Carrying on in our reactions to players leaving the club, we’ve moved on to Lee Frecklington, ‘one of our own’, who was another casualty of the recent release of a number of first team players.
Lee returned to the Imps in January 2018 after spells with Peterborough and Rotherham He came to use a little over six months after playing Championship football for the Millers and his return was seen, rightly, as a huge coup. He had an almost immediate impact, grabbing a goal on his second debut as we drew with Notts County.
He certainly impressed in those first six months, coming off the bench to strike the winning penalty against Chelsea Under 21s to send us to Wembley, before also appearing at Wembley. He grabbed a couple of goals to, one as we drew 2-2 with Swindon and another in the win against Coventry. The one that stands out for me was his strike against Grimsby as we hammered them 3-1 at a snowy Sincil Bank in March.
Last season, he played a key role early on, bagging three goals in three games to help us beat Exeter, Notts County and Bury, all of whom turned out to be rivals for promotion. A red card in his next game against Crawley interrupted that run, before a nasty challenge in our 6-2 win against Port Vale caused an injury he struggled to shake. The goal against County, his final one at Sincil Bank, was an expertly executed volley to set up a fine 3-1 win. He was a title-winner, his second trophy in as many seasons with his hometown club, which is the sort of story any football supporter can get onboard with.
This season, Freck battled back from injury but found himself frozen out under Michael Appleton. His only appearance came in the 3-0 win against former club Rotherham in the EFL Trophy, but despite returning to fitness he wasn’t getting near the first team and sadly, it was little surprise to see him released.
Of course, this isn’t the first spell the Lincoln-born midfielder had with us. He made his way through the Centre of Excellence and was rewarded with a scholarship place as far back as the summer of 2002. Under John Schofield, Frecklington’s developed quickly and was well noted and during his schooldays he undertook trials with both Norwich City and Leeds United. He made rapid progress in Lincoln’s youth set-up and in the 2003–04 season, making significant strides towards the first team. He particularly impressed in a friendly against Manchester City, and Keith Alexander gave him his full debut in the Football League Trophy against Telford United in October 2003. He continued his progression in the final season of his scholarship and made his Football League debut as a substitute in the game at Rochdale on 12 February 2005. It was no surprise that he was handed a one-year professional contract by then manager Keith Alexander.
After a spell out on loan at Stamford, he became a regular presence on the substitutes bench and in February 2006 he came off the bench to score his first league goal in the game at Stockport. His reward was his first league start the following week at home to Torquay United. Always impressing, he made 18 league appearances in the second half of the season though only three of these were starts.
Lee had a lot of ability and for a player so young was able to show it in and around the first team. Over the years we’ve seen lots of these ‘bright young things’ emerge and ultimately fail. Ollie Ryan, Gary King and even Connor Robinson were given chances that they couldn’t seize upon. Lee Frecklington was different. In the 2006–07 season he featured heavily in a very pivotal role towards Lincoln’s unsuccessful push for promotion to League One. John Schofield placed a lot of belief in his former protégé and he boasted a number of exceptional performances. He was named in the PFA League Two Team of the Year for the 2006–07 season, and he was only beaten to the Imps Player of the Year by Lee Beevers.
In January 2008 the Imps turned down two bids for Frecklington from Peterborough, and in his programme notes around that time Jacko remarked; “I didn’t think it was the right offer or the right club for Freck, and we’re now in talks to keep him at the club because he’s a real asset for us. There’s only one or two midfielders in the division who can do what Lee does and we’ve come to expect it every game despite his age.” The following season as his star continued to rise he seemed increasingly less likely to remain a Lincoln player. There was some surprise when he didn’t move on in the January 2009 transfer window, and even more when just six days after the window closed he finally moved to Peterborough initially on loan.
All of that brings us around to this week when his second stint at the club finished. All in, Freck made 192 appearances for the club and his departure is saddening. He certainly could have played some role at the club going forward, he isn’t finished as a player and whether he fits the young profile of player Michael wants is irrelevant; we need characters and leaders off the field too, setting an example to younger players. When Lee signed, he was unveiled with Ellis Chapman and his influence was expected to help his talent develop too. I’ve always found Lee a pleasure to interview and a thoroughly dedicated professional, someone who will be sorely missed around the club.
Follwoing the news, he tweeted his pride at having represented us again.
“Thank you to everyone associated with @LincolnCity_FC,” he tweeted. “I’m extremely honoured and proud to have represented my home town club. Unfortunately things haven’t ended the way I envisaged but I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity. I wish the club every success for the future.”
Two Imps’ legends both took the time to reply to the tweet, record-appearance holder Grant Brown and five-time play-off captain Paul Morgan.
Outstanding player for the club over 2 stints. Great person and a role model for all aspiring footballers. All the best for your future
— Grant Brown (@GrantBrown1969) May 30, 2020
All the best on your new journey, I’m sure exciting times lie ahead ?
— Paul Morgan (@PaulMorgsPhysio) May 30, 2020
As well as the x-players, a number of supporters also took to social media to wish him well, with a general feeling that perhaps at some point in the future, we might see him here in another capacity. With the demeanour of a man who has both influence and itnelligence, it will be fascinating to see if he has a strong future in coaching and maybe management.
That’s certainly the feeling of some supporters who commented on Twitter, the best of which we’ve selected with a gallery of Bubs’ pictures too, on the next page.