September 12th 2020. The day the footballing world has been waiting for. The Premier League and the EFL announced in July that the 2020/21 season will be underway very shortly. Ahead of the new season, I have decided to take a look into the future of the 24 teams making up League One for the new campaign, with an in depth look at what each team has to offer for the coming year. Thirteenth on the list, is Michael Appleton’s Lincoln City:
The 2020/21 season will be Lincoln City’s 137th in their history and their second consecutive in League One. Their last venture outside of League One was their promotion campaign from the 2018/19 season, when Danny Cowley was the manager who led Lincoln City into League One through winning the League Two title. The Cowley brothers departed after seven games of the League One season, moving on to Huddersfield Town, and then when Michael Appleton came into the club, Lincoln finished their first campaign in League One saw them finish in 16th position after PPG was introduced.
Michael Appleton is heading into his second season with Lincoln City, having taken over from Danny Cowley in September of 2019. Appleton’s managerial career began in 2011, with the then West Brom first team coach taking over for one match as Caretaker Manager after the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo. In November of 2011, Appleton was appointed as the new manager of Portsmouth in their Championship season, agreeing to a three-year deal. Just under a year after his arrival at Portsmouth, Appleton left the south coast side and joined on with Blackpool with a one-year rolling contract. Appleton’s time with Blackpool lasted only 65 days, before he was announced as the new manager of Blackburn in January of 2013. 67 days later, he was sacked after a poor run of form. In July 2014, Appleton became the new head coach of Oxford United. In his first season, they finished 13th in League Two. His second season was more successful, finishing 2nd in the league. In his third season in charge, Oxford finished 8thin League One. Appleton left Oxford to become the new assistant manager of Leicester City in 2017, with Appleton eventually returning to West Brom as a coach. His return to management was found with Lincoln City. In an interview with Lincolnshire Live, Appleton responded to links with the then vacant Bristol City job, assuring Lincoln fans he was there for the long haul.
Since the start of the 2019/20 season, Lincoln City have used four separate formations across four competitions this season. The most used one of those was the 4-2-3-1, which was the set-up for 33 of the 42 games this season. So, for the squad set up, I will be looking at the 4-2-3-1 set-up. All of the formations were found using Transfermarkt.
GK – Josh Vickers
RB – Neal Eardley
RCB – Jason Shackell
LCB – Cian Bolger
LB – Harry Toffolo
RCM – Joe Morrall
LCM – Michael O’Connor
RW – Harry Anderson
CAM – Jack Payne
LW – Jorge Grant
ST – Tyler Walker
24-year-old Josh Vickers was Lincoln’s first-choice goalkeeper last season, making 37 appearances in all competitions last season. The back up to him was Grant Smith, who spent the first half of the season with Lincoln before joining Boreham Wood on loan for the end of the 2019/20 season. All stats supplied by WhoScored. Vickers made 91 saves from his 35 league appearances last season, collecting 10 clean sheets.
On the right side, 31-year-old Neal Eardley was the most used player this season for Lincoln, playing 39 times in all competitions, getting two assists. Aaron Lewis joined Lincoln from Swansea in the summer, but only featured five times, scoring once and getting one assist. Stats wise, Eardley made 35 tackles and 77 interceptions last season. Was a very key defender for Lincoln.
On the left, Harry Toffolo was Lincoln’s starting left back for the first half of the season, playing 33 times in all competitions before leaving to join up with the Cowley’s at Huddersfield. In support of Toffolo, and then replacing him was summer loan signing and then winter signing Max Melbourne from West Brom. Melbourne played 11 times for Lincoln last season. In terms of the stats, Toffolo made 35 tackles and 43 interceptions before joining Huddersfield.
In the centre of defence, 28-year-old Cian Bolger was the main centre back for Lincoln last year, playing 33 times in all competitions without scoring. Partnered alongside him for the length of the campaign was 36-year-old Jason Shackell, who played 29 times last season for Lincoln, scoring twice. Also used as a centre-half last season was 32-year-old Michael Bostwick, who played the majority of his 21 games at centre back. Stats wise, Bolger made 18 tackles and 33 interceptions last season. Compare that to club captain Shackell, who made 10 tackles and 29 interceptions. Neither defender was a stand-out this season.
In the middle of the pitch, Lincoln had a whole host of options to work with. Summer loan signing Joe Morrell was the first-choice midfielder last season, playing 32 times and getting four assists after joining from Bristol City for the season. A permanent summer signing for Lincoln was Jack Payne, joining from Huddersfield. Payne played 30 times last season, scoring twice and getting two assists. 24-year-old Jake Hesketh joined on loan from Southampton for the season, Hesketh played 24 times last season, scoring once and getting one assist. 32-year-old Michael O’Connor spent the majority of the season playing alongside Morrell, with the midfielder playing 22 times and getting one goal.
Academy product Ellis Chapman made 17 appearances last season, without scoring a goal. Summer loanee Callum Connolly played 15 times in the first six months of the season, before having his loan cut short and joining Fleetwood for the rest of the campaign. Another loanee, this time Conor Coventry, joined from West Ham in the winter, playing seven times without a goal. Tayo Edun joined Lincoln in January from Fulham, playing six times without a goal. 31-year-old Liam Bridcutt joined Lincoln on loan from Forest in January, having spent the first half of the season with Bolton. Stats wise, Joe Morrall made 54 tackles and 49 interceptions last season, whilst also having a 80% pass accuracy. A good season for the loanee.
On the wing, summer signing Jorge Grant was the leading winger for Lincoln this year, having joined from Nottingham Forest. Grant played 38 times last season, getting two goals and 11 assists. A very good campaign from the winger. 23-year-old Harry Anderson played 37 times for Lincoln this year, getting seven goals and four assists. Another very good season for a wide player at Lincoln.
In a supporting role to both Grant and Anderson was Bruno Andrade, who played 23 times for Lincoln last season, getting two goals and four assists before joining Salford in January. In terms of the stats, Jorge Grant had a 56% dribble completion rate and a 74% pass accuracy rate, adding to his 11 assists. Harry Anderson had a 40% dribble completion rate last season, and a 73% pass accuracy rate.
Going forward, Tyler Walker was Lincoln’s main man last season, playing 34 times last season and getting 16 goals and four assists after joining for six months from Forest, before returning to them in January. John Akinde was another striker that left Lincoln mid-way through the season, scoring eight goals in 29 games before leaving to join Gillingham. Replacing those two was Tom Hopper, with the striker joining from Southend in the winter, playing eight games and getting two goals. Also arriving was Tyreece John-Jules from Arsenal on loan, playing seven times and getting one goal. Stats wise, Tyler Walker was the standout player, having 64 shots in his time with Lincoln, with 46 of those coming from the penalty area.
Lincoln have been very active in the transfer window so far, with Michael Appleton putting his own stamp on the squad with the new season approaching. Neal Eardley and Michael Bostwick have both been brought by Burton Albion, with Appleton happy to let two of his experienced players leave this season. Midfielder Jack Payne has gone to Swindon Town, spending only a year with Lincoln. Defender Ben Coker has joined Stevenage on loan for the season. The day of writing this, defender Cian Bolger has just been announced as a new signing for Northampton Town.
On the ‘unretained’ list, Lincoln have let key player Josh Vickers leave on a free, a goalkeeper who could fit into any League One side. Also released is Lee Frecklington, Akeem Hinds, Alan Sheehan, Tom Pett, Charlie Andrew, Grant Smith and Jason Shackell. With the season ending, the loan deals of Jake Hesketh, Joe Morrell, Timothy Eyoma, Liam Birdcutt, Conor Coventry and Tyreece John-Jules all ending.
With 18 players leaving at the end of the season, Lincoln have acted quickly to try and fill the voids left, bringing in eight players so far. The first summer signing for Lincoln was central midfielder James Jones from Crewe Alexandra, with the Scottish international signing a three-year deal with the club. Next up is Dutch centre half Lewis Montsma, who joined the club after his release from FC Dordrecht in the Dutch Second Tier. 23-year-old Goalkeeper Ethan Ross has left League Two Colchester to join up with Lincoln in League One, after Josh Vicker’s departure.
Another midfielder to join Lincoln is ex-MK Dons player Conor McGrandles, who had his contract mutually terminated to allow him to join Lincoln. Also joining from MK Dons is Joe Walsh, with the 28-year-old defender joining after the expiration of his contract. Last season’s loanee Liam Bridcutt has rejoined the Imps on a permanent deal, adding to their midfield options, whislt Timothy Eyoma’s short lived spell with Lincoln last season has been extended for another year after Tottenham allowed him to spend another season with the club. Going further north, Lincoln have also picked up Hibernian’s Adam Jackson, with the defender joining for an undisclosed fee.
The Problem Areas?
With lots of players out, and a lot of players in, Lincoln will be dealing with a very different squad compared to last season. In goal, Lincoln have only Ethan Ross to work with after Josh Vickers and Grant Smith’s release in the summer. May be an area looked at, with Ross not featuring much in League Two last season. Lincoln have one right back and one left back to work with. Max Melbourne will probably be the starting left back going forward, but Aaron Lewis did not feature heavily last year. Wouldn’t be surprised if Lincoln looked for a right back next season.
In the center of defence, Lincoln have set themselves up for a possible change of formations to a three-at-the-back. AdamJackson, Joe Walsh, Lewis Montsma and Timothy Eyoma are with them this year. A strong area, that could signal a change of set up. In midfield, Lincoln have strengthened with the loss of Jack Payne, Jake Hesketh, Joe Morrell and Conor Coventry. Ellis Chapman and Tayo Edun are still there, with Conor McGrandles, Liam Bridcutt and James Jones making up the numbers. Lincoln might look for a more attacking midfielder. On the wing, Lincoln still have Harry Anderson and Jorge Grant to start, and have Anthony Scully and Zak Elbouzedi as backups. Might not be an area looked at. Going forward, Lincoln lost Tyler Walker and John Akinde in the winter, and with Tyreece John-Jules returning to Arsenal, Lincoln have only Tom Hopper and Jordan Adebayo-Smith to work with. Should be the most important signing they make this window.
I’m not suggesting by any means that I am a scouting guru who has an extensive knowledge of the world of football, but I do like the process of the transfer windows, and trying to be someone who can identify talent when it becomes available. For each team, after identifying the problem areas, I want to try and see if I can find any players for a specific set of positions who could be suited to each club, based on previous transfer years and the club’s reputation surrounding incomings:
Right Back –
Chris Gunter – Reading – 31 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Reading in the summer, and could find a new home with Lincoln in League One.
Jazz Richards – Cardiff – 29 y/o – Free Agent
Released by the Welsh side in the summer, playing 11 times for them this season, could get a lower end Championship side, but maybe a good League One team could interest him.
Chris Solly – Charlton – 29 y/o – Free Agent
Turned down a new contract from Charlton in the summer, but I don’t know if he’ll be a Championship player next season.
Tom Hamer – Oldham – 20 y/o – Transfer Fee
Had a very good season for Oldham last season, scoring three goals and one assist. Deserves a chance in League One.
James Gibbons – Port Vale – 22 y/o – Transfer Fee
1 goal and 5 assists in 39 games last season. Another league two defender who deserves to play in League One
Ethan Laird – Manchester United – 19 y/o – Loan Deal
Needs a season out on loan. Looks to be a good prospect for United in the future. Spell in League One could be beneficial.
Tyler Walker – Nottingham Forest – 23 y/o – Transfer Fee
Spent last season with Lincoln. 16 goals. Has been told he can leave if a team comes in for him. Has been linked with Lincoln, but has also been looked at by Hull, Ipswich, Peterborough and Huddersfield.
Callum Morton – West Brom – 20 y/o – Loan Deal
Spent last season on loan with Northampton, scoring eight goals in 12 games. Very impressive forward, who has been linked with Lincoln over the past few weeks.
Tyreece John-Jules – Arsenal – 18 y/o – Loan Deal
Spent last few months of season with Lincoln, so could be the ideal player to bring back into the club for the new season.
Dominic Samuel – Blackburn – 26 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Blackburn in the summer. Linked with a few teams in League One, could be a career restart at Lincoln.
Marcus Forss – Brentford – 21 y/o – Loan Deal
Spent last season with Wimbledon. Incredible record of goals in League One last season, could be the ideal loanee for Lincoln.
Omar Bogle – Cardiff – 28 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Cardiff in the summer. Spent last six months of the season with ADO Den Haag.
It’s always difficult to tell how each team is going to fair in the new season, because we haven’t seen many signings nor the influence of pre-season friendlies. Just by going off how each team is expected to deal with the current COVID-19 financial troubles, and what each team is capable of doing under much greater restraint right now, I think that Lincoln will spend another season in mid-table. They’ll have a new look squad that will need time to gel, but I think they will pick themselves up by the end of the season.
What do you guys think? How do you think Lincoln will fair in the new season? Will Michael Appleton’s new look team rocket Lincoln up the league? Or will it take some time for the club to gel? Let me know in the comments below and make sure to follow All Out Football on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.