Recently released AFC Fylde midfielder James Hardy joins League Two side

Hardy made 46 appearances for Fylde
Hardy made 46 appearances for Fylde
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Recently released AFC Fylde midfielder James Hardy has signed for League Two side Walsall.

The 23-year-old was among the out-of-contract players excluded from the Coasters' retained list after failing to hold down a place at Mill Farm last season.

Hardy, signed from Manchester City in 2015, managed just 20 appearances last season, plus six during a month’s loan at Halifax, though he was named England C player of the year for 2018-19.

The midfielder scored five times in 46 appearances for the Coasters.

“I’m buzzing to be here,” Hardy said.

“It’s a really big club with great fans. It is a great stadium and I am really looking forward to getting started. I can’t wait.

“I met the manager on Friday and everything he said sounded really positive. Once I had spoken to him, I wanted to get it sorted as quickly as possible and start pre-season training.

“I wanted to get everything done over the weekend so that I could get cracking from the first day and meet the lads that are already here.

“I am a creative player who likes to get on the ball and get on the half turn. I like to get in the pocket of space to receive the ball and hopefully I can chip in with a few goals and assists.

“I want to excite the fans.”

Walsall boss Darrell Clarke added: “James is a match-winner and will give us something different at the top end of the pitch.

“He brings people into the game and has that natural technical ability to beat players at will.

“I’ve done very well with players like James, who has a Man City background. He then went on and played lots of games in non-league and did ever so well at AFC Fylde.

“He had big offers in the National League and it says a lot about the lad that he was desperate to play in league football and kick on his career.

“He’s got all the attributes to be a very talented player and it’s up to me and my coaching staff to get the best out of him.”

Explaining why he had opted to release Hardy earlier this month, Fylde boss Dave Challinor said the midfielder needed to go somewhere where he would get guaranteed first-time football.

He said: “It’s that difficult time of year when you look at the ruthless side of how to build on relative success and take that into next season.

“James has been here for four seasons and he has unbelievable ability as a footballer, but he has been hampered through no fault of his own by injuries as a late developer.

“It would have been easy to keep hold of him but he needs to go somewhere where he’s guaranteed regular first-team football to achieve his potential.

“He has been a really important member of the squad and has come on as a player, and it’s important he kicks on now.”