Although still contracted to Harrogate Town until the summer of 2025, it is becoming increasingly likely that Luke Armstrong will be departing the EnviroVent Stadium this summer.
Armstrong was left out of the squad for Harrogate’s season opener against Doncaster Rovers on Saturday, however it had been announced prior to the match that this was done under his own accord.
The news came as somewhat of a shock and is a significant blow for the Sulphurites for their 2022/23 season campaign. That being said, in Armstrong’s absence, they still managed to come away from Doncaster with three points. Backup striker Jack Muldoon’s penalty, would be the difference between the two sides, helping Harrogate to get off to a positive start to begin the campaign.
However it would’ve been in the back of the mind of all Harrogate fans that Armstrong’s potential departure could seriously hinder them this year. Although they may have won their first match without him, it could be a long season given he has been the club’s focal point over the last two years. Over the last two League Two seasons, the 27-year-old has scored 28 goals as well as supplying 12 assists and has been the real standout player at the EnviroVent Stadium during that time.
16 of those goals and six of those assists came last season, with Armstrong playing a part in 37% of the Yorkshire side’s goals last year. Manager Simon Weaver has stated that the striker will only be sold if a “significant offer is submitted” and when the club has found a suitable replacement. Having already rejected one bid for Armstrong earlier in the week, there are certainly a number of clubs queuing up to gain the striker’s services.
Here are five potential landing spots for Luke Armstrong…
The League Two new-boys could not have gotten off to a better start to life in the fourth tier, beating pre-season title favourites Wrexham 5-3. The Dons have high aspirations this season and will be looking for an immediate return to League One. Signing Armstrong would only boost those chances and with one of the higher budgets in League Two, MK can certainly afford him.
The 27-year-old has very much been involved in survival fights with Harrogate rather than pushing for promotion and a move to a side with promotion aspirations could bring out even more in him.
It comes as no surprise that Wrexham are in this list and it’s been well-documented in the mainstream media just how large their budget is. The Welsh side have the spending power which many other clubs in the division can only dream about and may choose to pull the trigger quickly in response to their opening day defeat.
Following on from the pre-season injury to talisman Paul Mullin, which would leave the striker with a punctured lung, the chances of this move has only increased. Although I doubt Armstrong will want to be a backup, it is unlikely that a move to Wrexham will be turned down, especially with the chances of a lucrative contract being high.
This is a move which could really test Armstrong and allow him to show just how good he could be, but it would be a significant step-up. Following the departure of Jerry Yates to Swansea, the Tangerines are somewhat lacking in the forward ranks. Although striker Shayne Lavery did score a brace against Burton Albion on Saturday, manager Neil Critchley will still be eyeing up other strikers for some healthy competition. Another club with high aspirations this season, Blackpool will be pushing for a return to the Championship at the first time of asking and the potential transfer of Armstrong would aid that.
The Tangerines reportedly received a seven-figure fee for Yates, so have money to spend and can easily afford Armstrong, a move to League one is certainly not out of question.
A team that is expected to be at the other end of the League One table is Paul Simpson’s Carlisle. The League-One newboys have been hit with significant losses in the forward ranks, losing Kristian Dennis to Tranmere and Omari Patrick to Sutton as well as John-Kymani Gordon returning to his parent club, Crystal Palace. The additions of Luke Plange, Sean Maguire and Danny Butterworth all come with risks attached, and none of the three have shown anywhere near the same form of Armstrong over the past two years.
With one of the smallest budgets in League One, a move could be a stretch but Simpson will know that a striker who can score double digits could be the difference between survival and relegation.
One of the surprise results of the first weekend was Exeter’s 3-0 win over Wycombe. However there is somewhat of a lack of experience in the attacking department at St. James Park. Sam Nombe is the only out-and-out and proven striker in the ranks, so the club may look to bring in another number nine.
Once again this would be a step-up for Armstrong, but one which seems to be within his capabilities. The Grecians will be looking to push on as a League One club this season and brining in Armstrong could take them to the next level.
I don’t think that a move to League One is out of question for Armstrong, far from it, but I do think that the two likeliest suitors are MK Dons and Wrexham. Both clubs have the budget to afford the striker and both will be pushing for promotion which will be attractive to the 27-year-old. MK Dons standout more of the two to me due to the sole reasoning that Armstrong could be the main man for the Dons rather than playing in Mullin’s shadow at Wrexham. Whoever does get him though, will be getting a striker already proven in the league and now entering his prime years, could take his form to another level.