It’s non-stop good news today isn’t it? Friday 13th in reverse, from manager awards, new contracts to Ollie Palmer winning an individual award. I hold my hands up to having been a strong critic earlier in the season, but few of you will have read my printed apology in Issue 7 of A City United. To celebrate Ollie winning the award, here is my apology again, in full. Ollie, you proved me wrong pal.
This is an apology, of sorts. Regular readers of my website, staceywest.net, will know that I haven’t been Ollie Palmer’s biggest fan. In fact, I’ve seen him as a lumbering catastrophe, a big man who cannot use his size properly, a tall player with no heading ability and a liability whenever he pulls on the shirt.
I’m going to hold my hands up and admit, I was wrong. Not entirely wrong and not on all counts, but I was wrong. It turns out, Ollie Palmer has won me over.
Those who know me personally will know this article is not easy for me to write. I’m not a bad person, but when a player loses my confidence or belief it is very hard for them to win it back. I don’t get swayed by a couple of goals, nor by a few friendly soundbites in the local media. Ollie’s stoic denial of wanting a move away in January didn’t win me over alone, but it did contribute. If you didn’t hear it, he spoke to BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s Rob Makepeace and said, quite categorically, he was staying at Lincoln. He moved his family here, he has settled here and he is going nowhere.
I liked that interview and, following Palmer on Instagram, I like him to. His pictures are always him walking his dog or cuddling up to his child, they’re very down to earth and humble. I’ve never met Ollie, I’d be frightened to in case he’s read any of my work, but he seems a decent guy. That doesn’t make a good footballer though, does it?
When I first saw Ollie at the club I marvelled at him, he’s quite a physical specimen. He’s tall, really tall, and there’s not a single ounce of body fat on him. I expected an all-action centre forward, robust and demanding on centre backs but dominant in the air. My early expectations were shattered as early as Lincoln United in the pre-season friendly.
I’ll address my main issue with Ollie; he can’t head a ball. He has a knack of jumping for a header and reaching a lower height cumulatively than he does simply standing still. He stoops for headers, every header he goes for, and his head seems to disappear into his shoulders. It is an odd technique, unorthodox and ineffective. If he simply stood still and moved towards the ball he would be more likely to win it.
That made me irate and possibly oblivious to some of his other attributes.
He’s very single-minded and whereas that isn’t always a good thing, it does start to help later in matches. I only saw the chance against Chesterfield at home where, at 2-0 to City, he had the perfect chance to roll a ball into he path of Matt Green for a third. He selfishly tried to wind his way through some players and lost the ball. “Bloody Palmer,” I exclaimed, not for the first time, nor the last.
Had he stayed out of the way against Notts County, we might have won that game too. Matt Green had won the ball from the centre-half, but suddenly Palmer arrived on the scene having originally been offside in the build-up. Another Lincoln body blocked the referees view too, whilst Palmer tackled Green and scored, the ref disallowed the goal. If he’d just stayed away, might we have scored? I think so.
I lost confidence whenever I saw him starting a match. I’ll defend the view he isn’t a starter, there’s something lacking from his game currently that earns him a start, in my eyes. However, I have become open to his uses now.
When you bring Ollie Palmer onto a football pitch, you’re going to get twenty or thirty minutes of good, honest endeavour. He’ll be single-minded to the extreme, looking to get at goal as much as possible. That may, on occasions, lead to a wrong decision or two, but it also leads to goals. His awareness of space is very good, the ball didn’t land accidentally at his feet as we eliminated Rochdale from the Checkatrade Trophy. No, he’s a centre forward and that single-minded approach to the game pays dividends at times. He gets into the spaces to score goals.
There’s also no doubting his ability to produce a great finish, the first goal against Barnet at home proved that. He found a bit of space and time and curled a superb effort into the back of the net. It was a proper strikers finish, perfectly executed and celebrated passionately. He doesn’t just make the right runs, he can score goals too. One might argue that five from 35 appearances isn’t enough, but he’s only made 12 starts.
He finally won me over during the scintillating game against Peterborough which set the standard for cup ties at Sincil Bank. At 2-2 we needed a goal scoring threat and Danny turned to Ollie Palmer. In the end, it was a wise move.
Maybe Posh thought Palmer would be the big target man, we know he isn’t. He just ran, with the ball and without it. He brought the work rate that Rheady lacks in his game, offering a brand-new threat late on in the day. Between him and Green they almost forced a Posh defender into his own goal, just by running.
Then, in the dying seconds, he picked up the ball in the area and, as ever, looked to get towards goal. His way was blocked but he held the ball up long enough to slide a neat pass to Cameron Stewart out wide. The rest is history, but if you’re no historian, Stewart whipped in the cross for Harry Anderson to score. City added a fourth minutes later and wrapped up the tie.
As I celebrated the goal it dawned on me that Ollie Palmer is a good footballer, just not the footballer I’ve been hoping to see. He isn’t the dominant aerial centre forward, nor a twenty-goal striker. No, he’s just a handful that defenders don’t know what to do with. He’s strong, he’s big but he’s quite good with his feet. He’s intuitive too, he has the knack of getting into the right places. It doesn’t happen all the time, but somehow he knows exactly where and when to be in those dying minutes of a game. He scored against Accrington in the Checkatrade, he won the game against Rochdale and he had a hand in the winner against Peterborough.
Ollie; I apologise for being so negative towards you in my writing prior to today. Keep doing what you’re doing in the last half hour of games and we’re going to get on just fine in future.
Since this article, Ollie has impacted too many games to mention and has completed the biggest turnaround I can recall seeing in a Lincoln player. He can head a ball much more competently and his unpredictable nature has been used to great effect. Against Crewe away he looked lost, but since he’s found the niche as a super sub, he’s become an integral part of everything we’re trying to do. It gives me immense pleasure to offer these apologies, I like Lincoln winning much more than I enjoy being right about players from the off!