Former Imps winger on trial at Gillingham

When you say the words ‘on trial’, it usually results in a sentence of some description, and one former Imps winger could soon be sentenced to a season under Steve Evans.

The Kent Messenger reports that former Lincoln City winger Mustapha Carayol is on trial with the Gills and has appeared for them in recent weeks. He is also pictured appearing for them against Millwall, and although he hasn’t earned a deal yet, he could join Vadaine Oliver, Danny Lloyd and John Akinde in their matchday squad this weekend if he is offered terms.

“We know they are good players, yes, but it is not about being good players, you have to earn it wherever you go, but we will continue to look,” Evans said of the trialists, of which Carayol is one. “We will keep the boys until the back end of the week and we will make the decision. There is no doubt they have quality in their play but we have to look at them and decide whether they are going to be capable of starting football matches (for us) and we are still on the fence.”

Credit Graham Burrell

Carayol will not be remembered fondly by Imps fans, his only season came in 2010/11 and despite his skills, he couldn’t save us from relegation. He was one of those frustrating footballers who had so much to offer but didn’t produce when it was needed. He spent his youth career with Swindon and Macclesfield before being picked up by MK Dons. He joined Crawley on loan, then a non-league side, before a switch to Torquay.

After a goal-less first season with Torquay, which included a brief loan spell with Kettering Town, he began to impress, catching the eye of Chris Sutton as we ran out 3-2 winners at Plainmoor in March 2010. He agreed terms with Sutton in the summer, although a tribunal decided the fee due to him being under 24. It was announced that a deal had been struck between the two clubs in August, with Lincoln paying £35,000. He scored on his debut, in the opening game of the season, in a 2–1 loss away at Rotherham United.

As our miserable 2010–11 season progressed, Carayol began to suffer from injuries which saw him restricted to 37 appearances in all competitions. He only played four games in that horrible final run and was absent on the day we slipped out of the league. He left the club after a clause was activated on relegation that gave him the freedom to quit. The Imps did receive a fee for the player and shifted a decent wage from the balance sheet.

Credit Graham Burrell

Where has he been since? After leaving us, he joined Bristol Rovers, where he impressed sufficiently to be signed by Championship side Middlesbrough. He spent four seasons there, scoring 11 goals in 50 outings and enjoying loan spells with Brighton, Leeds and Huddersfield, all also in the Championship. After leaving Teesside, he moved to Nottingham Forest but left in 2018. He since had spells in Cyprus (Apollon Limassol) and Turkey (Adana Demirspor) and turned out seven times for the Gambia.

Still only 32, it will be interesting to see if he earns a deal with the Gills. I could see him fitting their profile: he’s strong and tough to knock off the ball but certainly had a bit of pace and could chip in with goals and assists. He wouldn’t be unlike Jordan Graham, who has just left, although one doubts he’s as good as Graham as he enters his twilight years.