It was another busy deadline day for the Imps, even though manager Michael Appleton had little intention of it being that way earlier in the month.
We certainly expected some ins and outs, although perhaps not the ones we actually got. Starting with a straight swap essentially, stopper Grant Smith went to Boreham Wood on loan, with Charlie Andrew coming in as his cover. I guess this is good news for Josh Vickers, Andrew is not likely to be pushing for a first team spot, not given his inexperience, so he’ll be on the bench in case Vickers gets injured, with a loan option likely used if that does happen.
Why offload Smith? I would imagine he wants first team football, and rightly so. If he goes away and impresses with his former club, it leaves him in a strong position to get a deal in the summer. I see Smith a bit like I saw Paul Farman; he’s a nice lad, he’s Football League quality but perhaps not quite League One right now. He’s had his route to the first team blocked by Josh who, despite social media moaning, is a good keeper. He’s our number one and Grant Smith has to look after himself. It’s a move by MA that shows a human side I feel, I’m sure he’d rather have kept the more experienced keeper here, but opted to give him the lifeline of a departure.
Andrew is clearly known to some of our staff: he worked with goalkeeping coach Steve Croudson and recently-appointed first-team development coach Richard O’Donnell whilst at Hull City. His move is permanent too, so expect to see him on the bench for upcoming fixtures, even if we don’t see him in the first team.
Ben Coker leaving was no huge surprise and again, like Grant Smith, he’s a cracking lad who just won’t get a chance. For whatever reason, MA doesn’t think Coker has what it takes to be our left back, nor the cover, so he’s off to Cambridge. He started there as a youth and I have a funny feeling he’ll go there permanently in the summer. Let me tell you this: I believe he’d be League One quality if he were given a chance. Cambridge have made a big signing there and I think he’ll be a success. He’s an infectious character too, lively and upbeat and I’m sure he’ll be missed behind the scenes. Like Smith though, he needs first team football, especially given his injury last year.
Finally, the capture of Liam Bridcutt really caught me off guard. I can’t speak highly enough of the midfielder and given that I had a little concern on the podcast about experience, he really fits the bill for me. I was very surprised to see Bridcutt move to Bolton in the summer. He certainly needed a move somewhere, his Nottingham Forest career has stalled despite him being quite well-regarded across a range of football writers.
There is a question mark over his injury record though; he hurt his collarbone playing for Bolton against Blackpool at the beginning of the month and he’s struggled for fitness at times during his career. Mind you, he’s had quite the career and we’ve handed him a real chance to resurrect it at this late stage.
Bridcutt started out at Chelsea as a youth and played for Yeovil, Stockport and Watford on loan before a permanent move to Brighton and Hove Albion. He helped the Seagulls to promotion from League One and later played top-flight football for Sunderland after a £3m move. After a couple of seasons at the Stadium of Light, he moved to Leeds for an undisclosed fee, thought to be in excess of £1m, then later to Forest again for £1m.
He’s 30-years-old now but could be a big player for us. He adds the experience I felt the midfield lacked at times; he’ll be a key player in matches like we had the other night where the midfield has been overrun. It also gives MA the option of going 4-3-3, with Bridcutt holding and maybe Morrell and Coventry pressing forward.
The obvious omission yesterday was a striker but we’ve been told we might hear more on that front this week, something I’ll cover in another article.
Has this transfer window been a success? That I’ll look at in more detail as well, but it is hard to call when we haven’t seen how the players have done. We’ve had windows that look big before, Jack Payne arriving seemed huge at the time, but hindsight often throws a different light on it. What I would say is this: Liam Bridcutt’s arrival certainly helped swing opinion a little and came like a bolt out of the blue.
If we back yesterday up with three points today, then the gloom that descended on Thursday will certainly clear somewhat.