St Mirren manager Alan Stubbs has made Josh Heaton and Cody Cooke his first two signings – with the help of England striker Jamie Vardy.
Stubbs watched Darlington defender Heaton and Truro City striker Cooke in a showcase game hosted by the V9 Academy, an initiative that is the brainchild of Leicester marksman Vardy.
The pair were were among 42 non-league players invited on to the programme and played in front of scouts and managers at Manchester City’s Etihad Campus earlier this month.
The Buddies have paid National League North side Darlington what the Paisley outfit have described ‘as the largest fee Saints have paid for a player in around 25 years’ to recruit Heaton, 21, on a three-year deal.
Heaton said: “I can’t wait to get going.
“The thought of playing against the big teams and striving to be the best and play first team football was something that brought me here.
“Every time I step on that park I want to win. I want to keep a clean sheet and I want our strikers to score as many goals as possible. I want to win games and I want to win trophies.”
Saints manager Stubbs said: “I’m absolutely delighted.
“It’s a sign of intent and I’d like to thank the board for putting their trust in me.
“You only have to look at the clubs who were wanting to get Josh and to have got him it’s quite a coup.”
Cooke joins on a two-year deal from Truro having netted 13 goals for the National League South side last season as the part-timers reached the play-offs and the FA Cup first round for the first time in their history.
The 25-year-old was also invited to take part in the V9 Academy showcase programme.
Cooke said: ‘I’m over the moon. It’s a huge opportunity and football is all about opportunities – I want to grab this one with both hands.
“I’m delighted to be here. To get a call from Alan was something that I was just delighted about. I feel ready for the test and it should be an exciting one.”