I’m a few minutes behind the official news but, credit to the club, I did get the press release early.
Instead of taking to the keyboard, I went to walk my dog in the calm evening sun and ensure I had a clear mind. The big news on the retained list is that Michael Bostwick, arguably my favourite player in the current squad, has left the club.
The Imps are releasing all but one of the out of contract players; Charlie Andrew, Michael Bostwick, Neal Eardley, Lee Frecklington, Akeem Hinds, Jamie McCombe (oddly), Tom Pett, Jason Shackell, Alan Sheehan, Grant Smith and Josh Vickers. Ellis Chapman is the only player to be retained, or rather to continue in talks with the club.
Interestingly, the wording around Ellis is this; ‘prior to Covid-19 we engaged with representatives of Ellis Chapman and conversations remain ongoing’. That clearly indicates that the current financial climate has made it impossible to retain players whom I think we all wanted to see stay. Further on in the official statement, it also says; “Due to the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in, it has made making any positive decisions around out of contract players impossible at this time. The club would like to express our sincere thanks to all those players who will leave us in the coming weeks and wish them a successful future.”
Right now, I find it hard to be critical or positive about the list. There is a sense that if this were the actual retained list, put into place at the end of a full season and with the summer to recruit as we wished, we might have kept one or two of these players. However, with the pandemic and financial uncertainty, I guess the club couldn’t offer new deals to players. We don’t know where the market will be in two months time, what constitutes a fair wage in the ‘new normal’.
The club added a nice thank you at the end; “To Michael Bostwick, Neal Eardley, Lee Frecklington, Tom Pett, Jason Shackell and Josh Vickers – thank you for being an integral part of one of the most successful periods in the club’s history and helping to create such wonderful memories.” Perhaps for the likes of Lee and Tom, woefully underused post-Christmas, the thank you might ring a little hollow.
For now, I’m going to step away and consider the reaction of others. I can’t summon up the right emotions to be fair and just. I know the club are operating under the most unusual of environments, where survival is simply the only goal right now, and this retained list makes it all the more real for me.
I could help think back to the article I wrote at the beginning of the day about the end of an era as I finished this one. Seeing Gain, Butcher, Yeo and the rest leave 15 years ago was tough; seeing Eardley, Bozzy, Freck and Vickers leave does feel very similar. I suppose the only difference is every team is in the same boat and we are in the third tier.
Please, try not to get too angry with the club on this one, the mitigating circumstances really are challenging.