The time has come to stop the conjecture, stop the discussion and the debate and finally move of the fence. It’s time for the SW prediction of 2018/19.
I’ve more or less finished the 1-24, it’ll be out tomorrow, but before all that I’m going to tell you where I think Lincoln City will come. Before that, I’m going to tell you why I think we’ll come in that position.
I think last season ended quite fortuitously for us if I’m honest. The squad received quite an overhaul in January and yet the key component of that overhaul, a striker, failed to materialise. It left us with a disjointed squad, two ball playing midfielders in Tom Pett and Lee Frecklington, but nobody to actually play into. Matt Rhead did as much as he could, but with the greatest respect to the big man, he’s a one-dimensional player. There was no plan B, there wasn’t many ways we could set up our three forwards to offer anything other than a plan A.
There’s wasn’t much you could do with Ollie Palmer other than point him at goal and hope.
I’ve heard the Totally Football League Show (excellent podcast) express surprise we folded like a deck of cards against Exeter, but the harsh reality is those excellent Easter wins left us in better shape than we deserved. We fought, battled and stumbled into the top seven, courtesy of the Mansfield circus, but nobody who watches the Imps regularly was too shocked at our lack of penetration in the semi finals. If you’d been to Port Vale and Accrington, you knew what to expect.
So, with the tools we had available, we made our way into the end of season lottery and drew the losing ticket. In terms of squad players, every one who was out of contract more or less drew a losing ticket. Here’s a hint for players next season; if you’re offered a deal but the retained list is announced before you’ve signed it, Danny doesn’t really want you. Harsh? Fact.
Maybe he would have kept Sean Long given a choice, but only on terms affordable to the club. I’m not convinced Elliott Whitehouse offered what we needed to get to the next level and as much as I liked Elliott as a player, he isn’t top of the table quality. As for Crawley making Ollie Palmer their number nine, good luck. Ollie had something, I’m not sure what and neither was he, but it only appeared in flashes and he only seems happy when he’s able to agitate and annoy. I didn’t blog at the time, but there was a comment that there was ‘more chance of folding a crisp’ than him getting a start last season.
Am I sorry to see Palmer go? I’ll always get behind our players, but I was more sorry to see the back of hospital in May than I was Ollie Palmer.
Those who have gone have not just been replaced with better, but they have been fully upgraded on. Whether McCartan or Akinde is your Palmer replacement I’ll leave up to you, but last season you’d take either and having both, as well as Rhead and Green, gives us frightening options up front.
In fact, when you go through the squad, the depth we have in such small numbers is unreal. We don’t just have ‘one for one’, a right back for a right back, but we have choices that I’ve never known as a Lincoln fan. I’m not going to analyse all of the new signings, you know who they are and so do I, but never before has our starting XI been so unpredictable.
Pre-season has only given us more food for thought. Michael O’Connor, an almost cert to start, hasn’t kicked a ball and Bozzie has barely been involved, yet the players who have played look good. Ellis Chapman is going to arrive this season and pre-season has only added to the hype. Lee Frecklington looks more comfortable with a Cowley pre-season behind him and I’m not convinced Pett or Andrade have been discounted as midfield options. How we set up through the centre of the park is a mystery right now, we could have three at the back, ot three in midfield or even three up top. we could have wing backs, full backs, a flat back four, a diamond in the centre, wingers, tight forwards… it’s ridiculous.
These are not just wafer-thin options either, nobody would complain if we went with wing backs and tucked one in behind our front two, or if we went 4-4-2 and played with a flat midfield four. Harry Anderson has looked sharp in pre-season, Bruno Andrade has, for me, been on fire and Tom Pett is winning people over left, right and centre.
That’s not to say there’s not questions to be answered, John Akinde hasn’t lit up pre-season and for me Harry Toffolo has yet to convince me he’s as good going backwards as he is forwards. The lesser-spotted O’Connor might be a concern too, but these are little things, not fundamental problems. Do we doubt Akinde will score goals with 70-odd in four seasons? No. Do we doubt Toffolo has composure having been in the Championship all last season, albeit on the fringes? No. Do we believe Danny won’t take a player struggling for fitness and squeeze every last-minute out of him? No.
We’re a couple of players light too, everyone knows that but I doubt there’s a squad in the country that isn’t I expect two more loan signings and possibly a permanent deal for Luque, all off which add value to a group of players where no eleven or twelve stand out above the others. If we play two centre backs it wouldn’t matter whether it was Wilson and Wharton or Bostwick and Waterfall, we’d be solid. When your main squad worry is who is covering the right back position, you’re in a good place.
All of this would be inconsequential if we didn’t have two of the finest managers and coaches in League Two at the helm. We’ve seen all-too often how good players don’t make a team, they merely contribute. If you do listen to any podcasts (NTT20 I recommend), they all say Danny and Nicky are the difference between us and everyone else. They trump Kevin Nolan, possibly even the excellent Paul Tisdale and with them, we have more than a chance of promotion. In fact, everyone has us as favourites, or at the very least second place.
Our pre season preparation has been meticulous and thorough. I won’t go on about it here, but if you do want to read my thoughts on that, please check out some of the Football League World work I do, specifically this article.
Next Page – my prediction and something to bear in mind