By Tony Leighton
Not many managers can pop round the corner from his house to sign a Premier League player, but that's exactly how Burton Albion boss Gary Rowett acquired the signature of Stoke City's long throw expert Rory Delap this summer.
"Rory's lived in the same village as me for about seven years," Rowett revealed to football-league.co.uk, "and I've known him for quite a long time because we were players together at Derby for a short time in the 1990s.
"I bump into him all the time in our village, but I've never been brave enough until now to ask him to leave Stoke for the dizzying heights of League 2. That changed though, after I'd chatted to a couple of mutual friends.
"I discovered that he'd got to the point in his career where he wanted to stay local and spend a bit more time with his family, and I felt we could match those ambitions and offer him a good footballing environment.
"We're a club that's still fairly new to The Football League but we're ambitious, we showed what we're capable of with a fourth place finish last season and we've got a great training facility at (the FA's national centre) St George's Park.
"Those are all good recruitment tools for us and Rory saw that. The key for me with signing Rory was that at 37 he still wants to play and play well, he's a really good professional and he'll bring a lot to our playing squad."
Delap is one of 10 players signed by Rowett as the manager looks to build on last season, when the highest League placing ever achieved by the Brewers was followed by the disappointment of a Play-Off semi-final defeat by Bradford City.
"We fell a tiny bit short in the end," said Rowett, looking back on his first full campaign as a manager, "but we more than achieved the goals we had at the start of the season so despite the disappointment we quickly got into positive mode.
"After letting a lot of people go that didn't feature much last season we've brought in players to strengthen the squad and that process is still on-going. If I can get the two or three players I still want I'll be very satisfied with the squad."
Rowett's team raised the bar last term and will be aiming even higher in the new Sky Bet League 2 campaign, which they kick-off with a visit to Cheltenham Town - who like the Brewers were beaten Play-Off semi-finalists in 2012/13.
"We had very competitive games against Cheltenham last season," noted Rowett, "and it's a difficult start to the new campaign for us. But we'll go there looking for three points and to set a benchmark for the season."
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