It looks suspiciously like captain Luke Waterfall is on the verge of a shock switch to League One side Shrewsbury Town which will give Imps plenty to discuss over the coming few days.
In terms of trophies won, Luke is the most decorated skipper in Lincoln City history, lifting as many trophies in twelve months as any other has done in their entire tenure. He will always command respect and a certain amount of adulation and a move away from Lincoln certainly wasn’t to be expected at this stage.
If you look back to my first team prediction of last week, you’ll perhaps notice something rather pertinent. Luke wasn’t named. This isn’t me turning on a player who may be leaving, I’ve got loads of time for Luke both as a person and a player, but I don’t think he’s suited to a three at the back, nor do I think in a two he’s one of our best two players.
Being captain means very little in my eyes, not when it is given to you, but when it is not taken off you. Luke would never have been stripped of the captaincy, he did nothing to warrant such an action, but had we been picking a captain for the squad without anyone having held it before, do you think Luke would have go it? Or would Michael Bostwick and Lee Frecklington been having a bare knuckle fight instead, while Luke sat at the side happy with a squad place?
What Shrewsbury will be getting is a committed defender who will fight every single step of the way for them as they struggle against relegation from League One. That is where they are, forget the cup final and the play off race, their team has been ripped apart and they’ve not replaced key players. Luke’s going from a potential promotion fight to a relegation battle, albeit in the division above. He’s probably earning more money too, so there’s no complaints from me about loyalty.
There will be a fee, one would imagine upwards of £50,000 which will be nice. It might even be a bit more, I’m not really sure, but whatever it is remember; last season Luke had to win his place back and , had it not been for Rob Dickie leaving unexpectedly, he might not have been here at all. If he’d spent the second half of last season on the bench, perhaps he may have left in the summer. Instead, circumstance thrust him back into the side and as you’d expect from a fighter, he took his chance well.
The one thing we will miss is his prowess at the other end of the park, perhaps more so than his defensive contributions. He was a behemoth in the opposition area and that perhaps was never as evident as when we beat Colchester last season (pictured top). He always weighed in with a goal or two and certainly had me on my feet a few times more than most.
I know there will be those who think we’re selling off our best players, but every club is a selling club. The only reason Shrewsbury are even in for him is the sale of Toto Nsiala to Ipswich, opening up a space in their squad. Therefore, don’t be fooled into thinking Danny brought in Adam Crookes knowing this was going to happen, up until the middle of last week Shrewsbury probably didn’t know it was going to happen.
Also, don’t think that there’s a big name replacement coming in either, not just yet. I wouldn’t imagine Danny expected to sell Luke Waterfall and any planning to replace him will have begun before the weekend which is when I’m led to believe this first came to people’s attention. Our squad is developing nicely and there’s always going to be set backs in that process, such as this news.
Ask yourself this; if we get promoted this season, do you think Luke would have been a regular for us in League One? If we didn’t get promoted, would Luke be one of the players you’d look at and wonder about replacing, especially once his contract ran out? He wasn’t the only one to sell Vickers short on Saturday, but he did make a horrible back pass that could have cost us the game. Granted, when we won promotion he won us as many points as anyone, but was he as commanding last season? He didn’t break into the team until before Christmas, then suffered the ban for Mansfield and perhaps benefitted from lifting the Checkatrade Trophy in more ways than one.
I’m gutted because this summer I had Alex Woodyard, Paul Farman and Luke Waterfall signed pictures on my wall, two of which I’ve already replaced. I wont tell you who I’ve got in their place because it seems like a kiss of death right now!
If this does happen my honest assessment is there are no real losers. Luke gets a wage rise and a stab at League One, we get a fee and a bit of time to replace him and everything is friendly and on good terms. There’s no panic, no reason to start fretting about the squad or where we are as a team, it is just a transfer deal that was unexpected, but not surprising. That is football, you roll with the punches and adapt on the move. In terms of how I feel this will hit us, far less than the loss of Alex Woodyard, about as much as the loss of Adam Marriott last season and a little bit more than losing Ollie Palmer. All in all, we’ll live.
I’m not convinced Danny had a replacement lined up on Saturday afternoon, but I guarantee you right not he’s on the phone, cajoling someone into loaning us a player or enquiring as to whether another target is free. It might be one of the trialists, it might be someone such as Sam Hughes from Leicester, but we’ll have cover whatever happens.
If you do leave, best of luck Luke and thanks for the memories.