One of the stories of the season, certainly prior to Michael Skubala arriving, was the redemption of Hakeeb Adelakun.
He wasn’t given a squad number at the start of the campaign because he was almost certainly departing. He didn’t appear in pre-season for us, and fans waited patiently for him to fix up a move on deadline day. Instead, he stayed put, and circumstances forced him back into the side. Today, his redemption is perhaps complete, and he joins League Two side Doncaster Rovers on loan until the end of the season. His contract is up in the summer, so it’s likely we’ve seen the last of Haks.
Director of football Jez George said: “With Hakeeb being out of contract at the end of the season, this is a good opportunity for him to play for a manager that he knows and put himself in the shop window for the summer.
“Hakeeb leaves Lincoln City with everyone’s respect for the professional way in which he has conducted himself in difficult circumstances. Everyone wishes him well for this loan and his future career.”
His story is one worth telling because he really did come in from the cold. Signed following our failed play-off final, in a summer where wages rocketed after the wage cap was sacked off, I really believe Haks was a coup, a marquee signing that would keep us in the top six. He started well enough, goals against Bradford City and Cambridge had me thinking he was going to be decent for us. Then it all went wrong.
It’s hard to know exactly what went wrong, but drinking from a water bottle instead of marking his man against Carlisle certainly didn’t help. It felt like as 2021 rumbled on, he was only in the team out of necessity – he started the 3-1 win against Sunderland that Chris Maguire turned up for, and when you think about it now, that wasn’t a particularly great team – we only had four subs! After we added the likes of Morgan Whittaker and Liam Cullen, Haks disappeared, putting in a brief appearance on the final day to snatch a goal.
2022/23 wasn’t his season – Mark Kennedy clearly wasn’t a fan, and after two Imps appearances (both in teams with Maguire), he was loaned to Gillingham. He dropped out of their side after Christmas and returned here in the summer with us firmly expected to move him on. That didn’t happen, and as our strikers began to drop like flies, Haks found himself creeping into the squad. Funnily enough, after he probably cost himself dearly against Carlisle in 2021/22, it was the Cumbrians who were the opponent when he made his first Imps appearance in more than a year, coming on at half time. A week later, he started against Portsmouth and scored within five minutes. Haks was back.
Like Maguire, he had a point to prove to a former manager, and two goals against Charlton did that. It was perhaps ironic that he bagged that brace weeks after Mark Kennedy, who froze him out, had been sacked and with Michael Appleton, who also froze him out, in the opposition dugout. Two managers, both gone, and yet there was Haks, surviving them. That really should have been the end of the story.
Instead, we’ve had 15 more outings, each perhaps less memorable than the one before. It’s not his fault – he’s been played out of position and has shown a great attitude to keep plugging away, but he’s not a striker, and we don’t play with wingers. There was no place for Haks here, but those additional appearances take his total number of matches in red and white to 56 with seven goals. That’s more games than Liam Bridcutt (45) and Chris Maguire (39, five goals). He’s gone from misfit to wrong fit, and that’s probably the best he could have hoped for six months ago.
Had he gone at the beginning of the season, this piece would have been much harsher, althoguh I have always said I like Haks, the man. As a player, his first two years at Lincoln were unremarkable, but in the last six months or so, he’s proven a few people wrong. He’s pushed himself out of the realms of complete flop and leaves with more fondness from supporters than Maguire, who signed at the same time.
Hakeeb Adelakun, the redemption story, is over—best of luck for the future.
Imagine, getting all the way to the end and not mentioning his throw-ins. Let’s hope Donny has players who can attack an Exocet missile from the sidelines.