May 2, 2022 10.14 am

Who could and should replace Michael Appleton at Lincoln City?

A few names we think could work

With the curtain falling on Michael Appleton’s reign as Lincoln City manager, the search is now on for his replacement – and the likely candidates vary from youth coaches to vastly experienced professionals in the game.

Lincoln City supporters were given the news of Michael Appleton’s departure from the club, following the conclusion of the 2021/22 season, which saw the Imps finish on a high with a 2-1 home win against relegated Crewe.

Appleton’s three years at the LNER Stadium saw seemingly impossible highs of a play-off final, playing some of the best football in many a generation and attracting top level players such as Brennan Johnson and Morgan Rogers to play here.

However, that 2020/21 season was followed by immense difficulty, starting with the difficult news of Appleton’s diagnosis for testicular cancer last summer, which ultimately may have impacted fortunes on the pitch as well.

A lack of form, injury crises every other week, and a lack of a talisman player like Jorge Grant made the task all the more difficult for the Imps. Despite this, Appleton guided the club to 17th place, securing a fourth consecutive season in League One.

The search for a new manager now begins, and the direction the club take is absolutely vital. Could we see an experienced head brought in to get results at this level? Or will a risk be taken on an unproven young coach with fresh ideas? Clive Nates, Liam Scully and the rest of the board have a big decision to make.

Here are five names that could end up becoming the new Lincoln City manager, with a brief explanation as to why they would suit the profile of this proud club with big ambitions.


Ian Foster

Ian Foster is making a name for himself at England U-19s, could senior football in League One be the next step? | Photo: The FA

The bookies’ favourite for the job is 45-year-old Ian Foster, the current manager of the England men’s under-19s team, as well as Phil Neville’s assistant for the women’s senior national side.

He has played a key role in the development of multiple elite level English talents in recent years, including Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Conor Gallagher and Emile Smith-Rowe.

His only previous experience as a senior football manager was with Galway United and Dundalk FC in Ireland, so it would be a big step up for Foster. However, based on the evidence provided by Blackpool and Neil Critchley, taking a risk on a youth level coach can often be very advantageous.


Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson has proven credentials in both League One and the Championship. | Photo: Sunderland AFC via Twitter

It’s often difficult to forget how successful a manager Lee Johnson has been. He’s been there and done it in League One with Oldham and Barnsley, as well as spending four years in the Championship with Bristol City.

While his spell at Sunderland may not have gone exactly to plan, we’ve seen in recent times the top job at the Black Cats can be somewhat of a poisoned chalice, so the opportunity to get an experienced Championship-level manager should not be dismissed completely.

A squad shake-up would be necessary if Johnson came into the club, and while the appointment of the ex-Bristol City manager would maybe be good news for some, it would almost certainly spell the end for Chris Maguire, who was released by Johnson at Sunderland last season.


Michael Duff

Leading the way at Cheltenham Town, maybe Michael Duff is the next man on Lincoln’s radar. | Photo: Cheltenham Town FC

The former Cheltenham and Burnley defender is only in the very early stages of his managerial career, but since returning to the Robins as manager rather than player in 2018, he has made a big impression.

Duff’s name is infamous with Cheltenham fans after he guided the team to its first ever automatic promotion in the football league, winning League Two in 2020/21 and also being named the manager of the season for his efforts.

He has managed to steer the side clear of relegation trouble in League One as well, despite limited resources, and he could be the courageous next step in Lincoln’s progression.


Chris Hughton

Chris Hughton has managed Newcastle, Norwich and Brighton in the past, could Lincoln be his next destination? | Photo: Nottingham Forest FC

A few years ago this would have been a preposterous name to put on a list of next Lincoln City managers, but the directions of both Chris Hughton and the Imps has seen them end up closer together in recent years.

Hughton has a fairly stellar managerial CV. A former winner of the Championship with Newcastle, a Premier League manager with three different clubs, it’s hard to turn your nose up at what he’s done in the game.

His last job was a disappointing spell at Nottingham Forest, perhaps damaged further by the brilliance of Steve Cooper’s reign, and Hughton will now surely be looking for redemption – perhaps taking a step down to League One to do so.


Roy Keane

We’ve all seen him on Sky, could Roy Keane be the next Lincoln manager? | Photo: Roy Keane via Instagram

At times this season, fans have suggested that a few of the Lincoln City players needed a real dressing down from an iron fist manager. Enter Roy Keane.

Keane was a steely competitor on the pitch, captaining the great Manchester United sides to English and European glory, and he has made no secret of his desire to return to management.

Could his style be outdated given his last managerial job was in 2011? Entirely possible. Would it be good fun regardless? You bet.


Danny Cowley

Danny Cowley, the legendary former Imps manager. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

I mean, come on. I just had to, didn’t I?