Stockport County should revive the Salford City connection to fill . . .
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Stockport County should revive the Salford City connection to fill their midfield void.

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Elliot Watt, a Salford City midfielder, has indicated that he will leave the club when his contract expires this summer, and he might be the ideal solution to a weakness in Stockport County’s squad.

 

The 24-year-old used social media to explain his choice, stating that he will start next season away from the Peninsula Stadium.

That news may have piqued Edgeley Park’s interest, as the club prepares to enter League One next season and may use some reinforcements at the base of the midfield.

It appears to be a sensible move for all parties, but whether it is carried out will be determined during the summer transfer season.

County lack depth at the base of midfield

Since Ryan Croasdale joined SK3 from AFC Fylde in September 2020, County have rarely had to consider the defensive-midfield position, with the 29-year-old consistently starting and playing the whole 90 minutes.

His fitness and availability made backup unnecessary, and the lack of other possibilities to carry out these duties has only been highlighted this season, when Croasdale has been sidelined for brief but atypical periods of time.

The temporary solution came primarily from Nick Powell, a creative midfielder who adapted well to his role but is unquestionably better served farther up the pitch.

The Edgeley Park recruitment team will be well aware of the gaps revealed by this circumstance, and the potential to remedy the issue with a high-quality addition at a low cost would not have gone unnoticed.

Watt could be the perfect addition

Given that such a significant player for Salford had reached the end of the season without a new contract, his recent social media declaration confirming his exit came as no surprise.

He joined Salford in the summer of 2022 and went on to become an important player for the Ammies, featuring 91 times and scoring one goal, while also contributing an incredible 24 assists from his holding midfield position.

The move would benefit the Hatters because they presently only have Croasdale as a natural number six, and Watt would be a low-cost free agent. He has also impressed this season, despite playing for a struggling Salford club, and is set for a promotion.

Watt, who is only 24, still has plenty of room to grow and improve with the squad, providing a fair balance of age profiles against Croasdale, who will be in his 30s by the start of next season.

This move would also appear to make sense for Watt, who would be able to go up to the third division with little disruption, with Edgeley Park just on the other side of Greater Manchester.

The midfielder would very certainly fit in quickly, since former teammates Ibou Touray and Odin Bailey have both made the same move within the last year, providing two familiar faces at his probable new club.

It appears to be a straightforward case on both sides, but whether an offer is forthcoming and how it compares to other proposals Watt is sure to receive may become obvious as the summer progresses.

Watt should accompany, not replace, Croasdale

Watt’s arrival would undoubtedly have consequences for Croasdale, as manager Dave Challinor normally only plays with one holding midfielder.

Challinor’s setup may evolve and become more defensive as the Hatters enter a much tougher competition, but even if the team’s structure remains unchanged, it seems reasonable to have both on the roster.

If the Salford player was brought in just to replace Croasdale, any injury to Watt would leave County in the same scenario they have been in at times this season, with a more attack-focused midfielder dropping back to cover.

A comparison of their metrics reveals that, while playing identical roles, Croasdale is a better defender than Watt, who provides more quality going forward and progressing the ball.

Having both in the squad would allow Challinor to set up more defensively in tougher games, provide a true defensive-midfield option off the bench to see out games, and allow for more squad rotation during what figures to be a difficult season.

County should act swiftly while a low-cost, high-quality option is available to solve a weakness that was revealed during an injury-plagued League Two season and could be damaging in League One.

The deal appears to benefit all sides. Rounding out a hat-trick of Salford acquisitions in the last year might be the solution at Edgeley Park.

 

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