ACCRINGTON Stanley boss John Coleman said it would have been "absolute suicide" if they had sold star striker Paul Mullin to tomorrow's (Sat) opponents Chester.
It is understood it was Stanley's League Two rivals who came in with a late bid on transfer deadline day on Wednesday offering a five figure fee and two players for the highly-rated frontman.
But the Reds said an instant "no" and instead concentrated on their four new additions - experienced midfielder Tony Grant, Hereford striker Stuart Fleetwood, ex-FC Porto defender Mauro Almeida and teenage goalkeeper Przemyslaw Kazimierczak.
"We turned it down as it wasn't enough and Paul is an integral part of what we have done here and what we hope to do," said Coleman of the 32-year-old who is 13 games away from equalling the record number of appearances for Stanley and has a year to run on his contract.
"It would take a lot to prise him away from the club and from me. He is the focal point of what we do and would be very difficult to replace especially at this late stage of the season and you are not going to replace him.
"It would be absolute suicide if we were to let Paul go.
"I have had a few sniffs for him for a while from other clubs but he is a manager's dream. He is a model pro, looks after himself immaculately, works hard in training and leads the line brilliantly.
"He is a great footballer and a smashing lad and if he could score goals he would be the perfect article!
"He's so important to us we wouldn't let him go. He isn't going anywhere."
That will be a huge boost to the Stanley fans with the Reds in 20th place - one point above the drop zone - and facing a tough relegation battle in a close league.
It means they can keep Mullin's graft and skill which has brought him to the attention of several North West clubs, with a couple more making tentative enquiries for the hitman.
The ex-Radcliffe man has 10 goals this season and he has moved up with the Reds from the UniBond Premier League, making a significant contribution every step of the way.
Instead Coleman was more interested in adding to his squad and admitted Wednesday's frantic deadline day was tough. "I hate waiting until the last day but it all just seemed to happen. Every club is waiting for the other to make a move," he said.
But he believes he has made some quality additions which he hopes will help Stanley survive in the League.
Striker Fleetwood, 20, is a signing which will please the fans as he always seems to have good games against the Reds. He has six goals this season but has been struggling with a virus where he has lost around a stone in weight.
The Bulls have got former favourite Steve Guinan back which has allowed Fleetwood to move on a month's loan to the Fraser Eagle Stadium.
"Stuart is someone I have been tracking for a while," said Coleman. "He played here for Cardiff in a friendly a couple of seasons ago. I enquired about him then and I thought I had a chance of getting him but then he popped up at Hereford which was a little disappointing for me but I have tracked him ever since.
"He has been out of the side with illness so he has not got his sharpness he would like but he will get there in the next few weeks and he will be heavily involved tomorrow."
Grant, 32, comes from Crewe with a glowing CV which includes Premiership football with Manchester City and a lengthy spell with Burnley. He has signed for 18 months.
Although he has come in a player-coach role, Coleman wants the experienced campaigner to concentrate on the playing side for now.
Fans got their first chance to see Grant, who only played four games for Alex this season, in the 2-0 win over Oldham in the reserve clash on Wednesday - Fleetwood linked up with his new team-mates on Thursday in training.
"Tony was magnificent on Wednesday," said the Reds chief. "He hardly gave the ball away, didn't seem to be able to need to run because he found space easily and was in the right place at the right time. His control was magnificent and, if that is the sample of things to come, our fans will be in for a treat.
"He will help out with the coaching but what I would like him to concentrate on this season is playing. We will sit down in the summer and talk about the player-coach role but, as it stands, he is mainly a player who will do a bit of coaching."
Centre back Almeida impressed on last week's break in Spain and looks likely to get the nod tomorrow after playing with a strong back-line featuring Leam Richardson, Phil Edwards and Robbie Williams, in the reserve clash.
The 24-year-old has played in Holland for FC Swolle - which is the second level of Dutch football - and Bulgaria and had a trial at Plymouth this summer. He began his career at FC Porto and has got a Reds contract until the end of the season,
"I am pleased with Mauro," said Coleman. "He began a bit shakey in the reserves but then looked very solid and developed a partnership with Rocky (Williams). We still have Welchy (Michael Welch) in contention there and Phil can play there as well so we have cover which I have never been able to have.
"We just have to wait and see if we get international clearance tomorrow."
And goalkeeper Kazimierczak is also set to start against mid-table Chester. He has signed for a month with a view to it being extended until the end of the season.
"I am pleased with the signings," said Coleman. "What we have got now is competition for places which is what I have been trying to get for three or four months and it is probably why we are in the position we are in.
"If I could get to the stage where I have got to leave players in the stands tomorrow then I am happy. It is not ideal for those players in the stand or the chairman who is paying the players to sit there but it is what a manager needs if he is to have a good squad. The luck we have had with injuries and suspensions meant we needed a bigger squad and the lack of depth has hurt us."
Stanley have never beaten Chester in their Conference days and lost 2-0 in the League Two curtain raiser at the Deva Stadium. Winger Shaun Whalley and defender Alan Rogers are suspended.
"We have played them three times since I have been here and not won," said Coleman. "We have had two defeats and one draw and I was very disappointed on the opening day of the season as I think the hype was all too much for us.
"But we have settled down now and they have lost a key player in Jon Walters and we have to get back to the way we can play at home and build on the Mansfield win."
The Reds, without a game last weekend with Bristol Rovers involved in the FA Cup, have picked up just 10 points out of the last 45 but four out of the last six in what they hope is a revival.
"The back four and the keeper got a clean sheet in the reserves and we haven't had one of those in a while so hopefully that will bring some confidence," he added.