PES 17 (PlayStation 4) review

Such was my malaise this year with the PES v FIFA debate I missed the release date of Konami’s yearly foray into the football game market. PES 16 had lured me briefly as it had with it’s 15 and 14 incarnations before it. However it was more a case of showing courtesy to an old friend, a nodding glance backwards at days when it was the king of the genre.

Inevitably FIFA comes along with it’s flashy presentation and massive licensing and little old Pro Evo gets put to one side. They don’t do themselves any favours though when buying licenses like Euro 16 and then delivering a really disappointing add-on. It was this poorly presented summer release that convinced me FIFA was the way forward. I was already planning how to live through the career of young Alex Hunter in the brave new EA Sports feature ‘The Journey’.

Curiosity got the better of me though and when I actually discovered Pro Evo had been out for a week or three I decided to give it one last bash. I had no intention of doing so but an old friend (Mr Judson) recommended PES this year based on the demo he’d played. For me this was big news.

Chris was the first person to recommend FIFA over PES to me way back in 2008. I bought FIFA 09 and the corresponding PES release in a break from tradition. I had never bought a FIFA release over Konami but as Xbox 360’s broke onto the scene EA Sports stole the crown, and in truth since then they’ve ruled the roost. Recently people have said ‘this years PES is a winner’, but ultimately  it’s almost always been dewy-eyed respect for it’s past glories or hipsters wanting to back the lesser known soccer release to be trendy.

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I’m not going to talk you through the licensing and presentation issues in this review. They’re still there. Going online and downloading official kits and names is possible and it is easier this year than in past years. However the commentary still grates like fingers down a blackboard, so to try and heighten my pleasure I switch off Jim Beglin and Peter Brackley.

I launched straight into the master league mode which is what I played as a younger man. I put a little work in before hand looking up how to design Lincoln’s kits and badge and how to upload them. It sounds geeky I know but in my heart I wanted PES 17 to blow me away, and the only way I could help was to make sure I could be Lincoln. FIFA can’t give you that.

The first few games weren’t great. I have played so much FIFA the controls are like second nature, and I found myself trying the use the skill buttons from FIFA on PES. That didn’t work as you’d expect. I lost a couple of games to nil on regular difficulty, so I switched to amateur. I won my next five games by six or seven goals. The difficulty levels are certainly not well stepped.

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My first six game-months as a manager did nothing to convince me that I shouldn’t attend a midnight lanch of FIFA last night. I struggled along and scraped by, looking at tutorials on YouTube and trying to figure out  some sort of strategy and game plan. Once upon a time I had been a Pro Evo king, when games could only be played by being in the same room as your opponent. I went undefeated for almost two years in 2001/02. Now I was struggling to beat Brentford on regular mode and I couldn’t even afford to sign players. I was stuck with the lame master league eleven of nobodies and no means to improve who I had.

It seems obvious now but as the games rolled on I learned a few new tricks and moves. I began to recognise my nameless players skills and strengths and I began to adapt my formation to suit.

Okay I wasn’t waltzing around defender after defender with neat shimmies like FIFA, but I was dissecting something much more realistic. I began to see the runners, and I started to understand the fundamental differences in controlling my players. Slowly but surely I was getting rid of my ‘FIFA programming’ and learning how to play PES properly.

I’m not sure at what point I forgot I was playing my so-called second choice game. Maybe it was the heart breaking moment Birmingham pulled back two goals in a game I’d dominated by suddenly attacking me in the final ten minutes. It might have been the moment my new six foot six loan striker headed in a cross just as I’d hopedwhen I signed him. It might have been as Coutinho (‘S’ Coutinho. Steve maybe?) turned a Reading defender and scuffed a weak shot into the ground and past the goalkeeper. I realised I was becoming immersed in a truly brilliant game, a game that had grabbed me like no FIFA release since 2009.

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Everything began to feel so organic. Opponents missed glorious chances to leave me with my heart in my mouth, but they had the ability to conjur things up out of nothing as well. I noticed Barnsley begin to press further forward 60 minutes into our clash so I switch my tactics to an over the top approach looking to hit space. I won that game with a late ball over the top and found myself leaping off the sofa with joy. The result left my sixth in ‘English Division Two’ as it’s called, or the Championship as we know it.

At first I had been trying to play FIFA on PES and I had simply been found out. This isn’t just a game, it’s a proper simulation. Every team has a different approach and I found myself trying to adapt as games wore on. I even upped the game time from 8 minutes to 12 minutes just to experience more of the tactical cat and mouse. I found the longer game allowed more time for slow build up, passes sideways probing and looking for the space to open. Some games I could swarm all over my opponents just looking for an opening, and then others I barely get a touch as a slick CPU packs the midfield and stifles my threats.

I didn’t need the frostbite game engine or the bundles of official teams and players, I just needed this wonderful simulation of the game I love, perhaps not catching the drama of the pitch, but perfectly recreating everything that is glorious on it. The sound isn’t great, the commentary is awful and even the additional effects are very 2006. PES have made no major strides in audio in the best part of a decade. I can forgive that.

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Before I knew it I’d hit the transfer window on my master league game, and a youth team player I’d brought in sold for £12m. I could go out scouting, but it had to be measured and calculated. The team chemistry system is brilliant and really makes you think about which strategies to play. The menu may well still be clunky but what you do off the pitch in PES is as important as what you do off it. On FIFA I marvel at scrolling through page after page after page of real players and data, but on PES I barely read the names. I didn’t care who I signed, I cared what I signed. I needed a six foot six striker to aim my big lump forward at, and whether that was A.Brown or Z.Zubizaretta. I didn’t care, and I still don’t.

The truth is that FIFA is presented much better. Graphically FIFA is better and in terms of options and depth FIFA is better. It clearly has a much bigger budget and much more mass market appeal. However these are football games, and all of the bells and whistles in the world do not change the fact that the action is judged on those 90 minutes your pixelated players spend out on the turf. It’s those 90 minutes that truly matter and this year, more than ever PES has the upper hand in this crucial area. The simple fact is that once you can play it properly it is a significantly better football simulation.

I know when I want an additional challenge that I will yearn a little for those options and game modes over on FIFA. I know as a football game addict I will have both and I will occasionally stray across to FIFA to assemble my ultimate team or to play the Alex Hunter thing. However I will always know that whilst the goodies FIFA offers outside the game engine will give them some of my attention, I will always be wishing that it was the Konami game I was playing when the ball is on the pitch.

I haven’t played FIFA 17 yet. I will, tomorrow and I’ll do a review as well. However I don’t need to play it to make the following statement: FIFA 17 is a beautifully constructed video game version of football.

PES is football.

 

 

 

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Chris Fagan

When Chris Fagan was first announced as a Lincoln player it felt a bit of a let-down. We’d been hanging on for a marquee signing, someone to bang in 20 goals a season. Although he had no proven track record he did have a bit of pedigree. He’d been snapped up as a youngster by Man Utd whilst playing for Home Farm in Ireland, and had three years with their youth set up. He wasn’t offered a contract at United and made his way over to Spain to play at the Glenn Hoddle academy.

Fagan never really looked the part at Lincoln and he managed just three goals in 13 appearances. Although he had obvious talent the physicality and pace of League Two really didn’t suit the youngster and when Peter Jackson left the club it seemed Fagan’s days were numbered He went out on loan to a Spanish Third Division side Jerez Industrial where he made a slight impact scoring four times in 12 appearances. However it seemed inevitable that on his return he would be released, and along with Sam Clucas he was a casualty of Chris Sutton’s only pre season as Lincoln manager.

The story could have ended there for Fagan, released by a struggling fourth tier side after a series of false starts in his career. A trial at Gateshead didn’t work out either and he saw in Christmas of 2010 without a club. A trial with Irish side Shamrock Rovers didn’t bring a contract either, but undeterred he continued to search for a club and finally signed for Bohemians in Feb 2011.

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He made only 23 appearances for the Irish side but began to find his scoring boots and netted 11 goals, including a Europa League goal against Olimpija Ljubljana. Still only in his early twenties he was finally letting his pedigree show. At the end of the 2011 season he was very much in demand and chose to sign for St Patricks Athletic going straight in as their number nine.

In five seasons playing for St Pat’s he has become the player he always threatened to with an impressive ratio of 72 goals in 157 games. He has become their all time leading European scorer with 6 goals including strike against Legia Warsaw and Dinamo Minsk. In 2013 they won the League of Ireland, and in 2014 the FAI cup, FAI presidents cup and the Leinster senior cup. In 2014 he won the Irish golden boot and was named in team o the year and won player of the year. It’s fair to say he found his feet in front of goal. The past two season he has hit 20 goals in 56 games despite again suffering injuries.

Could he still do a job over in our professional leagues? Probably. Other players who were successful in Ireland have come over and done very well like James McClean and Gareth McAuley. However with regular European football and prolific scoring form would he want to take the chance again at 27 years old? Whichever way you look at it he has found some degree of success despite being rated as not good enough by Chris Sutton, and although it may not be Premier League like Sam Clucas it is still success and trophies. Just goes to show what Chris Sutton knew.

 

Experienced striker trains with Imps

It seems manager Danny Cowley has moved quickly to exploit the savings made by releasing Craig Stanley, with an experienced striker currently training with the Imps.

The player in question, who I’m not going to name, has scored goals regularly at Championship level and has only played a handful of games as low as League Two. He’s a pacey forward who it is assumed is being looked at to compliment the attributes of Matt Rhead.

I’m not naming him as he’s currently a free agent and whilst I’m not the widest read blogger in the world I think it best not to start revealing who the player is in case it scuppered any potential deal. Last season he played league football consistently and I am very surprised a player of his calibre is training with the Imps. I’d urge anyone else ‘in the know’ not to shout it about on social media, just in case.

However this does go some way to proving that our management team are actively searching for a replacement for Jonny Margetts and to be targeting a player still in his twenties who has almost exclusively played League One and above is exciting for Imps fans.

Hopefully we’ll see a scarf fairly soon signalling the signing of a striker that should please those fans who know what he is capable of.

 

Welcome to Theo Robinson?

If you go down to training today you might get a bit of surprise. Just one goal in three games has prompted Danny Cowley to look into securing the services of a goal scorer. With Craig Stanley on his way, enter former Derby County striker Theo Robinson.

The news that Theo has trained with us today is incredibly exciting for anyone that knows their football. He’s an experienced striker who counts Huddersfield, Doncaster and Millwall amongst his clubs. I seem to recall Lincoln being linked with him after he served at Watford as a youth but instead he wound up at the McAlpine Stadium playing for the Terriers.

He’s still only 27 and has scored goals more or less wherever he’s played. More importantly he is a pacey player who likes to drop off a big striker and get in behind the defence. He’s very much in the Macauley Bonne mould only with much more experience at a higher level. He’s only ever played one season below League One, and that was scoring 16 goals in 52 appearances for Hereford back in 2007/08. Whilst playing for Hereford he scored against Lincoln in a 3-1 defeat for the Imps. Both him and Matt Rhead are reversing the trend of players coming back and scoring against us, choosing to do their damage before they sign!

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Theo Robinson

 

Most recently he’s been with Port Vale in League One scoring twice in 14 games, and that came on the back of a spell at Scottish Premiership side Motherwell. Whilst at Port Vale he made history by scoring their 6,000 goal in a 4-1 win over Rochdale. He was a popular figure at Vale Park which is no mean feat for a former Stoke City youth player.

We have certainly looked a little light up front since Jonny Margetts left and whilst yesterday I questioned whether loan and short term players are the way forward I think with Robinson it is different. He is a player who has played at the higher level and he isn’t coming here to break into anybody else’s first team, he’s here to fight for his career.

Robinson has recently become a Dad again and at 27 I feel he will be looking for some security, and he still has plenty to offer at a higher level to the National League. Having spoken to some Port Vale fans they said he still had a real turn of pace and a keen eye for goal and they were sorry to see him depart at the end of the season.

News of a potential new striker is something I think we’ve been expecting to hear for a while, and instead of the usual cast offs from our league like Craig Read and Nathan Blissett we’ve managed to bag someone with proper footballing pedigree. It would certainly be exciting to see him in an Imps shirt, especially after his goal in our friendly today.

John Nutter

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Nutter in action for Gillingham

 

John Nutter is a bit different to my usual A to Z choices. The feature is meant to highlight the nowhere men and the nearly men, but with John Nutter I wanted to highlight another type of player: the decent player who struggled with relocation.

Nutter had a good career before he came to City. After good performances in the non league with Aldershot and Stevenage he ended up at League One Gillingham where he made 135 league appearances in a three year spell.

He arrived at Lincoln as part of Steve Tilson’s attempt to get back into the football league at first attempt. He arrived with a reputation as an attacking full back who had dropped down a level too far. Even by his own admission he felt he’d dropped down further than e needed to.

He was ever present in our first appalling season scoring a couple of goals. He never had a chance to shine in such a poor City side but he also never let the team down. I liked John Nutter as a player but he really suffered from the inconsistency that came with Tilson being sacked and Holdsworth coming in. He scored in a crucial 2-0 home win against Newport after a fans demonstration that sparked a run of three wins to help us towards safety.

In his second season he was named as captain but began to struggle with travelling as he had a young family. His last goal for Lincoln was in a 3-3 draw with Stockport, and his final appearance was in the 3-2 AET win at Walsall in the FA Cup. Shortly afterwards due to family commitments he moved initially on a two month loan down to Woking.

In just his second game for Woking he was on the end of a 7-0 defeat at the hands of Hyde, but they still made his move permanent and he went on to make 70 appearances for the Cards spanning almost two seasons. His last professional game was as a last minute sub in a 1-0 over Forest Green.

After football John settled in the south and has recently been working as a PE Teacher at a prep school.

When TV money doesn’t matter

Lincoln have been selected to play Forest Green on November 19th with a 12.45pm kick off. In times gone by being on TV was a real fillip for a club. It was a chance to show what we could do and the rewards far outweighed the troubles TV can bring you.

The National League is an anomaly all of it’s own. It’s a league that is almost impossible to get promoted from, but twice as easy to drop out of. The prize for being promoted is worth £1m to a club when all the grants and other money are taken into consideration, significantly more than stepping up from League Two to League One. It is a mix of part time and full time and most of all it exists in a parallel world where the reward of TV money is nowhere near compensation for the inconvenience and opportunity it affords our rivals.

I doubt very much that the part time teams in our league have the opportunity to watch Lincoln in action very often. They may catch the odd game here or there but their scouting networks will be limited. Stick us on TV though and every man and his dog can see what we’re about, and have the pundits do the hard work and dissect us as well. In the Premier League Arsenal know all about Chelsea and the advantage is lost, but I doubt Guiseley have the back room staff nor the time to come and watch us play and comprehensively dissect our tactics.

Being on TV doesn’t bring rich rewards either. The home team are awarded around £6000 for a National League fixture shown on TV, whereas the away team are given around £2000. In the grand scheme of things that isn’t a lot of money. We would have to feature 26 times on TV just to match the money the crowd funder brought in. This isn’t the mega bucks world of the Premier League and just because we share a time slot we don’t share in their wealth.

Now consider how much the inconvenience of an early away trip to Forest Green being on TV can cause. Firstly the early kick off guarantee’s there will be an overnight stay. If that wasn’t the plan then the £2000 would be spent in one fell swoop. I’d wager with other factors taken into consideration it could end up costing us to have the game moved.

It’s a pain for fans too. It might mean we get less going to the actual match because of the early kick off time. How that can be a good thing against a team with scant home support I’ll never know. As if the falafel wasn’t enough to keep you away, you have to get up in the middle of the night just to get there.

So in essence we are getting nothing in return for being paraded on TV. FGR v Lincoln should still be a top of the table clash, a bit of an event for BT Sports, I would expect it to draw a half decent viewing figure with the right sort of pre match hype. Although fans often won’t pay £15 to get into a game many will take the opportunity to watch a match if it’s beamed into their living rooms. All those people who have heard good things might take this as their opportunity to watch.

I suppose that is where the benefit kicks in. If you win well on TV the potential reach is good for the club. I’d bet if we play well against FGR at least fifty fans could be added to the gate. It doesn’t sound a lot, but it entry fee, programmes and food. It gives us an outlet to advertise the product that is Lincoln City.

However I’m not convinced. If we could ever get a home match televised then the benefits are more obvious, especially a later kick off. For a start you’d be £6000 better off not having any travelling re-arrangements to contest with. If it was a later kick off home fans might turn out in better numbers as well given the camera’s are there. A home match would be worth having.

Away at Forest Green though? Not for me, thanks for actually acknowledging us though BT. Finally.

 

 

It’s not all about Champion

There’s no denying we’re in a bad run of form. Games against Solihull, Barrow and Dover should have brought us at least four points if not six, but instead we’ve taken one from nine and scored just once in that time.

Yesterday’s game was always going to be tough but it was a game we had the capability to win. Dover are a good side but they’re not a great side and they could have been there for the taking.

The early goal knocked us but a game is 90 minutes and as we’ve proven this season you need to play from the very first to the very last. Their boy got a free header from a set piece and that is indefensible at this level. For longer than Danny Cowley has been here we’ve been awful at defending set pieces and once again it was our early undoing.

I hear that Tom Champion was brought in to help with set pieces at either end of the field. That doesn’t mean he is to blame whenever we concede a set piece or whenever we fail to score one. There are nine other outfield players involved too.

Had we not conceded that goal I think the complexion of the game would have been very different. Dover like to hit you on the counter attack and get balls in behind, but their urgency to do that was diminished by taking such an early lead. It lead to a scrappy game of few chances which eclipsed our experiences against Solihull and Barrow.

Their second goal was a classic counter attack that fit perfectly into the profile in which they play. We had no option but to get men forward and they hit us on the break, just as Sutton did back in August. We’ve seen better sides than Dover this season and I’m still confident that when May comes we will be above them in the table.

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Scapegoat – and an easy target

 

Firstly though this slide needs to be arrested and most fans see it as a simple case of dropping Tom Champion and bringing Brad back into midfield allowing Lee Beevers to drop in at full back. Is it that simple though? Is Tom Champion to blame for the run of form?

I’ve been quite vocal in my support of Champion because he is proven at this level and I don’t think he’s played too badly since he’s arrived. He came in as we started a run of poor form and many say him and Woodyard is a ‘Lampard and Gerrard’ situation where both cannot be accommodated in midfield. Oddly those same people are saying drop Brad back into midfield which surely gives us two defensive minded midfielders all over again?

People forget we were lucky to come away from Torquay with a win after a patchy display there and that was before Tom Champion came into the fold. I really believe Bradley Wood is a full back, and a really good one at that. Lee Beevers may have had a good run of form but those with short memories will forget many expected him not to feature this season after less than convincing displays last season.

There is no denying that performances have dropped though since Champion came into the side. I was very surprised that he started the Solihull game especially as it was a game we needed to attack and he is a holding midfield player. I felt that evening he would have been better coming off the bench after maybe giving Alan Power a run out. That said I’m not paid to make the decisions.

Whether he has upset the balance of the team or not is one thing, but what effect his arrival has had on team morale could be another. Alan Power simply can’t force himself into contention and Craig Stanley must be kicking himself to see a player in the same mould as him arrive and get an immediate start. These two guys are senior professionals, could it be that his arrival has caused some discontent in the squad?

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Power – can’t catch a break

 

Whether it has or not this certainly isn’t the only reason we have been on a bad run of form. We seem to be a little light up front and whilst nobody blames the management for taking the money for Margetts I firmly believe that we need to look at bringing in a striker sooner rather than later. Yesterday for long periods Matt Rhead looked isolated and when chances did fall to Macauley Bonne he fluffed his lines.

There is no doubt Bonne offers a threat going forward but when I see him in an Imps shirt I can’t help but think of Robbie McDaid and George Maris – players playing to progress with their own club and not to push ours forward. I’m not saying Macauley Bonne is a selfish player nor am I saying he isn’t putting everything into his game, but I think at Lincoln over the past six seasons we’ve learned the hard way that loan players have their own reasons for being at a club. Tom Champion has his reasons for being here as well and I’m not entirely convinced it is to earn a contract with us.

I’m not being negative here but as an independent blogger I do have to take off the rose tinted glasses every so often and look at the way things are. I have no doubt that match preparation and training is well planned and that performances like yesterday will not be tolerated for too long. In truth we were unlucky against Barrow to concede late and we worked hard to break Solihull down. We’re still 5th which I would have taken after 25% of the season, and if we’re there come May I think we’ll all be happy.

The managers and players are the ones paid to get us the results on the pitch and we have to trust them to do the best for the club. I don’t think that DC and NC will persist with Champion if it really is apparent to them he has upset the balance in any way. I don’t think our management team are belligerent or stubborn and if they believe that Champion is the problem then I think he’ll drop to the bench.

Braintree next week is a great chance to get back on the winning habit but to do so I think we need to be more attacking from all areas. Not having that classic ‘attacking’ midfielder leaves us a little one dimensional with long balls to Matt Rhead. That approach surprises me as we have some really good footballers in our squad, Rhead included. With a more attacking midfield we could start to build up gently through the centre with an option to utilise the neat passing exchanges we saw against the likes of Gateshead to break teams down, or to spread out wide to our array of really good flair players like Arnold and Hawkridge.

Then again what do I know, I thought we’d beat Dover.

Anthony Pulis

Another failed Chris Sutton loan signing, Anthony is the son of West Brom manager Tony Pulis. He signed on loan from Southampton to try and add steel in the midfield which he didn’t do.

He started out at Portsmouth before a move to Stoke City. He never really broke into the first team but spent a lot of time out on loan at the likes of Torquay, Grimsby and Plymouth. After four fruitless years at Stoke he moved to Southampton which is where he signed from when he arrived at Sincil Bank.

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Anthony Pulis

 

He never looked comfortable or able to fully adjust to the tempo of League Two football and one has to wonder if his move here was an attempt to curry favour with his father for loan deals. He dropped straight into the Imps first team without making any major contribution, and it was felt perhaps he’d come for game time to get over injury.

After playing for us he spent time on loan at Aldershot and Stockport but never made regular first team appearances for Southampton. Upon completion of his Southampton contract he was released.

Later in his career he found regular first team football with Orlando City making 44 appearances before retiring to move into coaching which is where he is today.

DF meets Bradley Wood

In the first re-launched edition of the Imps fanzine Deranged Ferret we met Imps full back Bradley Wood for a chat. To promote our second issue which will be available next Saturday we’re bringing you the full interview with Bradley here online. If you haven’t read it and you like it why not seek us out on Saturday and get issue two, where we meet keeper Paul Farman amongst other things!

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to achieve when I initially interviewed Bradley Wood for this brand new DF. I like him as a player, strong and reliable with a great attitude, but that wouldn’t make a good interview. Maybe his slightly controversial comments about Liam Hearn going to Barrow made me think there would be some juice I could pick up on. I’m not really sure and as a writer it’s important to know where you want to end when writing a piece. You can’t take a journey without knowing where you’re going to, and the same applies here. However once I’d finished chatting to Brad I knew where I wanted the piece to go. I want fans to see that Brad the player might be a bit special, but Brad the bloke is just like you and me. He claims to tell it how it is, but instead of being a Katie Hopkins style ‘tell it like it is’ he is measured and fair when he speaks. He knows the right and wrong things to say, and although he won’t shy away from the bad stuff, he’s always very honest and reasoned. Anyway you didn’t read this piece to listen to me bang on did you? No. Off we go then.

Bradley Wood is one of those players that you like from the very first time you see him. I remember the first time I saw him in action, he clattered a winger in a solid but fair challenge and then set off down the wing in true Mark Bailey style. The similarity between Mark Bailey and Bradley Wood is uncanny. They’re both up and down full backs, they’d both run through walls for their team and they’re both nice blokes. Mind you Bradley has something Bailey doesn’t have: three player of the year awards won in one campaign. It’s something he’s very proud of.

“Winning those awards, it felt great to know that my hard work was getting recognition. I loved last season. Enjoyed working hard and playing football. First time I can say that for a few years now and to be voted player of the year by 3 different sources was incredible. The lads all congratulated me and were spot on. Great group of men, which a few wouldn’t have been far away for the prizes.”

It might have been a great group of men, but one man in particular seemed to bring the players together. Success by some is measured by league position, but by this writer success could also be measured by progress and the outgoing manager oversaw a period of progress. He clearly had an influence on Brad as well.

“Moysey understood me. He knew how to get the best out of me. It’s always great when you’re wanted too. He bought me from Alfreton so I was clearly someone he wanted as a player. I just hope I repaid him.”

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Brad did him proud, but what was it Chris had that made him special to the players?

He respected the lads. In the changing room the lads knew Moysey’s door was always open for anything and he was a genuine top guy. In my seven years as a pro he’s the best gaffer I’ve had.”

There’s no doubt that Chris was the catalyst for a group of players battling at the right end of the table, despite falling away late on. I was interested to know if anyone stood out as a talented player in the City ranks. The fans and media saw Brad as the best player we had last season, it interested me to see who he thought was talented.

“There are many lads in the squad with different talents. Rheady is the best target man that I’ve lined up with, 9 times out of 10 you can guarantee he will win a header or hold the ball up. There’s plenty of talent at Lincoln it’s just playing to everyone’s individual asset to get the best out of the player.”

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I got the impression that this answer was more genuine than an attempt to avoid naming individual team mates for praise. Part of me hoped it was because the players might get to read DF and might even submit to an interview with me!

Brad really came to the fore in the wake of Liam Hearn’s departure from the club to go on loan to Barrow. He summed up in an interview how many of the players felt, and although his remarks may have seemed inflammatory they only echoed how a number of fans actually felt. I was interested to know if this caused any friction on Liam’s return.

“To be fair to Liam he came back and was fine with the lads etc but you could tell he wasn’t himself. I got on well with Liam at Grimsby such a shame it ended the way it did as he is a good goal scorer.”

Brad may tell it how it is, but he isn’t controversial for the sake of it. Liam has gone and yet the knives are not out. Telling it like it is doesn’t always means you have to be undiplomatic. I was beginning to understand there’s more to Bradley Wood than the ‘heart on sleeve’ and ‘never say die’ attitude he has on the pitch. He’s an emotionally intelligent and well spoken man who understands the impact of the things he says. I wasn’t going to get any quotes that could cause trouble and I respect that in a player. I thought I’d fish (pun intended) a little harder for some anti Grimsby stuff, I knew he’d had a bad time when he left and I wondered how he saw it.

“I signed for Grimsby when they were in the football league before relegation. My deal was a 4 year contract and if I started 120 games it triggered an extra year. The more appearances I played the more money I was on. I was 1 game away from extending my deal for another year and I fully knew they knew this. They offered me a reduced contract on basically half my wages as they couldn’t justify a 21 year old being on the money I was on and I rejected it as it was poor and went to Alfreton.”

I knew from some Town fans that he’d been on a decent deal, but even so the way the Cods went about it seemed unfair, especially for a player who would never let

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“I’m very patriotic so representing my country was a very proud moment for me and my family. Just signing the national anthem before a game makes hair on the back of your neck stand up. I loved it. It’s up there with the best moments of my career.”

I was interested in the mention of his family. Those who are on the Lincoln City banter site will know that his other half is very prominent on there, and it’s no secret that he is a dedicated family man with very strong family values. I wondered how he felt about some of the stuff on banter, and how Loren reacted to things on there as well.

“Loren is very outspoken and tries to interact with all fans. It’s not a case of her opinion is the only one that matters. She’s learnt that there are people out there who like me and people who don’t. Football is a game of opinions and at the moment I’m liked more than disliked. That can all change. I’m visible on social media as I like interacting with fans as I’m just a normal person like everyone else. I’m down to earth. I’m sure it has an effect on people when there being either slated or praised as football can be a confidence game at stages.”

It was fascinating that chatting about a proud moment like England got a shorter response than chatting about his family. I’d always known he was a family man, and when he talks about them it becomes very obvious what drives him. It’s the same thing that drives me to get up and go to work: family. Not all professional footballers have family as a grounding in their life, but for Brad it seems to be a priority and that makes him all the more likeable and down to earth.

Last season wasn’t all roses and sunshine for the versatile full back though. A red card against Tranmere left him gutted at the prospect of letting the lads down, and then in the final game of the season he became a light snack for Cheltenham thug Kyle Storer.

“When I got sent off I was gutted mate. I try and do my best for the team week in week out. I thought the lads were spot on that day and earned a point but last few minutes let it go. Afterwards I just felt it had happened and I had to get up and get on with it.”

“Against Cheltenham, he was shielding the ball out of play and I closed him down. He fell down and dragged me down with him. I tried to get up and could feel something on the back of my arm/shoulder like a pinch mark. Then I noticed he was clinching on with his mouth. There was a bit of handbags with the other players but I told the ref and everyone involved that he bit me. I don’t mind the physical part of the game at all, but not biting!!!”

Throughout my talk with Bradley I was impressed by his honesty and how down to earth he was. Even when talking about being bitten he was reasonable, and the dejection at his Tranmere sending off was clear for all to see.

Time and space is running out on me here, so I just wanted a few words on Danny Cowley, Clive Nates and where his career goes from here.

On Danny Cowley: “I’ve met the gaffer once (this interview was done on June 14th) and he seems to be driven to do well and progress which is a good asset to have. He seems to have his own method which has bought him success so I hope that continues here.”

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On Clive Nates: “I’ve met Clive once at a fans forum. He seemed a real genuine nice guy who has a lot of knowledge about the game. He comes across as someone who, if he wants something to happen then he is driven for it to work. In football that is great as we can all go the same way and get this football club back where it belongs which is the football league.”

Finally I asked him about his Lincoln City career. With three player of the season awards in one campaign he is rapidly becoming a fans favourite, and in my household he is already up there with Mark Bailey, Peter Gain and Simon Yeo as a firm favourite.

“I’m happy to stay here and finish my career here as long as the management want me. Never ever been so happy playing football. I love the way the club treat my family too. That’s the main thing!”

I don’t think it’s any surprise that the well being of his family comes in as important as the quality of his football. I like that in Bradley Wood, he has values that are in line with most average blokes, he just puts bread on the table a different way. He is far removed from the controversial ‘tell it like it is’ figure some have him down as though. He’s honest but he won’t speak out of turn. He’s aware how his actions are viewed by people, from comments in an interview to red cards on the pitch. I can tell this isn’t just a job to him, he is committed to helping get us back where we belong. I believe another season like the last one will see him a very important cog in the upcoming Cowley’s campaign.

DF would like to thank Bradley Wood for taking the time to answer questions for us. Top man.

 

Matthew Saunders

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I’m doing all two of the three this morning. I may as well get the most mileage I can out of the photo.

Matthew Saunders was a midfielder signed on loan at the same time as the lacklustre Michael Uwezu and the much maligned Joe Anderson from Fulham. Of the three Saunders was undoubtedly the pick of the bunch.

His first spell didn’t go particularly well. He made his debut in the 4-0 FA Cup defeat against Bolton and then made two more first team appearances before returning to Fulham. However Chris Sutton had seen enough to convince him the cultured midfielder had something to offer and he brought him back for the remainder of the season.

His second loan spell was far more productive bringing three goals from 18 outings. I really liked Saunders as he had a lovely dead ball strike and unlike some of the other loan players he worked really hard for the club. It was hoped we’d bag him on a free transfer once the season ended like we did with Adam Watts and Joe Anderson.

However he returned to Fulham where he was apparently highly rated, although not highly enough to earn another deal and he found himself released as we slipped out of the football league. With Sutton long gone he didn’t feature on Steve Tilson’s radar and ended up signing for Dagenham and Redbridge.

Just 18 day in to his Dagenham spell his goal was the decider in a match against Bradford causing manager John Still to enthuse on his ability and potential. However that potential was never realised after suffering an ankle injury and in 2014 he left Dagenham by mutual consent to move to Whitehawk of Brighton. Remember them? I prefer not to.

Since then he’s done the rounds of southern non-league clubs such as Dover and Aldershot as well as having a spell out in India. Curiously his first game for Aldershot was a 3-0 thumping at Sincil Bank in a game remembered for another Charlee Adams strike.

It’s widely thought that his injury curtailed what could have been a promising career and he currently plays for Hemel Hempstead Town.