Portadown issued a significant statement of intent on Wednesday with the signings of released Linfield duo Michael Gault and Mark McAllister.
Midfielder Gault was confirmed on a two-year contract early on Wednesday afternoon, while striker McAllister’s capture – on a three-year deal – emerged later that night.
The duo arrive hot on the heels of former Blues teammate Robert Garrett who signed a three-year contract two weeks ago.
It is evidence of a major summer recruitment drive by Ports boss Ronnie McFall, who himself is embarking on a new two-year extension.
The long-standing Shamrock Park boss is hoping Portadown can target major silverware next season, and with three new additions he believes the club can lay down a genuine challenge.
Gault and McAllister – who were released by Linfield last week – were on the wish-lists of a number of Premiership clubs.
Champions Cliftonville, Glentoran, Glenavon, Coleraine and Ballymena United were all linked with moves, but Portadown have won the race for the duo’s signatures.
Reflecting on Gault’s deal, McFall believes the Ports have signed a “winner and a leader” following the midfielder’s stellar 13-year spell with Linfield.
“He is a born winner. He is competitive and has that winning mentality – something that we need at the club,” McFall said of Gault, who won over 20 trophies in 480 appearances for the Blues.
“We tried to sign him a few years back but it didn’t work out, but we have got him now.
“I think every club in the Irish League would have loved to sign Michael. He is a player that would boost any club in the Premiership.
“I was very surprised when he was released, but that’s football. We made our move and spoke to the player, and it was an easy deal to complete.
“He was very keen to come to Portadown and that was important.
“He is in his prime. He is at a good age and has so much to offer. Michael had a great season last year and hopefully he can carry that into next season.”
Gault will undergo an operation on an ankle injury next Monday, but McFall expects the former Northern Ireland international to be available for the start of the season.
“It is just a tidy up job on the ankle and is nothing serious,” McFall added.
“He will have surgery on Monday and he will be fine for the start of the season – we have no concerns over that.”
McAllister was jettisoned by new Blues boss Warren Feeney last week, bringing the curtain down on a successful five-and-a-half-year spell at Windsor Park.
The former Dungannon Swifts striker bagged 54 goals in 209 appearances for Linfield.
McFall admits he still wants to add to his squad for next season.
“We only had a squad of 16 last season, and that included Ross Redman who missed virtually the whole year,” he added.
“Our lack of numbers certainly took its toll last season.”
Meanwhile, McFall has confirmed Kieran Harding is staying as his number two at the club.
Speculation had been mounting that Harding was set to exit Shamrock Park as part of McFall’s new two-year deal.
“There has been a lot of rubbish flying about in recent weeks, but that’s all it has been,” McFall said.
“Kieran is still my assistant and will be for the next two years.
“He is an important member of the set-up here, and he is the top coach in the country.”