The lack of transfer news leaves us with little to discuss going into June; perhaps the most noteworthy event so far is Peterborough’s ‘seven-figure’ purchase of Mo Eisa.
That just goes to show exactly where we are in terms of budgets and competing. If they’ve paid the very lowest ‘seven-figure’ sum, £1m, then I’d wager that would be half of our entire budget, not taking into account wages or bonuses. I’m not pleading poverty, but when it comes to recruitment we have to be sensible in our expectations.
Danny will work the squad, he’ll plan and on the training ground the whole coaching team will hone the players we do have into a competitive side. Danny will be aiming top seven, supporters would be delighted with top half. In truth, anything outside of the bottom four would be an achievement we’ve not seen in 25 years.
This coming season is a test, not just of the players and the management, but of the supporters too. That impressive win average of Danny’s is going to take a battering as we face sides with million-pound players in their line-up. The marginal gains will be found in the way we work with the squad, not the players we sign.
The pre-season schedule is beginning to take shape and after the tournament at Gainsborough, we’re going to be treated to a trio of matches in five days. Stoke City visit on Wednesday 24th July, we travel to Scunthorpe on Saturday 27th before hosting Nottingham Forest on Monday 29th. It looks like a gruelling schedule, with the season due to kick off on August 3rd.
I’ve seen some people speculating that there will be a mix of trialists and possibly even younger players getting a run out, as three games in five days is a tough schedule ahead of the new season, but I wholly disagree. Aside from perhaps one trialist, I suspect we’ll see the whole squad rotated around 60 minute and maybe 80 minute spells.
Danny knows that when we step onto the pitch on the opening day, a match I hope pits us against a troubled Bolton side, his players have to be ready, not just mentally but also physically. They must be at a level expected in October, January or March. That can only be achieved by replicating the season in pre-season and I suspect that’s what Danny has gone for.
We had a handful of friendlies last season which were tough; Sheffield Wednesday, Norwich and Blackburn stick out. Those games all ended in defeat if I recall, prompting people to worry. We went on to win the league, something I believe we achieved thanks to a fine start. Pundits had us down as champions by mid-October, mainly because we came out of the blocks like a bullet from the barrel of a gun. Nobody kept pace with us and the best performances I recall at Sincil Bank came in those early encounters.
That’s why the schedule we’ve got planned should get people excited. Not for the quality of matches, I maintain that friendlies are only watchable by a certain type of fan, me perhaps not being one. I left early against Norwich and didn’t bother with Blackburn at all because I see them for what they really are; an extension of training. They’re not for me or you, we’ll go (or at least you might), cheer the lads on and all that malarkey, but they’re not a game. They’re purely a vehicle to get minutes into the players and I firmly believe that is exactly what the final three games will be used for.
The Gainsborough tournament is different, I expect to see younger players feature heavily, as well as a mix of first team players and trialists. I’m sure the big names will be there as we forge links with our local sides, but Danny won’t play John Akinde for two hours, nor Jason Shackell. That will have a different feel and of all the matches we play pre-season that is the one I’ll be looking forward to the most. It’s a great PR exercise and I’d urge anyone thinking of going to do so.
Stoke are a good opponent, like Norwich and Sheff Weds last season they’ll be looking to correct a slow 2018/19 and will be a great test for us. Danny will likely play a full side, mixing it up in the second half. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jordan Adebayo-Smith get plenty of game time in these matches and I suspect the same for Ellis, is he hasn’t gone to Southampton or wherever those ‘ex-agents’ have him playing next season.
It’ll be nice for little Scunthorpe to welcome a League One club, experience football against a side of a higher level and see how far short they are of being the Pride of Lincolnshire. I’m a huge fan of benevolent acts such as going to these lowly local sides and giving them a thrill seeing big stars in action. Well done Lincoln City.
Finally, I’d love to think the Forest friendly is a precursor to a special arrangement between the clubs that see us in with a shout of loaning one or two of their fringe players. I know they have that with Mansfield, but I’m sure they’ll have players they want to put into League One, against stronger opposition. That isn’t a snide dig either, it might read like it, but if Forest do want a League One side to loan a player or two then I sincerely hope we’re right at the front of that queue.
The Forest friendly might be a chance for the players Danny feels will be on the bench on the opening weekend to put some time in on the field. The same applied to the Derby match last season and if I recall correctly, Bruno Andrade and Tom Pett started that game and went on to have very good seasons.