Blue Square Bet
Published 27th June 2012
....of highly-regarded striker Craig McAllister from Conference Premier side Newport County.
The imposing 31-year-old joins on a two-year deal which sees the forward become a Spitfire for the third time, having had spells at the Silverlake in 2001 and 2004.
"He has a very good physical presence and is exceptional in the air. Combine that with his excellent work ethic Craig will add another dimension to our attacking options next season," said Baird.
"Last season he was plying his trade for Luton who got to the Conference Premier play-off final, the season before he was an integral part of Crawley's Conference-winning team - he has proven quality and that record is hard to ignore."
McAllister said: "Whilst not for a second do I think this is the end of my career, I always said I wanted to come back to Eastleigh one day. I still own a house in the area and my parents are just up the road in Midanbury.
"It's true Eastleigh tried to sign me last year before I went to Luton and the manager made a good impression and was really keen to get me, which is nice. Listening to him and the owner it is clear they want to push the club on with continued investment so it's an exciting place to be around."
The powerful 6`1” striker was born in Glasgow but at the age of seven the family relocated to Bitterne Park in Southampton, with him attending St George's school. Whilst playing for local club Pirelli's, Craig was spotted and soon signed for Eastleigh beginning his footballing journey.
In 2002 he signed for Basingstoke Town, scoring fifty-three times in ninety-six appearances at the Camrose which earned him a move to Stevenage Borough.
Struggling for first-team action at Broadhall Way, he returned to Eastleigh on loan scoring six times in just four appearances before being recruited by Woking. He went onto smash twenty-three goals in eighty-three games for the Cards.
Stints at Grays Athletic, Oxford United and Exeter City followed before joining Crawley in 2010.
Regarded as the perfect foil for prolific strike partner Matt Tubbs -who has since transferred to AFC Bournemouth for a reported £800,000 - he helped Crawley achieve promotion with forty-one appearances and a dozen goals. That season included Crawley's remarkable FA Cup run beating Championship club Derby County in the Third Round and League Two's Torquay United in round four.
Those victories set up the dream tie at Old Trafford against Manchester United where McAllister was rubbing shoulders with opponents such as Rooney, Carrick, Hernandez and Anderson - a Wes Brown header gave United a 1-0 victory.
Last season saw McAllister decide to stay within the non-League circuit and signed a two-year contract with Newport County, having rejected Crawley's one year contract extension.
McAllister continued: "In hindsight I probably should have stayed with Crawley but the Newport offer was for two years giving me a bit of financial security and we were settling in the south west with a baby.
"Everyone was great to me at Newport but it just didn't work out and was definitely a low point in my career. What was crazy was twelve months before I was playing at Old Trafford in front of seventy odd thousands, but that's football."
He swapped the relegation dogfight with Newport to join promotion-chasing Luton of the same division in January 2012 on loan. Making fourteen appearances for the Hatters, McAllister was on the bench as they narrowly missed out in the Promotion Play-Off final against York City at Wembley.
"I am really looking forward to the new season and meeting up with the lads - I know Chris Flood from our days at Crawley and know Danny Smith and Andy Forbes from local football growing up in Southampton."