The final part of our series with Michael Appleton looking at the current playing squad features the attackers.
As you know, we’ve been running a series this week where Michael has chatted about the players and squad, with lots of interesting stuff coming out about the players who are new to so many of us. For a while over the summer, it looked like we might not have many to talk about going forward, but during my talk with Michael it seemed attacking players dominated much of the latter part of the evening.
That all started when he turned to West Brom loanee, Callum Morton.
“Callum might have looked rusty when he came on against Crewe, but I tell you this, he’s so quick when you let him off the leash,” said Michael.
“He’ll score goals for us will Callum. Him and Hops both offer us something different, but also something similar. They’re both number nines, Callum is the youthful version, maybe a bit quicker, but Hops has the know-how, more experience. He knows how to bump defenders, which is something Callum will be working on. Callum chase down anything though and he’ll turn poor passes into good passes. He puts his head where it hurts too.
“Seeing Callum come into the building will give Hops drive to perform. He’ll know if he doesn’t, he might not play and that’s great for the squad. His performances so far have been excellent and as a manager, that is the best way to drive players; bring in someone else in their position.”
It isn’t just competition in the nine tole that Callum brings, but also in wider areas of the field, where another name Imps’ fans have yet to see is waiting to impress.
“Callum can play wide too, he’s more than comfortable out wide, giving us options, but we’ve got good options there. Theo (Archibald) has come in and he’s worked so hard to get himself close to the squad, he had a little bit of a glute problem last Friday and missed Oxford. He is a way behind the others though, but he is a naturally fit lad.
Whilst work goes in on getting Theo to the required fitness level, Michael is keen to expel the young Scot’s virtues.
“What you’ll see with Theo is he’s great at carrying the ball and because he’s naturally left-sided, that will give us a balance. If we feel we need that against certain teams, maybe away from home, he’ll give us that. He’s got an incredible shot too and has a great attitude. Being a Scot, he’s very aggressive in a good way, he doesn’t like getting beat in training. We figured that out pretty quickly.”
“We went to watch Theo a couple of times live for Macc and he looked to be taking responsibility on himself to get them back into games. I think he is someone who, when you look at his natural attributes, he should be playing at a higher level and he should be with a bigger club than us. For whatever reason, he isn’t, and he hasn’t. All I said to him was we will give him that chance, it’s up to him to take it. I know he’ll enjoy how we play and how we set up, there will be no excuses. We just need to get him up to speed.”
Another player looking to challenge for a spot in those wider areas is Zach Elbouzedi. He arrived in January from Waterford after a spell with Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and he’s impressed many in pre-season. Michael acknowledges it is a big season for the winger, but that once again his attitude is spot on.
“It’s a big season for Zach, no doubt about it. We see stuff in training every day from Zach that the supporters don’t get to see, but on the pitch, he’s got to deliver, and he will get his opportunities.”
However, the Eire Under 21 international is one who does have high standards for himself.
“Zach beats himself up though when he makes any little mistake. He’s a good kid, honest and he won’t fail down to a lack of endeavour or work rate.
“He’s bulked up over the summer too, as has Jorge Grant. It is something we’re working on hard with Connor (McGrandles) too. He’s heavier than he was when he arrived, even if he doesn’t fill his shirt out at the moment!”
When it comes to mistakes, Michael described how he has a system that he hopes helps players get over making a bad pass or poor decision.
“I have a traffic light system where if you give two away, you’re on red and amber. Make sure the next pass is green. If you make a wrong decision, just make sure the next one is good. A lot of players might chase mistakes and think they have to make up for it, but then they try something wonderful and they’ve done two mistakes, then three, then they’re all over the place.”
NEXT PAGE – another new face and conclusions