James Beattie reckons new signing Rob Atkinson is good enough to play in League One – and he hopes he can do it with Stanley.
The Reds completed the signing of Atkinson on Tuesday, with the centre-half committing himself to a two-year deal at the Store First Stadium.
The 26-year-old, who played 13 games on loan at Stanley last season, was a free agent after being released by Fleetwood in May and the deal represents something of a transfer coup for Beattie.
After returning to Fleetwood from his loan stint last November, Atkinson was a regular in a side that was challenging for promotion from League Two.
And Beattie believes Stanley can do the same this season having added a player of Atkinson’s calibre to their ranks.
With Fleetwood planning to bring in another batch of reinforcements over the summer, they chose not to offer Atkinson a new deal, but after playing with and against him last
season, Beattie rates him as one of the best defenders in League Two.
Given the wages Fleetwood were paying Atkinson, Stanley weren’t expected to be in the hunt for his signature this summer but not only did the new Reds boss get his man, he remains within his budget.
“He’s a really good player at this level and a great acquisition from the club’s perspective,” said Beattie.
“From a personal point of view, it’s an objective achieved.
“We want Rob to come in and play well for the club but I’ve said to him that he can definitely play at a higher standard.
“Hopefully that will be with us.
“He’s a really nice lad, really down to earth and he’ll fit in well with the squad, which is essential.
“I’ve just seen him about to go to training and he’s already having a laugh with the lads.”
While Dean Winnard and Peter Murphy both play
centre-half, Beattie plans to start the season with Atkinson and Tom Aldred as his first-choice pairing.
“He’s exactly what we need,” said the Stanley boss. “He’s a tough centre-half and he’s a leader. There’s a few leaders on the pitch now, which I’m very happy with.
“People who don’t know Rob or haven’t seen him play, they’ll see him play this year and will see a partnership in the centre of defence with Tom Aldred that will be one of the best in the division.”
Atkinson started his career with Barnsley before playing more than 100 games for Grimsby, before and after they slipped into non-league.
After joining Fleetwood in 2011, he helped them win promotion to League Two in his first season.
“I’m really pleased to be back on board,” he said.
“I spoke to the gaffer over the summer and listened to what he had to say about the club and what his aims are and I really wanted to be a part of that. Hopefully we can have a good season.
“Accrington meant a lot to me last season, even after I left.
“They gave me the opportunity to come out and play some games and I’m grateful for that.”
Atkinson’s arrival spelled bad news for Accy’s defensive trialists.
Stanley now have 16 players signed up for this season and they include seven defenders and two keepers so Beattie has now focused on boosting his attacking options.
Former Sheffield United striker Danny Webber wasn’t used in Saturday’s friendly at Altrincham, despite being at the game.
But he, Seb Carole, Nicky Travis and Josh Windass were still training with the Reds this week.
Stanley’s management team intend to decide on whether they will be offered terms before this Saturday’s friendly at home to Tranmere.
Rovers’ League One rivals Oldham then visit the Store First Stadium next Tuesday, for the Reds’ final home friendly before the big kick-off at Newport on August 3.