After a couple of weeks waiting new Imps boss Danny Cowley finally released his retained list today, and in doing so he gave me something to write about. I could have been watching Game of Thrones now, or sticking my stickers in my Euro 2016 sticker book like a child. Instead I feel the need to write about the retained list and then post it online in the hope you’ll read it.
I think the first person I have to speak about is Liam Hearn, and trust me this is also the last time I will speak about him. Liam really frustrated me because I still feel he has a lot to offer the game at this level, but in signing for Ilkeston he has proven a lack of ambition, or so it seems. He’s receiving the usual vitriol from Imps fans, and even I felt it necessary to block him on twitter, as if he’d really care about it. However I’ve been thinking a lot about Liam and I’ve come to a conclusion that perhaps he isn’t the massive prat we all think he is.
Yes he let us down when we needed him. Yes he always seems to be injured, or at least thinks he’s injured and yes he’s dropped down the pyramid in what looks like a classic example of losing his bottle. However I ask you to consider this: Liam Hearn has had not one but two career threatening injuries. I’d wager that during his spell on the side lines there were doubts about his ability to play the game again, maybe even his overall mobility came into question? Maybe a player bounces back from one such injury, but two? Sure he was lucky enough to keep that sharpness to his game, but psychological damage can be just as devastating as physical damage. I would expect it tough for a footballer to admit that, and if he was fearing serious injury all the time maybe he would make strange decisions, like going to Barrow? I expect that wanting to go into coaching at a relatively young age shows he’s thinking ahead in his career, maybe he’s lost his edge like Chris Eubank did after the Michael Watson fight? He’s only human and whilst he hasn’t made the decisions I’d like him to, he’s made the one that is right for Liam Hearn. Sincerely I wish him all the best, despite blocking him on twitter. If you’re reading this Liam I’m half sorry. The other half of me is still hacked off you went to Barrow.
Also a surprise player technically released today is Greg Tempest. Many fans felt he’d been worth another year and despite being invited back for pre season training he now has a point to prove. I liked that Danny Cowley spoke of Tempest and Robinson having a month or so to prove themselves, I imagine what they’ve actually got is a month or so to see if any better players can be attracted to the club. I like Greg as a character but if I’m brutally honest it took until perhaps the home win over Southport for me to see his virtues as a player and even then I wasn’t fully convinced. He tried hard and had a good attitude, but he was limited in his passing ability and gave the ball away too often. Some of last seasons players were always going to be released and I expect Greg will find somewhere else to ply his trade before pre season training starts. He’d fit in well at a North Ferriby or Gainsborough but I don’t think he has what it takes to be part of a top three National League side. I also think with Craig Stanley having triggered a clause in his one year deal to secure an extension that the dressing room was becoming a little crowded with midfield players. Given a choice between Stanley and Tempest I’d go for Stanley every time as he knows what it takes to be successful at this level, that may not be the general consensus but I think there’s more to see from ‘Stanners’, the only man to have a nickname longer than his actual name.
I can’t help but feel that if Danny had absolute power over who stayed or went then one or two of the longer contracted players might have been packing their backs. I was very surprised to see Callum Howe offered a new deal and I imagine both Lee Beevers and Luke Waterfall might have been sweating had their deals been up for renewal. The fact is we conceded too many goals last season, something the new bosses are all too aware of. Someone has to be to blame for that and we know the gaffer is a fan of Paul Farman, so the blame has to lie elsewhere. Chris Bush was probably fortunate to trigger a clause in his contract too, but of those three I’ve mentioned it wouldn’t surprise me to see at least two of them shipped out on loan early next season, especially in the case of Lee Beevers who has been no more than average all season long. Think Tony Diagne and Nat Brown – this seasons two year deal is next seasons released player.
I’m not surprised that Matt Sparrow hasn’t been retained either, I expected much more from him this season, and I think it’s clear his heart will always be up the A15 in Scunthorpe. He was never going to run through walls for the red and white and his little dummy spitting incident on social media tonight proves he wasn’t a fit for the club. I imagine it didn’t take the Danny long to spot he wasn’t committed to the cause when he looked into his eyes, that’s if he hadn’t spotted it from the endless DVD’s of this seasons games where ‘Spadge’ (that’s a proper nickname) was often conspicuous by his lack of input.
I am delighted that they’ve chosen to offer Elliot Hodge a new deal. I caught a lot of games towards the tale end of the season and I liked what I saw in young Hodge. He looked strong and stocky with a nice touch and I’m sure with the right coaching he will take his chances. Conner Robinson has had his chances and unfortunately he hasn’t taken them, but Elliot looks different. Young Alex Simmons has also been offered a deal, and although I haven’t seen enough of him to comment too much I am impressed that the new bosses want to keep some of the younger players in and around the squad. Given their history of working with young people I can’t help but feel this is the best opportunity since Keith Alexander for young players to break through, if they have the talent. With Kegan Everington and Andrew Wright also offered deals I doubt very much that we’ll see returns for George Maris or Robbie McDaid as there is no point in drafting in other teams young players when we’ve got some of our own.
Unfortunately I also doubt we’ll see a return for James Caton, despite his good form when he arrived from Shrewsbury. I think he rushed back from his injury too quickly because he never really reached the heights of his early performances at the end of the season, and if the manager has watched the last few games I doubt he will have seen anything to convince him we need to bring in Caton. It’s a shame because I think he has a lot to offer us, however his talent does warrant a league club taking a punt on him. I expect him to rock up in the north east with either a league two side or maybe an aspiring National League side like Tranmere.
I strongly suspect that the next five or six names you see linked with the club will either be players the Cowley brothers have worked with already, or have seen in action themselves. As a manager myself (although not football) I look to bring in people who I have worked with in the past, even if it just the odd one wherever I go. I did it at Jewson and I have done it in my current role. If you bring someone in you’re familiar with you bring in an ally, someone who knows you and will undoubtedly have your back. Whilst the managers don’t really need this they’ll look to introduce some familiarity into the squad as a platform to accentuate their ethics. If they already know player A is on board with their philosophy then it’s one less head they need to turn in the dressing room, and one more voice praising their approach. I would wager ten years wages we see at leastone ex Braintree player arrive at the Bank before August is upon us.
I’d like to finish by commenting on the article I read earlier about Matt Rhead. I thought it was very clever to stress how important Matt was to the club, but also to admit he has a price. It almost sounded like a hook was being dangled in front of Barrow with a price tag of £100k on it. Personally to mention that figure in regard to Matt Rhead is absolutely crazy, but if someone is prepared to pay it then we should snap their hand off. 20 goals a season or not a six figure price tag could buy us a younger and more mobile replacement such as Dale Southwell or maybe Simeon Akinola? I’m not suggesting we actively look to sell our 20 goal hero, but I’m also not suggesting that he is priceless. After all football is a business and money does talk, especially one hundred thousand pounds.
My apologies to Grimsby fans for using words like conspicuous and accentuate in tonight’s blog. Google has a great thesaurus if you’d like to know what some bigger words mean.