Lewis Page capture a real transfer coup for Harrogate Town as two players sign and two leave on busy day
Friday was a busy day for Harrogate Town with two new signings unveiled and two players heading in the opposite direction.
Most notable was the arrival of former West Ham United defender Lewis Page, who looks something of a transfer coup and could be the man to finally fill the Sulphurites' problem position at left-back.
Joining the 25-year-old in putting pen to paper on a deal at Wetherby Road is ex-Liverpool trainee Nathan Sheron, a versatile operator comfortable at right-back, centre-half or in the middle of the park.
Leaving North Yorkshire are central defender Kevin Lokko, who has joined National League outit Aldershot on a permanent two-year deal, and midfielder Connor Kirby, who has been loaned out to Altrincham for the second time.
Page arrives at Harrogate having turned down the chance to extend his stay with League Two rivals Exeter City, where he signed a one-year-deal last summer following his exit from League One Charlton Athletic.
It is understood that Grecians boss Matt Taylor was keen to keep hold of a player who featured 32 times in League Two for the Devon club during 2020/21, a campaign which saw them miss out on the play-offs by just three points.
But, Page - who made three first team appearances for West Ham in Europa League fixtures - opted to follow fellow defender Rory McArdle out of St James' Park and into the EnviroVent Stadium.
“It’s really nice to get the deal done and I’m glad to be able to get going with the lads,” he said.
“The club is moving in the right direction and when I spoke to the gaffer we had a good chat and I really liked him.
“I would say I’m the ‘modern day’ type of left-back. Obviously I pride myself on my defending, I try to do that first and foremost but then getting forward is a bonus. I like to get forward a lot and put crosses in and try and effect the game by making assists.”
Luring a player of real pedigree and a decent amount of Football League experience away from one of the division's better sides will undoubtedly be a big positive for Harrogate boss Simon Weaver as he looks to strengthen his squad ahead of their second year in League Two.
But that is not the only reason why the capture of Page is undoubtedly a significant one for Town.
The left-back slot has been a problematic position for the last three years.
Former Leeds United man Ben Parker was the last player to really make the number three shirt his own, all the way back in 2017/18 when the Sulphurites secured promotion from National League North.
The fact that Warren Burrell - a right-footed centre-half or central midfielder by trade - has been deployed in that position more often than anyone else over the last 36 months tells its own story.
England youth international Ben O’Hanlon’s move from Wolves didn’t work out, while Liam Kitching did okay while on loan from Leeds in 2018/19, but looked far more comfortable in his natural position of centre-back.
Another loanee, Jack Senior, was another who performed steadily without ever really standing out during Harrogate’s first season as a National League club.
George Smith was signed from Chesterfield in the summer of 2019, however he failed to ever really establish himself on the left of Weaver’s back-four.
Last term, Dan Jones was brought in on loan from Salford City and gave a pretty good account of himself for the most part, though Town opted against offering him a deal as a free agent during the close season after he expressed a desire to look around for other options rather than commit to the Sulphurites.
An injury sustained during the first game of his loan from Birmingham City meant that youngster Mitchell Roberts was afforded limited opportunities following his January arrival.
Weaver admitted last month that he had been in touch with a whole host of different left-backs as he looked to plug the gap on that side of his defence, so to have finally managed to come to an agreement with a player of Page’s caliber and experience will be a massive bonus.
Someone who knows the division and will offer natural balance and width down the left-hand-side was the thing that this Harrogate team was crying out for the loudest, and now it would appear that they have finally ticked that box.
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Sheron’s arrival following four years at Fleetwood Town and various loan spells will offer the squad extra depth because he can play in three different positions.
Weaver prefers to work with a small playing group, and although Covid-19 forced his hand last term, he has already spoken of his intention to operate with a tighter unit in 2021/22.
Indeed, his squad shrunk again almost immediately after Page and Sheron's signatures were revealed.
Among four players with a year left on their contracts who are deemed surplus to requirements, Lokko and Kirby follow Joe Leesley (Boston United on loan) out of the door.
The fourth, winger Tom Walker, is also free to move elsewhere, while goalkeeper James Belshaw’s days appear numbered given that he was stripped of his number one shirt following the arrival of Mark Oxley from Southend United.