Looking Back: The Greatest Loan of All

Credit Graham Burrell

Buy a proven striker; that is what they say, isn’t it? Whenever a player is linked with Lincoln, they check the internet for his goals history and immediately tell us whether he’ll be any good or not.

I suppose they feel it’s a service provided, something that will instantly tell us if a player is worth the money or not. How about if we signed a player who hadn’t scored a single professional goal? A player who had only made three starts at Chesterfield during a loan spell? He’d be panned as utter garbage, a desperate roll of the dice.

That was the record of South African striker Davide Somma, a player who had actually scored just three goals across five clubs when he signed for us. He’d been with Perugia in Italy as a kid, dropped to Pro Vasto and Olbia, who played at our equivalent level in Italy, scoring just three times in two seasons. After not scoring for the San Jose Earthquakes, he moved to Leeds, where again, he failed to break into the team or score. Chesterfield borrowed him, and three goalless games later, he was handed back. Imagine if we signed that guy, right?

It was former Imp Darren Huckerby who thought perhaps Somma would be good for the English game, playing with him at San Jose. He had trials at both QPR and Leeds United, earning himself a one-year deal at Elland Road. His Chesterfield spell saw him miss a penalty in a home defeat, never the sort of start one really wants.

Chris Sutton, the player who gave Sam Clucas a free transfer, has never been lavished with praise over his recruitment policy, although Mustapha Carayol did go on to play at a higher level. It was the former Chelsea striker that not only brought Somma to Lincoln but saw him flourish.

He arrived at a club in a real mess, despite the arrival of Sutton. A run of eight games had brought just one win, 2-1 against Accrington, where a last-minute own goal gave us the points. Brian Gilmour, Chris Herd, and Stephen Lennon were the names on the scoresheet most frequently, whereas strikers Drewe Broughton and Paul Connor were not. Just days after the Imps had lost 4-0 at Port Vale, Sutton announced Somma.

We were seven points away from Grimsby in the final relegation spot, we had the third-worst goal difference in the league, and we’d only managed a 2-2 draw with our Lincolnshire rivals a week or so before. The 4-0 defeat at Port Vale hadn’t just been lackluster; it had been a horrible performance that underlined how bad Lincoln City had become. Just two and a half seasons before, Jamie Forrester and Mark Stallard had fired us to a play-off semi final, but now we fought for our survival, and in truth, we weren’t fighting very hard. We needed goals.

credit Graham Burrell

Somma’s debut came against Crewe, the same team against whom he’d missed his Chesterfield penalty. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and his screamer from 20 yards ultimately gave City the lead. A late Shaun Miller goal gave Crewe a share of the spoils, but it was a start. In an interview after the game, Somma, speaking with a broad American accent, claimed he would make himself a fan’s favourite. “It might be February,” he said. “But here in Lincoln, it’s Somma time.”

Was it the debut goal, the brash interview, or just the fact he grafted that made him an instant hero? In his third game, he made it two from three, scoring after just eleven minutes. He showed cute close control before firing off a half volley which flashed the underside of the bar for added panache. Home fans, used to seeing lily-livered centre forwards with no purpose, got behind the team, and fellow loan player Matty Saunders added two more to give the Imps a 3-1 win. It was the biggest League win under Sutton, and it left us ten points clear of Grimsby but still down in 20th.

Can he do it on a cold Tuesday night against Dagenham? Yes, he can, and this time it wasn’t a confidence-building opener either. John Nurse gave 12th-placed Dagenham the lead, but Somma lit up a chilly evening with yet another strike in the second half. Spirits were high despite also having Drewe Broughton, Stephen Lennon, and Cian Hughton in the side. Now we were eleven points off the bottom and, crucially, unbeaten since Somma’s arrival.

21st-placed Torquay were just two points behind us, and a trip to Plainmoor didn’t leave fans feeling confident at all. Maybe we should have had more confidence as Somma opened the scoring before the clock hit double digits. Mustapha Carayol was running the show for the struggling hosts, though, and he helped set up Nicky Wroe’s leveller to send us in level at the break. On 53 minutes, Somma created City’s second goal weaving his way past a couple of defenders before teeing up Cian Hughton for a tap-in. As if that wasn’t enough, just four minutes later, he seized on a defensive slip to hammer our third past Scott Beavan. Despite a late scare, City held out for a 3-2 win.

That should have been the end of his loan spell; City were eleven clear of Grimsby in the final relegation spot, with nine left to play. The Torquay win left us with just one defeat in eight, and when Leeds agreed to extend his loan, thoughts of a proud mid-table finish were on. The loan came with a caveat, though, Somma was also offered a new deal with Leeds based on his Imps form. He wouldn’t be a free agent in the summer, and for a couple of games, it seemed to affect his shooting boots.

Next up: Somma saves the day and keeps us in the Football League


  1. Disagree with Mike. I saw Woodcock play for City and he was the business. Somma had more impact for me. Reminded me of when Ainsworth joined…..you had renewed belief. ….Going to score in a minute. Somma was clinical, fast and never seemed to miss a chance. And wow could he do the spectacular. Shame we couldn’t,t sign him.

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