Fleetwood boss Graham Alexander admits the return of David Ball came as something a shock even to him.
The 25-year-old striker put pen to paper on a two-year deal on Tuesday, less than three months after bidding farewell to Highbury.
He was one of 17 players released at the start of the summer.
Ball has since trained with Wigan and discussed terms with a number of League One and Championship clubs.
But having noticed the striker, who scored eight goals for Town last term, had not committed himself with a week remaining, Alexander took something of a gamble.
He admits he wasn’t planning on adding to his squad.
“It was a bit of surprise for us at this late stage,” said Alexander.
“We didn’t envisage doing that.”
But, as he reveals, an approach for former Manchester City youngster Ball seemed too good an opportunity to pass by, particularly as the Fleetwood manager hadn’t wanted the forward to go.
“I didn’t want Bally to leave in the first place,” he said.
“I said that at the end of last season.
“We tried to sort out a contract quite a long time ago, well into last season but it just wasn’t happening.
“We parted ways but on the best of terms.
“He didn’t want to leave, I didn’t want him to leave but at the end of the day in football we’re all working men.
“These are lads with wives, kids, bills to pay.
“We had a solid structure we’d put in place and we were going to stick to.”
Having heard Ball was still on the market Alexander made his move at the weekend.
He was surprised how quickly events unfolded - Ball making it back to Highbury in time to appear on the team picture.
Alexander explained: “I know he’d been at Wigan and a few other places and I heard he was possibly still available.
“I made contact with him to see what the situation was and he told me.
“It was really quickly done over the space of 48 hours from first contact to him signing.
“He signed about two minutes before the team photo.”
It may have been a gamble giving Ball a call but Alexander insists it’s no punt bringing him back to Highbury.
“It wasn’t a shot in the dark for us,” he told The Gazette.
“We know Bally very well from working with him in the past.
“We know we have a hungry player who loves playing for the club, very popular in the squad and great in the changing room.”
And Ball’s standing with the Fleetwood faithful did not influence the manager’s decision.
He said: “I’ve let fans’ favourites go and kept people who might not be so popular - I don’t know.
“But I don’t do anything by that score I go on their ability as a football.
“It’s a bonus if it’s somebody popular.
“It’s about having the respect of your team-mates and being a total professional and that’s what David Ball is.