Imps forward Freddie Draper has joined Gainsborough Trinity on loan for the rest of the season.
In a move that I genuinely think is outstanding for the Holy Blues, our starting striker of two months ago will ply his trade in the Northern Premier League, which is one division below the National League North. For context, this is like a striker starting three games for Southampton in the Premier League, then moving to Wealdstone on loan for six months. I’m not criticising Gainsborough there, but I personally think Draper could have moved to a National League side and comfortably got games.
There are clear benefits for us; he’s kept close to the squad, trains with the first team here (I imagine) and yet gets regular senior football. I would envisage that he’ll be starting every game there, we wouldn’t make a decision to loan a first-team player (of two months ago) to a club at that level with the fear of him not getting games. I guess we’ve signed a few who are a bit older and mature, and therefore our own prized asset is out getting games and, hopefully, lots of goals.
He’s been close to goals for us; he would almost certainly have scored against Wigan had he not been fouled as he was through on goal, and he came close in matches against Sheff Weds and MK Dons to name but two. He’s a great prospect, a player who I know Michael thinks should be our number nine one day, but who does need regular games.
“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,” he told me earlier this season. “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. I’ll be disappointed if he’s not a Lincoln City first-team striker in the first twelve to eighteen months,” he added.
When you’re in a relegation battle, which we are, you can break young players by exposing them to challenging situations, and it did sound as though a loan in the latter part of the season would be of benefit in Michaels’ eye. Of course, there will be those observers of the youth setup who think he should be involved over the likes of Ben House, another new face of ours, and I understand that. I’m not playing sycophant here, but I can see why Draper has been loaned out.
Perhaps, if I’m being honest, I do have a slight gripe over the level, but it’s a good chance for him to prove his value. Look at Charlie Kendall, bought in and loaned back to Eastbourne, he’s bagged two in three since then; we’re all salivating at the thought of him coming into the squad next season full of confidence, maybe Draper getting a hatful at the Northolme and coming back in the same mindset is just what we need.
Either way, he’s going to get exposure to senior football, but remain close to the team for the duration of that loan, so in terms of his development, there are definite benefits. If only Gainsborough could haul themselves back into the National League North, I think we’d see increased benefits from our young players being out on loan with them.