MIKE INGHAM has revealed the promise of regular first-team football and the chance to enhance his international prospects convinced him to sign for Wrexham.
The 24-year-old keeper, whose contract with Sunderland expires at the end of June, yesterday agreed to pen a two-year deal at the Racecourse, where he enjoyed a successful loan spell at the end of the 2003-04 season.
He was wanted by Coventry City, Bradford, Barnsley, Grimsby and Darling-ton but opted for a return to Wrexham after manager Denis Smith made it clear he would make the 6ft 4ins stopper his number one.
Ingham made only a handful of starts for Sunderland during a six-year spell at the Stadium of Light and he hopes his switch to North Wales will allow him to press his claims for a regular place in the Northern Ireland squad.
Ingham, who is yet to win his first cap for his country, has been on the fringes of the international set-up recently. Earlier this week he learned he will be named in the Ireland squad to face Germany at Windsor Park on June 4.
He said: "I'm looking forward to making my debut so I can join Wrexham as a full international.
"I've been in the squad a few times but hopefully this time I can get on the pitch. "I need games so the manager (Lawrie Sanchez) can watch me. Hopefully I'll get those games at Wrexham."
Ingham, who was signed by the Black Cats from Belfast side Cliftonville in 1999, played 11 league games for Wrexham during his loan spell before helping them to an FAW Premier Cup final victory over Rhyl at Belle Vue.
He admitted the chance to link up again with Dragons boss Smith was a major factor in his decision to re-join the club.
"Since I left Wrexham, Denis Smith has always kept in contact," said Ingham.
"His willingness and eagerness to sign me has always impressed me.
"He was interested in me for such a long time and I'm glad he kept in contact because he was a joy to work with. I'm looking forward to working under him again.
"When I left Sunderland, wherever I went I wanted first-team football and I always had it in the back of my mind to sign for Wrexham.
"I had offers from Coventry, Barnsley, Grimsby, Bradford and another couple of clubs but I wanted to get it done and dusted so I can enjoy the rest of my break and look forward to pre-season with Wrexham."
Ingham is fully aware of Wrexham's off-the-field troubles but he feels they are capable of winning promotion back to League One at the first attempt.
He said: "I had a chat with a number of people and everybody has assured me the troubles won't affect me.
I'm happy to sign. "Promotion has got to be our aim. I had (League Two rivals) Grimsby and Darlington sniffing about but I thought if Denis could keep most of the squad together that we could challenge for promotion.
"That's the reason why I joined. We can challenge for promotion."
Wrexham boss Smith is delighted to get his man. The Racecourse chief had looked into bringing Stoke
City keeper Ben Foster back to the club for a season-long loan next term.
"But once it became apparent Ingham was keen to come on board, Smith had no hesitation in making him his first signing of the summer.
"Mike's a super lad. He can play and I had to make a decision quickly," said the Wrexham manager.
"I knew how much he liked it here and I'm delighted he's agreed to come.
"With Foster, it wasn't solid. I perhaps could have got him on loan but I might not have known until August.
"I couldn't afford to hang around and wait because I would have risked losing Mike."