The City Signing Who Failed a Medical a Month After Signing

You hear of transfers not going ahead because of a failed medical, and there are doubtless some that you don’t hear about as well, but have you ever heard of a player joining a club, having a minor operation, and then failing the medical?

If you were a Lincoln City fan in the summer of 1985, you will have done, because that is exactly what happened in the case of Mick Coady.

1985 was a horrible summer for the Imps. The tragic events in Bradford had created a sombre atmosphere around the club. Colin Murphy left, ending a period that almost saw us get into the Second Division. A number of players also departed, including Wales international David Felgate, legend Gordon Hobson, and George Shiply, who refused to return to the club for training.

Indeed, with just three weeks to go before the first friendly, manager John Pickering admitted he was light on faces, and needed recruits. That led him to the door of Mick Coady, a utility player from Wolves. Coady had been at Carlisle with Pickering, and the 26-year-old was one he felt could impact the squad. “1 think he is a good buy,” said Pickering. “He is at the right age, he is very quick and can think.”

Given that on the day he was announced, Alan Walker left, Shipley’s refusal to train was highlighted and Felgate left, there was a desperate need for good news. A fee of £7,000 was agreed, worth around £20,000 with inflation. Still, by July 23rd, just a week before the first friendly, the club still only had a training squad of 11 players – Coady, Bob Latchford, Warren Ward, Richard Cooper, Stuart Naylor, Mark McCarrick, Neil Redfearn, Gary Strodder, John McGinlay, Gordon Mair and Devon White. Not ideal.

Even less ideal was news breaking two days later that Coady needed an operation. Ahead of the opening pre-season friendly against Sunderland, he needed a ‘minor’ operation on a split nail. “Coady could be out for a couple of weeks, and it is a disappointment he will not be able to play in the pre-season build-up,” admitted manager Pickering.

He missed a 3-0 win against Spalding, and then a rarity – a Bob Lathford goal as we went down 3-1 to Sunderland. Interestingly, a trialist from Arsenal called Terry Lee impressed, but he was missing for our third friendly many days, a 1-1 draw with Harworth Colliery. Lee later turned down a move to City, wanting more money than we were willing to give, and ended up with Helsinki.

Coady missed further friendlies against Middlesbrough (1-2) and Peterborough (0-3). Fans might have been getting edgy, and rightly so. The season kicked off on August 17th, and there was still no word on Coady. The season kicked off on August 17th, and there was still no news. Then, just days before our second fixture, an update. “The nail has been removed and is healing well,” said Pickering ahead of a trip to Milmoor. “Mick has a lot more confidence to kick the ball now.”

He wouldn’t get to kick a ball because two days later, before we kicked off at Rotherham, it was revealed the transfer had been voided. The club specialist had concerns over an ankle problem, but Coady and Pickering were keen to see the transfer go through. The player went to a specialist in Manchester to save the move, and he suggested he would be fit to play the full season. That didn’t placate the board, who terminated the deal.

“Mick is an ideal squad member,” said Pickering. “He has pace, the right temperament, and a player like Mick will be difficult to find for that sort of money I am very disappointed that we have had to let him go back to Wolves, but these decisions have to be accepted.”

Whilst Pickering was calm with his press comments, Coady was not, clearly upset not only at the deal falling through but also the manner in which it had been handled.

“I knew nothing about any trouble with my ankles. I have never had an ankle injury and for this to happen was just a bolt out of the blue. I am annoyed that the club have not followed up what the second specialist said.

“He said I was alright to play, yet they did not want to take the risk. I do not believe that I am any more of a risk than others like Bob Latchford, but the decision has been made now, and I shall have to go back to Wolves and start again.”

Chairman John Reames confessed that the club simply couldn’t carry another injury risk with such a small squad. “John Pickering badly wanted the player to stay, but after the medical advice, we were left with no choice. ‘We already have one risk player in Gordon Simmonite at the moment, and with a squad as small as ours, it would have been an unacceptable chance to take.”

Coady had a point – Latchford was quickly injured, and the small squad was stretched to breaking point, with the Imps relegated at the end of the season. Coady returned to the Wolves and featured for them a few times throughout the season, scoring once. They were also relegated, and he ended up at Barrow.

It seems incomprehensible now that a club could sign a player, have him for four weeks, and only then have him fail a medical. It’s also perhaps a good reflection of why so much is kept behind closed doors these days, as it’s likely Coady could have been tarnished as a ‘crock’ with the news unfairly breaking as it did.