Torquay United have confirmed the release of midfielder Chris McPhee following talks with manager Martin Ling that resulted in a mutual agreement that the player’s future lies elsewhere. The news comes despite BBC Sport reporting that a loan move was on the cards just 24 hours ago.
Having returned to Plainmoor in June 2011, after previously spending a season with the club in 2006-07, McPhee found first-team opportunities limited under Ling. Initially used as a substitute or starting central midfielder, McPhee made 26 league appearances in 2011-12 but gradually fell out of favour as the season wore on, even struggling to hold down a place on the bench after January.
Indeed, he last featured for the Gulls on 6 March, in a 1-0 home defeat of Aldershot. Unsurprisingly, both player and manager thought a change of scenery was required, and Torquay transfer-listed McPhee in late May, along with winger Lloyd Macklin.
Following this move, it looked as if McPhee would be either sold, or loaned out to a Conference National club for the first half of the 2012-13 campaign, returning in January – or being recalled earlier if required – to assist in what Ling hopes will be a push for promotion. With McPhee having spent most of his career in the South of the country, taking in spells with Swindon and Weymouth as well as Torquay, rumours linking the 29-year-old with loan or permanent moves to Newport County and Hereford United seemed well-founded.
McPhee’s experience in non-league, combined with his versatility – he can play anywhere across midfield as well as up front – would benefit any Conference club, but today’s release scuppers any chance of a temporary move for the ex-Brighton trainee. Ling’s decision to cut McPhee from his now 22-man squad has fuelled hope that the former Leyton Orient chief is about to announce the signing of another attacker, as Ling has previously stated his squad will consist of 24 men – McPhee’s replacement, plus the imminent signing of a new centre-back, would bring the group back up to the requisite number.
Despite acknowledging that there had been “considerable loan interest” in McPhee in recent weeks, a club statement claimed “a permanent departure would be the best option for both parities”. Manager Ling added: “”We have reached an agreement for Chris to leave the club with immediate effect and pursue his career elsewhere. Chris is very much interested in combining a coaching role with his playing duties and sees his best opportunity with a club outside the Football League.”
McPhee now looks set to join a leading Conference side, with the added financial impact of having to pay all of McPhee’s wages (likely to be higher if a coaching role is involved) rather than a propotion, as would have been the case with a loan deal. The 2008 FA Trophy winner is unlikely to be short of offers, though, and could be tempted by a Conference South side if coaching duties are available.