Of course, you all know the big news by now. Lincoln City have not only signed Lee Frecklington, darling of the Rotherham fans, but also tied the future star Ellis Chapman to a thee-year deal.
There was something very poetic about this evening, the master himself, the last grand export from our youth system, returning on the same evening the baton is passed to another great hope. Seeing Freck there, a veteran of 32, made me feel old. I remember when he was just a quiet, unassuming young man embarking on his football career. Now, he’s back and we’ve got another quiet, unassuming young man looking to take on the world.
There’s not a lot I can add really. The rumours of Freck coming back have been around for a while, first floated by me back at the beginning of November and fuelled by his public appearance promoting the Imps book just before Christmas. despite this, did anyone truly think it could happen? Did any Lincoln City fan sit in the New York Stadium in August, see Freck in a Rotherham shirt and think ‘he’ll be ours by January?’ Of course not. I could barely believe it myself, even though I knew he was coming back. When he walked around that corner, the same Lincoln lad that left us almost a decade ago, I could have wept with joy. Genuinely, that is how much something like this means to me and I’m sure to many of you. Footballers always say that it is a game without sentiment, you try telling that to Lincoln fans tonight.
As if to make himself even more of a hero, Lee then comes out with the following quote: “If you’re asking me would I rather go to Mansfield Town or Lincoln City, the obvious choice is here. I’m here now and not there, so I’m really excited.” Burned Steve, burned.
I’ll do a separate piece on them and him later, this article isn’t about petty vendettas or negativity, it is about this football club and what we’ve achieved today. Lee Frecklington is one of our own, he’s now a definite Imps legend, a player who excelled here once and has the ingredients to do so again. If you take all of that away though, his roots and his history, we’ve signed the captain of a League One side. That means we’ve now got Peterborough’s captain from last season as well as Rotherham’s. Last year Lee Frecklington led his side against Newcastle, Michael Bostwick led his against Sheffield United and Luke Waterfall led us out against Boreham Wood. Today, less than a calendar year later, all three are on the pitch for Lincoln City. Wow.
Look, this isn’t all about Lee either. There’s such a buzz around young Ellis and at just seventeen, there’s so much to come from him it is unreal. I know how highly he is rated and how much our management think he can achieve. He struck me as a grounded young man, humble and respectful of where he’d been. When he spoke of his time at Leicester and how he just wanted to play for Lincoln, he did come across like a young Lee Frecklington. If he goes on to achieve the things Lee has in the game, and there’s every indication he can do, then he’ll be a credit to our youth set up.
Finally, back to Lee and Danny. Listening to them oozing respect for his former club filled me with pride. We really do have a club to be proud of right now, a club that respects its fans, its opponents and itself. There’s no mudslinging, no taunting and no gloating. The evening was conducted with respect for Rotherham as well as, rightly or wrongly, Evans. Danny didn’t name the team that tried to scupper the bid late, he didn’t need to.
So, we’ve got two local boys tied down to good contracts, one with the world at his feet, the other who’s been there, done it and is ready to share his knowledge and experience with those who need it.
Finally, Lee was asked to give Ellis some advice on signing his first pro contract and everyone in the room got a brief glimpse of exactly what we can expect from Freck off the pitch. He turned to Ellis and addressed him properly, not as an answer to a question, but immediately slipping into mentor mode.
“Take this in, this is a big day. Make sure you don’t let it get the best of you. Keep training, keep working hard and good things will come.”
I’m sure a young Mr Chapman couldn’t fail to be impressed by the role model sat next to him. There wasn’t a person in the room who wasn’t impressed by the end of the session. Lee Frecklington has come back home and we’re all the richer for it.
Massive thanks to Terry Hibberd at the club for the invite to tonight’s press conference too. It is brilliant to know the club are fully behind independent media.