Freddie Draper Recall: The Pros & Cons

Credit Graham Burrell

Freddie Draper had been enjoying himself on loan at Walsall. A minor injury aside, our hot prospect has eight goals and two assists and has earned rave reviews from their supporters.

As we near January, the big question on everybody’s lips is whether he will be recalled or not. At this time of year, topics of this nature are always a talking point, something for the media to get their teeth into. That was certainly the case yesterday, as Michael Skubala was asked a question about Draper’s future.

“Freddie Draper is doing really well, he’s growing every week and he’s developing,” Skubala said, speaking to BBC Radio Lincolnshire. “We’ve had staff going to watch his games, but it’s important we get this one right – whether we bring him back into the building or leave him out there.

“First of all, it’s a better level, so it could be a stretch for him playing in this league. It’s important to get it right for him and for the club at the same time. Timing is really important, so we have to get his development right alongside the club’s situation, too.”

What can we glean from that? The answer is very little – however, I do think there’s a clue in the second quote. Michael says it could be a stretch for him to step up to this level. I don’t think that’s a slur on Freddie’s ability, but instead pointing out that right now, he’s playing first-team football. Would a recall be wise, given that he might come back and be on the fringes at a higher level, trying to adjust in the middle of a season?

In my eyes, recalling Freddie Draper is a bit like cashing out on an accumulator at half time when all the games are coming in. Sure, you’ll reap a benefit, but will you get the maximum return for your gamble?

Credit Graham Burrell

Will he be recalled?

There are pros and cons, but on the podcast last night, I suggested that perhaps we wouldn’t recall Freddie this winter window. I have changed my tune – I was dead certain he would be recalled, but there’s something in Michael’s words that makes me think not. To us, Freddie is an investment as well as a footballer. Yes, the long-term aim is for him to be our number nine, but if this summer, a Championship club stuck £1m on the table, we’d take it and move on. So, what is Freddie first and foremost? A Lincoln City player or a commodity to be nurtured in the correct way?

I think it’s the latter. I know people will balk at this, but our model is to develop players and move them on, just like Peterborough have in the past, and Oxford. We want to sell someone for £1m, so we can then go out and spend £250,000 on a replacement that we then sell for £2m, and so on. Eventually, doing that, you end up with an Ivan Toney or Dwight Gayle, and you find yourself as a club heading upwards. If that’s our aim with Freddie, he’s surely best at a team where he gets 35/40 senior appearances, 10 or 15 goals, and a bit of notice rather than making ten more outings for us, six from the bench.

Would he be our starting striker? Even with Ben and Tyler out, I’m not sure right now. I have a suspicion that Jack Vale might not stay beyond January as his game time has been limited, and Blackburn may think somewhere like Burton is a better shout, where he could play plenty of games. I think we need a forward who is more of a focal point, someone strong, someone like Jovon, but maybe two or three years further on in their development. That could come from a loan, but would Freddie provide it? I’m not 100% sure he would, as he’d be a few weeks behind the others in terms of the Michael Skubala way.

Credit Graham Burrell

I suspect we might look to back Michael in this window. Not to the extent we backed Michael Appleton in 2021/22; that was a big window for us, but I do wonder if we might see a loan player or two coming in, perhaps a permanent signing as well. We’re in such a good place in terms of the league, and given the season we’ve had with injuries and a manager change, it suggests to me there’s never been a better time to get out of League One. It’s weak this season, but when you throw Stockport and Wrexham into the mix, perhaps Birmingham or Stoke next season, it looks much tougher. I make no apologies for this – when this Portsmouth side are runaway leaders, I think anyone with a bit of momentum can gatecrash the party.

If I think like that, a man who is always reserved, always looking to consolidate, then it’s possible that the thought has at least crossed Harvey’s mind, Clive’s mind, and the rest of the board. I’m not saying we’re going to spend big money on players, but I firmly believe the club will see the next five months as a real opportunity for a quick win. If they do, then it’s surely best to leave Freddie where he is. If we go up, great. If we don’t, we get a League Two striker coming into our squad with maybe 15 goals to his name and a reputation that could attract a big price tag.

Credit Graham Burrell

What are the arguments for recalling him?

If we are a little more cautious, perhaps there’s a sense in recalling Freddie. For instance, we’ve been burned by the loans of N’Lundulu and Plange, and if we think that market has been less than fruitful, we might steer towards recalling Freddie. I can’t see us spending money on a striker, not with Walker and House to come back, so a loan or a recall is the obvious option. We have Jack Vale, and if he stays, Freddie would be a different type of player offering more versatility within our top line.

Jack Moylan has signed, but I’m not sure we want to heap expectations on him at first – it might be that just peppering the squad with Freedie Draper, a man who has bagged 16 goals in 41 matches in 2023, is a strong option. After all, any other 19-year-old with that scoring record, split across Ireland’s top flight on an EFL division, would be attracting attention. Put it this way – if, in the transfer window, we did sign a player for cash, a player with 20 goal involvements in 41 matches, aged just 19, what would we expect to pay? Jack Moylan has 17 goal involvements in 37 matches, and he’s being held up as a possible first-team player.

Here’s another argument – if when Walker and House got injured, we were told we’d be signing two young players with 37 goals involvements in 2023, both having played in a country’s top flight or in the EFL, how would you feel? Excited? I think so.

Credit Graham Burrell


The last time we saw Freddie Draper start for Lincoln, it was in a team also containing Charles Vernam, Tashan Oakley-Booth, and Jamie Robson, away at Chippenham. My understanding is that he didn’t impress our then-head coach, and off he went to prove Kennedy wrong. I think he’s done that, and at some point in the next eight months, he’ll be of real value to Lincoln City.

Even after all that, I still don’t think he’ll be back in the red and white of City this season.