‘It’s been tough’ – 22-y/o makes honest Imps admission

Credit Graham Burrell

Young Imps midfielder Max Sanders has admitted the first few months of his Lincoln City career have been tough in an honest interview with The Athletic.

Sanders joined the Imps on the winter window deadline day, having not played much football in the months prior to his move. He did impress in the EFL Cup for the Seagulls but was deemed surplus to requirements before being allowed to leave. In the interview, Sanders admits he didn’t even know where Lincoln was before his move, and only got an idea of how far away it was from Brighton as he travelled up!

He eventually appeared six times for the Imps, starting twice, but struggled with an early injury from which it was a challenge to recover.

“It’s been tough,” he admitted in the interview. “I came in, having not played much football at all. They were on top of the league with a squad playing Saturday-Tuesday. The first few weeks, I was just getting up to speed with training, getting my fitness. I made my debut against Sunderland and got injured but didn’t realise what I’d done.”

Initially, the youngster thought it was just tiredness causing the issue, but he soon found out the worst.

“I felt my hamstring but just thought it was fatigue because I hadn’t played for so long. I tried to play through it for a few weeks but it didn’t get any better. It was torn, which set me back.”

Credit Graham Burrell

That happened on his debut, but he got 18 minutes against Wigan and 20 against Fleetwood afterwards before having a spell out of the side. He returned in April but lasted just 45 minutes of our 2-2 draw with Blackpool. Two more sub appearances followed, against Charlton and Bristol Rovers, before he got a summer to recover.

The challenge now is to get into the team, but Horsham-born midfielder has been told he has a future with the Imps.

“I haven’t really had a chance to get a run in the team yet,” he added. “I’ve had good chats with the director of football (Jez George) and the coaches. They are telling me I’ve got a future here. It’s just a case of getting as fit as I possibly can and then having a good go at it in pre-season to try to get into the team.”

Max was awarded the number six jersey when he signed for the club, which was an indication of how highly he is rated. It might be tough to get a run of 20 stars, with Liam Bridcutt almost certain to play the holding role and McGrandles and Fiorini currently likely to start in the advanced positions. However, should Liam struggle to do two matches in a week, then Max is the perfect man to come in and show what he can do.

Plenty of players have a tough six months after signing in January, with Tom Pett and James Wilson the obvious examples. Pett went on to be a key part of our title-winning side, whilst Wilson never recovered from an injury he picked up not long after starting. Which path Max takes will depend a little on his attributes, a little on his teammate’s fitness and a lot on pure and simple luck. My feeling is he has the ability to replace Liam Bridcutt in the long term, but how he has settled away from home will have as much impact as anything.