Fleetwood Town's latest signing excites Highbury head coach

Simon Grayson is looking forward to welcoming his latest signing into the fold after Conor McLaughlin was confirmed as a Fleetwood Town player on Thursday.

Saturday, 9th October 2021, 8:00 am

The defender spent five seasons at Fleetwood earlier in his career before leaving in 2017.

In that time, the Northern Ireland international helped Town secure a place in League One with a Wembley win in the League Two play-offs under Graham Alexander.

Town’s head coach admitted his joy at re-signing McLaughlin was tempered by the disappointment it came about with Darnell Johnson’s Achilles injury meaning he joins Brad Halliday in being ruled out for the season.

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Conor McLaughlin's Fleetwood Town return was confirmed on Thursday

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Grayson said: “I’m very excited by the signing but, first and foremost, we’re gutted and devastated for Darnell Johnson.

“He was just finding his feet. He’d worked hard in pre-season, won himself a contract and got his way into the team and had done really well.

“To suffer the Achilles injury that has ruled him out for the rest of the season is devastating for him and us as a club.

“Injuries are part and parcel of football, unfortunately, and we were then allowed to bring in another defender – and Conor was available.

“He knows the football club really well, he’s experienced, versatile. From our perspective, and Conor’s, it was a no-brainer.

“You bring him to the training ground and he was showing me around! That’s the affinity he has got with this football club.”

Town have run the rule over McLaughlin over recent weeks and made sure he was fit enough to get going after two recent hernia operations, given Town’s current injury troubles.

They also had to wait for clearance from the EFL, allowing them to amend their registered squad.

Grayson added: “We had a few days where we had a look at him and he had a look at us.

“The last thing I needed was to sign Conor straight away and then find out his base fitness is still miles away and then, six weeks later, we’re still trying to get him fit.

“The EFL have been good. We’ve had to apply for special dispensation for Callum Johnson coming in for Brad Halliday and now for Darnell leaving the squad for the season and Conor is in the same position now.

“It would have been a real hindrance for us to lose two defenders for the season and to not be able to get anyone else into the squad.”

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