New-look Imps mix maturity with energy

One year ago Lincoln City were hoping that the 2009-10 season would bring more success than the previous campaign, which had left the Imps disappointed to finish in mid-table.

Peter Jackson was still in charge at Sincil Bank and had drafted in new blood, such as Jamie Clarke and Joe Heath, to help the team towards the higher reaches of the league. On paper, everything seemed in place for a victorious season, but a year is a long time in football.


Last season's fans' favourite proved to be loanee Davide Somma, this season it could be this man, Mustapha Carayol. Photo: Tom Farmery

Promotion aspirations were dented early into the season when a dismal run of results saw Jackson sacked as manager from the club. His replacement was Chris Sutton who applied the brakes to Lincoln’s ruinous start by freshening things up with various signings—including the inspired loan acquisition of crowd favourite Davide Somma.

Sutton managed to narrowly guide the Imps to safety, mainly thanks to the heroics of Somma and the now departed goalkeeper Rob Burch. But his real challenge will come in the 2010-11 season.

With the League Two slate wiped clean, the Imps faithful are confident of a play-off push this time around. Towards the end of last season performances certainly improved—among them was the Imps overpowering of eventual promotion winners Bournemouth.

Sutton has kept faith with the majority of his backline from last season. Cian Hughton, Moses Swaibu, Joe Anderson and Paul Green remain at the club, while the return of tough centre back Adam Watts will boost the Imps defence. Watts suffered a leg break against Grimsby in February but has featured in pre-season and looks likely to secure a starting berth. New signing Jamie Clapham is likely to provide defensive cover.

Despite the familiar looking defence, Sutton was forced to scour the market for a new goalkeeper after last season’s ‘Player of the Year’ Burch left for Notts County. He has a tough act to follow, but former Port Vale stopper Joe Anyon will hope to prove himself a capable replacement for Burch.

The strong Josh O’Keefe will spark competition for central midfield places, with Scott Kerr and Clark Keltie, but it is on the flanks where Sutton has focused his recruitment. Albert Jarrett, Gavin McCallum and Mustapha Carayol all possess incredible pace, making Lincoln arguably the quickest side in the division.

Drewe Broughton has signed a permanent contract after impressing on loan last season. He will be expected to link well with both McCallum and journeyman Delroy Facey. The Imps are the 30-year-old’s 13th club and the striker is well accustomed to the lower leagues. Youngster Andy Hutchinson should also see a fair amount of game time if the Imps don’t strengthen their forward line before the end of the transfer window.

The wave of optimism around Sincil Bank is very similar to that of 12 months ago—and that story nearly had a catastrophic ending. The class of 2010-11 still lack a prolific goal scorer, though some consider the pursuit of a 20 goals-a-season striker to be idealistic as such forwards are hardly available to clubs like City.

Even though Lincoln City lack a quality, recognised striker, it seems Sutton has put his faith in two different types of player this summer—players who are either familiar with the club or familiar with the division. That will ensure the team hit the ground running, which is something last season’s team failed to do. The squad also seems to possess a good mix of exuberance and level-headedness. The likes of Kerr, Clapham and Broughton give the team a degree of pragmatism which balances the team and allows the likes of McCallum and Carayol more freedom to express themselves.

On paper it makes sense. Whether it works on the pitch is a very different matter.

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