Secretly, I’ve been putting it off. I heard Danny’s interview, I saw Nathan’s tweet and I simply don’t want to believe it. I don’t want to accept there is any possibility that Nathan Arnold is on his way out of Lincoln City Football Club.
It isn’t just the fact I did the anxiety awareness stuff with him in the summer either. I would hope to consider him something of a friend, certainly someone I speak to on a more regular basis than any of the other players, which is probably why I’m so reluctant to start talking about a potential departure. However, even if I didn’t know him personally I’d still feel extremely sad at the likelihood of him leaving.
Nathan was one of the stars of last season, alongside Sean Raggett, Matt Rhead, Alex Woodyard and the like. Sean has moved on, but other than that the main group of players have remained at the club. The first names on the team sheet last season are still here, more or less. It’s not been easy for some of them, Nathan included, but they’re still here. Now, as Nathan was ‘unavailable’ for this weekend’s clash, it does look increasingly as if he may depart the club.
Nathan Arnold isn’t a typical footballer and without sounding too sycophantic, he isn’t your typical person either. He’s reflective and reserved, a thinking man with a sensitivity that transcends the ruthless sport in which he plies his trade. He’s the sort of individual that makes an impression when you meet him, a superb character to have around the club and not just because he larks about a bit or because of his experience. I suspect Nathan sees life differently to many people and when you meet him, you pick up on it straight away.
Football isn’t about personalities though, it is a cut-throat business that has no real room for emotion and sentiment. Whilst the club look to conduct itself in the correct manner there must also be tough decisions made and one wonders if that is the case currently. Nathan confirmed rumours of issues with one of his children were wrong and I know personally the his experiences from the summer have been put behind him too. Nathan is fit, focused and still able to play the game at Football League level.
There’s been some questions over his ability to adapt to the new level of football, but I’d argue whilst his impact hasn’t been as immediate as last season, he has been developing his game over time. He has suffered from injuries, not least because of that cynical scythe against Luton at home, but on the whole he’s done well when he’s come in. He hasn’t scored but as he showed against Rochdale, he’s still got the pace and skill to influence games. I actually thought since Coventry at home he’s been looking more like Nathan of last season and his exclusion on Saturday genuinely shocked me. Not much does at this club, normally I see things coming, but when I heard Nathan was unavailable I was genuinely shocked.
Danny likes to operate with two for each position which surely means four wingers in total. With Jordan Williams, Danny Rowe and Harry Anderson all in the frame, we could be seen as being one over. Cameron Stewart is still with the club and so is Nathan. However, anyone observing games recently would have had Cameron Stewart as leaving and Nathan as seeing out the season, at least. Unless I’m misreading the situation massively, that looks like being an inaccurate assessment of the situation. I’m surprised, I think Cameron has ability but hasn’t shown anything like enough. Nathan works tremendously hard whenever he gets a chance and he’s looked closer to the Nathan of old recently.
Without too much conjecture, one wonders where Nathan will go if his Lincoln days are over. I’d suggest the likeliest destination is Chesterfield, still in League Two and needing some spark from out wide. I know Nathan is driven above all, he’ll still want to play at the highest level on offer and surely a host of League Two clubs must be willing to take a punt. There’s always Grimsby, whether the previous issues with Fenty and the current disarray would dissuade him from going back, I don’t know. One thing is for sure, he is revered at Grimsby as a legend and any return would certainly be to a familiar place.
There is a chance that a National League club might recognise his tendency to earn promotions and bust the bank to bring him in. Tranmere might be a bit far away for him, but Halifax are only 13 points from the play-off race there. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone such as Fylde also came sniffing around too, but I’d wager he’s unlikely to move outside of commuting distance of his current home. Every time I’ve spoken to him he’s always come across as a strong family man, someone unlikely to uproot his young family and move them away. No, he will remain very close to the East Midlands, one way or another.
Part of me hopes a six-month loan deal pops up and he takes it, finds form on loan and opens Danny’s eyes to his ability. I would genuinely find Lincoln City an ever-so slightly darker place without Nathan Arnold as a squad member. That isn’t just because of Ipswich, Gateshead or the other goals and assists he chipped in with last season. It is because I feel we’d be losing a real ambassador, someone who is a credit to his club and to his profession. I would also find it a darker place because he helped me take some incredibly big steps in the summer and helped edge me down the path I’m currently taking. I’d feel sad not just because a good player would be leaving the club, but because a great person would be going too.
I won’t put a ‘please stay Nathan’ cry out, football is a business and both players and fans have to understand that, but in eighteen months at the football club Nathan has given us everything; goals, assists and a little part of his soul. I’ll always respect him for that, even if he goes back to Grimsby. Just think, he could be the first Grimsby Town player I truly want to achieve great things. Football, it is a funny old game.