It’s every football fan’s least favourite time of the year – the purgatory of the off-season. At Lincoln City there have been big changes with a new manager at the helm, so we took a look at where the squad can be improved ahead of the new campaign.
Lincoln City entered a new era following the conclusion of the 2021/22 League One season. Now-former manager Michael Appleton left his role after steering the Imps clear of relegation and guaranteeing a fourth successive season in the third tier.
His replacement is Mark Kennedy, the former Irish international with limited management experience at senior level, but an impressive pedigree in youth level coaching.
Kennedy signed pen to paper on a four-year contract in May, and will be tasked with continuing the wonderful work of his predecessors – but with key players leaving, who might he turn to in the transfer market this summer?
The Lincolnite has taken a look at the contracted first team players for next season and put them into position order, to see which areas need strengthening for 2022/23.
The goalkeeper position is a curious one for the Imps. Jordan Wright put in a series of impressive performances upon his arrival in January, and Sam Long is an academy prospect with high hopes.
Despite having two talented keepers, there are reports that the Imps are closing in on a move to sign goalkeeper Lee Burge from Sunderland – perhaps as a more experienced option to the younger players currently at the club.
An experienced goalkeeper on a free transfer may not be terrible business for Lincoln, giving the club a chance to send Sam Long out on loan to perhaps a League Two or National League club in the next stage of his development.
With Lewis Montsma out until around Christmas, and Adam Jackson and Joe Walsh notoriously struggling to keep fit on a consistent basis, this may well be the priority position in the transfer window this summer for the Imps.
TJ Eyoma is a player with massive potential and he has shown on plenty of occasions that he has the ability to stand out in a Lincoln City defence, while youth prospects Sean Roughan and Hayden Cann could also play a role next season.
The sensible decision would be to slowly integrate Roughan into the first team, send Cann out on loan and sign one or two defenders in case of an injury disaster similar to last season – which we have seen is entirely possible with this team.
As left backs go, Lincoln are sorted. Cohen Bramall offers electric pace and an attacking threat, while Jamie Robson is a more rounded defender – but both are more than ready for a starting eleven spot.
At right back you have Lincoln City’s player of the year Regan Poole, though he could end up slotting in as a right sided centre half in a back three, should Mark Kennedy opt for that system. TJ Eyoma is also an option, though his natural place is at the heart of defence.
I feel a right back either on loan or as a shrewd purchase is a necessity this summer, so as not to put too much reliance on the brilliant Poole, particularly over the course of a long season.
Lincoln City’s engine room has taken a big hit for next season, with Conor McGrandles announcing his intention to leave and club captain Liam Bridcutt yet to agree to a new contract at the Imps.
The club do still have Lasse Sorensen, Max Sanders and Ted Bishop on the books, along with academy graduates Oisin Gallagher, Elicha Ahui and Morgan Worsfold-Gregg – but you can’t help but feel more is needed.
A strong, combative anchoring midfielder is surely high up on the shopping list this summer, as well as a creative spark in the middle to replicate the play of Jorge Grant and Lewis Fiorini in recent seasons. I would expect Gallagher, Ahui and Worsfold-Gregg to depart on loan.
At the peak of the Michael Appleton era, his two wide players were arguably the most important players in the team, but we have no idea what formation or setup Mark Kennedy will opt for.
Should he decide to play with wingers, perhaps in a 433 or 4231 system, the Imps have last season’s top scorer Anthony Scully, experienced Scot Chris Maguire, the tricky Hakeeb Adelakun and returning loanee Theo Archibald to choose from.
We could end up seeing an improved version of the likes of Maguire and Adelakun next season, but I do think that an exciting young winger on loan would be a smart move by the club.
Mark Kennedy has a lot of work to do with the Lincoln City squad over the summer, but one position that shouldn’t give him too many headaches is up front.
With the ever-reliable Tom Hopper at his disposal, along with young talents Ben House and Charley Kendall, both from non-league, the Imps manager will have plenty of options for strikers next season.
Add onto that the excitement around academy prospects Freddie Draper and Jovon Makama, and I would suggest that a new striker may not be walking through the door this summer at the LNER Stadium – despite the loss of John Marquis.