Jason Shackell has played his last game for the club, that much we know now. I’ve waited a bit before dicussing it too much, but wanted to get something on the site as a lasting thought.
I don’t think there was ever a doubt after Alan Sheehan signed if we’re being honest. When one left-sided defender comes in and you’ve already got enough cover as well, something has to give. It’s a bit of a shame for Shacks and with some fans, he’s suffered something of a fall from grace. Last season, he was perhaps only just behind Michael Bostwick as a possible Player of the Season, with a couple of red cards going against him, but little else.
He offered a threat going forward (MK Dons and Macclesfield spring to mind) and he was a good influence off the field. I know the previous manager feels we wouldn’t have had such a comfortable run towards the title had we not had Jason Shackell and it is hard to argue against. Had he not arrived, Scott Wharton would almost certainly have been the player we turned to in that position, but Shacks had the experience we needed to get over the line.
I was told he took a drop in wages, not just a bit but an eye-watering amount, just to become part of the project. “It was a relatively quick decision I had to make,” he told me not long after signing. “Lincoln needed someone and I was available, but there was more to it than that. I looked at my options and there were a lot of positives around this move. I spoke to the manager who really impressed me and straight after that I found myself looking forward to coming, so that was it.”
I think the point I’m labouring on here is that without the last few months, Jason Shackell has to be described as one of the top players at the club. Yes, he was prone to moments of madness such as Swindon and Carlisle away, when ridiculous red cards left us looking short, but his endeavour and his goals were enough to ensure we remained at the right end of the table throughout.
I read Mark Whiley’s account of Jason’s time here with interest, particularly the bit about his lack of press involvement. It never really struck me, but he rarely came out to speak to press after games or to do a pre-match presser. Reluctance? Maybe, but it meant fans didn’t get a feel for what he was about. Maybe that has contributed to a bit of the negativity around him recently. I did have a chance to chat to him a few times for the programme notes and I always found him really good to talk to. One of the first times I spoke to him was just after he signed and he was driving into the training ground. He was willing to chat at length and seemed down to earth and focused on the task ahead.
I had the pleasure of interviewing him again in October and again found a really likeable guy on the other end of the phone. He was being ‘playful’ with some of his answers about other players, plus we spoke about his role as a senior professional during the tough period we had without a manager. He was likeable, friendly and approachable. I’ve said that about a few players recently (Tom Pett, Freck, Michael O’Connor), but you’ll notice I don’t say it about everyone who leaves. I won’t be negative for the sake of it, but I will be honest if I feel a player is a good egg and Jason Shackell always was to me.
This season has been a bit tougher for him. He started the campaign suspended and I felt he perhaps shouldn’t have come back in when he did. However, he was a senior figure right up until the Burton Albion game where he went off injured. we won that game, part of a run in which we won four in six. He came back for the Sunderland encounter and we won just two in ten, losing six. Jason Shackell wasn’t to blame for that but results influence supporters and even the two we lost during his absence (Oxford and Coventry) we defended relatively well.
Was it just the case that the new style and setup really didn’t favour the 36-year-old? I’m not sure, certainly results have dipped but much of that is down (in my opinion) to many new faces and a lack of cohesion, something I hope to see ironed out to some degree tomorrow. Back in October, Shacks suggested to me things were going well, but then again I’m not likely to get a negative response from a player contracted to the club, am I?
“It’s good on the training ground at the moment, we’re all just focused on settling down and moving forward now. Obviously, things are changing a little and we’re beginning to see a few new ideas that the gaffer is bringing in,” he said.
“Things do change day to day, you get used to a new method of working. Much of the staff are the same so it’s not all brand new and we’re all working towards taking any new ideas on board and making sure we in a position to go out and get points.”
Jason Shackell isn’t quite an ‘ex-Lincoln City’ player, but he will be soon. He is more decorated than many Lincoln legends with the title winner’s medal to his name and his influence on and off the field last season was immense. Don’t be fooled into thinking this has been a bad season for him; during the rough period in September, he was one of the senior professionals tasked with looking after some of the younger lads and keeping morale high. Jamie McCombe called the meeting I’m told and the likes of Shacks, Michael O’Connor and Lee Frecklington were big influences in trying to make the switch smooth.
We’re facing a new era in the club’s history and it isn’t easy to see faces from last year’s success leaving in rapid succession, but in some instances, it is for the best. With Alan Sheehan coming in, a seasoned professional with plenty to offer, the loss of Shackell from a squad perspective isn’t massive, but I for one do feel his departure is a loss for the squad overall, even if that is the squad of players from last season, rather than the new intake benefitting from different role models and influences behind the scenes.