Tag Archive: League Two

Aussie Aaron Joins Gulls

Torquay United have completed the signing of former Chesterfield defender Aaron Downes after the Australian centre-back was released by The Spireites in May. United had been searching for a new defender for almost a month after selling Mark Ellis to Crewe Alexandra in late June.

Beginning his career with the Australian Institute of Sport in 2003, Downes moved into English football with short non-league spells with Hampton & Richmond and Frickley Athletic. Signed for Chesterfield in August 2004 by Roy MacFarland – who had managed Torquay two years earlier – Downes made ten appearances in his first season in League One, scoring twice for his new side.

Downes has plenty of Football League experience, particularly with Chesterfield

The centre-back went on to establish himself as a regular in Chesterfield’s side, playing over 20 times in all but two of his eight seasons – including a 2011-12 campaign in which he joined Bristol Rovers on loan in January. Downes’ downfall is his tendency to pick up injuries – Torquay manager Martin Ling claims “He was going to be a massive product at Chesterfield” were it not for “a couple of bad knee injuries” that have “definitely thwarted his career”.

Following his loan spell at Rovers, Downes was deemed surplus to requirements at Chesterfield and released at the 2011-12 campaign. Unsurprisingly, he interested other Football League sides, and ironically, it was during a trial with Yeovil that Ling spotted his new man. As Torquay’s boss says: “I watched him play for Yeovil in pre-season and they wanted to take him, but as a cover player rather than a starter. I’ve told Aaron I’m looking for a left-sided centre-half and he has played 90% of his football in that position, even though he is right-footed.”

Yeovil’s loss was United’s gain, as Ling swooped to sign a defender who had met his criteria set upon selling Ellis: he stressed the need for a replacement with “experience and at least 100 games of professional football under his belt”. With Downes having amassed 174 Football League appearances for Chestefield at the age of 27, the former Australia under-23 international ticks both boxes.

Though Ling had initially promised the new centre-back would be unveiled in mid-June  – a deadline that came and went with little development revealed – most United fans are happy with their new signing. Downes will begin the season as Torquay’s first-choice centre-back alongside the unflappable Brian Saah, with fellow new recruit Tom Cruise and first-year pro Kirtys MacKenzie providing cover.

Thankfully for Torquay, the limited time Downes has to gel with new goalkeeper Michael Poke and form a cohesive defensive unit before the start of the season is compensated by the fact that the two were both on loan at Bristol Rovers last season. Downes’ new Plainmoor team-mates also seemed pleased with the signing, with left-back Kevin Nicholson taking the opportunity to welcome Aaron to the club, saying it felt “good to have another quality player on board”.

Downes himself gushed: “[I’m] really happy to be joining such a great club…can’t wait for the season to start. Thank you to all Torquay fans on Twitter who have already made me feel welcome.”

Meanwhile, former Rushden & Diamonds defender George Artemi continues to trial at Torquay, and could feature in tonight’s friendly against Tiverton Town. The 19-year-old, predominantly a centre-back, could be signed as cover either for that position or as backup to defensive midfielder Damon Lathrope.

Image: http://www1.skysports.com

McPhee Moves On

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.

McPhee struggled to break into United’s starting XI last season

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.

Image: http://www.torquayunited.com


Logan Joins Chairboys

League Two side Wycombe Wanderers have announced the signing of forward Richard Logan on a free transfer, after the 30-year-old was released by Exeter in May.

Logan comes with plenty of Football League experience, having also played for Ipswich, Peterborough and Boston in a 12-year career. Despite having helped Exeter to promotion from the Conference in 2007-08 with 18 league goals, and scoring the goal that clinched promotion to League One on the last day of the following season, Logan has been deemed surplus to requirements.

Logan was looking over his shoulder in his final year at Exeter

Never prolific for any of his clubs, Logan had enjoyed one of his career’s best strike rates at Exeter, netting a goal every four games in a 5 year stay at St James Park. However, following the Grecians’ relegation from League One in 2011-12, Exeter chief Paul Tisdale elected not to renew the 6ft striker’s contract.

Themselves relegated to League Two last season, Wycombe are looking to rebuild this summer, and manager Gary Waddock has certainly been busy – Logan becomes the club’s sixth signing in just 24 hours. He will link up with fellow new recruits Matthew Spring and Gary Doherty, both of whom boast Premier League experience.

Logan had reacted angrily to his release from Exeter – which he called a “joke” – and fumed “I’m devastated that couldn’t even get the respect of a [phone] call [from boss Tisdale]”. However, he could be better placed to win promotion with Wycombe than if he had stayed at St James Park, with Tisdale’s self-enforced mass exodus meaning major rebuilding will be required if the side is to reach League One at the first attempt.

Image: http://www.givemefootball.com 

Torquay United are expected to complete the signing of Swindon forward Billy Bodin in the next couple of days, with the Welshman due to travel to Plainmoor for a medical tomorrow.

Bodin had spent the first half of the 2011-12 season at loan on Torquay, scoring five times in 18 appearances and providing a pacy, direct threat on the wing that United sorely missed after he returned to parent club Swindon in January. Bodin’s loan spell left many United fans impressed and few were surprised when Torquay manager Martin Ling tried to secure the Welshman’s services on a permanent basis in the January transfer window.

Bodin’s return will be welcomed with open arms by United fans

However, Swindon boss Paulo Di Canio refuted that approach and, with the Country Ground outfit then proceeding to loan Bodin to fellow League Two side Crewe Alexandra for the remainder of the season, the player’s destination for the 2012-13 season remained uncertain. Despite having impressed with both of his loan spells, Bodin could not force his way into Swindon’s promotion-winning squad and seemed to be keen to leave if first-team football was not available at the County Ground.

After Bodin stalled over Swindon’s offer of a new, two-year deal in May, Di Canio fumed: “It is clear he doesn’t want to accept it. It’s up to him. We’ve offered him the contract. If we can’t keep hold of him, I hope he has a great career in the future.” Even then, in early June, it appeared Di Canio was open to the idea of selling the 20-year-old, something that United chief Ling cashed in on.

Although Torquay’s initial bid of £40,000 was last week rejected by the Robins, the two parties have gradually reached a deal that is mutually satisfactory, believed to be in the region of £70,000 plus add-ons – a fee that has today been accepted. Crewe could well be left kicking themselves after being beaten to Bodin’s signature: the Gresty Road club have money to burn after selling youngster Nick Powell to Manchester United for in excess of £1 million, but delayed their offer and have missed out.

Their loss looks set to be Torquay’s gain, with both the club’s official website and BBC Sport reporting the deal all but sealed. Having chased Bodin for several months to no previous avail, Ling was clearly delighted to have finally got his man: “Billy strengthens our front three, playing on either wing, down the middle or the top end of our midfield. “The flexibility within our squad with [midfielder Eunan] O’Kane staying and Bodin on board is massively good and better than it was last year.”

With Irishman O’Kane having rejected a move to League One new boys Crawley Town in favour of staying at Plainmoor, Torquay fans are quietly confident that promotion to the third division can be achieved this season. Having clung to the coattails of League Two heavyweights Swindon and Shrewsbury for much of the season, Ling’s small, tired squad eventually faltered and had to settle for the play-offs, where they were beaten 4-1 on aggregate by Cheltenham Town. The addition of Bodin – coupled with fellow new signings Craig Easton, Nathan Craig, Michael Poke, Tom Cruise and Ryan Jarvis – has fuelled hope that the Gulls can now grab automatic promotion in 2012-13.

Bodin and Di Canio never seemed to see eye-to-eye

Indeed, many Torquay fans believe Bodin to be the missing cog in a well-oiled United machine that enjoyed a brilliant league campaign last season: one gushed “This is a great signing and goes to show the ambition of the manager and the board. It is not a gamble because we all know what he can do…if we can replicate that sort of football [with Bodin in the side in 2011-12] we will be a force to be reckoned with… the injection of pace will be crucial…he has a lot of potential which places him above [League Two], I trust both the manager and the player to see him fulfill it.”

Ling now believes the only further addition necessary before August is the acquisition of a new centre-back. First-choice defender Mark Ellis’ recent departure to Crewe for £80,000 has left a gaping hole in the United back four that needs plugging with, in Ling’s view “a dominant centre-half…who can really head the ball.”

The sale of goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik to Championship side Peterborough for £300,000 gives Torquay money to spend, although some of this cash will be used to help pay off expenses incurred during the building of Plainmoor’s new stand, the impressive Bristow’s Bench.

Find a suitable replacement for Ellis, and Torquay could well win promotion in 2012-13 with a squad even stronger than last season’s. As Ling himself says “We just need a defender to fetch us up to a 24-man complete squad”. United are ready. Almost.

O’Kane Keen to Stay

Torquay United midfielder Eunan O’Kane has delighted the club’s supporters by revealing that he has turned down the chance to move to League One new boys Crawley Town. The Irishman’s snub comes following weeks of interest from the Red Devils, which had culminated in a £150,000 bid being accepted by Torquay and O’Kane heading to the Broadfield Stadium to discuss terms.

The Gulls have already sold two key assets, goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik and defender Mark Ellis, for a combined total of around £380,000. While O’Kane’s transfer – with Swindon Town also rumoured to be interested – had looked at one stage to be the most likely to eventuate, the ex-Everton midfielder now appears set to be the only one of the three players to remain at Plainmoor.

There should be plenty more United goals to celebrate for Eunan (left) after the midfielder’s decision to turn down Crawley

It is unlikely that Torquay would have had to sell any of their three starlets had promotion to League One in 2011-12 been achieved: the Gulls’ eventual play-off semi-final defeat to Cheltenham Town led Olejnik and especially Ellis to declare themselves open to offers from clubs in higher divisions, seemingly believing Torquay would not be winning promotion any time soon.

Although O’Kane also appeared to be interested by the League One football on offer at both Crawley and Swindon, he emphatically ended links to the former with the short, but sweet Twitter post: “Just to let you all know I have turned down the chance to move to crawley! #TUFC”, a message that was predictably greeted with abuse from disappointed fans of the Sussex club, but provided optimism for Torquay supporters that the Republic of Ireland U21 international would remain at Plainmoor for the 2012-13 season.

This hope was further boosted by the reactions of Torquay skipper Lee Mansell and left-back Kevin Nicholson soon afterwards: the former tweeted “I’m delighted [O’Kane] is staying” and told Eunan turning down Crawley was the “2nd best decision you have ever made – you know your first was having me as your mentor!” while Nicholson said “Good news mate, see you in a couple of weeks!”

Although United fans will not feel entirely comfortable until an official club statement confirming Eunan’s staying is made, the omens look good for the Gulls ahead of their upcoming 2012-13 League Two campaign. O’Kane’s creativity in midfield would be sorely missed should he depart, and Torquay look a better team with him in the side – manager Martin Ling has admitted “If Eunan ticks, we tick as a team.”

Torquay’s 21-year-old no.10 has already racked up over 120 appearances for the Gulls, scoring 14 times, since joining the club from Irish outfit Coleraine in 2010.

Image: Eunan O’Kane with Danny Stevens – http://www.wearegoingup.co.uk

Torquay United yesterday evening completed a double swoop that sees two new faces join the club in a bid to replace players sold in recent weeks. Defender Tom Cruise (no, not that one!) and goalkeeper Michael Poke have agreed deals at Plainmoor ahead of the 2012-13 season, as United boss Martin Ling aims to rebuild his squad.

Following the departure of Austrian goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik to Championship side Peterborough United last week for £300,000, coupled with centre-back Mark Ellis joining Crewe Alexandra in a deal thought to be worth £80,000, Torquay have swooped to sign replacements for the defensively crucial pair, who helped the club to its highest-ever clean sheet tally last season.

Cruise’s Arsenal background ensures that he has had a sound footballing upbringing

Ex-Arsenal reserve Cruise joins Torquay as a highly-rated young defender, despite having just three Football League appearances – attained during a loan spell with Carlisle in 2010-11 – to his name. Able to play as a central defender, left-back and left midfielder, Cruise’s versatility means he can provide valuable cover in a number of positions in Ling’s new-look squad.

A member of the Gunners’ FA Youth Cup-winning team in 2008-09, Tom also boasts Champions League experience, having played the full 90 minutes of Arsenal’s group-stage clash with Greek giants Olympiacos in December 2009. Despite this, Cruise was released in June 2011 at the age of 20, but the youngster has refused to let the setback affect him, enjoying trials with Italian side Sampdoria and American outfit New England Revolution last season.

Although neither of these temporary spells worked out, Cruise’s experience of football in several countries, as well as 6 England under-19 caps, stands him in good stead for a career in the English lower-leagues. Like Bobby Olejnik before him, Cruise may well have joined Torquay in a bid to kick-start a rise up the Football League ladder – as Ling admits “my job as a manager is to buy low, sell for a profit and then fetch in low again.”

That said, Tom’s youth means he is likely to begin the season as United’s third-choice centre-back, as Ling says: I see Cruise and young Kirtys MacKenzie as my numbers three and four at centre-back, so we need another first choice defender to play alongside Brian Saah”.  Instead, Cruise is more directly a replacement of versatile defender Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, who was released at the end of the 2011-12 campaign after a season of providing cover for left-back Kevin Nicholson and centre-backs Ellis and Saah.

Goalkeeper Poke, who enjoyed three successful loan spells at Torquay between 2008 and 2010, joins the Gulls on a permanent basis following his release from Brighton & Hove Albion in April. Since beginning his professional career with Southampton in 2004, Poke has failed to hold down the no.1 jersey on a regular basis at either of his two previous permanent clubs, resulting in an incredible seven loan spells in as many years.

Poke became a firm fans’ favourite during his loan spells at Plainmoor

The fact that, at the age of 26, Poke has made 60 appearances in the Football League suggests that he is happy to be settling down at a club where he is expected to be first choice ahead of last season’s back-up goalkeeper Martin Rice.

Fondly remembered for an incredible, crucial save in Torquay’s 2008-09 Conference play-off semi-final second-leg against Histon, as well as being between the United sticks as they won promotion against Cambridge at Wembley, Poke’s return to Plainmoor seemed to please most Gulls fans – as one fan wrote on a Torquay forum, “Genuinely delighted with this [signing]! Thought Pokey was terrific before and good to have him back.”

Manager Ling admits Michael’s previous loan stints at Plainmoor played a large part in yesterday’s signing: “I’ve watched Michael play a few times, although Torquay fans will probably know him better than I do. When I mentioned Michael Poke’s name in a board meeting, it certainly caught their attention and we know he is a quality goalkeeper from his last time here…he is an ideal replacement for Bobby Olejnik.”

The former Leyton Orient boss also revealed that an attempt to sign Poke in 2011, soon after taking over the reigns at Plainmoor, was only foiled by then-parent club Brighton’s refusal to let him leave: “I tried to sign him last summer and it never came off because Brighton didn’t want Michael to leave…[he] will work well in the goalkeeping unit with Kenny [Veysey (goalkeeping coach)] and Martin Rice.”

Poke’s experience, albeit limited in playing time, encompasses spells at several League One, League Two and Conference clubs – the Surrey-born shot-stopper knows what it takes to be successful in the English lower leagues. Known as a vocal, able goalkeeper, Poke’s only real weakness is his kicking, which has previously been criticised for the custodian’s lack of distance.

With Ling promising the signing of a first-choice defender “with experience and at least 100 games of professional football under his belt”, Torquay fans will be hoping Poke can establish a formidable partnership with the new centre-back who will partner last season’s stalwart Brian Saah before the start of the new season.

The arrivals of Cruise and Poke on free transfers – combined with the signings of fellow free agents Ryan Jarvis, Craig Easton and Nathan Craig – means that Ling is yet to leave a dent in the transfer fund boosted by the sales of Olejnik and Ellis, fuelling rumours that a substantial bid for former Torquay loanee Billy Bodin is on the cards.

Images: Cruise – http://www.journallive.co.uk; Poke – http://www.torquayunited.com

Ellis Makes Crewe Cut

Torquay United defender Mark Ellis has today joined League One new-boys Crewe Alexandra for a rumoured £80,000, following several weeks of supposed interest from The Railwaymen. 

Ellis, who first joined United in 2007 on loan from then-Premier League side Bolton Wanderers, had racked up almost 100 league appearances for the Gulls in a stay that saw him alternately in and out of the club’s starting XI. Still only 23, Ellis had made his debut for Torquay in September 2007 in the rough-and-tumble of a Conference fixture at the tender age of 17.

After signing for the Gulls permanently in 2008, Ellis initially often found himself left on the bench at the expense of older, more experienced defenders, and was sent on loan to Forest Green Rovers in 2009. However, his superb aerial ability – a valuable asset in League Two – and solid,  no-nonsense tackling meant that Mark was able to reach a half-century of league appearances for Torquay by the 2009-10 season, at an age when young players at other clubs were still waiting for their first run in the team.

Having joined United in 2007 at the tender age of 17, Ellis has matured into a solid, reliable defender

Despite playing regularly in  Torquay’s 2009-10 and 2010-11 campaigns, the acquisition of centre-back Brian Saah, who had previously played under new United manager Martin Ling at both Cambridge and Leyton Orient, meant that Ellis was once again demoted to the bench at the start of last season. Indeed, it was only the sale of first-choice centre-back Chris Robertson to Preston North End in January that allowed Ellis to become a regular under Ling and form a formidable partnership with Saah that helped Torquay to their highest-ever clean sheet tally.

However, ambitions to test himself elsewhere remained, and the fact that Ellis stalled for so long over a new deal first discussed in February showed that his loyalty to Torquay was not all-encompassing. The identity of the clubs interested in Ellis remained unknown, but the fact that United had had to turn down a bid for the Kingsbridge-born defender in January 2011 proved that his impact had been noticed.

Newly-promoted Crewe Alexandra have plenty of money to spend following the sale of young forward Nick Powell – who scored against Ellis’ Torquay in April – to Manchester United for a £1 million-plus fee, and manager Steve Davis made Ellis the first major signing of the club’s summer recruitment process.

Reportedly interested in moving back up north after getting married, Ellis had been more interested in joining Crewe than staying at United: a Torquay club statement claimed that the defender had turned down “a terrific new deal” in favour of “League One football and a fresh challenge”. According to Ling: “I don’t think there was a big difference in the wages offered by the two clubs but Mark sees Crewe as a progressive club in the league above us…it became clear in the end that Mark preferred the Crewe option to staying [with Torquay]”.

“You think I’m staying at Torquay!? No chance!” – Ellis’ desire to test himself in League One made his departure expected

The Gresty Road side are also planning  a bid for Swindon forward Billy Bodin – who enjoyed loan spells with both Crewe and Torquay last season – representing a further blow for Ling’s transfer dealings: the ex-Cambridge boss was known to have been keen to get the Welsh under-21 international back to Plainmoor on a permanent basis.

That said, Ling will be able to use the £300,000 gained from the sale of goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik to Peterborough last week, as well as the rumoured £80,000 Crewe shelled out for Ellis’ services, to boost his small United squad. Ling has already drafted in midfielders Craig Easton and Nathan Craig, as well as forward Ryan Jarvis, for minimal outlay.

Having already stated the need to sign at least one more centre-back before Ellis’ departure, Ling today said: “I’ve been tracking three or four centre-halves for a while and we are hoping to make an announcement later today. Eventually, the right club and offer came in for Mark, but we have obviously been planning for this outcome.”

That will come as welcome news to United fans, who also await an official announcement on Olejnik’s replacement in the goalkeeping department – internet rumours claim custodians ranging from ex-Gull Michael Poke to former England no.1 David James are on the verge of signing on the dotted line at Plainmoor.

Similarly, supporters will be praying Torquay can keep hold of talented midfielder Eunan O’Kane – the subject of a £150,000 bid from Crawley Town. Should United lose all three of their interest-attracting assets, Ling will have his work cut out to ensure United are able to reach the play-offs for the third season running in 2012-13.

Images: Ellis in 2007 – http://www.bbc.co.uk; Ellis in 2012 – http://www.torquayunited.com

St Vincent and the Grenadines may not be known as a footballing hotspot, even within the Caribbean Football Union, but the country’s former star player Rodney Jack has played a major role in boosting the island’s reputation by endearing himself to fans of several English lower-league clubs.

Born in Kingstown in St Vincent in 1972, Jack began his career playing for local teams Hairoun Lions and Lambada FC in the early 1990s. It was soon after joining Lambada, in fact, that Jack would get his chance to play in Europe – the team’s manager, exiled Torquay fan Keith Millard, brought his Lambada side over to play a friendly against Torquay in August 1995. Jack’s searing pace and assured finishing quickly impressed United chairman Mike Bateson, who pulled out all the stops to sign the young forward.

Understandably, given Torquay’s lowly league standing and the physicality of fourth division English football, Jack took time to settle, but the Gulls were soon rewarded for their patience. Rodney finished the following season as the club’s top scorer, with his direct style and impressive speed proving a handful for flat-footed opposition defenders more suited to coping with aerial and physical threats.

It was one of League Two’s unlikeliest transfers of all time, but Jack proved to be a perfect match for Torquay

However, Jack saved his best performances in a yellow shirt for Torquay’s 1997-98 play-off semi-final tie against Scarborough. Leading 3-1 from the first leg, in which Jack had netted once, United needed their Caribbean corker to provide an outlet in the home leg at Plainmoor as Scarborough piled on the pressure. The striker duly scored twice in the space of seven minutes after outpacing the entire Scarborough defence to seal the tie and send Torquay to Wembley. Unfortunately, Jack was unable to inspire a famous win as the Gulls went down 1-0 to Colchester, although the Vincentian did have a goal ruled out for offside.

It would prove to be Jack’s final appearance for Torquay as he joined then-first division side Crewe Alexandra for £650,000 – a record fee for both clubs. Jack’s fine service in his three years at Plainmoor have not been forgotten: in 2009, the player was named as Torquay’s 48th-best player of all time in the club’s “50 Golden Greats” list.

Although he stayed at Crewe for five years, the longest spell of his career with one club, Jack was unable to match his scoring form at Torquay – he netted 33 goals in 163 league games for his new club, compared to 27 strikes in 93 appearances for the Yellows. Nonetheless, Jack still managed to contribute some vital, and often spectacular goals.

Jack’s speed rendered him unplayable in his prime

He left Gresty Road in 2003 for Rushden & Diamonds, and despite Jack’s 12 goals in 45 games in his only season at the club, Rushden were relegated from League One following manager Brian Talbot’s defection to Oldham Athletic. Escaping Rushden’s financial troubles, Jack followed Talbot to Boundary Park, but his one-season stay in Lancashire was blighted by injuries – he played just ten games all season.

Another brief spell followed, this time at Irish outfit Waterford United, before Jack received a hero’s welcome on his return to Crewe in 2006. However, the club’s reluctance to award Jack with any more than a one-year deal showed that he was no longer the same player – 1 goal in 30 games in 2006-07 represented a shadow of the his previous goalscoring form.

Recent years have seen the Vincentian take in a five-game spell at Southport in 2008, before Jack finally resettled at non-league side Nantwich Town. His advancing years, combined with a slight loss of pace, mean that Jack is no longer a regular goalscorer or major handful for defences, but his ability is clear to see – in 2010-11, at the age of 39, Jack was named Nantwich’s Player of the Year. His experience and performances provoked manager Jimmy Quinn to claim “He can be important for us [as an impact player], but I also think he could do a job on the coaching side”.

Regardless of whether the 45-cap international chooses to accept Quinn’s offer, Rodney Jack has permanently etched his name into both Caribbean and English football folklore. He is an inspiration to young footballers in a country that rarely boasts European-based players, and his success on the continent is yet to be replicated by any of his compatriots.

Watch Jack’s pace tear apart the Scarborough defence in Torquay’s 1998 play-off semi-final:

Bobby to Boro

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.

Olejnik had a lot to shout about during his only season at Plainmoor

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.”

Olejnik’s departure will boost Martin Rice’s chances of first-team football next season

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.

Images: Olejnik – http://www.torquayunited.com; Rice – http://www.thisisdevon.co.uk.

Torquay United manager Martin Ling had best make the most of his time off while he can – United’s supremo seems set to spend most of his summer break haggling with the various Championship and League One clubs rumoured to be interested in his biggest stars. Recent reports suggest two of United’s biggest assets, midfielder Eunan O’Kane and goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik, are the subject of substantial bids from sides higher up the Football League pyramid.

Following a season of unprecedented success that saw the Gulls flirt with automatic promotion for much of the season before eventually falling away and being beaten by Cheltenham Town in the play-offs, Ling had made it clear that he expected bids for his top players, and he has been proved right in recent weeks.

Playmaker O’Kane, a youth international for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, arrived at Plainmoor in 2010 from Coleraine, following a spell in Liverpool playing for Everton’s youth team. He played an important role under Paul Buckle in 2010-11, showing glimpses of promise and maturity that defies his age  – O’Kane is still only 21 and has already made over 120 appearances for Torquay.

O’Kane’s success at United has unsurprisingly led to offers from clubs in higher divisions

As if his previous campaign hadn’t been successful enough, ultimately culminating in heartbreak in a play-off final loss to Stevenage at Old Trafford, O’Kane began the 2011-12 season in even better fashion. Sensational strikes, including a brilliant lob over Plymouth keeper Roman Larrieu from 35 yards in a tense November Devon derby, further endeared the Irishman to the Plainmoor faithful. Eunan’s scintillating form continued through much of the season, although burnout – having started every single one of United’s 46 league fixtures – arguably robbed him of a more significant contribution against Cheltenham in the play-offs.

Unsurprisingly, interest in O’Kane is reportedly not limited to the one club who have had a bid confirmed, League One new boys Crawley Town. A club disliked by many Torquay fans, thanks in no small part to antagonistic former manager Steve Evans, Crawley’s interest has sparked “Anyone but Crawley!” groans from the Yellow Army.

Crawley’s new manager – ex-Doncaster chief Sean O’Driscoll – is believed to have placed a bid of around £175,000 for O’Kane, triggering a release clause inserted in the player’s most recent contract that allows him to talk to other clubs.

Said Ling: “When Eunan signed a new contract both he and his agent requested a release clause to be included, which we were happy to insert because we wanted Eunan to stay…we also felt the release clause would ensure our value of Eunan would be met. Crawley Town have now fulfilled that criteria, allowing Eunan to discuss a deal with them next week.”

With other clubs, including Swindon Town, Rotherham and even Championship side Crystal Palace rumoured to be interested in Eunan, recently named in the League Two Team of the Year, some Torquay fans have understandably resigned themselves to losing their team’s brightest creative talent. However, Ling believes there is still hope of seeing O’Kane line-up in United’s first fixture of 2012-13, a Capital One Cup clash with Leicester City: “this doesn’t mean Eunan O’Kane is definitely going and [Crawley] are the only club to have met the criteria of the release clause at this moment in time”. Indeed, some supporters believe that the midfielder would be better advised to stay at Plainmoor for another year, cementing his reputation as one of the Football League’s best young talents, rather than spending 2012-13 sat on the bench of  a League One or Championship club.

As if the speculation surrounding O’Kane was not worrying enough for United fans, Sky Sports reported on Wednesday that second-tier outfit Peterborough United have “had a bid accepted” for Torquay’s highly-rated shot-stopper Bobby Olejnik. The Vienna-born former Austria under-21 international only joined the Gulls last season, following spells with Aston Villa’s reserve team and Scottish side Falkirk.

Although the drop from Falkirk, one of Scotland’s biggest clubs outside the SPL, to fourth-division Torquay may have initially looked hard to justify, Olejnik’s use of a spell at Plainmoor to propel him up the Football League ladder has worked wonders for his career. A brilliant 2011-12 season that saw him smash United’s clean sheet record, feature in every league game and make the League Two Team of the Year.

Olejnik makes the kind of save that has attracted interest from Championship sides

Vital penalty saves, including against Crewe in a 1-1 draw late in the season, as well as countless impressive stops in open play, endeared Olejnik to Torquay fans, who will undoubtedly be sorry to see him go if the Austrian decides to accept Peterborough’s offer. However, there is some hope of the goalkeeper staying at Plainmoor for next season, with rumours that Peterborough chief Darren Ferguson has also placed a bid for Gillingham’s Argentinian custodian Paulo Gazzaniga. It seems unlikely that Sir Alex’s son would be willing to spend a sizeable chunk of his budget on two League Two goalkeepers, especially if one would only be a back-up.

Losing both players would certainly dent Torquay’s hopes of promotion in 2012-13, with many fans expressing doubts that Martin Ling would be able to find quality replacements before the transfer window slams shut. Similarly, the news that key centre-back Mark Ellis has yet to agree a deal for next season – with a move to Plymouth Argyle rumoured to be on his mind – will further raise concern amongst supporters.

It is a cruel but unavoidable consequence of an unexpectedly successful season, and United can only sit tight and hope that some of their key assets are still around come August. If not, the side could well struggle to reach the play-offs in 2012-13.

While simultaneously trying to avoid losing his star players, Ling has wasted no time in trimming United’s squad in his first full summer with the club. Recent departures include defenders Lathaniel Rowe-Turner and Ed Palmer, who have both been released, while midfielders Lloyd Macklin and Chris McPhee have been transfer-listed in a bid to secure more first-team football for the underused duo. Torquay have also signed ex-Everton winger Nathan Craig on a permanent deal, following a lengthy trial in 2011-12, while Kenyan international Taiwo Atieno leaves Plainmoor having failed to survive Ling’s post-season cull.

Images: O’Kane – TorquayUnited.com; Olejnik – ThisIsSouthDevon.co.uk.