BEFORE you start on this, check how Torquay United did yesterday because their fate this season is largely what this column is about. The World Cup begins for England in Moldova, the Scots and Irish have taken their first steps on the road to France but we're focused on Third Division Torquay - not the most fashionable United on the English football scene. There's probably about three Devonians out there who actually bother to check the Torquay score or listen with eager ears glued to the radio late on Saturday night. My only connection with Devon was a visit to Exeter racecourse about four years ago and I actually thought Torquay was on the south coast until very recently. But I profess a definite interest in the fortunes of Torquay United this season and thereby hangs a column. This is a story of the haves and have-nots of English football and there aren't many clubs who have had as little going for them recently as Torquay. They finished rock bottom 92nd and 11 points adrift last season, saved from League football deletion by the fact that progressive Stevenage Borough's ground did not measure up to statutory requirements. Torquay also have an owner-chairman who has parrots in his office which he claims help to keep him sane. There are those among us who might think it proves exactly the opposite but, for all I know, parrots may well be delightful company when you've lost 10 in a row. Unless they answer back, of course. The unusual interest in Torquay comes about because of a close-season transfer. We're not talking here about Fabrizio Ravanelli, Gianluca Vialli or the world's costliest footballer, Alan Shearer. The move involved no money - other than a GBP26 return from London to Torquay. The player is Garry Nelson. Garry who? Until about 18 months ago, his biggest claim to fame was an excellent spell at Plymouth Argyle which culminated in scoring the winning goal to secure promotion. Then he wrote a book. It was the chronicle of a year in the life of a journeyman professional footballer with First Division Charlton Athletic. I doubt he made much out of it but Left Foot Forward was the gutsily honest diary of an ageing professional coming to the end of his days in the game. Nelson made it easy to understand the tenseness, the slivers of fear that mark the life of a player coming to the end of a contract with a club which has not done well. The book captured it splendidly, if that is the right word to use, in connection, too, with young apprentice professionals who find themselves on the dole queue, dreams of glory shattered in the space of a year or two. For Nelson there was the relief of a further one year at the Valley. Charlton reached the play-offs last season and Nelson featured prominently in several high profile games - not least against Liverpool. But I had a suspicion that this time the now 35-year-old might not have escaped the near inevitability of the free transfer and a life outside football for which, incidentally, he was much better prepared than most. Freed he was, but Nelson is still in the game he so obviously loves - with Torquay United. It wasn't an easy decision. His wife, who has clearly been highly supportive in the nomadic life of a player in the lower divisions of English football, had to be convinced that a return to the West Country was worth the disruption of family life yet again. He took the job as player-coach - as he had to. You see, football isn't all about the Shearers, Ravanellis and the Premier League. Its magic reaches down to the lowest levels of the semi-professional leagues and beyond. Nelson has been happily in its clutches for 17 years and every extra one is a bonus. And he's smart. From 92nd position there should be only one way to go - up. Now what we need is a good early FA Cup run and that other United at home in the third round and Nelson scoring the winner. What is this - Roy Of The Rovers? No, just football - and the stuff of dreams.