Blow for Alty as Toby pushes for League chance and joins Dale
Report by John Edwards
Picture by Ben Roberts
Toby Mullarkey has left Altrincham and joined League Two Rochdale in a deadline-beating transfer that was completed at just after 8pm this evening.
Alty did everything they reasonably could to persuade Toby to remain at The J.Davidson Stadium, but, after he made it plain he wanted to test himself in the Football League, the club reluctantly granted his wish and sanctioned a move that sees him head to Spotland for an undisclosed fee.
The Alty vice-captain's departure is without doubt a development that the club regret after the way he has developed into one of the most accomplished defenders in the Vanarama National League since arriving from Nantwich Town nearly four years ago.
But it is the downside of players thriving under the tutelage of Phil Parkinson and Neil Sorvel that their impact on the pitch attracts the attention of clubs higher up the football pyramid.
Mullarkey was strongly linked with clubs as high as League One at the end of last season, but with the Robins taking the leap into full-time professional football, he agreed to stay and was made vice-captain.
Even filling in at right-back this season, as opposed to his customary role in the centre of defence, his form continued to take the eye, with League scouts and managers monitoring him on a regular basis.
As interest in him intensified, with deadline day approaching, the club moved to stave off a growing list of admirers and convince him he could fulfil his ambitions with the Robins.
But the lure of elevating himself to Football League status at the age of 27 held sway, and when he spelled out that he wanted to leave, the club acquiesced, rather than have an unhappy player on their hands.
A product of the famed Crewe Alexandra youth system, Mullarkey continued to develop at Nantwich, but it was when he became Alty's first pre-season signing ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, at the end of May 2019, that he really began to emerge as an outstanding all-round defender.
While he found himself competing with Tom Hannigan and James Jones for a starting place initially and had to settle for substitute appearances to begin with, he soon established himself as the cornerstone of Alty's defence.
Tall and commanding in the air, his reputation soon grew as an authoritative defender who was confident in possession and polished at bringing the ball out to set up attacks.
He also had a flair for spectacular long-range strikes, helping him rack up 10 goals in all for Alty from 111 starting appearances, plus 21 as substitute, 45 of those outings and four of the goals coming this season.
We are truly sorry to see you go, Toby, but thanks for everything and all the best for the future.