As we reported this morning, Leeds United have recalled Robbie Gotts from his loan spell at Sincil Bank, sending him out on loan to Salford in League Two.
I was surprised in a way, I didn’t expect a loan player to be recalled this winter and in my recent analysis of the loan deals, I rated the prospect of him being recalled at 50% (incidentally, I did call both of our outward loan players correctly too). Well, the 50% of me that thought he could be recalled has been vindicated, and he’s now with the Ammies.
Working backwards, I think this is a decent move for Robbie. I interviewed him earlier in the season and found him to be a very professional and grounded young man. I likened him (to friends at least) to Scott Wharton when he was here – displaying a personal maturity beyond his years. When I chat to a young player I expect to find it different to a more experienced professional, such as Neal Eardley or Liam Bridcutt. Some youngsters you feel have maybe had media training, they know what to say and what not to say and Robbie felt very professional in that respect. I don’t think his time being cut short here is down to anything he did wrong, but he is a victim of circumstance. I confess I am surprised that Leeds have entrusted his development to Salford, particularly after what I have heard from a couple of their former players directly about infrastructure and club development. Maybe, with Richie Wellens now in there as boss, a manager who wanted Robbie in the summer by the way, they are on the up in that regard.
His Imps Career
How was his time at City? I think he suffered a little from being versatile and maybe came here as right-back cover rather than a starting central midfielder. Of the league appearances he made for the club, he only appeared in midfield twice, for 15 minutes at the end of our Northampton win, and for a period in our 4-0 hammering at home against Sunderland. He started at right-back against Portsmouth and had a torrid time, something I don’t think he ever really recovered from. He was settling down and looking competent, but that wasn’t enough for Leeds, who wanted to see him getting regular game time. The questions are these – is he a better right-back than TJ Eyoma? No. Is he a better central midfielder than any three from Grant, McGrandles, Jones and Bridcutt? Again, no.
I was surprised that he didn’t start in midfield against Burton and Peterborough, with Howarth preferred on both occasions, and I do wonder if the club knew at that stage that he might be recalled from his loan. He was almost certainly a box-to-box midfielder, but he was never going to dislodge Jones and Grant and even when a chance did arise, we went with a player arguably a little more attacking in Howarth. Despite that, I still feel there was more to come from Gotts and I expect us to now dip into the transfer market to cover his position, which I’ll come to in a bit.
One barometer of a player which is even more subjective than xG is the player ratings the Stacey West readers give the lads after a game. Gotts average rating across his Imps stay was 6.34, which isn’t standout, but it isn’t terrible either. His stats don’t read too badly from Wyscout, a pass accuracy of 72.2% is okay, with 66% accuracy into the final third and 66.9% forward passes. These are decent stats, but again they are not standout and I think that sums up Robbie’s stay at Lincoln. He was decent, but he only leapt out of the page on a couple of occasions.
That wasn’t his fault though, nobody could accuse him of lacking effort, endeavour or ability. when he did get a game in midfield he looked direct and aggressive on the ball, but sadly for him and for us, the midfield wasn’t where we needed him. As a right-back, he adapted and showed good application, but he never screamed ‘natural full-back’. He would admit it I’m sure, and I dare bet a good chunk of money that he plays central midfield at Salford, where he should be a huge success.
There is also a small part of me that wonders if the recall was more mutual. There would never be a headline ‘Imps send player back’, as it reflects badly on the player, but this article with comments from Gotts and Wellens got me thinking. Gotts said it was a priority to move to Salford once they were interested, whilst Wellens hints at him coming highly recommended, possibly by the Imps. Were we already looking to free up a loan space with a different type of player, and therefore agreed a more mutual resolution of the deal? It has certainly been on the cards for a bit by the sounds of it, and I’m sure we would have been involved in that process.
What Next For City?
Where do we go now? In terms of cover at right-back, I strongly suspect a new signing at some point in the month. I don’t think we’ll look to bring in a midfield player to cover if we do go for someone in the centre it would probably have happened anyway. With TJ Eyoma the first-choice right-back, and now only Anderson as cover, we definitely need to recruit. I suppose there is a chance it could help resurrect Aaron Lewis’ Imps career, but Michael appears to have been quite clear about that and I don’t believe, for a second, that today’s events will have been such a shock that he has to go back on his words of a couple of days ago. My feeling is we might accelerate a signing we had planned for the summer. I’m sure Michael and Jez will have identified a right-back that we could target permanently, given that TJ was a loan, and maybe we were waiting for a contract to run down or something like that. It may be we move for a target early, giving them six months to settle in as understudy before stepping up when TJ goes back to Spurs. Either that, or we go to a club willing to loan us a player as cover knowing they might only play six or seven games between now and May. It’s a tough call, but I have little doubt there will be a contingency in place.