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Eunan O'Kane is most missed of Torquay United's three big-name departures

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 12, 2013


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They should earn Torquay United the best part of £600,000 in time, and last summer's sales of Bobby Olejnik, Mark Ellis and Eunan O'Kane allowed the Gulls to press on with the programme of investment, at Plainmoor and the club's Seale-Hayne training ground, which will stand them in good stead in the future.

The arguments over which player United would miss most on the pitch this season have swayed back and forth. At first, some fans believed that Ellis' £75,000 move to Crewe Alexandra would leave a big gap in the heart of the defence – until manager Martin Ling signed Aaron Downes on a free transfer from Chesterfield.

If the player of the year poll was held now, Downes would be right up there with the leaders. Enough said.

Goalkeeper Olejnik was one of the standout successes of last season, a major factor in equalling the club's clean sheet record and in United's run to the play-offs.

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His £300,000 sale (£250,000 plus appearance money which is already rolling in) to Peterborough United worried other supporters.

But the longer this season has gone on, the better Olejnik's replacement Michael Poke has played, and few fans now see him as a concern.

As important as that miserly defence and the presence of Rene Howe up front were for most of last season, the department that made United a threat to any team in League Two in 2011-12 was their midfield.

That's why Ling, asked this week which player his team had missed most from last year, replied: "Probably Eunan O'Kane, if I'm honest."

League One AFC Bournemouth paid £175,000 for the former Everton youngster and, under manager Eddie Howe, he's now holding down a regular place in a winning Cherries team. It wasn't just O'Kane's individual contribution which made opposing managers nervous last season – it was the effect he had on the players around him.

Winger Danny Stevens' ten goals and fellow midfielder Lee Mansell's 13 were tangible evidence of United's threat from midfield, and O'Kane supplied many assists.

Even though O'Kane couldn't quite inspire the Gulls to promotion – in fact, he faded a little over the closing weeks of the campaign – he gave Torquay an ability to keep the ball and a spark of invention which made them one of the best counter-attacking teams in the division. They won 11 of 23 away games.

Injuries to Damon Lathrope, who played the midfield anchorman role, have not helped. And Billy Bodin has not hit the same form as he did during his loan spell from Swindon last season.

However, the fact is that United have not carried the same authority or flair in midfield so far.

Ling is still trying to come up with a formula which really "clicks", and the sight of O'Kane stroking home the goal which earned Bournemouth an FA Cup replay at Premiership Wigan last weekend can only have confirmed that he, of United's trio of summer departees, is the one they are now missing most.

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  • Popsider_Gull  |  January 13 2013, 3:49PM

    Yep couldn't agree more, not scoring enough goals anymore, just got to look around League 2 at the moment at the amount of goals being scored by ex-Torquay forwards (Akinfenwa, Kuffour, Tomlin, Robinson even Atieno). We definitely need another goalscorer (or two), as much as Zebroski may have an attitude problem I can't help but think of the amount of goals he could get for us if we got him on a free. Howe and Jarvis are getting the goals but there's not enough coming from the likes of Stevens, Bodin or Thompson, and I don't think when Macklin and Morris come back they are realistically going to be getting 10+ goals a season.

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  • Pingu007  |  January 13 2013, 9:27AM

    "Eunan O'Kane is most missed of Torquay United's three big-name departures" No he isn't. He was rubbish for the last third of last season, and clearly wanted to be somewhere else. If he'd kept up to the mark, we might be playing in League 1 now. I'd be hard pressed to choose between Olejnik or Ellis as the most missed, and not because we don't have excellent replacements (we do), but simply because I was glad to be rid of O'Kane. But what we most need is goalscorers, so the most missed is probably someone like Bayo. Like it nor not!