Imps striker Freddie Draper has today joined League Two side Walsall on a season-long loan, but not before penning a long-term deal with the Imps.
Draper has been a huge hope for the future for a while now, breaking into the first team under Michael Appleton. He scored his first Imps goal in the EFL Trophy last season but has seen his stock rise significantly after a spell in Ireland with Drogheda. He bagged eight goals and chipped in with three assists during his time in Ireland, earning him a recall over the summer.
Eagle-eyed Imps fans noticed he wasn’t on the teamsheet for today’s 1-1 draw with Stockport County over in Spain, most likely because he was hooking up with Walsall. The Saddlers, managed by former Birmingham defender Mat Sadler, finished 16th in League Two last season, but represent a step up in quality for Draper.
He said: “I’m thankful for this opportunity, I now want to keep improving and showing Lincoln City what I can do.
“The loan with Drogheda was an experience I needed. I had to grow up really quick and recommend it to any young player. I’m now looking forward to continuing my development at a good level with Walsall.”
City director of football Jez George said: “Freddie performed to a consistently high level throughout his time at Drogheda, scored goals and made a lot of clubs sit up and take notice, not only in Ireland but also in League Two.”
“It is great credit to Freddie that he has created this opportunity of a loan at Walsall, which will be so good for his long-term development. For an 18-year-old to lead the line with such aggression and physicality, create so many chances for himself and others, score so many goals and handle becoming a ‘marked man’ so well shows why we rate Freddie so highly.”
He added: “I am sure that Freddie and Elicha will also join me in thanking manager Kevin Doherty, assistant Daire Doyle and everyone connected with Drogheda United for how brilliantly they looked after them both.”
Draper was thrust into the limelight late in 2021 when he started a handful of matches during our striker injury crisis and probably deserved a goal. He would have got one if it weren’t for a crude foul away at Wigan, but after the January signings, he drifted from the first team picture. His development slowed with niggly injuries and a short loan spell at Gainsborough, which didn’t bring him a huge amount of success.
He penned a new deal in September 2022, but has clearly done enough to impress the management, getting another new contract and a chance at regular league football. His capture must represent something of a coup for Walsall – to be such a huge success in Ireland at such a tender age will have left him with plenty of suitors.
The move represents good business for the Imps, as Draper is an emerging talent who will hopefully get plenty of football at the Bescot. Last season, Charlie Kendall’s loan at the same level did not work out, but perhaps Draper has a more physical side to his game that is suited to the Football League.