Carlisle United have today made former Aston Villa forward Harry McKirdy their fourth summer signing.
The 22-year-old has signed a one-year deal with the Blues after being released by Villa this summer.
McKirdy has previous League Two experience through loan spells with Stevenage, Crewe and Newport.
His arrival comes with United sorely in need of new faces after an exodus of players.
McKirdy had been with Villa from 14 after joining from Stoke, and progressed through their youth ranks.
He was unable to progress to the first team at Villa Park and made a total of 42 appearances in his three loan moves since 2016, scoring six goals.
His most recent spell came with losing play-off finalists Newport last term, where McKirdy played 13 times – 11 from the bench – and netted once.
He said he is ready to kickstart his career with United and a conversation with manager Steven Pressley convinced him to move to Brunton Park.
McKirdy said: “After leaving Villa, I had a few phonecalls, and when I spoke to the gaffer he was the one that excited me the most.
“I met him on Wednesday, and what he had to say was interesting to me. I’ve ended up signing here and I’m looking forward to next season.”
McKirdy is also a former Villa team-mate of ex-Blues loanee Callum O’Hare and the pair spoke about United.
“I speak to Callum all the time – when he was on loan last year we kept in touch most days,” McKirdy said. “He enjoyed it here and had good words to say about the club, fans and the gaffer.
“I’m quite similar to Cal – energetic. I play higher than Cal does but I like to score goals and create goals.
“I think, with the kind of player [the manager] is looking for, I tick most of the boxes – he wants energy and hard work, and he wants a goalscorer. Hopefully I can do all three for him.”
McKirdy said the way Pressley sold the challenge to him was a big factor in moving north.
He also said he was not deterred by the shortage of players at Brunton Park currently.
On Pressley, he said: “He reminded me a lot of the two managers I had growing up at Villa, Tony McAndrew and Kev [MacDonald]. Just some of the things he was saying, I felt like I was in a room with them.
“I know I’ve played well for those two before. I just thought I could do well for him.”
McKirdy said the importance of playing for a manager with belief in him is key.
He added: “When I went to Stevenage they really believed in me and I did well there. The last two [loan clubs] maybe not so much. To have someone that believes in me, I think I can kick on.
“I need to go and prove what I think I can do. This year I have to do it. I’m at the age where you can’t just keep being ‘nearly’ – I need to go and do it.
“I’ve probably not played as much as I’d like with any of [my loan clubs]. Hopefully this year it’s time for me to kick on.
“The situation [being released by Villa] wasn’t a shock to me. I’m at an age where I need to go and play games regularly. It wasn’t to be at Villa – they got promoted, I’m delighted for the club and I’ll always keep an eye out on their results and hope they do well.
“But it was time for me personally to go and start my career and play games.
“I enjoy playing in League Two. It’s proper football, where results matter. I’m used to it now.
“I’ve not scored that many goals in this league but I’ve not played that many games. My record for starts and goals isn’t that bad, so hopefully I can get a run going playing games.
“I’m confident I can score goals.”
McKirdy will join up with his new team-mates – with United hoping to make a host of further additions – for pre-season training in just over two weeks’ time.
He added: “I know there aren’t many players signed yet, but they will get players in. It was what the manager said to me that made me want to come and play for him.
“I want to get through pre-season, get as fit as I can, and when the season starts I want to be in the team, help the boys win, be as high as we can in the table and try and get promoted.”
He added that his style of play ought to suit the way Pressley wants his United side to perform.
McKirdy said: “I remember last season when I was on loan at Newport and we played Carlisle, and I was on the bench.
“Not many teams went to Newport and tried to play football, but I noticed Carlisle did. I spoke to Cal [O’Hare] after the game and said ‘they’ve had a right go’. You could see the way they wanted to play.
“No matter how the pitch was or how things went in the game, they stuck to the plan. Not many teams do that, and that exited me.”
McKirdy's contract includes a "review", United have said.
Manager Steven Pressley added on the club website: “We’re delighted to have Harry on board. He fits the profile of the kind of player I’m looking for in that he's young, ambitious and hungry at what is a pivotal moment in his career.
“He’s a player who is very attack minded and who likes to score and create goals. Positionally he's very versatile, with the ability to play wide on either side or centrally, depending on how we approach the game.
"He’s sharp, he travels well with the ball and he’s a terrific finisher.
“I’ve spoken to the staff at Aston Villa, and I’ve watched him play, and I know he’s a lad who has excellent character and who wants to kick on."