Gary Johnson presented Joe Lewis with the Torquay United Young Player of the Season award last month. Credit: Dave Crawford/PPAUK

Gaffer: Joe Lewis could be 'back at Championship club one day'

Dave Thomas

Manager Gary Johnson says defender Joe Lewis, who Torquay United have just sold to Stockport County, has the potential to go all the way back to at least the EFL Championship.

Johnson snapped up Lewis, 22, on a free transfer from Swansea City 18 months ago, after a previous loan spell at Plainmoor, and the Neath-born player is regarded by many Gulls fans as the biggest loss of a summer which has seen six regular starters leave Plainmoor.

The ‘compensation’ fee paid by newly-promoted League Two Stockport, who have also signed free agent Connor Lemonheigh-Evans from Torquay, has not been disclosed.

But it is big enough to stop the case going to a tribunal, and Johnson says: “Add-ons are always important, and we still have an interest financially in Joe’s future, as well as the payment now. The whole package is a good deal.”

Lewis played in every defensive position and a couple of times in midfield for United, and Johnson said: “Joe was at a Championship club, but with 30 pros ahead of his age-group and, with all due respect, he wasn’t ready then.

“We saw his potential and a lot of things we’ve done with him, Downesy (assistant Aaron Downes) on the physical side and me on the mental side, have helped him to develop.

“His character and personality also meant that, even when he and his agent were being bombarded by other clubs last season, it never turned his head and he was a proper team player right to the end.

“We were sorry to lose him – he’s thanked us profusely, which is typical of him – but it was inevitable.

“And yes, I do think he could end up back at a Championship club one day.”

Johnson has still to announce his first signing of the summer – players return for pre-season training next Thursday, June 30, and start their warm-up schedule at Buckland Athletic on July 8.

But he stressed: “Several of the new players who we’ve lined up are already on the fitness regime which our existing players are on.”

A recent social media picture of ex-loanee Sinclair Armstrong training in United kit from last season has got Torquay fans speculating that the young QPR striker might be on his way back, but sources close to the club believe that’s unlikely to happen.