This week has seen two new arrivals at Sincil Bank, and two old faces coming back from their loan periods.
There had been a train of thought that suggested we might leave Sam Long and Sean Roughan out on loan with Drogheda until the end of the Irish season, but that hasn’t happened; both have come back, and in the case of Sean Roughan, perhaps we’re going to see him finally given a fighting chance in the first-team squad. Sam Long earned rave reviews from his time in Ireland, and he’ll be hoping to stake a claim for the number one spot.
The week also saw us capture Charles Vernam and Paudie O’Connor from Bradford City. Vernam is a left-sided attacker, full of flair and guile, whilst O’Connor is a bit of a hard nut defender, tall and good in the air. It could be argued injuries robbed us of those types of players last season, and that’s if we had them around the squad at all. They’re signings which might not get the rest of League One worried, but they complement our needs perfectly. In fairness, Sheffield Wednesday were thought to be watching O’Connor, and I think he is something of a coup for us, whilst Bradford fans think the same of Vernam.
Where does that leave us in terms of needs? I have a feeling you’ll see fewer signings this summer than before, especially as we have a decent-sized squad right now. We are some key faces short, and one area, in particular, looks really weak. Here’s the current squad, and what we need from the next couple of weeks.
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens here. On the face of it, we have a decent offering in the sticks; Jordan Wright made some good saves towards the end of the season, and Sam Long has Scotland Under 21 experience now, and was lauded in Ireland. Is Long in for a start as our stopper? Or, will he find a League Two move, and we bring in another keeper? I don’t think a new face is pressing and if it is, one has to go out on loan. I can’t see Sam Long coming back from Drogheda to sit on our bench though.
I don’t see us needing a full-back, unless one moves on. If we see TJ as a right-back, then we have him and Poole. Bramall and Robson are suitable left-backs, the latter perhaps the one I expect to start the season as regular choice. I’ve thrown Ahui in here as well; he’s described by the club site as a versatile player and with Lincoln, that usually means ‘can play out wide’. He’s one I expect to get time out on loan in the National League or National League North, but the other four fit the bill. There’s an outside chance we play three at the back, with Poole or Eyoma on one side of the three, which may necessitate a new right back. If we are to bring a left-back in, I can see one moving on. Of course, Poole is a player other clubs like, so if he were to go we’d be in the market for a right back. I suppose much depends on how Mark Kennedy sets up.
On paper, we have four or five potential starting centre-backs here, with Hayden Cann likely to head out on loan. When you throw Eyoma and Poole into the mix, we’re packed out with defensive options, so why were we so poor at the back last season? Injuries were a problem, no doubt about that, and you must have at least one defender, if not a pair, that play 40 games a season. O’Connor wants that for himself, and you’d imagine when fit, Montsma plays, which means Jackson and Walsh could sit out more games this season, albeit through no fault of their own. I also hope Sean Roughan either finds a League Two loan, or is factored into the first-team picture. Whatever happens, I’d be very surprised if another central defender signed, even if one departs.
If you want to talk about areas of huge concern, then here we are. I fully expect Liam Bridcutt to depart the club which makes us very light in the centre of the park. Gallagher and Worsfold-Gregg are not likely to start 20 games each, which means we’re left with Lasse, Max Sanders and Ted Bishop. Ted is an attacking midfielder, a player I want to see pressing forward behind the attackers, and neither Max nor Lasse have done enough to convince fans they’re viable 40-game players. In my opinion, we need at least two in here. One has to be a four, someone to sit in front of the back four and dictate and I feel they have to be experienced; that’s not an easy task. In fact, if I were to rely on bold statements alone, I’d say the success of our season depends almost entirely on getting the right players in here. Here’s another bold statement; if we signed just two midfielders and nobody else, we’d have a squad capable of finishing 17th again next season. However, a pivot in midfield is essential, and another attacking player with the drive of post-Christmas Lewis Fiorini is a must.
We’re light out wide, there’s no denying that, but I can see one wide position being filled by a loan player. The other Charles Vernam can take, and both Scully and Ted Bishop can play there. I wouldn’t want us not to sign anyone, but I think it’s the sort of position a young, hungry player from the division above fills. Personally, I’d love to see Morgan Whittaker come back if at all possible, he’s a player I think could develop massively under the current structure at the club. He’s local, and he might benefit from Mark Kennedy’s personal experience as a player. I can see a departure here as well; Haks struggled last season and I always felt Chris Maguire was Michael Appleton’s man, it wouldn’t be the biggest shock if one, or more moved on. Ideally, I always liked Danny Cowley’s mantra of two players for every position, and I don’t mean ‘Ted Bishop can play there, so he’s one’. I mean dedicated wingers, so you only rely on the likes of Ted when you have to. He should be deployed in his favoured midfield role so we can see him at his best every week. With that in mind, we need one wide player and to replace Maguire or Haks if they depart.
Ben House excited us when he burst onto the scene against Portsmouth, and Charlie Kendall’s goals in National League South reminded me a lot of a certain Mo Eisa before he signed for Cheltenham. Anthony Scully, wherever you play him, is a proper goalscorer and the first player to hit 15 or more in successive Football League seasons since Mick Harford (Rheady did it 2015/16 and 2016/17). Hops is a traditional forward, a player who seems to frustrate when he plays, but who you miss when he does not. On the face of it, there are at least four worthy of a starting place, with Draper and Makama both for the future; perhaps both might get another loan. However, I feel there might be scope for one more signing. We don’t want to place undue pressure on Kendall or House’s shoulders; both have come out of non-league and both may need additional time to settle. Tom’s entering the last year of his deal, never a comfortable place for a combative player wanting to avoid injuries, and you just don’t know where Anthony Scully is best deployed. I think there might be a loan striker come in from a PL or Championship team, but I’d love us to find one of our own. Sadly, it’s the one position on the pitch where money really does talk, so we may be reliant on the generosity of those above us.
In my opinion, if nobody leaves, then the bare minimum of incomers would be two midfielders, at least one wide player and a forward. Our current squad numbers 28 players, far more than we’ve had before, but of those six were our players before May and haven’t kicked a ball for us competitively, and one might not sign at all, taking us to 21. Four (Sanders, Adelakun, Roughan and Sorenson) were out of favour (17) whilst Draper was out on loan (down to 16). We have numbers, but right now lack one or two key first-team generals to give the flesh some bone to prop it up. I’d expect three or four loans to come in, which means signing actual players that belong to us might be something of a rarity from here on in. I don’t expect more than two permanent deals unless players leave. Now I’ve said that, we’ll probably sign two of our own players on Monday. You know how it goes!