Crewe Alexandra: Torquay defender Mark Ellis targeted as the new Dave Artell
CREWE are expected to step up their long-standing interest in Torquay centre-half Mark Ellis.
The Alex are looking for a younger version of released captain Dave Artell, aged 31, and are believed to be in talks with the 23-year-old Gulls contract rebel.
The former Bolton trainee has stalled on a new two-year deal at Plainmoor since January, and the offer will be withdrawn on Thursday.
It is understood he wants to move back up north, although any deal would involve compensation being paid to Torquay because he is under the age of 24.
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Crewe manager Steve Davis has made it clear he will not have a fortune to play with, despite the reported £3m up front payment for Nick Powell from Manchester United.
But he might be able to stretch to the £70,000 likely to be requested for Ellis, who made 37 appearances in one of the best defences in League Two last season.
Ellis has made a name for himself as one of the best headers of the ball in the basement tier, providing the presence at set-pieces that Davis is seeking.
That talent was apparent when he lost Artell twice on corners to bag a double at Crewe in 2010.
Former Crewe boss Dario Gradi, now the club's director of football, has made inquiries about the defender's availability since then.
Despite their League Two status, it appears Torquay will be the Railwaymen's main rivals for the signature of Swindon's out-of-contract winger Billy Bodin.
The 20-year-old spent time on loan at both clubs last season, and would have stayed on the south coast if Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio had not considered them as promotion rivals.
Davis has made it no secret that he would like to bring the youngster back to Crewe.
But Torquay chief Martin Ling is cash rich after the £300,000 sale of Bobby Olejnik to Peterborough and seemingly imminent £175,000 departure of Eunan O'Kane to Crawley Town.
Ling – a close friend of Bodin's dad, his former Swindon team-mate Paul Bodin – is expected to make his own bid as he starts rebuilding his team.
CREWE'S League One fixture at Bury has been brought forward and will now be played at 3pm on Good Friday, March 29.