David Jeffrey has made Denver Gage his fourth signing of the summer at Ballymena United.
The Clough-based defender returns to his hometown club after a successful season with Ards, where he played a key part in helping the County Down club secure promotion back to the Danske Bank Premiership.
It is the Jeffrey’s third signing from outside the top flight this summer , after the arrivals of defender Kyle Owens and striker Cathair Friel, and the manager told the club website: “As we continue to reshape the squad for next season, we’re looking at players who have shown high levels of ability in the top of the Championship and are ready to move up.
“There is the added bonus that Denver is a local lad who always wanted to come back and prove he could play at the highest level again.
“Although he won the league with Ards, Ballymena runs through his veins, so we spoke to him, laid out our vision and challenge to him and made it clear that he’s got to apply himself totally.
“Denver fully appreciates the fitness levels he has to be in to play at the highest level, but with no shadow of a doubt he has the passion, the attitude and the desire to come back here and make it work.
“I watched him play against Coleraine in the NIFL League Cup semi final and he was a giant amongst men in how he went about the game.
“I saw clearly then that he has the ability and talent and now he has to grab this opportunity by the scruff of the neck.
“He’s aware of the challenge ahead of him and he has signed to prove the desire and belief he has that he will be pushing for a starting place in the team.”
Three of Jeffrey’s signings to date have been central defenders as he seeks to address the defensive frailties which blighted United’s campaign last season - the Sky Blues had the worst defensive record in the Premiership, conceding 81 goals in 38 games.
Gage will be battling for a place in the centre of defence alongside fellow new boys Owens and Johnny Flynn, while Kyle McVey has agreed a new contract for next season and Johnny Taylor is currently considering an offer.
Jeffrey will also be hoping that Gage can play a role at the opposite end of the pitch - he finished the past season as Ards’ joint leading goalscorer.
It will be Gage’s third stint at the Showgrounds after a spell as a teenager and then being brought back to the club by former manager Roy Walker.