Express & Star

Walsall sign goalscoring free agent midfielder Charlie Lakin

Walsall have bolstered their midfield in the wake of Isaac Hutchinson's exit with the free transfer signing of Charlie Lakin.

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Solihull-born Lakin, 25, was released by League One outfit Burton Albion this summer after an impressive second half of last season out on loan in League Two with Walsall's rivals Sutton United.

The box-to-box midfielder netted eight goals and registered a further five assists from midfield in the second half of the campaign, but was unable to help his loan side avoid relegation having finished second-bottom.

His performances over 21 appearances with the Yellows, however, were enough for Lakin to land two player of the season awards despite just a few months at the club. The first half of the campaign was a less productive loan at AFC Wimbledon, featuring just six appearances.

Lakin has penned a two-year contract at the Bescot Stadium as boss Mat Sadler's second signing of the summer following AFC Fylde right-back Connor Barrett. The Saddlers head coach revealed most of League Two had enquired about Lakin's services over the last few weeks.

His arrival acts as a midfield pick-me-up for the Saddlers after player of the season Hutchinson this week departed for Bristol Rovers, of the division above, after the Gas triggered the goalscoring midfielder's release clause.

For the former Blues academy youngster it is a return to the club he represented in his early years. It was from the Walsall junior set-up that Lakin joined City's academy aged nine.

Boss Sadler believes Lakin fits into the "culture" he continues to build at the club and feels the midfielder started to deliver on his potential out on loan at Sutton. He added Lakin's addition continues a "piece-by-piece" style recruitment this summer, rather than any rebuild.

“I’m really pleased to sign Charlie,” Sadler said. “He’s a player that I really want to work with, he’s at a good age, he wants to improve and that fits massively into the culture that we want here.

“He had a really good second half to the season at Sutton, scored a lot of goals and started to fulfil the potential that I’ve seen in him.

“I’ve known Charlie for a long time having watched his career develop and I know there is a lot left that Charlie wants to achieve so I’m delighted that we were able to fend off the competition as pretty much the majority of the division had enquired about Charlie in the last month so we’re really pleased to secure his services.

“We’ve said going into this off season that it was never going to be one where we want to completely rebuild, we’ve got a real core group together that we’re building on top of, piece by piece.

“We’ll be strategic about the moves that we do and Charlie’s another really good piece to the jigsaw completed.”

Lakin broke through at Blues as a youngster in the Championship in 2018/19 and made 11 appearances in all competitions but joined Burton permanently in 2021. His most productive campaign with the Brewers was in 2021/22 with two goals in 28 outings for the League One side.

The midfielder said of his move: “I’ve had quite a few loan spells in League Two so I know the league well and having that experience is only going to make me come here, hit the ground running and influence the team as much as possible.

“I did really well at Sutton and I want to carry that on straight into the start of this season.

“I like to get forward, get into those attacking positions but I also like to do the dirty work which I quite enjoy doing so I’m a box-to-box midfielder who likes to create things, score goals but I will help the team out defensively as well.”