Michael Appleton appears to have slowly closed the door on one of the Imps’ very own homegrown heroes in his press conference this morning.
The situation surrounding Lee Frecklington, a player who emerged from our youth team and later returned to score the penalty which sent us to Wembley, has been unclear for a few months now. Freck began this season carrying an injury, but hasn’t been seen on the pitch since lasting 58 minutes of our Football League Trophy game against Rotherham United. That game (MA’s first win) seems to have been something of a poisoned chalice for players: it was Ben Coker’s first and last game, Grant Smith’s last game as well as the penultimate outing for Tom Pett (so far) and Callum Connolly. That’s five of the starting XI who only played once more, or potentially not at all.
It was widely believed that Freck was recovering from injury, but that was revealed not to be the case last week. In an exchange of Twitter, Chris Steadman said we needed the club captain back on the field and enquired how the injury was holding up. Frecklington, who has appeared for Rotherham and Peterborough at this level and higher, revealed he wasn’t injured and has been training for a while.
I’m not injured. Ive been back in training for a while now.
— Lee Frecklington (@leefreck8) February 6, 2020
That left his current situation unclear, but with Joe Morrell, Conor Coventry, Tayo Edun, Ellis Chapman and Liam Bridcutt all fighting for a midfield spot, it does leave the question open as to where Freck fits in. Manager Michael Appleton has attempted to clear the situation up this morning when quizzed about Freck and absent defender Michael Bostwick.
“He’s still doing bits and pieces. Having said that, with us bringing Liam Bridcutt in and already having four other midfield players… You never say never but I don’t see him being involved too much too soon.”
I suppose me posing the question; ‘where does this leave Freck’ brings an obvious answer. It would seem, sadly, that we may have seen the last of him in a Lincoln shirt, unless we achieve safety and MA feels he can give Freck a chance to say goodbye to the fans. His contract is up in the summer and if he’s sixth in line now, there wouldn’t seem to be much chance of him changing the manager’s mind and securing a new deal.
I can see how the squad is progressing and I guess at 34-years-old with his injury record, signing Freck for another year is unlikely, but it is still a decision which makes me a little sad. I’ve watched Lee come through as a kid, go on to bigger things and then surprise everyone by coming back later in his career. He came here whilst still a key player for Rotherham and he snubbed Steve Evans to do so, let’s not forget that.
For me, his return was halted abruptly by a horror challenge which went completely unpunished; I’m talking Port Vale away. We won the game 6-2, but Freck went off after being smashed by their keeper, Harold Schumacher style (look it up if you’re under 35). He’d been our best player in the early part of last season, winning us the game against Bury at the Bank with his tenacity and driving the midfield on. I felt he struggled to return to that form when he regained fitness, something that is a real shame.
I’ve said this about quite a few players who have left recently, but Freck has a certain character that the media and the likes of me appreciate. Like Harry Toffolo and Michael O’Connor, Lee Frecklington knows what it is to be a footballer and understands his responsibilities. He’s eloquent, he won’t say anything controversial, rather it is left to some journalists to twist his words to get something juicy to print. He always has time to talk though and I know if I get him to do a programme piece I’m going to get enough for the article and for myself. I would imagine some of the younger players, those who have seen him as a senior pro and not sidelined as he is now, will severely miss his influence when (or if) he goes.
I always thought he would come he and switch to coaching, taking badges and aspiring to one day manage the club. Who knows, that might be the case, but I felt the same about Grant Brown and eventually he severed his ties with the club and went out in the world. Whilst football evolves and Lee Frecklington seems to be a victim of that, it still makes today’s revelations from the manager a little sad.
All I can hope is that if (and when) we achieve safety, Freck is given one last outing in a Lincoln shirt, so we can thank him not just for this second spell, but for everything he did for the club in his first stint as well. He’s earned that.