ASHLEY Eastham’s arrival last week heralded the changing of the guard at Gigg Lane.

And with one personal phone call to the 21-year-old Blackpool defender, manager Kevin Blackwell could well have inspired the kind of loyalty that will steel Bury in their fight for League One survival.

“I sat there at home with my feet up and I get ‘Hi Ash, it’s Kevin Blackwell’,” said Eastham.

“I got the phone call about a week ago, a personal call saying he would really like to have me back and he had heard good things from previous coaching staff and seen DVDs of me.

“It shows he went out of his way to try to get me so I’ll go out of my way to put in the performances.”

Eastham has, of course, had a successful spell at Gigg Lane before, making 27 appearances and scoring two goals in last season’s League One campaign.

And his display in the Shakers’ 0-0 stalemate at Shrewsbury on Saturday proved the youngster’s allegiance is not only to the new regime, but also to a club he has real affection for.

“I owe a lot to this football club because they did a lot for me last season so I want to try and help them get out of the bottom four – dig in and try and get them to safety,” he said.

“I had two or three options but I felt, from a personal point of view, I wanted a challenge, I didn’t want mid-table mediocrity.

“Already knowing the lads here, I thought coming would give me a good chance of playing games.

“I was thrown in and hopefully will keep my spot for the rest of the season.”

As well as being happy to be back in first team action – Eastham had only played seven times in two loan spells at Fleetwood and Notts County this season – the Preston-born player was also delighted to find himself playing alongside fellow new recruit Stephane Zubar.

The 26-year-old Guadeloupe international only arrived from Bournemouth on Friday, but put in a sterling performance alongside Eastham as part of a new central-defensive pairing that looked instantly at ease.

“I thought he was colossal,” said Eastham. “I thought we both did really well.”

Eastham’s contract at Blackpool is up at the end of the season and, after spending four years at Bloomfield Road, he admits the final 19 games of this campaign could make or break his own career.