Last season was one to forget for Lincoln City. They were impressive away from home, picking up wins at Gillingham and Dagenham & Rebridge, but their performance at home was dreadful.
When the new season kicks off it will be 294 days since the Imps won at home on a Saturday which confined them to a mid-table finish.
Manager Peter Jackson has admitted he made mistakes. 12 months ago there was a buzz about the place. Jackson made several big-name signings, such as former Chelsea defender Frank Sinclair, and beat a full strength Aston Villa side 3–1 in a pre-season friendly where the Premiership side were played off the park.
However, when the league got properly under way the players performed well below par.
So onto this season. Last season saw a wealth of big-name players arrive at Sincil Bank, but without results. During the summer break Jackson has drastically changed his transfer policy. Rather than high-profile players, Jackson has gone for mainly young, keen, and enthusiastic ones.
The defence sees the arrival of full backs Joe Heath and Cian Hughton. Heath joins the club on loan from Nottingham Forest until the end of December. His opportunities at his parent club are limited following the arrival of Chris Gunter.
Hughton joins on a six-month contract, following an impressive trial at the club after his release from Tottenham Hotspur. He will take the place of Paul Green, who is out of action until Christmas following an operation on his hip, which hampered him last season. Both players are attacking full backs with pace and will look to overlap the wingers at every opportunity.
Three new signings have bolstered the midfield. 20-year-old Jamie Clarke has signed a one-year deal following his release from Rotherham United this summer. Clarke is a tricky winger who has pace to burn, and was signed to replace Dany N’Guessan who left to join Leicester City.
Local boy Sam Clucas has signed from Lincoln College. He is no stranger to Sincil Bank having played as a youngster. Clucas also went onto play for the Leicester City academy before starting college. The very technical player will provide cover in the centre of midfield.
The summer also saw the return of Richard Butcher. The centre midfielder rejoins the club for the third time, having had two spells in 2005. He says he has unfinished business at Sincil Bank, having played in the 2005 play-off final defeat at the Millennium Stadium to Southend.
Up front proved to be the biggest weakness last season, with goals hard to come by. Jackson has brought in a new front line to try and address the situation.
Former Manchester United academy prospect Chris Fagan joined from the Glenn Hoddle academy. He has impressed during the pre-season, and has netted himself three goals. Although not the fastest, Fagan is an intelligent player and seems to find space in the box.
Joining Fagan is Paul Connor, who impressed Jackson during a trial with the club. Connor is a big target man who wins his headers and looks to be the perfect partner for Fagan.
The final piece of Jackson’s jigsaw was the signing of striker Rene Howe on loan from Championship side Peterborough United. Howe is a big player with plenty of strength and, following two loan periods in League Two, knows how to score. The Imps will be relying on these three players to bang the goals in, and to challenge at the top of the table.
It certainly looks to be an interesting campaign for the club. Having seen the side in two pre-season friendlies, they have a lot of pace and power.
The young squad have an exuberance about them, and a willingness to fight for the club. Older players, such as Butcher and Scott Kerr, lend their experience to the likes of Clarke and Fagan.
Expectations are lower and the pressure is not as high as it was last season. This is mainly due to their poor performance last seasons, but also the departure of the more high-profile players, such as N’Guessan and Adrian Patulea.
Whether they are ready to battle for promotion, only time will tell. If they can stay clear of injuries and suspensions then perhaps this small, young squad can finally deliver promotion on the 125th anniversary of Lincoln City F.C.Tweet