A week ago, Michael Hortin suggested we might sign two players this week. He was spot on.
Today’s capture of Charles Vernam is not a surprise to most; he’s been linked with the club for weeks now. I included him in my list of 12 free agents from a position of near certainty that we were in talks with him, and that proved to be the case. The reaction on the part of Lincoln fans has been largely positive, based mainly (I’d imagine) on the fact he’s from Lincoln and people assume it’s a good signing.
The Wikipedia warriors won’t be overly impressed; he had three years as a pro at Derby without breaking through, then spent time with Grimsby, where I recall him being loaned out, looking brilliant for Chorley and being immediately recalled. His 12 goals in 72 matches for the Cods are modest, and his time at Burton was fleeting. He spent six months with the Brewers, an injury-hit spell in which I recall him well. He played the day we thrashed them 5-1 at the Bank, and if I remember he looked a danger on the rare occasions he got on the ball. I seem to remember him scoring at the Stadium of Light as well, and I’d kept an eye out for him as he was a Lincoln lad, but I didn’t follow his progress when he moved to Bradford. Apparently, he scored on his debut to endear himself to our friends from Valley Parade.
I didn’t need to; the reaction of many Bradford fans tells me what I need to know. When Paudie O’Connor signed earlier in the week, there was a split, possibly 80/20, of reactions. Most Bantams wished him well, said he’d step up etc, others were a bit more critical, talking of his discipline and pace. With Vernam, I don’t think I’ve seen a single comment with a negative slant. That bodes well.
How does he fit into our plans? Firstly, he’s a winger, plays on the left and is very attack-minded. He has a real turn of pace and likes to drop the shoulder and beat a player. He had 12 goal involvements (eight goals, four assists) from 2256 minutes of play in all competitions last season (excluding the FA Cup), and that stands up well. As we’ve just let a left-winger go, who also played in League Two last season, it’s interesting to compare the two; Theo Archibald had 15 goal involvements (eight goals, seven assists) from 3462 minutes. That’s a goal involvement every 230 minutes from Theo, but one every 188 minutes from our new boy.
It does put a question mark over Anthony Scully’s role this season. I can envisage him playing in the middle more, perhaps as a two in an attacking 4-3-3 formation. If Vernam is the left-sided attacker, then there’s every chance that Scully, if he doesn’t get sold, has to shift inwards. I can still see us wanting him to cut in from the left, so playing on that side of a two-man attacking midfield might be feasible.
When I get asked if a signing is a good one, I almost always answer with the same thing; possibly, but ask me in a year. Last season, Dan N’Lundulu looked to be a solid signing, but what happened there? It’s hard to judge a player on his past experience because we know that can be misleading. Look at Jordan Maguire-Drew for example; utter bin juice for us, but rated at both Grimsby and Orient. What I would say about Vernam is this; he’s played in League One before, he’s the type of player we desperately needed last season, a maverick with a bit of flair, and he hasn’t come to Lincoln City to sit on the bench. Whether he’s a good signing or not remains to be seen, but I’m happy that one of the areas we desperately lacked last season, out-and-out flair, has been addressed.