YORK City manager Martin Foyle is hoping new signings Greg Young and Duane Courtney will re-establish the club as a defensive force next season.
The Minstermen set a new club record for fewest goals conceded during 2009/10 but have since lost right-back Ben Purkiss to Oxford United and are still waiting to hear whether centre-half Luke Graham will take up a new contract offer.
Foyle has acted swiftly to plug the gaps, however, securing the services of full-back Courtney from Kidderminster and 6ft 3in defender Young, who has spent the last two seasons at Altrincham, on free transfers.
Midfielder Levi Mackin, meanwhile, has also committed his future to City for another season after signing a new deal.
Courtney, 25, served his apprenticeship at Birmingham City before moving on to Telford, where he earned a £25,000 move to Burnley and played in the Championship.
He went on to join Welsh club The New Saints before signing for Kidderminster last summer.
Foyle said: “I totally understand Ben Purkiss’ decision to go to Oxford, but Duane has been in my sights for quite a while. He’s very much like James Meredith in that he has plenty of pace, energy and can get better.
“He has a fantastic attitude and I want players like him who are hungry to improve and make us better at the same time. At 25, he’s a great age and he’s also athletic. I like that in a player, especially in your back four and we have it in James Meredith and Duane.
“Then you are looking at two centre-backs – with one a big one who can head and clear – to form something together.”
Despite the presence within the ranks of centre-half Daniel Parslow and midfielder Alex Lawless, who have both filled in at right-back in the past, Foyle felt it was important to bring in a specialist for the role following Purkiss’ departure but has warned Courtney he is not guaranteed a starting place, while adding that he can still fulfil the potential that made him a transfer target for the likes of Burnley and Wolves in the past.
The City chief said: “I know Alex can play right-back and Dan did a fantastic job away from home in making us dogged and hard to beat but I want players who can push forward at the right times.
“Dan got better at that the more he played there, but it was a bit of an awkward situation for him.
“Duane’s coming in to fight for a place though. He’s not an automatic choice and knows that, but hopefully he can push us on.
“He went to Burnley early in his career but, as a young lad at a big club, you don’t always get the appearances. It happened early in my career at Southampton.
“Sometimes, you have to move downwards or sideways to get back where you want to be and he’s still got time to push up another division or two.”
Doncaster-born Young, 27, started his career at Sheffield Wednesday before moving on to Grimsby and Halifax, where he helped the Shaymen reach the Conference play-off final in 2006.
He has spent the last two years with Altrincham, combining studying for a university degree with playing part-time football and Foyle feels he can be a useful acquisition at both ends of the pitch.
He said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Greg has signed for us. He’s one who has shackled our front two on numerous occasions.
“He’s also left-footed, 6ft 3in and can score from set-pieces, which is one of the few areas we have been quite poor in and I’ve had a moan and groan about because the deliveries have been fantastic.”
He said: “Sometimes you have to move on and you can’t wait for ever. I need a breather rather than working all summer again but we are still talking to Luke on a regular basis so, hopefully, there will be more to come on that front as well.
“I’ve spoken to Jimmy’s agent but sometimes these things don’t happen quickly and players have 30 days to think about contracts.”
But Foyle is pleased former Wales Under-21 international Mackin has taken up the offer to further his Bootham Crescent career, adding: “Levi plays that defensive midfield role very well and I’m sure other people were looking at him.
“I think he could play in the League, so I’m delighted he will be staying with us for another year.
“We’ll be looking to make him more of a threat in the final third of the pitch now and give him the belief that he can score goals because there aren’t many players around who can use both feet.”
Foyle also revealed he had been in no position to prevent winger Adam Smith from joining Mansfield on a free transfer.
He said: “Adam’s got a great deal with Mansfield – one we couldn’t compete with.”