Billy Knott has been the subject of interest from several clubs, as it was confirmed today that he can leave Gillingham for free.
The Kent Messenger reports that several clubs are considering moves for the talented 24-year old after he was put on the transfer list. Despite having a year left on his contract he has been told he can move for nothing.
The big question is, are we in the race for the player? Danny and Nicky were keen admirers, and their connections go a long way back, years before he appeared in a City shirt. Can that relationship, along with the ambitions of the club, tempt a skilful and intricate player to League Two?
If it can it would be a massive coup, much bigger than dragging him into the National League on loan last season. If a player of his calibre could be convinced of a permanent move to Lincoln City, it would be a real signal of our intent. This is a player schooled at Chelsea and Sunderland, a player revered at previous clubs such as Woking and Bradford. He is also a player right in his prime, and his next move is crucial for his career.
He’s represented England at three different youth levels, the latest of which was the Under 20 side. He is, to be blunt, far too good for League Two and the likes of us. He shouldn’t even be on our radar, and how he ever found himself in the National League, I’ll never know.
We saw a half-fit Billy Knott at first, but as the games wore on, he became an important figure. His vision and composure was superb, and his eye for a cute pass showed his pedigree as a player. As fitness returned he began to look as exciting as we’d heard he was, grabbing a match winning goal and being much more than a peripheral figure in our nail-biting run in.
I wouldn’t be surprised if several League One sides are looking at him, and we would only be in the race because of his Cowley connections and of course, the club’s ambition. Danny Cowley says he will only pay what a player is worth, but in Billy Knott, how do you quantify that worth? If he came permanently he would be a first team player, heading up the diamond we play in midfield, pushing up behind Rheady. I shudder to think how effective he might be if he were to fully fit and on method. How much is that worth?
Normally in this circumstance I say the player would be better moving as high as possible, or taking the biggest wage, but I think with Knott it is different. Despite his undoubted potential he has had a few clubs, and Gillingham in League One don’t think he has what it takes. I think Billy is a player who needs to be managed correctly, played in the right position and developed in a sympathetic way to fully realise his potential. He knows exactly what Danny and Nicky want to do, and he could play some of the best football of his career with the right guidance. He’s 24 now, even if he signed a two-year deal he’d be 26 when negotiating his next contract, and by then we would either be matching his ambitions in League One or his stock would have risen sufficiently to earn him a Championship move and a proper pay day.
There is also the question of whether Danny is after him, but having described him having the potential to be ‘whatever he wants to be’ would suggest some level of admiration for Billy Knott, would it not?
The absolute worse thing he could do now is move to another League One club and find himself not in the side, or on the fringes. At 24, with the route he has taken so far in his career, he must be playing regularly, showcasing his talents and crucially developing under a manager that can nurture and enhance his ability.
Knott himself, writing for the Kent Messenger in April, clearly enjoyed his time at Lincoln:
“I had the hamstring injury before and it took me a while to get to the fitness levels that he (Danny) needed. They are a lot higher than other clubs I had been at so it was tough but it has been good. I set up a couple and scored the winner against Bromley, which made me feel a lot more part of where we have got to. The boys have done great and when you are scoring winners, it is good, it makes you feel better. I have lost a lot of weight, I am enjoying football again and the loan was the right thing for me to do. I am glad I did it.”
Glad enough to return and help continue the job he had a hand in last season? Will the thought of working for manager who demand fitness ‘a lot higher than other clubs I’ve been at’ realise that in itself is reason enough to put his faith in Danny and Nicky? Let’s hope so.