Toff’s off – My reaction on a sad day for Lincoln City

Courtesy Graham Burrell

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.

Graham Taylor took our big stars to Watford when he left

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 still reeling from MoC going – Courtesy Graham Burrell

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.

Next Page – Some of Toff’s best pictures, courtesy of Bubs.


  1. As if Brexit wasn’t bad enough. Not good news for the Imps unless we have a real gem amongst the new boys.

  2. Great pictures of a great player. The analysis of the situation we find ourselves in is pretty good too. It’s been a troubling transfer window so far. Bruno’s cryptic comments as to why he left didn’t help. But to lose three of our best players and to replace them with unproven youngsters, whatever their potential, is disturbing. I dread to think what will happen if we lose Walker and Morrell as well. And then there’s Harry – were those reports of Millwall’s interest just speculation?

  3. Here I think the club have it wrong. If you have any ambition you have to keep quality players, especially if you want to climb to the Championship. With regards to Danny Cowley and his brother, did they leave us in an honourable manner…! Are they honourable now….. no! They really made their names at Lincoln City Football Club…. I wish them nothing but failure. Had they left in a more honourable way I may have wished them otherwise….

  4. With the likes of Toffolo gone, I sincerely hope our young” potential” quickly matures into effective on-field “quality” and that our experienced loans stay with us till the end of the season. Otherwise, we’re in for some tough times. MA must surely know this. So let’s keep up our support (and fingers crossed on the quiet)!

  5. Whilst an undisclosed fee (which I hate) do we know if a sell on clause? At 24 if he continues to improve as he has over the last 12 months I could easily see him being worth 7 figures at 26/27.

  6. Sad day and big loss for the Imps.
    IF there was gentleman’s agreement then DC isn’t a gentleman. If….
    Shame we can’t keep our BEST player but if he wanted to take his shot at Championship then we can’t stand in his way. He more than deserved it.
    Bit of money to spend for MA I guess. We’ll se how he will use it.

  7. Good point about Graham Taylor. The circumstances in which Sam Ellis left to join Watford really rankled at the time, and even more so when Dennis Booth left.

  8. I’m glad you mentioned favourites as I felt a bit sad last moaning to my husband that my favourite players were already gone or on the move – Andrade, Pett, O’Connor and Toff. It is the way football goes when you support a lower league team, but never gets easier.

  9. Wish him all the very best ,improved player and a true gent. You could sense it from his reaction on Tuesday evening that it was a hard decision.
    Strange one really , just wish it had not been Huddersfield and to the Cowleys but on the other hand he would not have been with the Imps had it not been for those two. We should have had it as a clause never mind gentlemans agreement that there would be no dealings between the two clubs for a defined period of time. Hope that the deal , money and sell on fees are of value to LCFC.

    In Clive, Liam and Michael we trust.

  10. Toff showed true professionalism right to the end and no proper Lincoln City supporter can deny him this opprtunity. I’m gutted that he has gone, especially to Huddersfield but well worth his seven figure fee as I’ve heard from a very good source.

  11. Toff is a loss, no question – the stamina, drive and commitment, improving constantly in his time here, whereas Sam H was famously a ‘7’ week in and week out, Toff has upped the bar to ‘8’. No pressure, Max! And a thoroughly decent bloke as well, its been a privelege to see him playing for the Imps.

    But lets be realistic here. As with Bruno, 6 months on a contract, so any deal for a fee in this last window has to be offset against what would be gained in that 6 months before they leave us for nothing. The noises emerging the last few days suggested we were at least playing hardball to maximise the fee. 7 figures? Highly unlikely, but it will be decent when taking account of the length of outstanding contract. Unlike Bruno, no suggestion of looking compete with offers from other clubs and given he’s been talking to recently ex-Premierships clubs, we could never compete.

    Lets be realistic, but lets be postive. MA’s press conference before the Bolton game was a masterclass in how to balance ambition with the means of fulfilment for a club of Lincoln’s size and resources. But it’s not just ‘talk’ he’s brought in exciting new talent, loans and permanents, to grow under his coaching. This is exactly what Clive and the board brought him in to do and he’s working on doing that.

  12. So much despondancy. What is ironic is Cowley brought young Max Melbourne in to the club with the intention of replacing Harry Toffolo, either through injury or him leaving. Football It’s a funny old game don’t you think. Huddersfield have a young striker who they want to offload called Isaac Mbenza. He’s not made much of an impression with Cowley as the stats show. Maybe he is worth at least a trial. He could be more suited to M A’s style than Cowley’s. My main concern though is Tyler Walker’s future, I do wish we could make Forest an offer to buy him. Onto tomorrow I do hope the fans get behind Max Melbourne . Mr manager rates him so please give the lad a chance. Anyway Onward and upward. Up the Himps

  13. One extra point. The fact that it is Danny and HTFC probably means that we got more for Toff than another club in the Championship would pay because of the connection. LCFC may well have been happy that both sides waived the “gentleman’s agreement” in the circumstances.

  14. I keep seeing this “Keith Alexander took many players to Peterborough”. The players that were at Peterborough who also played for Lincoln in Keith’s short time there were; Ben Futcher signed from Grimsby. Jude Sterling who made 6 sub appearances for Lincoln and left the club on a free and then went to Posh. He did have a long throw but mostly tripe. Richard Butcher came to Posh from Oldham having signed for them in 2005, he did play on loan at Lincoln for 4 games though. Peter Gain, who had signed for Peterborough a year before Keith got there. Simon Yeo, finally a player signed direct from Lincoln to Peterborough by Keith. Although he did have a spell in New Zealand in between his Lincoln contracts, and played just 12 times in the season before going to Peterborough.

    The other critical difference is that Keith didn’t go during the season, he had also been put on gardening leave during his time which caused an issue, and he didn’t have a gentlemen’s agreement when he did leavr. He left Lincoln with time for them to sort out a new manager and squad before the start of the new season. People can use the pejorative “term of those in the know” in relation to the gentleman’s agreement but I trust where I have heard this from and will continue to see the Cowleys through this prism. The same one that let’s me know there were application for jobs at the same time as snapping at radio reporters for probing around if they were in talks with other clubs about leaving.

    The Cowley’s were fantastic for Lincoln and I will never forget that. But it will not colour how I see them now and forgive them everything they did wrongly in the last few months which showed clearly that they only ever do what is best for them. Lincoln, and our fans, were fantastic for the Cowleys as well. We deserved a better ending than that. And we deserve better now.

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