Imps manager Michael Appleton has offered the released players a possible lifeline today, in an interview with the Lincolnshire Echo.
In a move that wasn’t entirely surprising, City released all but one of the out of contract players last week, including keeper Josh Vickers and first-team regulars Neal Eardley and Michael Bostwick. The situation was very much guided by the current crisis engulfing the game and the uncertainty around finances and the future.
“There were two or three players on that list that under different circumstances I would have liked to have kept around, but unfortunately we are not in those circumstances,” he said.
“We are in a situation with not just Lincoln City, but pretty much the majority of League One and Two clubs, where because of the financial situation we find ourselves in we have to make tough decisions.”
Those tough decisions have been widely accepted by supporters, even if they were tough to take. Of all the departing players, perhaps the loss of Michael Bostwick will hit the hardest. The no-nonsense defender has become a firm fan favourite and lifted the Player of the Year Trophies in the 2018/19 title-winning season.
Indeed, when he returned to the side this season, it gave the team shape and solidity that otherwise we hadn’t had. His fearless leadership qualities certainly defined the season prior to the title win too, rather memorably as he rattled Chelsea’s expensive academy players in the Checkatrade Trophy semi-final.
However, supporters gutted that they won’t see him in a City shirt again have been handed some hope, as Michael confirmed the door might be left open once the situation became clearer.
“Given different circumstances, it would have been slightly different – but it is what it is. When we start signing players whether there are one or two players on that list who haven’t found themselves a club and there’s a deal to be done then why not?”
Whilst it wouldn’t be wise for supporters to get their hopes up, it does spark the possibility of seeing some of the released stars back in red and white. Charlie Andrew, Michael Bostwick, Neal Eardley, Lee Frecklington, Akeem Hinds, Jamie McCombe, Tom Pett, Jason Shackell, Alan Sheehan, Grant Smith and Josh Vickers were all released by the club, with many of them widely expected to leave whether the pandemic took hold or not.
However, in the case of Vickers, Eardley and certainly Bostwick, there had been hope that they might be retained. Also, perhaps youngsters such as Charlie Andrew and Akeem Hines may have been retained had the funds been there, so when Michale suggests ‘two or three’, it might not be as clear cut as we think.
The report also confirmed he is scouting and preparing for next season already, even if that doesn’t mean making actual offers. As a respected coach, we can expect another rich selection of loan players and hopefully, by the time the summer begins to turn, we might even have a response from the EFL on how to progress, meaning the club can finally begin to plan for an uncertain future.