Danny mentioned last week in his press conference that there might be a new deal in the offing for Matt Rhead, something I’d heard a short while prior to it breaking.
It surprised me somewhat, knowing the big man is driving from Stoke, knowing there’s one day a week he’s not in and all that, I suspected he might end up dropping into the National League next season. His contract is up and he’s been written off more times than Rocky Balboa. But, like the fictional fighter, Rheady always seems to bounce back.
He signed in 2015, but in 2016 it was thought he wouldn’t be a ‘Cowley’ player. They fought hard to keep him at the club and he went on to have a key role in our promotion and the FA Cup run. That summer he was written off again, thought of as surplus to requirements in league football.
Whilst the goals slowed down, he proved everyone wrong once more. His robust style and unique skill set were once again a driving force behind our success, not only getting to the play-offs but also winning at Wembley. He provided us with some great moments, away at Coventry for one, but also others that showed that typical Rheady style we all know and love.
This summer just gone it was surely thought he’s be no more than a marginal player this season, getting a minute or two here and there. Instead, he has three goals, 21 league appearances and 13 starts in all competitions. That’s a good return for a 34-year-old commonly derided for his perceived size by ill-informed opposition fans.
This summer, even if we go to League One, he could have another year left on his deal. The big lump of a forward deemed by some not to be up to the standard of League Two could be playing at Ipswich, Charlton and the like as an equal. It wouldn’t surprise me either, his fitness has improved year on year and he looks as lean and angry this year as any time before.
I’m not denying his best football came in the fifth-tier, he was more prolific than and perhaps escaped the attentions of defenders a little easier. He always linked up well with Matt Green but his current role is very much understudy to John Akinde. Our deadline day business suggests he still has a role to play, with Lee Angol offering something different to Rheady.
It did surprise me when I was told he’d be offered a new deal, but on reflection if it does all come of we’ll be better for it. One would imagine even if we do tie him down to an extra year, he might be free to keep an eye out for offers in the summer. That’s usually how Danny works, isn’t it? He shows loyalty to players, even those he doesn’t actually want. that’s not the case here, he’ll want to give Rheady a chance to show what he can do for another year but, if an offer comes along closer to home with regular football promised, he wouldn’t begrudge him the move either.
He now has 174 appearances under his belt for City, scoring 50 goals and providing us with many other magic moments, whether it is standing in front of the keeper at free kicks, celebrating in front of the away fans or putting Joey Barton in his place, he’s a player that has written his name into the annals of Imps’ history.
He deserves another year and if we go up, he deserves to take his place in League One and bring his unique style to bigger stages and better players. He’s earned our loyalty with his own and even when he’s long retired, we’ll be talking about the big lump up top who helped us from the National League to who knows where.