Experienced goalkeeper Phil Barnes became the latest new signing through the door at Matlock Town this week as joint-managers Glenn Kirkwood and Craig Hopkins continue to shape their squad.
The 37-year-old has over 250 Football League matches to his name as well as many more in the non-league game.
And with Barnes having been at Matlock’s local rivals Buxton last season, Hopkins is delighted to have persuaded him to make the move down the A6.
He said: “Everyone knows a good goalkeeper can be worth at least 10-15 points a season and we’re really pleased to have signed someone like Phil.
“He’s 37 but is still mad about football and desperate to play. He didn’t feature in the last couple of months of last season due to injury and had to have an operation, but he’s raring to go now and if we can get him back to the kind of form he was in before Christmas then he’ll be a huge asset.
“He has a great attitude and everything he says gives you the feeling football really means something to him. He’s full of beans and if his experience and love of the game can rub off on the younger lads then that will also be a great benefit.”
Barnes began his career in earnest with Blackpool where he made 141 league appearance before spending three years at Grimsby Town where he was first choice goalkeeper.
He then dropped into non-league with Gainsborough Trinity (two spells), Alfreton Town and Harrogate Town before joining up with Buxton last year.
Barnes is Matlock’s sixth signing of the summer with Dwayne Wiley, Jake Green, Marc Newsham, Jamie Yates and Nico de Girolamo already having joined up with the Gladiators, and while Hopkins and Kirkwood are happy with the acquisitions so far, more are likely to follow.
Hopkins said: “There are still a few deals we’re aiming to tie up and players we’re talking to. Obviously at this stage some lads are holding out for better deals or considering their options which you can understand, but we won’t entertain anyone who is playing us off against another club or who is just wanting to come here and earn a few quid.
“We want players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet and with the right attitude.
“We’re really happy with who we’ve brought in so far and it’s likely we’ll have a look at some trialists too once pre-season training starts, but we’ll want to make quick decisions on those as we want to have a settled squad of around 16-18 as soon as we can.”
Hopkins is still hoping to add another fixture to the Gladiators’ pre-season schedule which currently has eight games arranged, with the players due back for training on Saturday, June 25.
He added: “We were torn between a June 25 and July 2 start but given the players haven’t played since April 23 they’ll have had nine weeks off and the extra week will be important in terms of getting them fit.
“Leaving it another week might have been cutting it a bit fine. We’ll aim to have six sessions before the first friendly and see how it goes from there.
“We’re expecting the lads to come back in decent shape. We know the boys we’ve signed from Mickleover will be and from what we can gather the lads kept on are disciplined too and will also be in good condition.
“In any case, it’s exciting for everyone what with it being a new start and that in itself should put a spring in everyone’s step.”
*Thanks to Mark for allowing us to use his piece from the Matlock Mercury in the absence of Ian Richardson who is on his holidays.