It seems ages since I’ve written one of these articles, but as we stood on the precipice of Christmas, I thought I ought to prepare one for Boxing Day.
I’ve been through the players to represent both clubs, and as you’d imagine for a team formed in 2004, there are not all that many. I could have picked Luke Howell or Drewe Broughton, both part of the relegated squad, but instead, I’ve chosen another of that year; Mustapha Carayol.
The Gambian-born winger spent his youth career with Swindon, but when Paul Ince left the County Ground for Macclesfield, he took the youngster with him. The former England midfield took him when he moved on from the Silkmen and joined our Boxing Day opponents, MK Dons, which is where he got his first professional deal. He only appeared twice for Milton Keynes, both times in the cup, but joined Crawley on loan in 2007 to play under Steve Evans. He impressed for the then non-league side, earning 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 failed to sign a new deal at Plainmoor and was dropped for the final game of the 2009/10 season. Instead, he opted to move up north, and 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. He spent a short period out injured in August, but returned to score as we drew 2-2 with Wycombe in October. On November 20th, he had arguably his best outing in a Lincoln shirt, scoring one and creating two as we beat Hereford United 3-1 at the Bank. He certainly had the ability to light up matches, but with Steve Tilson sucking much of the joy out of our approach (not that Sutton put any into it), we often lacked any support around the winger.
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.
After leaving us, he joined Bristol Rovers, where he impressed in a single season, sufficiently to be signed by Championship side Middlesbrough. He spent four seasons there, scoring 11 goals in 50 Championship outings and enjoying loan spells with Brighton, Leeds and Huddersfield, all also in the Championship. It became clear the player we had who looked the real deal, if a little raw, had matured into a fine attacking player.
After leaving Teesside in 2016, he moved to Nottingham Forest but left in 2018 with just two league goals n 34 outings. He since had spells in Cyprus (Apollon Limassol) and Turkey (Adana Demirspor) and turned out seven times for the Gambia. In 2017/18 he appeared eight times for Ipswich in the Championship, and he recently penned a deal with Gillingham, reuniting with Steve Evans, where he’s played 14 times, scoring once.