Torquay United suffered a big blow on Monday as their record clean-sheet keeper Bobby Olejnik departed to Championship side Peterborough United for a fee believed to be in the region of £300,000.
As reported here, Peterborough had publicly registered their interest in the former Falkirk shot-stopper last week, with manager Darren Ferguson citing his need to secure a high-quality goalkeeper early in the transfer window – the club’s only other custodian, 21-year-old Joe Day, is considered too inexperienced to be first-choice.
Indeed, Day and Olejnik have not featured in a single Championship match between them, causing Peterborough fans to suspect Ferguson will be looking to make a further addition to his last line of defence before the transfer window slams shut – although whether Olejnik would be still be first-choice goalkeeper in this situation remains unclear.
Despite being clearly saddened by the loss of the talented 25-year-old, Torquay United and their supporters will clearly be rooting for the Austrian in his new role, with manager Martin Ling saying “I would also like to wish Bobby great luck for the future. He has been the ultimate professional and someone we had to drag off the training ground…he has worked immensely hard”. Olejnik had played a large part in Torquay’s run to the play-offs in 2011-12, keeping an incredible 20 clean sheets as the Gulls defied their odds to challenge for automatic promotion for much of the season.
Olejnik’s departure also puts pressure on Ling to find an equally good replacement before the start of the 2012-13 season, with names from ex-United goalkeeper Michael Poke to former 53-cap England international David James being bandied around as possible signings on fan forums. One possibility is to hand Martin Rice – signed from Truro City as back-up for Olejnik last season – the number one shirt, although the man himself admits he’d have a tough act to follow: Rice has described the former Austria under-21 international as the “best I’ve worked with”, adding “he’s been outstanding all season”.
However, the fee received, believed to be in the region of £300,000, opens up possibilities for further signings to be made to strengthen the squad in more areas. Some fans are also hoping that this sale will allow the club to be in a position where they are financially able to turn down large offers for playmaker Eunan O’Kane, believed to be the subject of a £150,000 bid from League One new boys Crawley Town.
Admitting that the Olejnik deal represented “a terrific piece of business for the Gulls”, a Torquay club statement on Monday said “United have also inserted a sell-on clause to ensure a share of the profits, should Bobby leave [Peterborough] in the future.” Ling concurs: “It is a great deal for our club and for Bobby, and my job as a manager is to buy low, sell for a profit and then fetch in low again. That is the nature of the beast in League 2 and this has been a great bit of business.”
Having signed Olejnik for free from Scottish outfit Falkirk in July 2011, any fee received for the former Aston Villa youth-teamer would have represented a profit for the Gulls, although Ling also suggested the deal had been allowed for other reasons as well as the financial side, saying “My hat goes off to Bobby and there is no way we could stand in the way of an opportunity for him at a Championship club”, while Peterborough’s latest signing revealed “I couldn’t sleep last night as I was so excited about the move… I left Falkirk a year ago and if anyone had said I would end up playing in the Championship so soon I’d have laughed in their face. It’s a dream move for me and I can’t wait to get started.”
Olejnik looks likely to face former club Villa in one of his first games for his new side: Peterborough are due to play the Premier League outfit in a pre-season clash on 1 August.
The goalkeeper is the fourth player to leave Torquay this summer, following the release of defenders Lathaniel Rowe-Turner and Ed Palmer and forward Taiwo Atieno. The club’s only signings so far are former Everton midfielder Nathan Craig and ex-Norwich striker Ryan Jarvis, both of whom had temporary spells at Plainmoor last season.