STALYBRIDGE Celtic have made a statement by signing striker Chris Holroyd, a player with a wealth of Football League experience.
The 33-year-old replaces top scorer Darius Osei, who Celtic reluctantly sold to South Shields after they received an offer they were unable to turn down.
Celtic manager Simon Haworth, who feared he would be unable to replace Osei, was surprised to hear Holroyd, whose clubs have included Brighton, Rotherham and Preston, was being released by National League club Chorley.
And he persuaded Holroyd to drop down two divisions to Evo-Stik League premier division by offering him a deal until the end of the 2020-21 season.
Haworth told the club’s website: “We are delighted to have him on board. He has quality, experience and has played a high level.
“He’ll hopefully score some goals. We’ve been thinking about next year to build a team with Chris part of it, that’s the idea.
“Chris is a good player with a good pedigree. He’s a fit lad, a lot fitter than his age suggests!”
Celtic secretary Andrew Betts added: “It is quite a coup as Chris has never played at such a low level.
“It was a surprise Chorley have decided to let him go as he is their top scorer with nine goals in 18 starts.”
Holroyd, who came through the youth system at Crewe Alexandra, made his senior debut for Chester City.
In recent seasons, Holroyd has starred in the National League for Wrexham and Chorley.
Haworth added it was a “huge blow” to lose Osei.
The decision was taken to cash in on former Oldham Athletic player Osei, who could have left in three months as a free agent.
Osei had been pursued by South Shields, who play in the same division as Celtic, for some time.
When Osei scored both Celtic goals against South Shields in a 2-2 draw on Saturday, February 2, they made a renewed and successful bid for the striker who had scored 15 goals in 26 appearances since his early season arrival as a free agent.
Rob Gorski, Celtic chairman and majority shareholder, said: “First and foremost, I am a Celtic fan and I am sad to see him go, but this is good business for the short to medium term future of the club and I mustn’t be too sentimental about it.
“We would have lost him anyway and this is also giving Darius the opportunity to fulfil his dream of being a full-time professional.
“We will back Simon in trying to find another striker, but we couldn’t say no to much needed money when in 12 weeks he would have been a free agent.”
Haworth said: “While I understand the financial reasons, it is a huge blow for me personally and the football club to lose the best striker in our league.
“We were lucky to have a player who ought to have been playing above our level and I am sure he will be back in the Football League in a couple of years.”
While Mr Gorski promised a replacement, Haworth admitted it will be impossible to replace Osei with a player of similar ability.
Celtic have released three further players, Greg Wilkinson, Mark Pearson and Jack O’Leary.
Wilkinson, who made 237 appearances in several spells for Celtic, had barely featured this season which in the early part was disrupted by injury.
He also played for Altrincham, Stockport County and FC United before rejoining Celtic at the start of the 2017-18 season.
Pearson, who stepped up from Celtic’s academy in December, asked to leave to return to former club Dukinfield Town. He made five first-team appearances.
O’Leary has joined Glossop North End permanently following a successful loan spell.
• The Correspondent made repeated efforts since weekend to contact Haworth by telephone and text. The only response was a text message saying: ‘your paper going to print is the least of my worries right now’. He promised to call back, but never did.