TORQUAY boss Gary Johnson has indicated that he plans to unearth gems rather than signing established names, adding further substance to his side’s established interest in Poole Town hotshot Tony Lee.

The Gulls are one of five National League clubs circling the 25-year-old, with Torquay currently showing the heaviest interest, as the club have had an enquiry and informal offers turned down.

Another southern-based club, Yeovil, are also strong suitors, but not to the extent of Torquay, whilst Woking, Halifax and Football League bound Grimsby have Lee on their radar.

It is understood by the Daily Echo that whilst no formal negotiations have taken place, the Devon outfit were way off Poole’s ‘respectable five-figure’ set-price with their first informal offer, but have subsequently increased the fee they would be willing to pay.

However, Poole remain firm in their valuation of last season’s top goalscorer, with the Gulls still some distance off the required fee to prise Lee away from the BlackGold Stadium.

Lee is under contract with the Dolphins until the end of the 2022-23 season, and whilst he would be interested in a move to a professional side, he is not actively pushing for a move due to his strong relationship with the club.

Johnson had previously stated that he intended to bring in “marquee players” to his side, and when asked what he meant by the term, he explained his definition.

He told TUFC TV: “It’s a good question. To bring in a marquee player, it is very difficult to bring in that player that is already known, with a family.

“And somebody that’s creating a lot of interest because he’s a marquee player, everywhere else, because he is a marquee player.

“So what we have to do is we bring in a player that we believe we be that marquee player as soon as he starts playing for us, I.E there’s lots of players that we’ve brought in on loan and under contract that have entertained us.

"There’s many more players that turned into marquee players, than turned into players that we needed to move on pretty quick.

“So, we hope that marquee-tag is somebody that comes into Torquay, that everybody likes, everybody comes to games to watch that particular player play.

“And I think that people will get a good idea of what I mean by a marquee player in pre-season, ready for the start of the season.

“Because we’re bringing in some talented people, and I’m really pleased with them. They will become marquee players to our Torquay fans, I promise you that.”

Whilst interest in Lee sprouted prior to the end of the National League season, Johnson stressed that any new incomings would be announced closer to July.

He also revealed that he had been surprised with a few names speculated, calling for patience from Gulls supporters over the summer.

As Lee is under contract, Poole have not granted Torquay permission to discuss personal terms with the former Eastleigh man.

“It’s always late, because you can’t sign anyone on contract until the first of July,” continued Johnson.

“So until those contracts are signed, you’ve not really got a hold on anybody. Tottenham Hotspurs comes calling if you like, they can agree with you but then walk out the next day.

“It can only become official on the first of July. I’ll try and get people to commit themselves by being with me, at pre-season shaking hands – we go back on the 30th of June anyway, but if I can do anything earlier, then I will do.

“People will just have to enjoy the summer, be patient, and understand that you can’t (sign players).

“There’s lot of names being thrown around, I’ve seen some of them I’ve never heard of, let alone been talking to them.

“Let’s get on with it, and at the right time, we’ll sort of let everyone know when we know.

“We don’t speculate, we have to do it properly and wait for the right time, and that’s what we do as a club.”