Buxton FC have made a statement of intent with the signing of Diego De Girolamo, believes Paul Phillips.
De Girolamo, a product of Sheffield United’s academy, finished last season with National League champions Macclesfield Town following his release from Bristol City.
The highly-regarded 22-year-old has also spent time on loan at York City, Northampton Town, Cheltenham Town and hometown club Chesterfield FC during his career.
While he has also represented Italy at under 18, 19 and 20 age groups.
De Girolamo has put pen to paper with the Bucks and joins Liam Hardy and Ant Wilson among the forward options available to Phillips and co-manager Steve Halford.
“We worked really hard to bring him in,” said Phillips. “I spent half my holiday speaking to him, rather than my wife and kids, but it’s come off!
“He’s a little bit behind the others, which is understandable, he’s had one training session and two 60-minute games but you can tell the kid is the real quality.
“He looked a bit like himself last night (in a pre-season friendly with Alfreton Town).
“He does things you expect a lad with his pedigree can do and we think we’ve got the best forward line in the league once we’ve got them all up to speed.
“He’s got that spark. He can play as a forward and link up play. His work ethic is a massive part to his game as well.
“He worked his socks off on Saturday even though he wasn’t fit and did the same again last night.
“It’s a credit to the football club and the chairman and people behind the scenes to get this one over the line because I think it shows the ambitions of the football club and where we want to go as whole.
“We worked very hard to tell him what this football club is and what it will be going forward. With Diego and the players already here says we really mean business this year.”
Five triallists featured for the Bucks in their pre-season friendly with Alfreton Town at the Impact Arena on Tuesday night, which ended 3-0 to the National League North side.
Phillips said: “We’ve got good quality in the side and a few lads still away so the trouble is whoever comes in has got to really excel. There are one or two who have got a bit about them, but are they better than what we’ve got? That’s the decision we’ve got to make over the next 48 hours.
“We’ll speak among us, as a backroom team, and there will be decisions to be made. One of the midfielders has come back from an ACL and the other from a metatarsal break so it’s hard to judge people when they’re not up to fitness. I don’t think anyone’s let themselves down.
“I thought it was a very good team last night and a lot of the Alfreton players had been together for a long time. You could tell that they were a team and we were a team in the making. Everyone’s had a part to play and hopefully we’ll pick the right 16-18 players for the squad.”
And added: “I think we’re ahead of the game in terms of players. We’re two positions short of where we want to be and hopefully we can get those filled over the next two or three weeks and we can do what we need to do to be in the mix this year.”
Former Shaw Lane man Paul Ennis also signed for the Bucks on Friday. The attacking midfielder is returning to fitness from a career-threatening ACL injury.
“He’s played a lot of games in the Conference North and is probably three or four weeks behind the other lads given the injury he has had,” said Phillips.
“We’ll look to get him out and a few 90 minutes matches but we’ve seen last night and on Saturday the quality he brings.
“He brings experience and brings a goal scoring threat and it’s another string to the bow if we need an extra dimension.
“He’s got a long way to go though coming back from a career threatening injury.”
Following matches with Stockport County last Saturday and Alfreton on Tuesday night, Phillips and Halford prepare their troops for the short trip to New Mills this weekend.
“Stockport and Alfreton were two very different tests,” said Phillips.
“Stockport are more of a football team and Alfreton are a big and strong physical side, very organised, and we looked a bit leggy last night.
“But that’s what you get when you play Thursday, Saturday and Tuesday. We knew we needed the tests. We’ll probably let go five or six players from the teams that played over those periods.
“Now is the time to knuckle down and four weeks is when the hard work starts. We’ve had a look at a lot of people and now it’s time to settle down with people, tell them their jobs and get them up to speed.
“We could get them running all day on the training pitch but there’s no better intensity than when you’re playing games and getting 90 minutes into your legs.
“The lads are probably up to 70-75 minutes and over the next four weeks we’ll push on even more to get them ready up to 90 for when the league starts.”