EASTLEIGH boss Richard Hill hopes former £4 million man Gary McSheffrey will enable the Spitfires to "do something different higher up the pitch."

The 35-year old former Coventry and Birmingham City striker/winger was a free agent after spending last season with promoted League Two outfit Doncaster Rovers and Hill has signed him on until January to try and add some variety to the Spitfires' play.

Since Andy Drury, now a contract player with Ebbsfleet, departed early in Martin Allen’s ill-fated reign last season, Eastleigh have lacked an attacking midfield spark.

Hill, the man who brought Drury to the club, could do with someone in the same mould but blames football's love affair with the 4-2-3-1 system for squeezing traditional box-to-box midfielders out of the game.

He stressed: “Gary McSheffrey is not coming to us as a midfielder. I just felt we needed another option to do something different higher up the pitch.

“I’ve had a conversation with (midfielders) Danny Hollands and Sam Togwell and explained that he’s not here to replace anyone, he’s here to be an addition to the squad, to help us find another way to get where we want to be rather than just smashing the ball up the pitch.

“I’ve been looking for an attacking midfielder since the end of April, but I can’t find one. They’ve been a dying breed since Spain won the World Cup playing 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders and it’s now coming home to roost that box-to-box midfielders are disappearing from the game.

“I also blame the academy system for not developing attacking midfielders, only holding midfielders. It’s the way football’s evolved.”

Hill himself was an attacking midfielder, but ruefully observed: “If Richard Hill was playing now, he’d have been turned into a No10.”

A veteran of over 450 Football League/Premier League games, including 281 for Coventry City, new signing McSheffrey brings a wealth of experience to the Silverlake.

Born in Coventry, he made his first-team debut for the Sky Blues against Aston Villa aged 16 years and 198 days, becoming the youngest player ever to grace the Premier League.

Having started out as a striker, he moved out to the left wing and in 2005/6 scored 15 Championship goals. That brought him onto the radar of Birmingham who agreed a £4 million deal for him (depending on promotion and appearances) three days after his 24th birthday.

He later returned to Coventry, via loan spells with Nottingham Forest and Leeds United, and also numbers Chesterfield and Scunthorpe among his former clubs.

In his two spells as a Sky Blue, he banged in 72 goals in 281 appearances.

McSheffrey goes straight into the Spitfires’ squad for Saturday’s National League assignment at second-to-bottom Guiseley who are under the new charge of ex-Barrow boss Paul Cook.

Eastleigh are again likely to be without injured quartet Paul McCallum, Gavin Hoyte, Ben Williamson and Sam Togwell.