Torquay United boss Martin Ling swoops for Billy Bodin and Michael Poke
TORQUAY UNITED manager Martin Ling has made a fresh bid to sign former loan forward Billy Bodin from Swindon Town AND offered promotion-winning goalkeeper Michael Poke the chance to return to Plainmoor.
Poke has agreed terms, subject to a medical examination, and so has former Arsenal and Carlisle loan defender Tom Cruise.
United defender Mark Ellis is on his way to just-promoted Crewe Alexandra for a fee believed to be around £80,000.
And Eunan O'Kane is still talking to Crawley Town about a £175,000 move to the Broadfield Stadium.
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But Ling strengthened his midfield earlier this week with the signing of highly experienced Scottish midfielder Craig Easton.
Ling had a £40,000 bid for Bodin, 20, turned down by Westcountry rivals Swindon during the last January transfer window.
At the time Robins boss Paolo Di Canio also refused to allow the Wales Under-21 international to return to Plainmoor for a second loan spell.
Di Canio, who later led Swindon to the League Two Championship, allowed Bodin to go out on loan to Crewe.
Bodin helped the Alex to win promotion through the Play-Offs, and they are now United's rivals for Bodin's permanent signature.
Di Canio safeguarded Swindon's interest in Bodin by offering their former trainee a new deal, but he hinted that his future almost certainly lies elsewhere.
Ling may well have repeated his £40,000 New Year offer, but he is unlikely to go beyond £50,000 for a player whom he sees as a long-term investment.
The recent £300,000 sale of Bobby Olejnik to Championship club Peterborough United has made a new goalkeeper a top priority for Ling.
He has had several candidates on his shortlist, but the Gulls' boss met Poke, 26, in London this week and the talks clearly went well.
In three separate loan spells at Torquay during their two years in the Conference, when he was a Southampton player, Poke became a firm favourite with Torquay fans.
One stunning, tie-winning save near the end of the second leg of the 2009 Conference Play-Off Semi-Final at Histon will never be forgotten by the Gulls supporters who made the long midweek trip to Cambridgeshire.
United won 2-1 on aggregate and, with Poke still in goal, went on to clinch promotion back to the Football League with a 2-0 victory over Cambridge United in the Wembley final. Poke has spent the last two years with Brighton & Hove Albion, including a successful loan spell at Bristol Rovers last season, before being released by Seagulls boss Gus Poyet.
United had been waiting for Crewe to increase their first bid for Ellis, 23.
The Kingsbridge-born defender stressed that he would be happy to sign a new two-year deal at Plainmoor, if the chance to play League One football fell through.
But Crewe manager Steve Davis – the Alex recently sold striker Nick Powell to Manchester United for a reported £4 million – returned from holiday this week and breathed fresh impetus into the negotiations.
Torquay wanted to avoid going to a transfer tribunal if possible, and it seems that they have been tempted by a fee in the region of £80,000 with a sell-on clause.
Ling has a shortlist of potential replacements for Ellis in mind, although Cruise, 21, is not that man – he will provide cover mainly at left-back.
Of Easton, 33, Ling has always stressed that he wanted his man – Easton helped Orient to win promotion under Ling in 2006 – whether O'Kane leaves or not.
United and Crawley have a deal for the Ulsterman, and that proposed transfer will stand or fall on personal terms.