Blackpool shot out of nowhere with this recent recruitment and we think it could be another swish signing! (Sorry we had to!) But seriously, at the age of 24 and 6ft we have another player in the typical Critchley mould in MJ Williams, this time moulded somewhat by Neil Critchley himself in the Liverpool youth setup. The fact that he has worked with him before suggests he knows what he’s getting – both in terms of capability and personality, so he should slot straight into the squad and offers another option both in defence and midfield.
Williams worked with both Neil Critchley and assistant manager Mike Garrity, with the 24-year-old centre-back and defensive midfielder coming through the ranks at Melwood. Whilst he is ex-Liverpool, he began his career in the youth set-up at Wrexham, before joining the LFC set-up at 14. He then spent time on loan with Notts County, our favourite club Swindon Town before making 82 appearances for Rochdale at League One level – first on loan before making his move permanent in 2018.
His comments to the Blackpool FC official site suggested that both of his contacts were influential in his move to Bloomfield Road:
“I spoke to the Gaffer and Mike Garrity about the possibility of joining and I jumped at the chance… to work under Neil and Mike again will be great. They are two great coaches and can really bring the best out of players.”
Style of play
One of Williams’ key strengths is his versatility and the Bangor-born Welshman can either play as a ball-playing defender or in a central defensive midfield role. Better known for his passing than his tackling, he’ll likely play alongside a more tough-tackling defender in the shape of either Marvin Ekpiteta or Jordan Thorniley.
Critchley recently spoke about wanting to bring players in who could play in more than one position, which suggests we may see him playing in both positions this season. Throughout the 19/20 season, MJ was second for pass completion rate of 85.5%, beaten only by Fleetwood Town’s Paul Coutts who had 85.9%.
He has only scored one goal in his career, which came at St James’ Park last season in an FA Cup tie against Newcastle – shown below.
MJ was released by Rochdale along with seven other players because of the financial difficulties caused by COVID-19, meaning Rochdale were unable to offer out any contracts. He has signed a one-year contract with an option for the club to extend to a second year, suggesting that he will be more of a squad player than a regular starter. It certainly won’t do us any harm by having a player in the squad who has performed consistently at this level and he will be a great character to have in the dressing room. He’s believed to be a hard worker, something Critchley also mentioned. If he does well, he will surely get his second year extended, whereas there’s minimal risk if the move doesn’t work out as he’s not tied to a longer deal.
View from the other side – Rochdale Forum
‘We could do a lot worse. It wasn’t him as a player that was the problem, it was his wage.’
‘At his best he was a solid and tidy if unspectacular player for us. At his worst he slowed the game down to walking pace and was easily beaten in the tackle. There are better options out there.’
‘He was decent on the ball but lacks mobility and at times the will in a tackle.’
This seems to be yet another solid signing. We, as fans, had identified the need for a centre back and defensive midfielder. Now we are getting the option of both, along with the right character too, which is essential to get the right culture for promotion winning teams – as mentioned by Andy Morrell in our recent Podcast.
We can’t imagine MJ will be getting a huge wage either given the fact he is still relatively young and because of the circumstances in which he was recently released. This, therefore shouldn’t be a worry for the wage cap watchers.
It is worth noting that Championship side Brentford were also on the look out for MJ, indicating that there were admirers higher than us. The Bees are renowed for their acquistion of talented players which they develop further, a model Blackpool are looking to replicate, and the fact we are beating off rivals is highly encouraging. He’ll certainly provide a capable option in both positions, in an area where we were previously looking light, and clearly the manager knows his personality isn’t going to disrupt the dressing room so there’s minimal risk to the deal.
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Image credit: Blackpool FC Twitter