Lee Frecklington – Lincoln City’s greatest academy product?

Credit Graham Burrell

The academy at Sincil Bank has produced a number of highly talented players over the years.

One-time England squad goalkeeper Scott Loach and Jack Hobbs – the central defender who was poached by Liverpool as a youngster – have both come through the ranks at Lincoln City. But perhaps no player was as talented as Irish midfielder, Lee Frecklington.

The Lincoln-born midfielder racked up 491 appearances throughout his career, with 192 of those appearances coming in two separate stints with the Imps. His best years were spent with the side that the website Oddschecker, which compares odds and provides free offers on football, has made one of the favourites for relegation from the Championship this season: Rotherham United.

During six years at the New York Stadium, Frecklington made 170 appearances for The Millers, scoring 30 goals for the club and achieving two promotions. He would captain the club during their Championship years and scored a number of crucial goals in South Yorkshire which has given him a legendary status amongst Rotherham fans the world over. Here is a reminder of just how good the Irishman was in his prime.

The early years 

Frecklington was a standout in the Lincoln City academy at a young age and was touted to break into the first team. He went on loan to Stamford in the Southern Counties league at just 20 years of age, where he would spend two months. After a number of impressive performances in non-league, he was recalled from his loan in December 2005 and was immediately included on the Imps’ bench. Throughout the rest of the 05/06 campaign, he would make 20 appearances for the club, scoring twice in what would turn out to be his breakthrough campaign.

The following season, he became a pivotal figure in the charge toward promotion under John Schofield. That charge would falter, however, as the Imps lost out to Bristol Rovers in the playoffs, with the Gasheads going on to secure promotion when they defeated Shrewsbury Town at the newly reopened Wembley Stadium. Frecklington’s performances were sensational all year long and would earn him a spot in the League Two Team of the Season.

Further impressive performances were to follow in the coming years and Frecklington developed himself into a household name among followers of the Football League. He would secure a move to Peterborough United on transfer deadline day in 2009, where he would help the Posh twice secure promotion to the Championship.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Becoming a Rotherham United legend 

In the winter of 2013, Rotherham United had been in their new home – the 12,000-seater New York Stadium – for six months. The Marmite-like Steve Evans was the man chosen to lead the club into the future; however, the club were underperforming, which triggered them to stave off competition from a number of clubs in order to bring in Lee Frecklington. And what a purchase it turned out to be.

Initially joining on loan, Frecklington scored a number of crucial goals, including one away at local rivals Bradford City to send the club into the automatic promotion places with just two games to play, and the goal that secured promotion on the final day of the season at home to Aldershot Town.

The club made the signing of Frecklington permanent that summer and the big goals continued to follow. Frecklington would score a last-gasp thunderbolt to secure a point away at Crewe Alexandra on the opening day of the League One campaign. In the most prolific season of his career, he would add another nine goals, including one in the League One playoffs against Preston North End, which would send the Millers on their way to Wembley and a date with Leyton Orient for a spot in the Championship – which they duly won after a nail-biting penalty shootout.

In their first season back in the Championship, the Millers managed to keep themselves in the division, and it was once again Frecklington who scored the crucial goal. United entered their fixture at home to Reading knowing that victory would be enough to secure Championship football next term, and with the Millers leading 1-0, Frecklington would pop up late on with a second and secure safety.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Return to the Imps and retirement 

The Millers would survive again the following campaign thanks to a heroic three-month spell in charge from Neil Warnock. The first thing that the maverick manager did upon his arrival was restore Frecklington to the starting lineup, despite not being fully fit. And his decision was rewarded with a string of stellar performances.

The following campaign, however, was one season too many, and six months after the club’s relegation to League One, Frecklington came home to Lincoln City. Upon his return to the club, Frecklington would captain the Imps to EFL Trophy glory as well as promotion to League One, ensuring that his name goes down in folklore as the club’s finest-ever academy product.