Former Southend defender George Artemi has confirmed that he is currently on trial with League Two side Torquay United. The Gulls are known to be on the lookout for a new central defender to replace Mark Ellis, who left for Crewe Alexandra in June.
Although Torquay boss Martin Ling is desperate to sign another defender before the start of the 2012-13 season, many fans will be surprised to learn of 19-year-old Artemi’s trial – Ling had promised the new centre-back would have “experience and at least 100 games of professional football under his belt”.
That Artemi has spent most of his senior career in the reserve teams of professional clubs or playing in non-league suggests that either Ling thinks very highly of him indeed, or sees the ex-Rushden & Diamonds man as a third-choice centre-back. The Gulls completed the signing of former Arsenal youngster Tom Cruise in late June, and Cruise’s ability to play on the left side of defence or midfielder means that Artemi could take his place in United’s central defensive roster – with Cruise now seen as cover at full-back.
Beginning his career in Leyton Orient’s youth system, Artemi was part of Ling’s regime at Brisbane Road when the manager spent six years at the club between 2003 and 2009. A former captain of Orient’s youth sides, Artemi trialled with Rushden & Diamonds in the 2008-09 season, and, after impressing for the club’s youth team, made his senior debut aged 17 in a Hillier Senior Cup clash with Kettering Town.
Although he has a distinct lack of Football League experience, Artemi is no stranger to the rough-and-tumble of men’s football – described as a “strong, no-nonsense centre-back” by Diamonds, he faced 6ft strikers Anthony Elding and Moses Ashikodi on his debut for the club, and has since enjoyed loan spells further down the football pyramid with Great Wakering Rovers and Malden & Tiptree.
Following a trial with Southend in March 2011, Artemi signed a contract with the Roots Hall club, but he found first-team opportunities hard to come by and, after more loan spells, was released at the end of the year. Artemi, of Cypriot origin but fluent in Spanish, joined Bishop’s Stortford in January 2012, but would spend just two months at the club before leaving for Conference South outfit Thurrock in March.
Relegation-threatened Thurrock had little chance of survival – they would ultimately be relegated in the first week of April – and Artemi was handed his debut in March, starting against mid-table Weston-super-Mare in a 2-2 draw. Though the result was a good one for Thurrock on their travels, Artemi was replaced just 14 minutes into the match and failed to appear again in 2011-12.
Should he join Torquay on a permanent basis if his trial proves successful, Artemi will complete a hat-trick of players on the club’s books with Cypriot heritage. Left-back Alex Avraamides and 15-year-old midfielder Charalambos Mouzouros are both members of United’s youth team, and both impressed in the U-18 side’s 4-2 victory over international academy Pulse Premier on Friday.
With the Gulls also linked with Morecambe centre-back Chris McCready and ex-Crawley stopper Pablo Mills, it seems unlikely that Ling would take the risk of having Artemi, untried in the Football League, in his starting line-up. However, the youngster could provide valuable cover across the backline and act as back-up to the first-choice pairing of Brian Saah and the expected signing of a new, experienced centre-back.