How long can you keep a good man down?
Bobby Olejnik should never have signed for Torquay United. Because he was too good for us from the start. Here is a goalkeeper who came through the youth ranks at Aston Villa, played for Austria’s U21s 13 times, and played in the top flight in Scotland for Falkirk. And then he signed for a small League Two side. It doesn’t really make sense.
He is a very good goalkeeper. After seeing Torquay lurch from keeper to keeper over the past few years, I’d become convinced that actually there’s not that much between all keepers – as long as you’re a good shot-stopper and don’t make many mistakes, you’re good enough to play at any level, and there are plenty of those about. Bobby has completely changed my opinion on that – there is a clear divide between the good and the best. Why? Not only because he is an outstanding shot-stopper, but because he commands his area and gives the back four confidence. I would suggest that our clean sheets record this year was virtually entirely down to him – not only because he made numerous world-class saves but because he inspired the defenders playing in front of him.
Losing him is a massive blow, even if we have received a rumoured £300,000 for him – added to the money we are probably going to receive for Eunan O’Kane, it should give us a nice pot to spend, but the talented players don’t find themselves. There are plenty of good lower league keepers out there but he was on another level – that we should never have been in contention to sign a player of his ability to start with makes it virtually impossible to find a replacement as good as him. In the bigger picture of football generally, he deserves his move to a division more suited to his sizeable talent – I’d go as far as to say that he has a reasonable chance of playing in the Premier League and may represent his country in the future, as he’s only 25 and may improve further, and a move to a higher division will certainly put him more in the spotlight. But in terms of Torquay, I don’t know where we can go from here, because whoever we sign will almost certainly be underwhelming in comparison. Ling’s got to perform some miracles if we’re to get anywhere near the play-offs.
I’m hoping to do more Torquay-related articles this year, hopefully in the form of small posts like this, though sometimes I find it difficult to stop writing. With Greenwich Gull’s Ben scaling back, I ought to step up to the plate more. I have a nice little niche here as a Torquay United blogger – there aren’t many of us around.