O'KANE FACES D-DAY ON £175K SWITCH
EUNAN O'KANE'S decision – whether or not to join Crawley Town in a proposed £175,000 deal next week – could give Torquay United's investment plans a major boost, on the Plainmoor pitch and off it.
If midfielder O'Kane does opt to join Crawley – and I understand that it is not a foregone conclusion as far as the Ulsterman is concerned – it would give manager Martin Ling fresh ammunition in the summer transfer market AND switch on the green light for United's plans for a new training ground.
O'Kane is due to return from holiday in Florida on Monday, when he will talk over a move to United's former Conference and League Two rivals.
The Gulls already have plans to spend the transfer fee.
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Land at Forches Cross near Newton Abbot has emerged as the hot favourite to become the club's new training ground, and United want to improve the pitches and facilities there.
The Gulls' board also want to boost Ling's player budget.
The United boss would like to sign at least three more players to improve the squad which went so close to promotion last season.
Two players near the top of his shopping list are Scottish midfielder Craig Easton and ex-loan winger Billy Bodin.
Former Dundee United, Leyton Orient, Swindon, Southend schemer Easton, 33, impressed during a trial at Plainmoor near the end of last season, and I understand that he and Ling are talking over a possible permanent deal.
At Swindon Town, Robins manager Paolo Di Canio has questioned the future commitment of Bodin, who is holding out on a contract offer.
Ling said: "I am monitoring the Bodin situation.
"He's got an offer from Swindon, but if he became available I'm sure we won't be the only runners in that race."
O'Kane's future at Plainmoor has been in doubt for a while now, with a series of teams watching him last season.
But, at a time when few clubs have the sort of money it would take to buy him, Crawley now head the queue.
As part of a new contract which he signed midway through last season – it runs until the summer of 2014 – the 21-year-old former Everton scholar and United agreed a 'release' clause.
It is tripped if a higher division club offers £175,000 or more, allowing O'Kane to consider the move.
Crawley's new manager Sean O'Driscoll confirmed this week that he has made a bid, and it is the £175,000 demanded.
Some Torquay fans may be surprised if O'Kane opts to join Crawley.
But they will be playing in League One next season, manager O'Driscoll is a disciple of the passing game which O'Kane loves and, perhaps most important of all, they can afford him.
Crawley enjoyed a sensational rise under former boss Steve Evans, accompanied by lucrative FA Cup runs, and over the last six months they have made around £2 million from the sales of strikers Matt Tubbs to AFC Bournemouth and Tyrone Barnett to Peterborough United.
What remains to be seen is whether O'Kane really fancies a move there, whether he believes his career is better served by waiting for another club to come in or, of course, staying at Plainmoor.
United's other contract uncertainty remains centre-back Mark Ellis, who is currently away on honeymoon.
The Gulls have received no firm approach for Ellis, 23, who has another week to respond to a new two-year contract offer.