Relegation-battling Torquay United look set to finalise deals for at least one, and possibly two attacking players before Saturday’s trip to Southend United. The Gulls this afternoon confirmed that they had reached an agreement to sign Sheffield United winger Jordan Chapell on loan until the end of the season, while just hours previously, former Torquay striker Taiwo Atieno hinted on his Twitter account that a return to Plainmoor could be on the cards.
21-year-old Chapell, able to play both on the wing and as a striker, joins straight from Sheffield United’s reserves. The youngster only made his league debut for the club’s senior side in December, and has only made one other appearance in League One this season. Finding first-team opportunities limited at Bramall Lane, Chapell was loaned to Torquay’s fourth-tier rivals Burton Albion in October, scoring just three minutes into his debut against Port Vale, just hours after the move was finalised.
Four appearances in all competitions for Burton followed, but was recalled in early December by his parent club after The Blades suffered injuries to several other wingers. This paved the way for Chapell’s league debut on 29 December in a 3-2 defeat to Hartlepool, but the youngster has been consigned to the club’s youth team and reserves ever since.
Since taking over the managerial reigns at Torquay in February, Alan Knill has preferred to use forward Ryan Jarvis on the right-wing, with Billy Bodin occupying the left-hand side of midfield. However, Bodin will miss crucial games against Chesterfield and York next week after being included in the Wales under-21 squad, and Knill may also have to move Jarvis up-front to replace the ineligible Benyon, who is unlikely to be able to face parent club Southend.
Knill revealed that his northern base helped him to spot Chapell several months ago, and was clearly pleased to have got his man: “Jordan is quick, direct and the important part is that he knows the league – he was out on loan at Burton and did really well. I live in Sheffield and when the United youth team had a good cup run, I watched a lot of their games and Jordan was one of their outstanding players,” adding that the Chapell “can play either wing or behind the striker, and he is technically very good.”
Although Torquay have yet to confirm it, ex-Gulls forward Taiwo Atieno today claimed on his Twitter page that he was “going back to Torquay”, matching Knill’s belief that the club needed to add “another new face at the top end of the pitch before Saturday”. Kenyan international Atieno joined United in July 2011 in a one-year deal, and despite helping The Gulls to an impressive fifth-placed finish in 2011-12, scoring six times in 43 league appearances, he was released at the end of the season.
Jarvis was the cause of Atieno’s release then, with manager Martin Ling – currently absent through a long-term illness – admitting that he could only choose one of the two forwards due to budget constraints. He chose Jarvis, saying: “It came down to a flat choice between Tai and Ryan Jarvis. I feel I’ve had the peak of Tai but not the peak of Ryan Jarvis, and I feel the peak of Jarvis will be better. I only had the money to keep one of the two and that was the big issue.”
Atieno then chose to take several months out of football, returning from his half-season hiatus in late December to join a struggling but Edgar Davids-inspired Barnet side. However, the 27-year-old went on to make just four appearances for The Bees, netting his only goal for the club in the 2-0 victory over Barnet on 5 January. He left the club by mutual consent on 1 February, but challenged claims that he had been released, revealing “Due to personal reasons I have decided to take time out from football…I opted not to sign a new deal at Barnet and I chose to leave on my own accord.”
Knill had last week made room for new arrivals by loaning out wingers Saul Halpin and Karl Baker to Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division outfit Bideford Town and lending central defender Kirtys MacKenzie to Taunton Town of the Evo-Stik Division 1 South & West league. However, Aaron Downes’ red card in Torquay’s 2-2 draw at Dagenham yesterday – in which The Gulls played with 10 men for 86 minutes – and subsequent suspension means Knill may have to add another defender on loan or recall MacKenzie almost immediately.
Chapell becomes Knill’s second signing for United following the loan acquisition of Notts County midfielder Joss Labadie last week. Labadie made his debut in the 3-1 home reverse against Oxford on Saturday and scored his first goal for the club in yesterday’s game.