Michael Appleton has spoken at length pertaining to the challenges of last season, the COVID adjusted plans for this season and his vision for the player make up of the squad to come:
Last Year: MAPP appreciated the work that had gone into the three previous years of success but the players were getting too old to be able to move onto the next level. It needed changing in order to prosper so the decision to take a calculated risk with squad remodelling in January, with hindsight was a risk worth taking.
MAPP was mindful that when he first arrived he was asking the players to make a lot of immediate changes so he wasn’t surprised at early results. The group needed to find the belief to win close games. In the end he was happy with how things went and put the spike of bad results after the January influx down to the readjustments needed there. He didn’t want to moan about losing strikers in January as he would have just been slagged off for making excuses but a lot of people would have made a big thing about losing Tyler Walker so late in the window. Of course Tyreece JJ came in to help but then got injured. MAPP compromised by trying different partners for Tom Hopper such as Jake Hesketh and Anthony Scully. He even thought about playing Jorge Grant as a 10 but decided he was playing really well out wide.
The last couple of performances showed that progress was being made and the process was coming together; things were only going to get better. The squad were really fired up for the Tranmere match before Covid intervened.
MAPP was asked about players settling in such as Zak Elbouzedi. Using him as an example he explained how Zak made a couple of fleeting appearances and the Southend game that had been a poor team performance all round had stuck in his system for a while. However, in training MAPP had noted Zak coming into his own to the extent that the other players and staff were commenting on his performances; always a reliable sign. Even during the lockdown, Zak has been setting training performance records for the homework programs. Next season Zak will very much be one of three or four players battling for the wide positions.
Player Recruitment: MAPP is 5 or 6 players away from where he wants to be. There is going to be a lot of football with at least 11-midweek games even without cup ties being factored in. The younger players are being brought in now as he wants them to settle as quickly as possible. The more experienced players that MAPP definitely wants for balance will probably arrive a little later which he is quite relaxed about as they are more used to the rhythm of pre-season preparations. We will see a squad full of endeavour, enthusiasm and energy which is what will be needed.
The Lewis Montsma move had been worked on for a while. MAPP had seen bits of Lewis in action but the COVID break enabled him to dig deeper taking in lots of clips and games footage. MAPP had been able to ask a few questions about Lewis character which revealed he was humble and hardworking with a clear desire in his eyes. Through people, MAPP knew in Holland he and Jez George had been able to put a presentation to Lewis as they knew he was desperate to play abroad with England one of his preferences.
It is great that Lewis is a two-footed player comfortable on the ball but first and foremost he is a defender, there to prevent goals. He is a big physical specimen, good in the air, two-footed and with pace.
Opportunities for the Scholars?: Sean Roughan’s progress is well documented. What MAPP could add is that a number of the youngsters trained with the first team last season and hadn’t looked out of place. Ben Sault does the simple things really well, wins it and gives it. Ziyad Al-Oyouni is a flying machine and it will be interesting if he can continue to develop at the same pace.
If Imps progress longer in some of the cup competitions this season then who knows if some could be making appearances.
Pre-Season -Training will start on 03/08 with games due to recommence on 12/09. The friendlies are already pencilled in, just awaiting the season start date confirming. MAPP expects to have a couple more players signed by 03/08 as he wants most players available by then. He doesn’t want to leave it too late but he has to be more patient about signing the experienced players that are required.
This will be MAPP’s first opportunity to have a pre-season with his own squad and regardless of budget big or small it is always good to have the opportunity to work with the players so they are comfortable with various positions.
COVID: MAPP doesn’t anticipate the absence of an enthusiastic home crowd to affect home form. All the players have come through development phases where they have played behind closed doors so the issue that MAPP and the staff will be acutely aware and concentrating on is ensuring player mindset is spot on. Ironically prior to Lincoln MAPP’s away record is significantly better at former clubs than home form so expect that to be much better.
The Fans: MAPP has heard incredible stories about how the community has shown fantastic support for the club. Going forward if fans are able to replicate with similar gestures it will go a long way to helping out the club. ifollow for the fans will be massive in terms of being able to mitigate revenue loss.
Aspirations for Next Season: Last year was all about establishing and competing at a new level. This year MAPP wants Imps to finish higher and if ‘we’ are in the top half he will be delighted in his first full season into a three and a half year contract. That will provide a really good base to kick on so it won’t be a disaster if Imps aren’t promoted. It’s difficult to know how the Imps budget will compare to other clubs due to COVID. As for the season after that, who knows – playoffs, automatic promotion?
There are many things MAPP wants to do better: score more goals from creative positions in the final third, see moments out in the game such as approaching half time, getting ahead in games more often and being brave enough to come back from being behind in matches such as the last game against Burton where it had to be done twice. A few more clean sheets would be nice. These are all things that will be looked at and dissected.
Without a doubt, the L1 competition will be much stronger next season not just because of the quality of the clubs coming down from The Championship. Swindon, Plymouth, Northampton are all decent sized clubs coming up and Crewe are well respected for playing good football/developing players in the way he envisages for Lincoln. Then you have to factor in clubs like Ipswich and Sunderland who failed to get promoted last season.
If you haven’t already had a go at our quizzes, this is a great way to learn some random information about the Football Club, as well as helping us generate much-needed page views: Quiz No.1, Quiz No.2, Quiz No.3, Quiz No.4, Quiz No.5, Quiz No.6, Quiz No.7, Quiz No.8, Quiz No.9, Quiz No.10, Quiz No.11, Quiz No.12, Quiz No.13, Quiz No.14, Quiz No.15, Quiz No.16, Quiz No.17, Quiz No.18, Quiz No.19, Quiz No.20, Quiz No.21, Quiz No.22, Quiz No.23, Quiz No.24, Quiz No.25, Quiz No.26, Quiz No.27 and Quiz No.28.
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