Last Night, Conor McGrandles signed a deal with Charlton Athletic after turning down our contract offer.
I’ll be honest; my first reaction was anger. I’ve had time to reflect a little, and perhaps I’ve been slightly harsh on Conor. It’s ironic; I was one saying a couple of weeks ago if he leaves, he owes us nothing; he came for free, played two decent years and left for free. Then, when that free move is to a team in our division, not a team in Scotland, I got angry.
Let’s deal with a couple of key points. Firstly, there was a belief he wanted a move back to Scotland, and I still believe that was the case at one point. I spoke to a key member of club staff almost a year ago, who talked about us signing an extra midfielder last summer because long-term, Conor wanted to be closer to his partner in Scotland. In the winter window, Scottish clubs fed into that with their interest, and whilst I believe it to have been the case, it wasn’t something Conor ever said. He hadn’t said in the media ‘I want to go back to Scotland’ – instead, he spoke of exploring new opportunities. That’s different.
What we don’t know is what has happened since. Maybe he did speak to Scottish clubs and a deal couldn’t be struck? Maybe his partner is moving to London to be with him? It’s easy to take one point in time and say ‘that’s how things are’. Last night, I was angry at the deal, but 24 hours later I’ve calmed down and seen reason. I know why I felt aggrieved; because if a player turns down a contract with your club and moves to one in the same division, it feels like a kick in the crotch.
The truth is this (and you might not like it). Charlton Athletic are a bigger club than Lincoln City. They have more resources, a better stadium and a proven history of playing top-flight football. Sure, we’ve beaten them three times out of four and that gives the illusion of them being the same as us, but the only thing that binds us is the level we play at, just as it did Sunderland and us last season. Would you blame a player turning down a contract at Morecambe to move to Sunderland? No, of course not. Remember, Conor didn’t turn us down and turn up 24 hours later smiling in a Charlton shirt; it’s not like he’s walked out, got on a train and turned up there before his seat in the dressing room got cold.
We can handle Tayo Edun leaving, Jorge Grant, or even players like Richard Butcher years ago. Why? Because they visibly bettered themselves, going up a division. Conor came here to play for Michael Appleton and Lincoln City as a job; we’re fans, and we love the club, but these players are employees with short careers. He owes us nothing, and I confess I couldn’t see that for the anger at singing for someone at our level.
Have Charlton got themselves a decent player? Yes, for the level, he isn’t bad. I’m not sure we saw a consistent season from him; he started on the bench in 2020/21, and James Jones’ collapse in form gave him a chance to shine. He was sensational between January and May 2021, standing out as the team struggled. I wasn’t sold on him earlier this season, in a struggling team he didn’t stand out, whilst he had a decent second part of the season, but there’s no doubt his best spell was the five months before last season ended. He works hard, and he’s never shy of making a run or a tackle, but we needed experienced players like him (and Maguire among others) to lead more last season, and they didn’t. In his defence, I don’t think he’s a sole anchor in midfield, and when he was taken out and put alongside a midfielder further up the field, he played his best football.
It’s hard when players turn you down and rock up at a divisional rival within weeks, but it happens. We have to remember that just because we’re grouped with 23 other teams in the division called League One, it doesn’t mean we’re all the same. This wasn’t like Ben Futcher wanting a move to a bigger club then signing for Boston, or us paying a fee for Kevin Sandwith only for him to let his contract run down and leave.
I do genuinely wish Conor all the best (apart from against us) and hope the move brings him the happiness away from the football field I believe he was searching for 12 months ago.