It seems that Ellis Chapman is to leave Lincoln City this summer, after Michael Hortin reported he had rejected the club’s contract offer.
It’s a rather subdued end to the youngster’s Imps’ career, especially after being billed as special by Danny Cowley. Ellis was excellent up to the beginning of this season, but he’s seemingly one of the casualties of the upheaval we experienced as a club.
The latest rumours have him linked with Swindon Town, the sort of move that might benefit him as he looks for regular first-team football. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Huddersfield Town didn’t have a look too, even with a view to loaning him back out, but what I feel Ellis needs now is regular appearances for a senior side. He thrived at Chesterfield in the National League, playing out of position, and for me the lack of opportunity this season has contributed to a somewhat mixed reaction to his departure.
Some fans are obviously upset that a young talent is leaving, especially with our model being based on turning around exciting players for a profit. Sure, any side who want Ellis will need to agree on a fee or go to tribunal, but that fee won’t be anywhere near the sort of figures Danny Cowley joked about in the aftermath of the Everton game.
There are some supporters who feel Ellis hasn’t progressed at the rate they felt he might, but it is easy to cast judgement having not seen him behind the scenes, or indeed in the first team a great amount. Sure, he hasn’t stood out this season, but he was playing third-tier football in a rapidly changing team. I thought he turned in some competent performances and for a youngster to not look out of his depth was a big step forward. I saw some mentions of the likes of Conner Robinson and Alex Simmonds on social media last night, but their cases are completely different. those boys were playing National League, not League One. It is easy (not necessarily right) to point the finger at them (and Ollie Ryan, Martin Pembleton etc) as failing to come through, but I don’t feel there is a failure in Ellis, not as a player. He never looked swamped in League One, even if he didn’t look outstanding either. There isn’t anything wrong with consolidation and fitting in. How many times over the last ten years can we honestly say we’ve produced a player who didn’t look out of his depth in the third tier?
I know there will be two camps around this news, those blaming MA for the decision (as he does have his detractors) and those claiming Ellis wasn’t good enough. In truth, neither are right. I firmly believe if we had wanted to keep Ellis, truly and desperately wanted to keep him, then we could have done. Likewise, I don’t feel that in moving away he is being disloyal or putting money first. He needs first-team football, I know having chatted to him a few months back he was just eager to play and if that isn’t going to be the case here, he has to go somewhere it is. However, I’d advise against Huddersfield or QPR if they’re one of the sides looking; someone like Swindon would be a great move. They’ll be our rivals, but if the rumours are true then he would play regular football and maybe begin to accelerate his development.
On him not being given a chance under MA, I would say this. He made 13 senior outings for Danny, not including EFL Trophy games, over a season and a bit. He made nine under MA, six of which were for the full 90 minutes. During his time playing for DC, he completed 90 minutes on just three occasions, all in the EFL Cup (Huddersfield, Port Vale and Blackburn). Whilst I appreciate there are those who will say he didn’t get a chance, I feel he was given more time under MA than DC, even if there is still a feeling he hasn’t been given that chance over a decent period of time.
What I would say is this; I think DC helped build Ellis up, but didn’t always give him a chance. I know he played a bit in the title-winning season, but not as much as you’d expect a special talent to feature in League Two. For me, last year was the one where I wanted to see him breakthrough and when he came back from Chesterfield, I felt he might get more opportunity. He didn’t, not under DC, but he did get some football under MA. Was it enough? Maybe not, but I think it slowly became clear that there wasn’t a correlation between manager and player. I’m not saying there was a fall out or anything, but I genuinely felt when I saw the retained list that we might have seen the last of Ellis too.
Obviously, we wish Ellis all the best. He’s always been great to chat to and I still feel he has a good future in the game. It is a shame the way things have worked out, but perhaps the parting of ways is best for player and club. I sincerely hope he goes on to find a club that gives him 30+ games a season, not to prove anyone at Lincoln wrong, but to prove him and those who back him right.