Mr Dickie, the ‘heir apparent’, the man brought in to ultimately succeed Sean Raggett in our defence. He even looked like him, perhaps there was a master plan to send him off to Norwich in January instead.
The truth behind the move was that Dickie had impressed for Cheltenham in two spells and Danny hoped he was signing the new hope for us at centre half. He clearly wasn’t a ‘like for like’ with Raggs, but he was an able and competent player. He liked to bring the ball out but didn’t have the same aerial domination as our crowd favourite.
He did have one thing though, the gaffers trust, which is why he pushed Luke Waterfall onto the bench. Did Luke struggle to step up to the Football League, or did Danny feel Rob Dickie was a better player? Some felt Luke was discarded too quickly, others saw a quality in Dickie that they hoped would develop into something more.
Dickie made 21 starts in all competitions, a number that seems very high now when compared to his stand out moments. He fitted into the defence, that much is true, but writing this I can’t recall a game where I came away thinking he was the best player on the park.
He was what I like to call a ‘casualty of Colchester’, one of three players who did not fare well in our lacklustre defeat down south. After that he started just two more games, Stevenage and Forest Green, before a surprise move to Oxford.
I do wonder if the Oxford move was something that came up a couple of months before the window opened and that led to him being used less frequently. Danny did discuss the possibility of him signing permanently in January, I could envisage those talks being approached, Dickie saying that Oxford were in for him, League One and closer to home, so we used him frugally in order to become less reliant when he did go. One thing is for sure, his rather unexpected departure at the same time as Sean Raggett left us in a bit of a hole.
After they left, we won two League games in nine. Had we converted three of those drawn games to wins, or won two that we lost, we’d be third and not even bothering about Thursday night.
As for Rob Dickie, I bear him no malice. I wouldn’t say he was as good as I’d hoped when he first signed, but he settled well in a new team and left before we saw the best of him. He’s gone on to establish himself in the Oxford back four which is testament to his ability, but he won’t be fondly recalled by many Imps fans in the future.
I’m throwing Sean into this category as a fringe player, maybe harsh on the young Irishman, but he’s certainly been the only real loser in the Neal Eardley capture.
Sean Long is a good full back, he’s young and learning his trade but he started the season well with Neal on the left hand side. I wouldn’t put him anywhere near as good as Neal, absolutely not, but for me he was comparable for most of the season with Sam on the left. Sean suffered because we managed to attract a Championship quality player in the position he plays. How harsh is that?
He’s made 13 starts this season, most of which came in August and September. Through October he did spend some time at right back with Neal on the left, but eventually that was always going to change. I feel bad for Sean because I’m mentioning Neal Eardley as much as I’m mentioning him and this is meant to be a look at his campaign. He was given the number two shirt which tells you what the intention for him was. Football is a cruel game though and it has dealt the likeable 23-year old a rough hand this season.
Sean’s a great character, always ready to entertain and interact off the pitch and growing as a footballer on it. He’s had the odd cameo, his 95th minute introduction at Wembley might not have seen him make an impact, but I’m sure he’ll cherish the memories nonetheless.
In a season where we’ve had a threadbare squad, Sean Long has been the ultimate squad player, young and hungry but having to wait for his limited chances. I don’t think he’s let the side down at all and I would be very surprised if he wasn’t part of the side next season.
Next page – we finish with a current loan player