FOREST Green boss David Hockaday insists landing robust centre-back Aarran Racine on a two-year deal was a ‘no brainer’.
The 20-year-old former Southampton defender has certainly caught the eye after coming in as a surprise trialist against Wealdstone following a defensive crisis -which saw captain Jared Hodgkiss, Paul Green, Chris Stokes and Chris Todd consigned to the treatment room.
He was subsequently offered a three-month contract and has now earned a long-term deal.
Racine is no stranger to Hockaday after the duo worked together at Southampton, where the former spent six years at St Mary’s.
"It was a no brainer, as anyone who has seen him play since arriving in August will appreciate," said Rovers manager David Hockaday.
"We brought Aarran in after having four defenders succumb to injury in the space of couple of weeks during the pre-season and he has been mightily impressive."
His competitive debut in the second game of the season away to AFC Telford was one to remember – grabbing a 5th minute goal in a 2-1 win – and Racine has played every minute of every game since.
And despite Todd and Stokes returning from injury in the friendly game with AFC Bournemouth on Monday, Racine’s combination with Rovers captain Eddie Oshodi in the centre of defence means Hockaday may soon have some tough decisions to make.
He added: "We’ve also got Paul Green and Jared Hodgkiss making progress with their injuries, but the form of Aarran, as well as Prince (Ed Asafu-Adjaye) and Jamie Turley in those full-back roles, has meant we haven’t had to push Paul and Jared to return early. When they come back, they will be 100% fit and raring to go.
"We’ve really only had one defender, Oshodi, playing in the same position as last year. Two of the other three spots have gone to new boys, while Turls (Jamie Turley) has played out of position at right-back. To have all those changes and still have the third best defensive record in the league, shows the boys are playing very well."
Racine is delighted to sign his new deal and be reunited with Hockaday once again.
He said: “Obviously, I’m really pleased with the new deal – it was what I was aiming for. Playing regular matches has been a big confidence boost and you’re only going to get better the more you play.
“I feel I’m part of a very good set-up here and I’m not surprised at all by how well the team have started – training with the lads, I know the quality we have got. It’s good to link up with the gaffer again too – he was my youth team manager back at Southampton.
“We are full of confidence at the minute. Yes, we had a setback against Grimsby, but we know what we have to do this weekend to bounce back; it’s just a question of going out there and doing it.”