The benefit of being a so-called indie writer rather than an official reporter is the ability for me to float rumours that are circulating for discussion. Traditional media are very tied by the reporting of facts (or not in some cases), but being in my position does allow a certain freedom in writing that perhaps the Echo cannot have.
One thing I keep hearing again and again is the news that one of our January deals has already been done and tied up. This isn’t ‘inside information’ in any way, if I knew for certain ironically I wouldn’t break the club’s confidence! However, the terraces are alight with the potential for a club favourite to finish his career in red and white.
I suspect there’s several reasons for this. To my knowledge, his Millers contract is up at the end of the season. He signed a two-year contract in July 2016 meaning once this season is complete, he is a free agent. At 32-years old he’s probably looking for one final move, one last switch to wind down his playing career and build for the next step of his life. Given his family’s strong football tradition I wouldn’t put it past him looking to move into coaching and management either.
Then there is his recent move back to the city. He spoke to the Echo prior to our Carabao Cup clash earlier in the season, telling how he’d recently moved back to Lincoln and how he loved the buzz around the club. Ever since he was 11-years old he wanted to play for Lincoln, his idol (quite rightly) was Peter Gain and he just wanted to break into the side. There’s a degree of unfinished business here also, he told Mark Whiley he was ‘disappointed’ with how his Imps career ended as Peter Jackson seemed to prefer Stefan Oakes to him. He moved to a side top of League One, Oakes ended up leaving a season before we were relegated.
Some of the more astute Imps fans have also noted he hasn’t played since October 7th, not long after smashing a hat trick past Walsall. He hasn’t been dropped, as club captain it was unlikely anyway, but he has picked up an injury. He was withdrawn from the Miller’s 1-0 win at Rochdale after just four minutes. At the time Paul Warne played the injury down, telling his local media: “I initially thought he was out for six weeks. I thought he had ripped his hammy, but the physio thought it was more aligned with his back. He has been scanned and he has got slight hamstring damage, but it’s hardly anything. He has had his back treated, so hopefully he can be involved this weekend. It might be too soon, but we are evaluating it on a daily basis. He has come on in leaps and bounds.”
That was on October 12th and now initial fears he could be out until December seem well-founded.
Lee Frecklington was born in Lincoln, and to some extent born to play for Lincoln as well. He made his way through our Centre of Excellence and was rewarded with a scholarship place in the summer of 2002. Under John Schofield, Frecklington’s ability developed and was well noted and during his schooldays he undertook trials with both Norwich City and Leeds United.
He made rapid progress in the youth set-up, making significant strides towards the first team. He particularly impressed in a friendly against Manchester City which prompted Keith Alexander to give him his full debut in the Football League Trophy against Telford United. He continued his progression in the final season of his scholarship and made his Football League debut as a substitute in the game at Rochdale on 12 February 2005.
After a spell out on loan at Stamford he became a regular presence on the substitutes bench and in February 2006 he came on to score his first league goal in the game at Stockport. His reward was his first league start the following week at home to Torquay United. Always impressing, he made 18 league appearances in the second half of the season, though only three of these were starts.
Lee had a lot of ability and for a player so young was able to show it in and around the first team. Over the years we’ve seen lots of these ‘bright young things’ emerge and ultimately fail. Ollie Ryan, Gary King and even Connor Robinson were given chances that they didn’t take. Lee Frecklington was different. In the 2006–07 season he featured heavily in a very pivotal role towards Lincoln’s unsuccessful push for promotion to League One. John Schofield placed a lot of belief in his former protégé and he boasted a number of exceptional performances. He was named in the PFA League Two Team of the Year for the 2006–07 season, and he was only beaten to the Imps Player of the Year by Lee Beevers.
In January 2008 the Imps and manager Peter Jackson turned down two bids for Frecklington from Peterborough. In his programme notes around that time Jackson remarked; “I didn’t think it was the right offer or the right club for Freck, and we’re now in talks to keep him at the club because he’s a real asset for us. There’s only one or two midfielders in the division who can do what Lee does and we’ve come to expect it every game despite his age.”
The following season as his star continued to rise he seemed increasingly less likely to remain a Lincoln player. There was some surprise when he didn’t move on in the January 2009 transfer window, and even more surprise when just six days after the window closed he finally moved to Peterborough initially on loan.
After leaving Lincoln, Freck made a real name for himself at both Peterborough and Rotherham. His last action in a Lincoln shirt was scoring a last-minute equaliser as we snatched a result against Bournemouth having been 3-1 down with four minutes remaining. He departed days later, replaced (of sorts) by Michael O’Connor until the end of that season. He made seven League One appearances for Posh before the season ended, but broke through to make almost 40 Championship appearances the season after, although they were relegated. Injury blighted the 2010/11 season for him, but he was back playing Championship football the season after, grabbing five goals in the process.
He played just six matches of the following season in the second tier before surprisingly dropping down to League Two to play for Steve Evans and Rotherham United. He smashed a debut goal against Aldershot and bagged eight more as Rotherham were promoted. Rather ironically, he ended the season partnering Michael O’Connor.
If he hadn’t already endeared himself to Millers fans, the opening few days of 2013/14 certainly etched his name into their hearts. He grabbed a brace on the opening day as they drew at Gresty Road, including a last-minute winner. Three days later his 38th minute goal gave them a 2-1 victory in the Carling Cup against local rivals Sheffield Wednesday. 49 appearances and 13 goals later he found himself back in the Championship, partly responsible for the awful sight of Evans bounding up the Wembley touch-line after the play-off win against Leyton Orient.
In 2015 he was made Rotherham captain, a position he still holds today. At 32 he’s approaching the latter stages of his career, but having only played once in the fourth tier since leaving Lincoln he has shown consistent ability since we last saw him. He’s a goal scoring midfielder, fitting the bill of the rumour I’ve heard, but his wages may be a stumbling block. The again, Danny has always said he is willing to pay a player what he is worth, what price on an emotional home-coming for one of our best youth system products? What price on an experienced attacking midfielder, a player who has ‘been there, done that’ in terms of our ultimate goal, Championship football?
The likelihood is that this is no more than rumour and chatter, half truth and circumstance combining to create a fanciful titbit to spread around the terraces. However, I wouldn’t rule out seeing Lee in Lincoln City colours one day and I certainly wouldn’t rule out seeing him in coaching or management at the conclusion of his playing days. He’s a likeable lad, Lincoln through and through and he’d be an asset to this club at any stage of his career.
Today’s pictures were provided by Graham Burrell, just a couple that didn’t make it into our excellent book, Imperfect Focus. Time is running out if you want to secure an exclusive print from Graham along with your order. He’s doing one-time copies of some of his private collection, unique pictures not in the book, for the first 200 orders. We’re nearing that number now but if you’re quick, you might just get in.
It’s £16, or £19 if you want it posting, but please order as soon as possible! Don’t miss out!