Today’s departure of Alex Woodyard to League One came as no surprise to anyone. With only one year remaining on his contract, both club and player had reached a critical juncture in their relationship that had to be resolved this summer. City’s failure to win promotion brought the issue into sharper focus: either Woodyard would agree to extend his contract by a further year, or City would have to make the sensible business decision to get good money for him before the opportunity evaporated at the end of the summer transfer window. That is the stark reality of the matter, and it is to Alex’s credit that he made the decision very early in the close season.
As it turned out, the much-discussed release clause may have been the decisive element, as it was with Sean Raggett twelve months ago. Whilst it is always difficult to say farewell to one of our favourites, the time is certainly right for him to move on, and perhaps right for Lincoln as well. All we can ask of any player is that they give their best for us, and we might just have seen the definitive version of that.
Indeed, it would be difficult to name any player who has had a bigger impact on this club in its 134-year history. Alex joined City on 11 June 2016, and was new manager Danny Cowley’s first signing on an initial one-year deal. Slotting instantly into an influential defensive midfield role, Alex was part of the side that salvaged Lincoln City from some very dark depths. In just those two years, Alex made an astonishing 113 appearances in which City:
** won the National League;
** reached the semi-final of the FA Trophy;
** became the first non-league club to reach the quarter-final of the FA Cup in 103 years;
** beat a Premier League side on their own ground;
** played at Wembley for the first time and beat one of the best teams in League One to win the Checkatrade Trophy while they were there;
** knocked seven clubs from a higher division out of various cups;
** reached the League Two play-offs at the first attempt;
** appeared live on television 16 times;
** increased the average home attendance from 2,594 to 8,812, the highest for almost 60 years;
** increased away support to an average of over 1,000;
** increased season ticket holding from 1,300 to 5,800;
** increased turnover from £1.3 million to £4.62 million.
On a personal level, Alex was named in the Vanarama National League Team of the Year and was also voted Vanarama National League Player of the Year for 2016-17.
Those are magnificent achievements over the course of a career, let alone two years.
With that record, it was always likely that Alex would not see out his contract. To have signed another would have endangered his freedom to move, and that would not have been attractive at the age of 25. Having rebuffed a sizeable bid from Luton in January, there were very few Imps supporters who realistically expected to see Alex in red and white come August.
Lincoln now have plenty of time to source a replacement, and we can be very sure that Danny Cowley already has a list of targets as long as Jamie McCombe’s arm. One option would be to use defensive colossus Michael Bostwick in the Woodyard role next season, although there may be a temptation to deploy a more attacking player in the centre. With Tom Pett, Lee Frecklington and exciting new signing Bruno Andrade already on the books, Cowley may be tempted to take the opportunity to change the style of play. Although an outstanding defensive midfielder, the one thing Alex did not offer was a direct attacking threat or goals.
When all is said and done, Alex Woodyard was part of surely the greatest non-league side of all time and helped to create memories that no one could have anticipated. Alex has undoubtedly written his name indelibly into the list of Lincoln City legends, and we do love our legends here.
A thousand thanks for everything, Alex. Do come back and see us sometime.
— Vital Lincoln City (@VitalLincoln) May 30, 2018