There’s little surprise in today’s news that Conor McGrandles will leave the club this summer.
The 26-year-old has appeared 96 times for the Imps across a two-year stay, scoring six goals. Last season you voted him Player of The Season, and this campaign he was one of the few to start more than 30 league games. However, all good things must come to an end, and the industrious midfielder will now pursue other options, which will almost certainly mean a move north of the border. Good luck to him.
After joining from MK Dons, the road wasn’t entirely easy for McGrandles. He didn’t start as a first-choice midfielder, instead playing backup to Jorge Grant, Liam Bridcutt and James Jones. However, the latter faded away, and Conor’s constant running soon made him a fan favourite. It was his form after Christmas in 2021 that helped keep us clinging to our top six spot, and that almost certainly made him a hero to many.
This season has been more challenging, but that’s a reflection on the whole side, not Conor. With Liam Bridcutt injured and our other central midfielders not rising to the challenge, he often found himself sitting in front of the back four in a holding role. Conor’s best games, in my opinion, came when he played alongside somebody; either in the holding role or attacking role. His work rate was second to none, but there were occasions when he gave the ball away and was exposed. When he was paired with someone (anyone), then the elements of his game that needed work were not so obvious.
Conor liked a tackle, often found himself booked, but wasn’t one to ever let the club down. Although they’re different players, there’s an element of the Justin Walker about this announcement; he was a midfielder who came in, played his two years with dignity and application, but then left again owing the club nothing. When he started, he seemingly cared more than anyone, and when he came off the bench (Sunderland in the play-offs) he could change a game. Not with a moment of brilliance or flair, just with a constant work rate. When Conor was on form, he clearly made the game easier for his teammates. When he wasn’t on form, we suffered as a result, such was the importance of his role this season.
My gut feeling is he’ll wind up at Motherwell, Aberdeen or Hearts in the next week or two. If I had to guess, my money would be on Hearts, and they’ll certainly be better for it. At 26 he’s got his best years ahead of him, and challenging for a European place at the top end of the SPFL is no more than he deserves. Of course, it would be a huge disappointment if he were to turn up at another League One club, but I see that as being about as likely as him staying with us; a stance I’ve had since the start of the season.
Best of luck Conor.