City have today signed free agent James Wilson, a player recently released by Sheffield United after spending the first half of the season on loan at Walsall.
Wilson is a centre back, all six-foot two of him. He’s experienced too, he’s represented Wales once as well as having plied his trade at Oldham and Brentford. He came through the ranks at Bristol City, playing in the Championship for them early in his career, but after a loan spell at Cheltenham he moved to Oldham and it is at Boundary Park where he played the majority of his football.
His one Welsh cap came in 2013 when he lined up against Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku in Wales’ fine 1-1 draw. Since then he hasn’t been back on the international scene, but he’s played almost exclusively in League One. Make no mistake, for a League Two side this is a super signing. He started last season at the heart of the Blades defence, but an injury away at Gillingham forced him out of the first team. Once fit, he struggled to regain his place which came as a blow to a defender who played 93 games over two seasons for Oldham.
He’s been on loan at Jon Whitney’s Walsall this season, he originally signed on a year-long loan but, like most of these season-long deals, it had a clause in which he could be recalled. Sheffield United activated that clause and then freed Wilson from his contract, making him a free agent. Doubtless this was done with a view to him arriving at our door, which he subsequently has.
A statement from Walsall said: “Walsall Football Club can confirm that James Wilson has been recalled from his loan spell by parent club Sheffield United. The 28-year-old defender scored once in 20 appearances for The Saddlers after joining on loan from The Blades. The loan deal was for the whole season but contained a break clause in January, which Sheffield United have activated to bring him back to Bramall Lane. We would like to thank James for his efforts in the first half of the season and wish him the best going forward.”
The Express & Star, the local paper covering Walsall, have described him as ‘an integral part’ of Walsall’s season and defined his departure as a ‘blow’ for the League One side. He becomes the fourth player to arrive from a higher level so far this transfer window, something I’m sure will be catching the eye of managers up and down the country.
There’s no doubt at all, Wilson has been signed to drop straight into the first team. There’s going to be no qualms whatsoever here, Wilson will play every single game in which he is fit. He’s a custom-made replacement for Sean Raggett, at a different stage in his career having achieved different things, but an out-and-out centre half, solid as a brick wall and good in both boxes. He’s tall, physical and considerably experienced. To get him in as a free agent is incredibly astute business and yet another indication of the trajectory this football club is on.
This signing excites me somewhat, just as all the others have. Danny said to me once he wanted a January which got pulses racing. Well Danny, you’re doing a fine job so far.