Mansfield Town boss Steve Evans was delighted to see new signing Will Atkinson keep his word and join Mansfield Town over five other chasing clubs, including four from League One on Tuesday.
Even as he drove up the M1 to sign, the 28-year-old had calls from other clubs trying to derail the deal at the last minute.
Atkinson previously joined Stags on loan from Hull City in 2008, making 12 appearances, two off the bench, for manager Billy Dearden.
“The older Stags fans will know him as he came here as a fresh-faced 18-year-old kid from Hull,” said Evans.
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“He is a different proposition now. He plays a variety of different roles. He can play in either wide position very comfortably though I have to say I have been most impressed with him when he’s played centrally.
“He’s got fantastic energy levels. He can play as well – which helps. He’s a really good addition.”
Evans has worked long and hard on securing Atkinson’s signature.
“I targeted Will after seeing him in League games for Southend back in February and March,” he said.
“Paul Raynor and myself came away thinking there’s not much chance of getting him but we’ll try.
“We have persevered over a number of weeks and it was lovely to get a call from Will saying he had just told the manager at Southend that he was signing for Steve Evans at Mansfield.
“I had to make two or three journeys down south to see not only him but his family and representatives and I am now absolutely buzzing.
“I managed to persuade him his future lies here. He remembers the place as a kid, though it was a long time ago.
“Will has been promoted out of League Two and very successful in getting in and around the play-offs in League One. Of course he was part of that wonderful Bradford side who had the run all the way to the cup final, including magnificent league form as well.
“From that point of view he gets chance to come back north. That was a decision he wanted to make for the right reasons family-wise. And it’s a chance for him to grab a new project like he did when went to Southend and to Bradford.
“He’s been a big part of their success and we are just delighted we’ve been able to accrue his signature considering the quality of clubs in League One who were trying to convince him.”
Evans said other managers tried to snatch Atkinson at the last minute as he drove up.
“I got a call the night before to say he was going to sleep on it, but he was going to sleep thinking of wanting to be a Stag. Thankfully the kid was true to his feelings and very true to his word, despite one or two managers calling him as he came up the M1 to sign.
“I think the quality of the signings has helped him make his mind up in a really positive way. And I love young men that are true to their word.
“When he got here he said he’s had a call from him and a call from this one but told them he’d given his word to Steve Evans he was signing at Mansfield. That’s good to see as we had one change his mind halfway here a few weeks ago.”
Southend wanted Atkinson to stay and had a new deal on the table.
“His representatives have been talking to Southend for the best part of two or three weeks but were not able to get something done,” said Evans.
“At the same time his representatives were taking calls from people like myself and three or four other managers.
“Only one other of them was a club from League Two who have just lost in the play-offs plus three very good League One sides and Southend making it four.”