Report by John Edwards
Picture by Jonathan Moore
Altrincham's latest signing speaks for itself - it is the spectacular acquisition of Chris Conn-Clarke on a permanent basis for a fee that is a new club record.
Excitement levels are high enough within The J.Davidson Stadium over this blockbuster of a transfer coup but will doubtless be soaring off the scale among Robins fans at the return of a player who turned heads, not to mention games, during an electrifying loan spell last season.
Who could forget the brilliant late solo winner against FC Halifax Town on Boxing Day, or the audacious free-kick that somehow cleared the defensive wall but not the crossbar at The Shay a few days later, or the long-range screamer into the top corner of the Golf Road net that did for Oldham Athletic?
Great memories, all of them, and there is the promise of more to come next season - in a move that is subject to international clearance and FA and NL approval - after the board underlined their determination to keep backing Phil Parkinson's plans by sanctioning a club record fee for a player who lit up the stadium as a loanee and is vowing to do the same as a permanent member of the Robins' squad.
"I loved every single minute of being with Alty last season," said Chris in an Alty TV interview that will be aired here on the club's website tomorrow morning. "So as soon as the gaffer told me he wanted me here after the season finished with Waterford, I said yeah let's do it.
"I want to play in front of those Alty fans again. I'm at my best when I'm enjoying my football, and I loved every minute here. So much so, I felt I was going to score every time I played. I felt a real connection with the rest of the players, the fans, everyone really.
"The gaffer and Neil Sorvel are a massive part of that - they are a great combination. The gaffer brought me in and trusted me, even when I felt I could have done a bit better in the early games.
"He stuck by me, and that meant a lot. He knows what I'm about, and it was great to repay him with a few goals. I'll be aiming to do that again, now he has brought me back as a full-time Altrincham player."
Alty boss Phil revealed the lengths the club went to in order to secure Chris' signature on a permanent basis after the attacking midfielder was recalled by Fleetwood last season and farmed out to Waterford in the League of Ireland.
"It’s with great pleasure and satisfaction that I announce the signing of Chris Conn-Clarke today," he said. "This signing has been a long time in the making - a lot of effort has gone in by a number of people to get the deal over the line.
"The board, recruitment team of analysts and scouts have all stepped up to the plate, and it would never have got completed without everyone working extremely hard.
"This signing also demonstrates the direction the football club are aiming - up. We are known for developing and getting players back on track then moving them on to higher levels in different guises.
"With moving so many key players on last season and in previous seasons, particularly in the front lines, I said to the board that it’s imperative we reinvest in this area significantly or risk falling further behind.
"The board and club have demonstrated their ambitions by investing significantly in Chris Conn-Clarke and making him our club record signing. We all know Chris’ exploits last season and know what he’s capable of at this level of football and, I believe, above.
"I would describe him as a street player, because he plays like he hasn’t got a care in the world, and that’s when he’s at his very best. Chris needs to be given the freedom to play his game and focus on his strengths in order to get the very best out of him.
"He’s had a tremendous football education at Fleetwood Town, under the guidance and tutelage of some very good people.
"I must say a big thank you to Stuart Murdoch and Jack Higgins for the part they played in his development and identifying his talents and bringing him to my attention. Without them, this deal certainly would never have happened. I would not have been aware of Chris, but for their foresight and the care they showed to bring him to my attention.
"A lot was down to them knowing that he would suit the way we like to play at Altrincham and the way we would manage Chris, which is crucial to getting the best out of any player.
"Chris is a huge fans' favourite, not just for his goalscoring exploits but his infectious personality. He’s a lovable rogue, and I believe he will become a cult hero here at Altrincham.
"After losing Jordan Hulme, it was imperative that we found that player - one the fans could relate to and believe in, a player who could cope with this pressure and thrive under the microscope.
"Chris will certainly be that player and I’m delighted he’s back - it’s a real landmark moment for the club."
There will be just as enthusiastic a welcome from Robins fans when you step out for the first time as a bona fide Altrincham player, Chris, so here's hoping it will again be a case of you being good for the club and the club being good for you!
*Watch out for an Alty TV interview with Chris here on the club's website and our social media channels tomorrow morning.