‘True Finisher’ – Michael Appleton reveals excitement at 17-y/o in SW exclusive

Credit Graham Burrell

One capture over the summer which has the potential to be huge for Lincoln City is that of 17-year-old striker Freddie Draper.

Draper has been catching the eye with the Under 18s all season, perhaps firstly with his goal in the FA Youth Cup win against Preston North End at Deepdale. After that game, I chatted to keeper Sam Long who said how surprised the youth lads were when Freddie first turned up at the accommodation. Sam described him as someone the U18s could use as a weapon, and I can see why – he’s a big lad. I was at a sponsor’s event last week and was surprised how thickset he is – he’s not afraid to mix it with the men ether, putting himself about plenty in recent friendlies.

It isn’t just his size that’s a bonus though; he has one hugely important attribute that has got our manager very excited indeed.

“Freddie is a physical specimen,” Michael told me this morning at the EPC. “Apart from that, he has something you can only coach to a degree; he’s a true finisher. He can score different types of goals, and whether you’re in the National League North or South, or the Premier League, if you know where the net is, they’ll always score.”

I immediately thought of Jamie Vardy and Charlie Austin, two players who I feel are natural finishers and took their goals through all the divisions. As well as being natural finishers, they got other bits right that allowed them to use their skills to reach the top.

Credit Graham Burrell

“It’s just the other bits of the game that set you apart,” added Michael. “It’s bits like the link-up play and all of that which take them to the top and make the difference between the National League or the Premier League. When you look at Freddie, we feel he’s got loads of development in him, but the one thing he has right now is his finishing ability.”

In terms of a pathway, it is clear for the next six months at least, with our latest academy graduate set to remain a part of the first-team squad.

“We’re really excited, and we’ll see the benefit of it at the back end of the season when he’s had a full year around the first team. We’ll keep him around the first team for now, keep him involved so he knows the expectations of a first-team player, and see where he is in January.”

That full season should take the 17-year-old on a journey to the Lincoln City first team, which Michael feels is the least he can achieve.

“I’ll be disappointed if he’s not a Lincoln City first-team striker in the first twelve to eighteen months,” he added, probably echoing the hopes of an entire fanbase.

The difference is Michael sees the players every day and is in a great position to make that shout, which is incredibly exciting. It seems that brace against Watford really was reflective of what he might offer, and with careful management, he could become a key player for the first team.