Hartlepool United have back up option if move for former Middlesbrough man hits rocks

Keith Watson
Keith Watson

Keith Watson is being considered as a back up option for Hartlepool United, should their hopes of landing Andrew Davies fade.

The Scot was released by St Johnstone this summer, having failed to impress manager Tommy Wright on his return to Perth.

Watson spent the start of last season on loan at Pools and was one of the club’s stand out performers under former manager Craig Harrison.

Injury, though, meant the former Dundee United and St Mirren man spent much of his temporary spell at Victoria Park on the treatment table.

Matthew Bates, a coach under Harrison, knows what talent Watson possesses, but has set Ross County man Davies as his No 1 defensive transfer target.

The 33-year-old former Middlesbrough man has one year left on his deal in the Highlands, but the Staggies, who were relegated from the Scottish Premiership last season, are open to cancelling the contracts of players who wish to leave as a way of cutting costs.

County co-manager Steven Ferguson said recently: “He’s looking to get back down the road just with family issues.

“We respect that and what he’s done over the last few years. We’re all bubbling away just now and we need to let it play out.

“He will know in his mind when he comes back where he’s going to be playing his football and it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to be here. But there’s nothing concrete.”

The player at present is on holiday and will make a decision when he returns. At this stage he has left all options open, but Ferguson expects the player to want to leave, despite being contracted until the summer of 2019.

“We know there’s hearsay and bits and bobs of interest from down the road and we just need to wait until he comes back next week,” said Ferguson.

“He’s been a good player for the club and he was captain of the cup-winning team, so he’s held in high regard.

“The indication we have been given is that he’s wanting to be close to his mum down the road.

“The way we’re planning is we need people in that area of the pitch – we’re comfortable with that and we’re planning accordingly.”

One of the major doubts about Watson is his ability to play enough games in a season.

His injury record over the last few seasons is patchy, with knee problems, like the one that struck last campaign, persisting.

With Pools likely to run with a much tighter unit next season, Bates is going to need his players to not only be able to play every week, but also be adaptable in a number of positions, if needed.

While Watson fits the bill on the latter, he may struggle with the former. And it is for that reason alone why he has not already been snapped up.

The central defender, who can also play full-back, is on Pools’ shortlist, along with a whole host of other names, as Bates and director of football Craig Hignett look to ramp up their activity over the next few weeks.

June is traditionally a slow time for transfers and there is little sign of panic at the Vic, despite some fan concerns.

The players return from their extended summer break on Saturday, June 23 for testing at the club’s training base, which may or may not be at the club’s current Durham University Racecourse site.