The Imps were due to face League One side Oxford United as part of the careful constructed pre-season campaign, but Oxford have today pulled out in a shocking show of poor form.
The game was one of the first friendlies to be announced, former Imps loanee Michael Appleton was keen to bring his side over to Sincil Bank. Appleton has since departed for Leicester, and the new manager doesn’t fancy a trip to Lincoln on a Tuesday night. Pep Clotet, the Spaniard formerly of Swansea and Leeds backroom, has pulled the plug with just over a week’s notice.
We were the penultimate scheduled friendly for the O’s, they’ve just returned from the Algarve as we have. They’re due to face Brentford on Wednesday and Birmingham on Saturday before the now-cancelled trip to face Danny Cowley’s men. A game with Leeds was set to follow on the 29th, and that is still going ahead.
Oxford’s website stated “The U’s take on Brentford and Birmingham at home this week and then travel to Leeds United on the following Saturday, and with a busy schedule as well as a new manager the club contacted Lincoln to ask if the game at Sincil Bank could be postponed. We thank Lincoln City for their understanding and wish them well on their return to the Football League this season.”
Oxford enjoyed two positive results in the Algarve, a 0-0 draw with recently relegated Middlesbrough and a 2-1 win against Hull City. There is nothing to suggest a panic by the manager, nothing to suggest he needs to reschedule his pre-season campaign. It does just seen like a case of really poor form from a club that had already agreed to bring a team.
I don’t like to see teams cancelling pre-season matches they’ve agreed to play, I think it shows a complete lack of respect for the side you’ve agreed to play. Crystal Palace have disappointed Maidstone this week by announcing they will be sending an under 23 side for a game rather than the first team, but at least they’re still showing up. We sent a youthful side to Gainsborough, but at least Trinity still got a game and a work out. What do we get? A hole in our schedule.
I’ve seen a couple of sides on Twitter looking to fill gaps after teams have dropped out of matches, but they’re Sunday league or much lower non-league sides. A professional club should send a side when they’ve agreed to do so, even if it was a youthful team. There seems to be no valid reason for Oxford to cancel, no injury crisis, no fixture clash, nothing.
Maybe Clotet got a chance to watch us in the Algarve and didn’t fancy having his side humbled by lowly Lincoln? it’s unlikely but I suppose it could happen. It might just be that he hasn’t got the manners to fulfil a fixture his predecessor agreed to, that seems a far more likely outcome. Some have even said it might be bitterness after their pursuit of Raggett was rebuffed, but Appleton was in charge then not Clotet. I don’t see a proper reason, I just see incredibly bad manners and a lack of respect.
Danny will now be working hard to fill the gap left by Oxford breaking their word, and that isn’t what we want him to be doing. We want our manager to be tying up deals and training our players, not ringing around like a scorned Sunday League side trying to get someone to come and play us. He’ll want the match to get another 60 minutes into the players, but they’ll need to be valuable minutes. There’s no point in doing a ‘Tranmere’ and thumping a local pub side 11-0, going through the motions. Danny will want League One quality opponents where he can assess last-minute trial players and work his current squad hard. How many League One sides will have a free date at such short notice, aside of course from Oxford?
I’m sure in the long run the cancellation won’t impact us significantly. It wasn’t a prestige friendly, Oxford aren’t the sort of team to put bums on seats. It was the only friendly I can get to between now an August 5th though, so on a personal level I am incredibly hacked off with Pep Clotet and his bottlers because it is one last chance to see the side in action.
Poor show Oxford, you’ve shown a real lack of class today. We’ll see you next year for a bit of retribution in League One.