NEWPORT County AFC manager Justin Edinburgh clinched the signing of young hotshot Conor Washington yesterday and insisted that fellow strikers Ryan Charles and Jake Harris are still in his plans.
The Exiles boss beat a host of clubs to secure the signature of the 20-year-old from Cambridge-shire outfit St Ives Town for a ‘nominal’ transfer fee.
Washington scored 52 goals in just 50 games in the United Counties Football League Prem-ier Division last season.
That incredible record led to a trial with Championship strugglers Peterborough United and he has also been linked with League Two sides Dagenham & Redbridge and Northampton Town.
Blue Square Bet Premier rivals Luton Town were also interested in the youngster, who has given up his job as a postman in Cambridge to go full-time with County until the end of the 2013-14 season.
He underwent a medical at Cambridge United in May and it was reported that his local Conference side pulled out of a deal because of a knee problem.
But Exiles physio Wayne Jones reported no concerns yesterday and Edinburgh was delighted to have captured such a hot prospect.
“Anyone with a goalscoring record of 125 goals in 190 appearances is someone we will be alerted to,” said Edinburgh, who has been tracking Washington for some time.
“It is at a lower level but there are some rough diamonds out there and he fits the bill.
“I think it’s a good time for us to bring him in with no expectation on him.
“There will obviously be a transitional period coming from being a postman to full time footballer but he’s got all the attributes.
“Every signing you make is a gamble but I back my own judgment. He’s got an eye for goal and I think he’s worth it.
“I’m delighted with the backing the chairman has given me with the permanent signing of Lenny Pidgeley at the weekend and now signing Conor until the end of next season,” he added.
“There was a nominal fee. His club St Ives have nurtured him through their youth system and we’ve come to a realistic agreement.
“I thank Les for that because it’s the first time since I’ve been at the club that we’ve purchased a player. It wasn’t very much but it’s great to have that backing.”
Edinburgh sees Washington as one for the future and says Charles and Harris should not be concerned by the signing.
“It leaves no-one in any different position,” he said. “There is a lot of competition for places, far more than last season.
“But we need to strengthen and I’ve always said that if the right person becomes available then we will go and make that acquisition.
“People keep talking about Ryan Charles and Jake Harris but look at Andrew Hughes – he’s only played two games this year and been outstanding so he should be more upset than anyone.
“These boys are learning all the time and it’s better for them to come into a winning side. It doesn’t change anything for them.
“We’re trying to strengthen and trying to move forward and this signing helps us do that.
“Conor’s not going to be involved straight away. We’re doing well and he’s got time to settle in.”
Edinburgh continued: “We are a work in progress, we can’t lose sight of that, but I signed a two-year contract with a long-term aim at this football club and Conor is part of that.
“We had to strike at the right time before anyone else became more aware of him and we might have had to pay more.
“One or two people might be kicking themselves when they realize that we’ve done the business quickly and efficiently.”