Return of the Mac

Craig McAllister Eastleigh fans will be delighted to learn Ian Baird has bolstered his attacking options with the signature of highly regarded Scottish striker Craig McAllister from Conference National side Newport County.

The imposing 31-year-old joins on a two-year deal which sees the forward become a Spitfire for the third time, having had spells at the Silverlake in 2001 and 2004. He is also well known to EFC Director and lifelong Oxford United season ticket holder Stewart Donald as he had a spell at The Kassam in 2008.

"He has a very good physical presence and is exceptional in the air. Combine that with his excellent work ethic, Craig will add another dimension to our attacking options next season," said Spitfires manager Ian Baird.

"Last season he was plying his trade for Luton who got to the Conference National play-off final, the season before he was an integral part of Crawley's Conference National winning team - he has proven quality and that record is hard to ignore."

Speaking at the Silverlake shortly after signing, Craig said: "Whilst not for a second do I think this is the end of my career, I always said I wanted to come back to Eastleigh one day. I still own a house in the area and my parents are just up the road in Midanbury."

"It's true Eastleigh tried to sign me last year before I went to Luton and the manager made a good impression and was really keen to get me, which is nice. Listening to him and the owner it is clear they want to push the club on with continued investment so it's an exciting place to be around."

The powerful 6ft 1in striker was born in Glasgow but at the age of seven the family relocated to Bitterne Park in Southampton, with Craig attending St George's school. Whilst playing for local club Pirelli's, Craig was spotted and soon signed for Eastleigh beginning his footballing journey.

In 2002 he signed for Basingstoke Town, scoring 53 times in 96 appearances at the Camrose which earned him a move to Stevenage Borough. Struggling for first team action at Broadhall Way, he returned to Eastleigh on loan scoring six times in just four appearances before being recruited by Woking. He went onto smash 23 goals in 83 games for the Cards.

Stints at Grays, Oxford United and Exeter City followed before joining Crawley Town in 2010 teaming up with Eastleigh's Chris Flood. Regarded as the perfect foil for prolific strike partner Matt Tubbs (who has since transferred to Bournemouth for a reported £800,000), he helped Crawley achieve promotion with 41 appearances and a dozen goals. That season included Crawley's remarkable FA Cup run beating Championship club Derby County in the 3rd round and League Two's Torquay United in round 4. Those victories set up the dream tie at Old Trafford against Manchester United where Craig was rubbing shoulders with opponents such as Rooney, Carrick, Hernandez and Anderson - a Wes Brown header gave United a 1-0 victory.

Last season saw Craig decide to stay within the non-league circuit and signed a two year contract with Conference National's Newport County having rejected Crawley's one year contract extension.

Craig continued: "In hindsight I probably should have stayed with Crawley but the Newport offer was for two years giving me a bit of financial security and we were settling in the south west with a baby."

"Everyone was great to me at Newport but it just didn't work out and was definitely a low point in my career. What was crazy was twelve months before I was playing at Old Trafford in front of seventy odd thousands, but that's football."

He swapped the relegation dogfight with Newport to join promotion chasing Luton Town of the same division in January 2012 on loan. Making 14 appearances for the Hatters, Craig was on the bench as they narrowly missed out in the playoff final against York City at Wembley.

"I am really looking forward to the new season and meeting up with the lads - I know Floody (Chris Flood) from our days at Crawley and know Smithy (Danny Smith) and Andy Forbes from local football growing up in Southampton."

Don't miss your chance to watch Craig and the rest of the Eastleigh team at our Free Family Open Day on the 14th July. The event promises to be great fun and an opportunity to see the first team train as well as enjoy the bouncy castles, stilt walkers and other attractions.
Craig McAllister

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