about the whole of the defence, not just a pair of centre-backs, say.
"I couldn't see Aaron coming in being a problem because of the experience he's got, and Brian Saah has got better and better for us. People forget that Brian started his career in midfield, so he and Aaron should work well together.
"With Aaron, it's not a question of him being better than Mark Ellis.
"I'd never take anything away from Mark, because he was a massive part of how we played and what we did last season.
"Nobody else has quite the aggressive nature of Mark, but Aaron brings more experience at the right times and in the right places.
"We do try and involve everyone in our defensive work, and I'm always open to them saying anything they think we need to work on.
"No one in League Two has got the whole package, in defence and attack, but if you don't concede, you've got a real good chance of winning games, and that's what we aim to do."
All things being equal, Downes should return to the side when Plymouth Argyle head to Plainmoor next Saturday, but no one will be happier than Taylor and Ling if young McKenzie plays so well at Vale Park today that he gives them an awkward conversation to hold before naming the side to face the Pilgrims.
Ling describes his decision to play McKenzie, rather than bring in a loan player, as a case of "stick rather than twist".
More specifically, he explains: "Whoever I brought in would probably be making their League debut as well, but Kyrtis has played alongside Brian Saah in training and in pre-season games and not looked out of place, so he's got his head in front."
Ling would not be playing McKenzie if he did not have contingency plans in place, and several other members of United's defensive roster can play at centre-back.
Having become the first youth graduate to make a senior start for the club for nine years, Niall Thompson looks like holding his place on the right wing, with McKenzie, of course, hot on his heels.
The rest of the side is likely to be unchanged as United seek to extend their unbeaten League start to four games.
There may be a place on the bench for one of two trainees, defender Jake Hutchings and forward Danny Sullivan, who have been added to the party.
Ling said: "Port Vale are a decent side with a quality manager in Micky Adams – I say that because he signed me once [for Brighton].
"Micky knows this league inside-out.
"They've had their upheavals over the last year or so, and that's still ongoing, but they've won two out of three and they'll take some beating."
Vale, who are still in the administration which cost them ten points last season, may well be unchanged – they won 3-1 at Morecambe last Saturday.
Torquay United (from): Poke, Rice; Oastler, Saah, McKenzie, Nicholson, Mansell, Easton, Morris, Thompson, Howe, Bodin, Leadbitter, Jarvis, Cruise, Craig, Yeoman, Hutchings, Sullivan.
Unavailable: Downes (suspended), Stevens (thigh), Lathrope (knee), Macklin (hamstring), Halpin (ankle).