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Baird 'gambles' on Slabber deal

By Wendy Gee -

Eastleigh boss Ian Baird admits he has taken "a bit of a gamble" by signing striker Jamie Slabber from Blue Square Bet South rivals Woking.

Slabber, 25, and Bath City centre-back Chris Holland are the first two summer signings to be unveiled at the Silverlake Stadium.

But while Holland comes with rave reviews from his old club, having twice been named Bath's player of the season during five success-filled years at Twerton Park, ex-Tottenham youngster Slabber has it all to do to prove himself.

At 6ft 2in and with proven ability demonstrated by England under-18 and under-19 caps, Baird believes Slabber "fits the bill for Eastleigh."

But the Spitfires boss admits that, after years plagued by injury, this is a "make or break move" for the well-travelled former Grays, Stevenage and Havant & Waterlooville frontrunner, who made one Premier League appearance as a substitute for Spurs against Liverpool in March 2003, setting up a goal for Teddy Sheringham.

Baird, who also signed Slabber at his old club, Havant, said: "He's got some good clubs on his CV and a good pedigree but, at 25, he needs to start fulfilling his potential. When he signed for me at Havant he had a good pre-season and was fit and doing well, but then he picked up a nasty ankle injury that hindered his progress. I believe they paid up his contract (after Baird had joined Eastleigh) and he went to Grays."

In December last year Slabber signed for Woking until the end of the season, but again injury problems intervened.

"Jamie picked up a cartilage injury," said Baird. "He didn't break down any doors at Woking, hence there weren't too many clubs waiting to sign him.

"But I'm happy to have got him on the right money. It's a bit of a gamble, but sooner or later he's got to get over his injury woes."

He added: "He'll be a good foil for Richard Gillespie and he can also play alongside Jamie Brown."

Holland, 29, made more than 200 appearances for Bath after joining them from Team Bath in 2005, scoring an impressive 36 goals from the back.

Bath boss Adie Britton described him as "titanic for us, superb in both boxes and the best header of a ball I've seen in non-league."

The Romans would have loved to have kept him after clinching promotion to the Blue Square Bet Premier, but Holland is moving to Southampton to live with his Hamble-based girlfriend and starts university here in autumn.

"We caught wind around April-time that Chris was moving to Southampton. He's done ever so well at Bath and it's a bit of a coup to sign a player of his quality, especially from a promotion-winning side," said Baird.

"He always played exceptionally well against us, he's a threat from set-pieces and his experience and professionalism will help us.

"One of the biggest problems we had last year was that we were continually changing the back four. The success we had before was based on our strength at the back."

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