Michael Appleton’s January recruitment plans finally came to fruition today as they announced a glut of signings to eager supporters.
Few will be surprised at the news, with many ‘inside’ sources already having spoken openly about some of the captures. The one that may surprise a few fans is the capture of current loan player Max Melbourne. Max had been borrowed from West Brom and has been used sparingly during his time with the club, but he’s penned a permanent deal with Appleton’s Army.
Melbourne has appeared five times for the Imps, twice in the league and three times in the EFL Trophy. There’s some debate as to whether his best position is central defence or left back, with Appleton believing he is a full back saying earlier in the season: “He is more than capable of doing a job at left-sided centre-half if anything was to happen to Bozzy or Cian. I think he sees himself as a centre-half. I don’t, he’s a full-back for me all day long. But he’s a full-back who is more than capable of filling in at centre-half, as and when needed.”
Melbourne penning a permanent deal has two benefits; firstly we get an able young player with a bright future to keep, but it also frees up a current loan spot. With Callum Connolly returning to Everton (and then Fleetwood) that’s two loan spots opened up. Appleton has been quick to fill both.
I’m not quite sure which of the two to give top billing here, so let’s go with the player that will perhaps surprise a few when we see him get on the ball. Conor Coventry arrives on loan from West Ham and believe me, this is big news. He recently penned a new deal with West Ham after turning down a contract offer from Celtic, which tells you how highly he is rated in football circles. Indeed, a West Ham connection contacted my dad (random I know) earlier in the week to tell him what an excellent player we’ve been loaned.
He’s an Eire Under 21 International, just like Zack Elbouzedi and he is a central midfielder too He usually plays on the left side of a defensive midfield pairing, the ‘double six’ if you like, which suits our current setup. It does raise the question of whether we can expect an outgoing or not, but that’s for a different day. Right now, we’ve bagged a superb talent who is very highly rated at West Ham and received plenty of plaudits when he penned his new deal. It’s believed we weren’t the only player in for him too, so MA appears to have pulled off something of a coup.
The next loan player we’ve bagged in exciting Arsenal forward Tyreece John-Jules. It’s certainly no surprise as Gunners’ manager Mikel Arteta spoke of it in a recent interview, saying: “I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen from him in training, I really like him and I think for the last minutes the other day (Leeds in FA Cup) it was a perfect fit.”
He went on to explain why he’d given the 18-year-old the chance to come to Sincil Bank.
“I think he’s got a good chance (to start games). He needs to go and prove himself now, and he needs to challenge himself. He’s probably in a very comfortable environment here but he needs to get exposed and after that we’ll see where he is.”
Whilst the news isn’t exactly a surprise, it is still a big coup. He’s 18-years-old and has already played regularly for their Under 21s in the EFL Trophy, bagging this season as they drew 1-1 with Cambridge, as well as hitting two in four last season, against Cheltenham and Forest Green.
Last season he made 17 appearances for our under-23s side as they fought in the Premier League B,, scoring six times and adding two assists. He regularly trained with the first team under Unai Emery and he scored for the first team in a friendly against Al-Nasr in Dubai earlier this year, as well as providing an assist against Bayern Munich. He’s also been on the bench in the Premier League against Chelsea, as well as in the FA Cup against Leeds United.
He scored for the first team in a friendly against Al-Nasr in Dubai earlier this year, as well as providing an assist against Bayern Munich
He’s occasionally appeared on the left for England Under 19s, but is really a centre forward who can play as a shadow striker as well. He’s a good attacking option for us and a player I know the club are very surprised to have secured.
Now, here’s a caveat. Usually, when a young player drops into this division, their success is varied. For every Ben Woodburn and Ben Sheaf, impacting their clubs positively, there’s a Kazaiah Sterling or Jerome Sinclair that does not make the grade. These two boys are very exciting additions to the squad, but we must not place too much pressure on them straight away. For what it is worth, I can see Coventry getting regular football, whilst John-Jules swaps with Tyler Walker earlier in games to provide a double threat going forward. If we keep Walker, obviously.
The final signing of the list is Adetayo Oluwatosin Olusegun Adio Aduramigba Iretioluwa Edun, better known (for me at least) as Tayo Edun. This is a permanent deal and again it shows the strategy Michael is employing; bring in exciting young talent with scope to develop. Edun is very much a versatility man, although I’m sure a talented coach such as ours will be looking to point his skills in a certain direction.
He can currently operate in defence and as he entered the last six months of his deal at Fulham a move away looked likely. He’s played some Championship football, he had six matches for Ipswich Town last season when Fulham were a Premier League side, scoring once on his debut. A red card a couple of games later stunted that development and when Paul Hurst left he returned to his parent club.
Looking back over his history he’s played at left back, left wing, and across the midfield in both attacking and defensive roles
He had a trial in the MLS with Portland Timbers back in the summer of 2018 and, upon his return, he said this of the experience: “That [Portland] was a different experience, there was an opportunity for a different experience and I’m not sure what I’ll do, I’m happy to be back and be able to make it back here because it was a long way away but I had to be here and celebrate this.”
In all, he’s made 14 senior appearances across the two clubs. He’s also played for England’s youth sides, featuring for the Under 17s right through to the Under 20s. he also won the European Cup at Under 19 level, even making the team of the tournament. Looking back over his history he’s played at left back, left wing, and across the midfield in both attacking and defensive roles. It would seem odd to sign yet another midfielder but perhaps it does hint further at outgoings as well as incomings.
That’s your lot; doubtless, some will claim to be underwhelmed because Danny Hylton isn’t on the list, but the two loan players are certainly big names in football circles. How they settle into senior football will be the big test and placing too much pressure on their shoulders. As for the two permanent deals, both represent players who could develop in the future. I look to the likes of Paul Green and Adam Watts; both were very good players who came here and could have gone on much further had injuries not cursed them. John Finnigan is another player who came from an academy at a young age and became a solid player for us, and Harry Toffolo is perhaps the most recent example.
We can now shift our focus to the weekend’s fixture against Shrewsbury Town and, if you missed it, I give a preview of what to expect on this week’s podcast which you can find here.