I know I’m late to this in terms of it being news, but Conor McGrandles has been linked with a move back up to Scotland.
Whilst I’m late in delivering it to, it is not a surprise to me, not at all. Conor is out of contract this summer and there hasn’t been any talk of a new deal, bearing in mind that he’s only 26 and therefore has resale value, but not if his contract runs down. I’ve heard rumblings for a while that he might be one we acknowledge we got for free, and who we allow to move on for free happy that we got a good couple of years out of him.
The news is Conor is linked heavily with a move back up to Scotland, with Hibernian and Aberdeen names mentioned in a Football Scotland report. It’s suggested he is also being watched by other League One clubs, but wants a ‘step up’ in competition. That’s a bit of a stretch; aside from Celtic and Rangers I’m not sure the SPFL is a step up from Sunderland, Charlton, Ipswich and Sheff Weds each week (to name but four); my feeling is perhaps he hasn’t settled here. I’d heard a whisper about personal circumstances changing and family being in Scotland, I didn’t probe more as it’s obviously personal, but my understanding was we’d struggle to keep Conor next season.
The timing of the report from Football Scotland is interesting; I wonder if there’s a case for us trying to move him on for a small fee in this window, in order to fund our next move. It wouldn’t surprise me, which could be why we have the speculation now. After all, if I had an inkling this might be happening for a few months, others will certainly have been aware (agents, journalists etc). That means it’s not as if it’s entirely ‘news’ in the strictest sense, it’s the timing of the story that is of interest. Usually, it takes something to trigger it appearing in a paper; an agent trying to stimulate a move, a club green lighting a press story to get a bidding war going, something like that. It’s not as if it’s been around messageboards much either, so the report hasn’t come from there.
I’d be a little worried if we were to lose him this winter, purely as it is a senior pro we’d be without, but I also don’t think he’s been a patch on last season’s Conor McGrandles. We might have asked him to play a role he wasn’t comfortable with, but I feel he’s looked nervy, given the ball away a lot and perhaps not had the influence you’d expect a senior professional to have on the field. During our 3-0 defeat against Portsmouth, I said we lacked leaders; he played in that game. For me, that just reflects the fact he hasn’t quite been hitting the standards he set last season, and maybe it is a symptom of approaching an uncertain future. I also understand the whole team has seen a dip, so it isn’t just him, but as a top player from last season I did expect more.
The issue I do have with the report coming out now is this; if it gets him a move, we’re without a senior pro, whether he’s been on his game or not. If a move does not come about, we’ve got four months or so of a player we all know, deep down, is leaving the club. That’s not entirely unusual, but with a future move to think about, does he put himself into tackles with the same ferocity? I’m not questioning Conor’s personality here, it goes for all players with an unsettled future. When there’s your future on the line, I suspect it’s not as easy to go all-in on a 50/50.
My gut feeling here is that by the time we welcome in February, Conor McGrandles will not be a Lincoln City player. I can see a deal with a nominal fee coming in, freeing up wages and a small spend for Michael to invest. My hope is that we invest in a central midfielder, someone in the McGradnles mould who’ll work hard, chip in with goals and assists, but who knows they’ll be with the club in August 2022.