NICKY Featherstone has become Paul Murray’s first signing and he’s ready to play.
The 26-year-old ex-Walsall holding midfielder put pen to paper for Hartlepool United yesterday and is set to feature in this afternoon’s vital Sky Bet League Two clash with Newport at Victoria Park.
Murray told SportMail this week that he was desperate for new recruits to boost a squad lacking in depth, adding that he was looking for players in the mid-20s age range.
And just after Featherstone ticked that box, Murray added a second new signing – Dutch trialist Sidney Schmeltz.
The winger, 25, had impressed in training and showed promise in the reserve side in Tuesday night’s Durham Challenge Cup exit at West Auckland.
With the transfer window not due to open for another two months and the Pools loan quota currently standing at five – the maximum permitted for a match-day squad – Murray was keen to check out the free agent market.
Featherstone would appear a good bet for an immediate inclusion, having trained with the squad all week.
Released by Walsall in the summer, he had a spell at another League One side, Scunthorpe United, but left without having played a match though he has recently played four times in the Conference North for Harrogate Town.
“I’m available to play whenever the gaffer needs me,” he told SportMail.
“I trained at Scunthorpe and signed on a non-contract basis but after they changed manager I ended up leaving.
“I dropped down to the Conference North to stay fit and had four games at Harrogate.
“I got a phone call from the gaffer at the end of last week to say would I like to come and train here and things went from there really.
“I knew Paul from when I trained at Oldham briefly and through my pal Dean Holden who played with at Walsall.
“I’ve played against Paul before and know what he’s about.
“I was delighted to get the call – for me it was a chance to get back into the Football League because I didn’t have a club.
“It was a no-brainer really for me as a player and I hope I can help us get out the situation we are in.
“I’m quite experienced – but I’m also just turned 26.
“I’ve played at a higher level and I’ve also played League Two so I know what’s needed.”
A look at Featherstone’s does indeed show he is a seasoned campaigner, having totalled over 130 appearances during his time with Hull City, Grimsby Town, Hereford United and Walsall.
It also reveals Pools fans should not expect to see a box-to-box player – he only has one career goal to his name.
But the East Yorkshireman, who has been given the number 16 jersey, says he is there to provide the security for the ball players to go and express themselves.
“I usually sit the deepest of the midfielders,” he said.
“I’m disciplined and I’ll help the defence, I keep it simple and I’m composed on the ball.
“The gaffer mentioned that he sees me as a good age because he has a lot of young players and some at the opposite end of the range.
“I’ve trained all week with the lads and as happens with a new regime the players are buying into what the gaffer and Willie [Donachie] are telling us.
“The spirit in the camp has been upbeat and it’s important we have the spirit and stay positive.”
Schmeltz will also come into contention for a place in the squad, having been given the number 27 shirt.
Murray knew the 25-year-old from his time as Oldham’s assistant boss, Schmeltz having made 17 appearances for the Latics last season before moving on to Shrewsbury, where he played three times.
Schmeltz played for Willem II in his native Netherlands, before spending a season each at Almere City, Sparta Rotterdam and SC Veendam before signing for Oldham.
He joined Pools on trial this week along with ex-Boro keeper James Montgomery and former Shrews midfielder Steven Leslie.
Schmeltz had some bright moments in the 2-1 Durham Cup exit at West Auckland, starting on the wing before playing the last 15 minutes through the middle.