Six months ago, Sean Roughan was a name a few people around the club were certainly aware of, but only a handful of fans paid much attention to.
Even when he signed his first professional contract in the summer, there was a train of thought that suggested he might find himself heading out on loan for first-team experience. After all, a 17-year-old centre back would surely struggle to find his way in a team boasting Adam Jackson, Lewis Montsma and Joe Walsh, as well as TJ Eyoma and Max Melbourne, wouldn’t he?
Apparently not. The young Irish defender appeared as a full-back in the friendly against Salford City and didn’t look out of place. Fast forward to Crewe Alexandra and he makes his first-team debut. A week later, he makes his Football League debut in a rise that has surprised many outsiders, but not those inside the club.
Manager Michael Appleton, speaking to me as part of a series on the current squad, believes that building the youngster up could be damaging, but it seems he is finding it hard not to do so.
“What can I say about Sean? He’s got bags of potential, but we must be cautious about building him up too much,” he told me at the training ground recently. “That isn’t because I’m afraid of losing him, that is the model and we know that. It’s because I think football is good at building players up and knocking them down. We know he’ll have a spell where he is poor, all players go through that, so making sure we manage that is important and if he goes through a spell, letting him have some time out of the team to recover.”
Although that would seem a natural move for a young player, Michael then explained that in Sean’s instance, it might not actually be the case at all.
“I say that, but then I’ll, contradict myself now and say how his mentality is absolutely his biggest strength. He’s a player who has just turned 17 and yet he has an incredible ability to deal with bad touches and bad spells when they happen. He is always wanting to learn and do extra too. He constantly wants to do extra sessions and go through his clips, myself and Kers are often sat with him going over those.”
It seems the rise of Roughan, who appeared for Phoenix FC in Dublin before the move to Lincoln, isn’t a surprise to the management team. Not even his impressive debut at left-back against Oxford caused much shock to Michael.
“It wasn’t entirely a surprise how well he did at full-back. We used him at full-back in practice sessions last season as we had plenty of central defenders here, so having seen that we knew he could cope with it.
“Physically, he’s come on over the last six months. There was a worry that he might be too thick set to play full back, but he’s proven that isn’t the case and he has got real quality on the ball. People have seen the incredible delivery he has from wide areas.”
Whilst his ascendancy to first-team player hasn’t caught the manager out, nor his ability to slot in at full-back, there is one aspect of the young man’s rise that is a surprise to Michael.
“I think the main surprise I’ve had with Sean is how quickly he has developed into a man. He has grown up so quickly in the last year, and it has enabled him to adapt to playing as a full back.”
The next instalment of the series sees Michael talking about the rest of the newcomers in defence, hopefully due later today or tomorrow.