Pre-season is always a funny time; fans want to glean so much from these early fixtures but in truth, we’re going to learn very little.
Few can deny we’ve had a blistering start to the summer, after a quiet June we’ve bagged three impressive signings and got to work quickly on the field. The Community Festival of Lincolnshire Football. might have only been two shorter games, but seven goals and two wins gave fans something the cheer.
Back that up with the 8-0 demolition of Leicester’s Under 23 side this week and you have 15 goals, one conceded and some new signings really catching the eye. Personally, I believe Jack Payne is the big signing of the summer but Jorge Grant is already impressing supporters, not least with a spectacular overhead kick in the Leicester rout.
However, a word of caution. Great pre-season goals and results mean absolutely nothing at all. Pre-season games are not the same as competitive fixtures and whilst everything we’ve seen is positive, the expectation must always be managed at this early stage of the season.
I recall a wonder goal by a certain Jordan Maguire-Drew a few years ago; whatever happened to him, right? He was outstanding on the pre-season tour of Portugal but utterly anonymous when he played in the first team setup. Whilst that might seem like a one-off, there are plenty of examples of pre-season fixtures not reflecting the season that followed.
After all, we lost almost all of the friendlies we played last summer and yet stormed to the title.
I recall one summer (and when I say recall I mean ‘looked it up in the Nannestad’s book’) when we hammered the Red Arrows 19-0, beat Collingham 8-0, Mablethorpe 6-0 and Matlock Town 5-1. That was the summer of 1986 and within 12 months we’d be relegated to the GMVC.
Also, who could forget the 5-1 rout of Middlesbrough in 1992? Well, I could because I was in Devon, but we checked on teletext from my grandparents in Penryn to find we’d stuffed the Premier League side comfortably. Did we go up that season? No, we finished eighth, just outside the play-offs. Boro were relegated.
The point is these games are training sessions, a chance for Danny to look at players and trialists. There is a reason the goals players score don’t count towards their overall career tally and that is because they’re not ‘proper’ matches. It doesn’t mean there are no positives to take from them, but I’ll be impressed if Jorge Grant bags an overhead kick against Accrington on the opening day far more than against Leicester’s kids in their first match for two months.
I hope this doesn’t read as critical, it’s not meant to be. I had the pleasure of chatting to Joe Morrell yesterday and it’s clear that the games help players to gel, practise what they learn on the training pitches and build a relationship, but they’re not indications of how we’ll do this season. In fact, the level of player we’re attracting is probably more of a barometer of how we’ll do.
Danny himself, in an interview with Lincolnshire Live, confirmed that there is still a long way to go this pre-season.
“Having brought three in, I think the group have gelled well,” he said. “We’re already seeing the benefits of the work we’ve done in training.
“Relationships are starting to build and it was a positive day, but we’re respectful of the fact it’s still early in pre-season. While we scored some good goals – both team and individual goals – we’re not getting ahead of ourselves.”
With Sheffield Wednesday this week and Reading in Spain the week after, the players will be starting to come together and a pattern will be forming, but I firmly believe the squad is going to be different come the start of September and only once a couple of games have passed will we get an indication of how well this Lincoln City side really can do.