He has been one of Chester FC 's key men this season but the future of Ryan Lloyd remains unclear.

The 3-0 defeat to Solihull Moors on New Year's Day marked the final game of the central midfielder's loan spell from League One Port Vale, with the 22-year-old now back with the Valiants and left in limbo.

Such has been the calibre of Lloyd's performances this season, he has received interest from at least two National League clubs, one of which is understood to be Steve Burr's Southport.

Lloyd has publicly stated his desire to remain with Chester but the decision could be taken out of his hands if a permanent offer to take him away from Vale Park arises, with the midfielder's contract up at the end of the season.

It appears that Lloyd may not have a future with the Staffordshire club but there does remain the chance that Chester could retain his services on loan to the end of the season, although a permanent move for Lloyd away from Vale Park for a fee could prove attractive for the League One side.

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The Chronicle understands that the Blues are exploring all options with Lloyd and there remains a chance that he could join Chester on a permanent deal, although should a fee be involved then that may prove problematic for the Blues, operating within a tight budget.

Chester manager Jon McCarthy has made no secret of his desire to keep Lloyd at the club and reaffirmed his stance after the Solihull Moors game, stating that the club were also keen to keep Theo Vassell, whose loan spell from Walsall also came to an end on New Year's Day.

Ryan Lloyd on the ball

"We are trying to make that happen but they are good players and they create some interest," said McCarthy.

"I'll have to fight as hard as I can to see if we can make him stay. He (Lloyd) likes it here and he is in a team that is fighting in the top half of the table. We have a good relationship with Port Vale and so we will do everything to try and keep him.

"But circumstances might go against us, we don't own the player. It is facts, it is resources. We will be as ambitious as we can with our resources."

Lloyd has been a mainstay of the Chester side so far this season after joining on loan for a second time in August, having spent time on loan at the Blues last season under the now Southport manager Burr.

January looks set to be a testing time for McCarthy, whose side travel to Braintree Town on Saturday (3pm), with the futures of Lloyd and Vassell up in the air as well as anticipated interest in teenage defender Sam Hughes and possibly other players too.