Another guest article for you to cover up the obvious absence of me this last week; thanks to Martin Strawson for giving his opinion on the Imps’ squad ahead of the transfer window,
It is often said that for a team to be successful they need a good mix of young legs and old heads – think Manchester United early 1990s with the class of 92 mixed in with Pallister, Bruce and McClair, or Arsenal in the late 90s/early 00s with Adams, Seaman, Petit alongside Henry, Vieria and Cole. Or even – at a push – Lincoln of 2016/2017 with Rhead, Beevers and Arnold overseeing promising youngsters like Woodyard and Anderson.
On paper, you might think that is what Lincoln have for 2019/2020. However, having watched a significant number of (home) games this season it can only really be said that the current squad is a mix of old legs and inexperience!
For me, there are just one or two too many players that would fall into the “old head” category. In no particular order – Eardley, Bostwick, Shackell, O’Connor and Frecklington are all the wrong side of 30 and when you consider Akinde is also 30 and has already played 450 senior games you can probably assume he’s runs his best race as well and is starting the downward trajectory of his career (much like Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen who, having started early reached their peak in their mid-20s).
Yes, we have promising youngsters such as Hesketh, Anderson, Chapman, Morrell, Walker and Lewis on our books but these players have had very little prolonged exposure to League One football and as such are very much learning their trade at this level. The case could be made, therefore, that we probably only have four players currently in their “prime” who have the ability and/or experience required to perform at this level – Toffolo, Payne, Andrade and Bolger. I have left Grant off that list as he is as yet unproven at this level, despite showing in flashes that he certainly has the ability on his day.
This may sound harsh on much of the squad but it is the reality of the situation. It is further interesting to note that most of the “older” players are in more defensive positions, perhaps suggesting why we often don’t press high as we have seen some teams do so successfully this season as we are worried about being caught on the turn and leaving space behind.
It is encouraging that Appleton’s first signing, Elbouzedi, has raw pace and this is surely one of the qualities he will be looking for in his new acquisitions, especially in defence, when he gets to open his own war chest in January and the summer. Of course, we will never know what the previous regime were planning in terms of regenerating the squad either last summer or this January but it can be safe to assume that there would have been a plan in place – over the previous two seasons Cowley had done most of his regeneration in January and of course we will never know who was on their radar this year.
For one, I am excited to see the direction that Appleton will take us – and if his first signing is anything to go by he is well aware of our weaknesses and is planning to do something about it!