December 29, 2006: What a smart and sensible move by Kyoto Sanga to sign the veteran defender Yutaka Akita from Grampus.
Relegated this season, Kyoto have become a "yo-yo" team in the J.League, meaning they go up and down quite quickly.
If they had signed a player of Akita's quality and experience this time last year, maybe they would have survived in the top flight instead of leaking goals and always facing an uphill struggle.
Akita is my kind of player. A combative and rugged centre half, he is very much a British-style defender. He leads by example and makes sure the opposing centre forward knows he is in a game, a one-on-one duel for 90 minutes and a battle which will play a significant part in which team wins the war.
Akita to Kyoto, therefore, is a good deal for both parties. Kyoto get all his experience and commitment, while Akita gets another year as a player.
It could also lead him into coaching, as I am sure Akita's knowledge and ability will be a constant source of inspiration for his teammates.
J2, of course, is a long old slog, and the Kyoto management will have to be careful with Akita's aging limbs. With injury and suspension sure to take their toll at some point during the marathon campaign, it is unlikely Akita will be able to play all the games.
But, still, just having him around will be a boost to Kyoto. On the training pitch, on the bench, he will be of great value to Sanga next season.
Strong in the air when he attacks the first ball, he will need a quicker player around him to sweep up the second ball, but again this can only be a positive for Kyoto. It is a wonderful opportunity for a young defender to learn his trade alongside the master, whose professionalism on and off the pitch should have lasting effects on the team in general.
Akita has been a great servant to Japanese football, and his presence on the J2 circuit will be appreciated by those hardy fans of all teams.