I’ve just been watching the Ben Coker video where he discusses his diabetes and the pressure of raising a young family on furlough.
Sure, I might be a little late to the party on that one, but it struck me that he’s very much the ‘forgotten man’ of Sincil Bank. Brought in, I understand, to rival Harry Toffolo for the left-back spot, he suffered a string of injuries that kept him out of Michael Appleton’s early squads. His one run out against Rotherham wasn’t terrible, but then he was off, farmed out to Cambridge where he didn’t play, before seemingly heading for a summer release.
Only he wasn’t released; his contract was rather surprisingly revealed to have another year on it. Him staying, along with Alex Bradley, were minor surprises in a retained list dominated by negative news. Even now, I doubt people can see where he is going to fit in under MA next season; he was loaned out for a reason and now clubs are unlikely to be paying fees, or offering comparable wages, it seems we have Ben Coker for another year.
I confess, I really like the lad and I’ve only interviewed him once, but he’s quite media-friendly and has done stuff with the BBC. He seems popular with the squad too, both Alex Bradley and Jorge Grant retweeted his video today and judging by the Come Dine With Me episode, he’s also close to Harry Anderson and Jack Payne. All of those players will wear red and white next season, even if it is just the training kit. Surely, it is good for team spirit alone when players have respect for each other.
This isn’t just me writing about a lad who I think seems decent though; the left back role was a bit troublesome after Toff left. Max Melbourne is clearly a decent prospect, but he did struggle for form at times. Tayo Edun can play there, but I want to see him fixed in the midfield role where his engine and tenacity seem more suited. Besides, even if Max does settle, we need competition for places. That alone should make Ben Coker a key part of the first-team squad.
Also, let’s not forget that Ben has over 100 League One appearances to his name over four seasons with Southend. He is 30-years-old so we’re not talking about a rookie player here, we’re talking about an experienced professional with strong stats from the left defensive flank. He’s a player who I know the previous management team rated highly and whilst he might have struggled for fitness, he isn’t the white elephant many fans seem to have written him off as.
Do I think Ben Coker will play 40 odd games next season? No, probably not. However, with a condensed season games are going to come thick and fast and making the most of the players we have is going to be key. MA knows that, and he knows he would struggle to move players on who are on so-called ‘old money’, pre-Covid money. I’m not saying no player will command the same wages, some clubs will see this as an opportunity to flex their muscles, but they won’t do it for a player with no league appearances to his name in 18 months.
That might just be the reason why we will see Ben Coker in Lincoln colours next season and I’m sure, given a chance, that the chirpy Hatfield-born defender will be a good experienced addition to a squad that does, at the moment, lack just that.