National League side Harrogate Town picked up one of the most eyebrow-raising signings this summer in the former Premier League striker Jon Stead. The 36-year-old, who was born in Huddersfield, signed for the Sulpherites from Notts County on a free transfer.
Stead has a fantastic record wherever he has been throughout his career which started in 2002 for Huddersfield Town. For a large part of his career he played in the Premier League for Blackburn, Sunderland and Sheffield United, while he also featured in the Championship for a number of years, most notably for Ipswich and Bristol City.
The Englishman first made a name for himself for Huddersfield in the third division in the 2003-04 campaign. He scored 16 goals for the Terriers which resulted in Blackburn paying over £1 million for his services. Rovers fought off competition from a number of the Premier League and First Division clubs to secure his signature.
Stead made a solid start on his debut Premier League season where he played under Graeme Souness. He scored six goals in 13 league appearances in his first year at the Lancashire club, however, he failed to deliver in his second campaign, managing just two goals in 29 games.
Unfortunately for the former England under-21 international, his record did not improve at Sunderland when he moved to the North East as he netted one goal in his 30 games for the Black Cats.
Stead did get a third opportunity to play in the Premier League, though for Sheffield United where he scored five goals from 14 appearances. Stead’s former club are back in the Premier League this season. They will be hoping their latest batch of strikers can deliver, as they are as short as 5/6 in the relegation betting for those who are looking to have a bet on the Premier League on the exchanges.
Town boss Simon Weaver is banking on Stead still having the enthusiasm to score goals at this stage of his career. Harrogate were the highest scorers in the National League last season with 78 goals and that was largely down to the success of Jack Muldoon and Mark Beck which helped the North Yorkshire club finish sixth at the end of the campaign.
If Stead can have an impact alongside Muldoon and Beck, Harrogate are going to be a dangerous team as they are likely to outscore the majority of their opposition. They are currently 16/1 in the National League outright market with the bookmakers which is likely to tempt many Town fans.
Weaver will also be delighted to have a player with as much experience under his belt as Stead has. Harrogate fell short in the playoffs last season with a 3-1 defeat to Fylde in the quarter-final. Town were shell-shocked in the opening 15 minutes of that game where they conceded twice which left them with an uphill task. Stead should be able to help the younger players in the squad deal with those occasions better.
Time will tell if the signing is a great move for Harrogate. If Stead can help them to make the step towards the Football League, he could prove to be one of their best transfers in the history of the club.