Ever since the beginning of the season, Danny has been after a striker to play as part of a vibrant 4-4-2 with Matt Green. That is surely no secret, but is former Scunthorpe United striker Tom Hopper the final piece of the jigsaw.
I say final piece, many others now need to slip into place, not least a winger or two, but it has to be said that in both transfer windows Danny was looking for a tall, hard-working striker to play just behind Matt Green. Rhead is great at what he does, but his limited mobility has often held us back going forward.
Ollie Hawkins was one man ear-marked to take up the role, but he went off to Portsmouth instead. Simeon Akinola, well we all know about him. I think even as far back as Lee Angol, Danny has been looking for an elusive player.
I know fans clamour for a big name. ‘Let’s sign Doidge’, ‘Mo Eisa looks like a decent player’ and other such dirge appears daily on social media. Lincoln City do not just go out with £300,000 or more and buy a striker, the very best teams in this division do not do that. Luton bought James Collins for £100,000 and they got that money by selling Jack Marriott, a player signed on a free after being released by Ipswich. ‘Proven’ strikers, to all intents and purposes do not exist. There are plenty of points from history where we’ve tried to sign ‘proven’ strikers and ended up with turds. Tommy Tynan, Joe Allon, Leo Fortune-West, Phil Stant (first spell), Kevin Kilmore… need I go on?
Of course I’d be delighted if we signed a player who has a proven track record of scoring goals, just like we did last season when we signed Matt Green. He arrived as a proven scorer and he scored 17 goals this season. sometimes though, a player is made by a system, by a partner or by two managers who know how to get the best out of them.
Boston-born Hopper might just be that player. He’s only 24 and has had three seasons in League One with Scunthorpe. He hasn’t been prolific, those who like to look at stats and sigh when the ‘goals for’ column doesn’t have rows of double figures will be sighing away. Those who dig deeper on Google and see why he was sacked from Leicester will also not be happy.
To save you the time, Hopper was one of three players sacked by Leicester City after a sex-video emerged a couple of years ago. As a young player he made a very bad choice and paid the ultimate price. He was sacked by his Premier League employers and made a full apology for his actions. I believe in redemption and I believe in second chances and I wouldn’t, for one second, let that be an issue in signing the player.
Since that he’s got is head down at Scunthorpe and made 106 appearances, scoring 21 goals, 18 of which have been in League One. This last season has been one of his best, with seven goals from 32 games the best ratio since his move. However, it shouldn’t all be about goals. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and I’m not sure Tom Hopper is even Scunthorpe’s trash, despite his release.
He was praised just four months ago by then-Scunthorpe manager Graham Alexander as having grown up, with his incredible work rate being singled out for special praise. It isn’t just what he does with the ball, but the hard work he puts in off it too. That to me sounds much like Matt Green and I’ve held firm that another Matt Green in our side this season would have brought a top three finish. Hopper, a physical player but also mobile and energetic, could be exactly what we need pushing on.
Last summer, Mansfield Town tried to sign Hopper. Despite my disdain for Evans, that surely indicates the player’s ability? He had a war chest the size of a Championship club and on his shopping list was the 6ft 1in Scunthorpe man. Maybe, just maybe there’s something worth speculating on here. I wonder if his release is something that has been motivated by the knowledge he doesn’t want to stay? He was very much an Alexander man, has that resulted in him leaving the club?
There’s been a rumour that he may have been spotted today in a local gym, not surprising as he does live locally, but the rather obtrusive and grainy social media photo apparently showed him chatting to Danny and Nicky. I’m not one for our managers being covertly photographed going about their business, but could it be Hopper is close to an Imps move?
My sources tell me he has League One options and any move to Lincoln would be prompted not just by football, but also by our ambition. The new training ground, the new ground and the potential of silverware will all be a factor in the young man’s decision. Also, if he’s from Boston, where better to come and play than Lincoln, keeping his commute down and his family close?
I’d be firmly behind signing Tom Hopper, a player who has proven himself in League One. After all, Marc McNulty scored 10 goals in 40 appearances for Sheffield United over a three season spell and just one in 15 on loan at Bradford too. His record didn’t look great in League One, but in League Two he got 10 in 27 on loan at Portsmouth and last season smashed 28 in all competitions for Coventry. Tom Hopper could well be our Marc McNulty.
Now, where’s our Jodi Jones?