I’d secretly been hoping it might all fall through. All day, despite the Sky reports, I’d been harbouring these images of Toff handing the contract back to Danny and saying ‘no thanks, I’m an Imp’.
He didn’t though. He signed for them, for an undisclosed fee, not even giving us the satisfaction of knowing how much we got for a player I considered to be one of the crown jewels.
Before we go too far into the Toffolo love-in, I’m going to express a slight concern. We had hoped to strengthen this transfer window and thus far, we’ve lost four players (Andrade, Connolly, Toffolo and O’Connor) and added four (Elbouzedi, Edun, Coventry and John-Jules). The players that have left, bar one, were all first team regulars as opposed to fringe players I thought might leave. The window isn’t closed yet but I can’t help but fear that we might not quite have had it go the way we want.
I also can’t be doing with all the speculation about Joe Morrell and Tyler Walker. I feel right now, we’re a little bit exposed. Take tomorrow for instance: Blackpool have added Bola, Madine and Ronan, but not lost any of their key players. I do trust in MA and I’ve seen little to suggest we’re about to implode, but I really hope next week is about players coming in, not going. Imagine, if Coker and Pett left (both fringe players) we’d actually have a smaller squad than we had under Danny Cowley.
I suppose the also moves swiftly into (and out of) the other pressing issue to be addressed. It’s seemingly common knowledge that Danny had a gentleman’s agreement with the club not to come calling for any of our players this transfer window. Now, I don’t know if that’s true, I’m aware there was something said about not taking backroom staff, but I don’t know about players. I’ve also heard the chatter of Huddersfield putting in a cheeky offer looking to prise Toff away on the cheap; again, that’s talk from people who seemingly want to discredit Danny as much as possible. I’ve heard a figure of £400,000 suggested as the fee; if that’s the case it’s a massive boost for us, but it’s not close to my personal valuation of him. Double it, take away £50k and you’d be somewhere near what I feel Harry Toffolo is worht in today’s market.
It’ worth noting that Graham Taylor took many of our key players to Watford, Keith took plenty to Peterborough and both Colin Murphy and Danny came to the club with recruits from their former employers. It happens and maybe we should be thankful it’s only one face that’s been prised away. I know this will prompt a round of the usual suspects lashing out at our most successful manager of all time and they’re entitled to their opinions, but today’s move isn’t something that we should be surprised about. What I would like to know is how many of those people citing a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ actually know, for a fact, it existed?
That said, I do feel bitter towards Huddersfield if I’m honest; whatever run of form we put together we are still looking over our shoulders and we are now relying on a left back with 16 senior matches to his name I’m sure Max Melbourne has a lot of talent, but we’ve lost experienced footballers and as yet, only brought in potential. Danny’s press conference earlier, in which he said about Toff being our player, gave me false hope that perhaps the reports were wrong.
I should have guessed they weren’t when the Huddersfield Examiner contacted me for my thoughts on Toff ‘in case there is movement’, but still…. he was in the building, being measured up for his shirt and saying how happy he was to be there. It was like your girlfriend cheating on you with someone else when Danny left for the Terriers and now she’s back for the kids as well. I’m still not as outwardly bitter as some, but if she comes back for the PlayStation 4 and my specialist magazine collection, I might have to start drinking again and suspend my Twitter accounts.
I won’t begrudge Toff his move, not one bit. He’s exactly what every footballer should be like; committed to the community and approachable and friendly. Not only that, but he’s been our best performer this season, not ‘one of the best’, the best. He’s consistent, he’s energetic and he is a threat going forward just as much as he is an asset at the back. Whatever we got for him, it wasn’t enough.
I think the outpouring of good wishes will show what impact he’s had on the club in the time he’s been with us. He’s been consistent, remained injury-free, suspension free (somehow after Yeovil away….) and always been a willing runner even deep into stoppage time of matches. To be honest, writing about his positive traits is wasted effort. If you’ve watched Lincoln this season, you know.
It’s been over the last six months where we’ve seen such a big acceleration in his development too. He’s just kicked on massively, and that is saying something after a solid season during our title win. It just seemed to me he came back a more mature player, a touch more composed, a little bit sharper. he was rounded, improving and if we’re being honest, always destined for much bigger things.
It’s a good thing we’ve got a fee despite the contract running down, although there was talk of extensions kicking in and all that. We can’t stand in the way of our players moving on and this was always the plan, even under our former manager; football fortune is all well and good but we need to trade our players. That’s the model. That is how a League One side becomes better. Ask Karl Robinson, who signed and sold Gavin Whyte last season at a huge profit. Ask Peterborough fans who see this happen all of the time. It hurts right now, I’m not going to lie, but it is a fact of life. This Is Football.
I’m not going to write too much more and obviously, I’m penning this before there is any Twitter reaction to add. I feel a bit despondent now, losing Toff is a big blow to take after MoC leaving earlier in the week. Those two were, perhaps, my favourite players from the title-winning season. I know it is pretty sad for a 41-year-old man to have favourites, but I did. I knew Toff on a personal level and that’s why it stings, just as it did with MoC.
We went to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in the summer, along with a few others, and he was a great lad to chat to. Obviously, he came on the live podcast just before Christmas too. What nobody knows is that on the night of the Football Supporter’s Federation Awards, Harry Toffolo sent me a text wishing me good luck. I hadn’t told him I was at the awards, we’re not ‘mates’ in the strictest sense, but he knew I was going and took the time to do that. That shows the man he is, the loss he is. Harry Toffolo gets what it means to be a footballer, what the responsibility is and how much he can impact people off the field as well as on it.
Despite the 5-1 win on Tuesday, this isn’t a great week for Lincoln City, unless of course, you count the money coming in. I wait with bated breath to see just what we now do on the field tomorrow because football stops for no man. It rumbles on regardless of players coming and going and once the referee blasts on that whistle tomorrow, we can’t go worrying about losing a true Lincoln City star.
However, I will tonight. Tomorrow is a new day.