Not too many people expected Lincoln to be top of League One with nearly half the season gone, but it underlines the job Michael Appleton has done at the club…
Michael Appleton hasn’t been well.
The Lincoln City manager spoke to The Totally Football League Show: Extra-Time this week from the penultimate day of his quarantine, after testing positive for COVID-19.
After a rough initial few days, Appleton is getting better and should be in the dugout for their upcoming game against Peterborough. But his period out of action again raised a point which probably should have been clarified long ago by the relevant authorities.
Appleton missed the game against Wimbledon, who requested that the game should be postponed after positive tests in both camps. But the EFL insisted that the fixture went ahead, which caused understandable frustration.
“I suppose the clarity or the lack of clarity is the reason why there is a bit frustration,” said Appleton. “Obviously, I think going forward, I think until the testing comes in and you get tested twice a week, you’re going to get a little bit more clarity of whether the game should or should not go ahead.
“I think the the the idea of now bringing in testing twice a week is going to help. I think clarity can be brought into the situation in terms of if you’ve got a certain amount of players who’ve tested positive, then the game’s called off automatically.”
It’s inevitable that many more games will be postponed, and the prospect of a “circuit breaker” period where football is suspended has been mooted. But Appleton will need to be convinced that will actually work before it is implemented.
“I suppose that the worry is if you have a break for a month and then all of a sudden you play half a dozen games and get through to March and April, and then if you got to do the same thing again. Then you get to a position where – can you actually finish the season, in enough time where you can get yourself prepared for the following season?”
One reason why Appleton might not want the season to be suspended is Lincoln’s form. They’re top of League One, ahead of more established contenders like Hull, Portsmouth and Charlton, something that not even Appleton expected at this stage. l
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised, there’s no doubt about it,” Appleton said. “We’re way ahead of schedule. And I suppose the really, really pleasing thing from my point of view, and hopefully for all Lincoln City supporters, is that I do feel this group can get bigger and stronger, whether it’s between now and the end of the season or next season. I do think we’re going to hit new heights along the way at some point.”
A big part of their success so far has been the form of Brennan Johnson on loan from Nottingham Forest. Appleton and Brennan’s father David go way back, but that might not stop a repeat of the situation Lincoln found themselves in last January, when Tyler Walker, another Forest loanee, was recalled right at the end of the month.
Walker still finished the season as the Imps’ top-scorer, and they struggled to reproduce his goals, largely because they didn’t have time to find a replacement. Forest, whose season in the Championship hasn’t exactly been going swimmingly, could do the same thing with Johnson.
“He’s been fantastic. He’s really enjoyed himself. He’s played in numerous positions for us, got lots of assists, lots of goals, which is which has been pleasing.
“In terms of the the potential recall. I think you’ve always got to be mindful of that. The most difficult thing about last season’s one was because it was so late. The thinking with most loans is you always have a window of opportunity for both clubs, maybe a week or so where they can recall or you can send them back.
“With the loan players we’ve got in at the minute, none of them will be going beyond the middle of January in terms of being able to be recalled, we’ve just got to make sure and be mindful that if one of two of them do get recalled, that we have got people ready to come in and replace them.
“If that if that happens, it’d be gutting. I don’t think it’s something that Brennan David myself would would want, because obviously he’s getting lots and lots of game time. But I’m also mindful of the fact that this is someone else’s player and we’ve got to respect that.”
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