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Lincoln City v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League One

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Fan Focus: Lincoln fan Ben says it’s easy to see why Chris Maguire “was well revered” at SAFC!

Ahead of tonight’s game, we sat down for a cuppa and a chat with Ben Ward of The Stacey West blog to get his perspective on Lincoln - Sunderland’s first opponents on their quest to defend the EFL Trophy!

Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: First and foremost, how is Michael Appleton doing after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer during pre-season?

Ben Ward: Michael is doing well - the club handled everything with grace and kept the details relatively minimal, but by all accounts he’s back to himself now, and got the message out to make sure you check yourself regularly - it’s great to have him back fighting fit!


MC: Lincoln currently sit 16th in League One after losing last season’s playoff final, is the club suffering from a final defeat hangover so far this season?

BW: I think there’s a bit of that, for sure, but League 1 is a very different beast this season. With the salary cap gone, we’ve seen some outrageous money being spent on wages and it’s turned a lot of players’ heads. That’s not sour grapes either, those with the means to do so are within their rights, but the concern for me is that we’ll see another Bury in the near future.

Michael Appleton was quite outspoken a few weeks back by suggesting there were 12 teams surrendering beyond their means and possibly going for a ‘boom or bust’ season, which is terrifying for football as a whole.

The changing landscape is one that smaller clubs will need to adjust to after a more level playing field last year, and a horrendous injury list seems to have come at the start of the season this time out, I don’t think we’ve been able to start the same XI two games on the trot yet!


MC: On a more positive note, Anthony Scully has scored 11 goals in 14 matches this season - is he in the form of his life?

BW: I don’t know what you mean, Anthony Scully is definitely not a threat and everyone should just leave him alone on the wing, he’s harmless...

In all seriousness, he’s off to a flyer this season. There were questions about his best position, but he seems to have answered it with “somewhere on the pitch”. He’s settled really well, and he’d bagged 10 in all competitions by mid-September. Incredible form that we’re all hoping continues!

Lincoln City v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League One
22-year-old Anthony Scully joined Lincoln from West Ham in 2020.
Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

MC: Former Sunderland fan-favourite Chris Maguire joined Lincoln on a free transfer this summer - how has he performed so far and can we expect to see him?

BW: We’ve not seen too much of Chris yet, due to being one of the names on that dreaded injury list for a while, but he’s come off the bench a couple of times and brought the experience to a very young squad. Saturday was a great example of that, he was giving Plymouth a bit of ‘needle’, it’s easy to see why he was well revered at the SOL!


MC: Lincoln lost the likes of Jorge Grant, Brennan Johnson, Alex Palmer and Tayo Edun all to Championship clubs through sales and end of loans, have they been adequately replaced this summer?

BW: Mostly. I think the club had a decent transfer window, but a disappointing deadline day. There was no secret we wanted at least one more in the door, and by all accounts we had a striker in the building but the parent club pulled out at the last minute.

Jorge was almost irreplaceable, but Ted Bishop is proving himself in that role. Tayo only left on the condition of Jamie Robson coming in, and Alex Palmer’s replacement of Josh Griffiths had a rough start but has been sensational over the past few weeks.

A special shout has to go to TJ Eyoma coming back, on a permanent deal, from Spurs. It’s a massive coup for the club.


MC: Of the other new players that you signed this summer, who has impressed you the most so far?

BW: Ted Bishop has been fantastic when he’s been fit, looking to pull the strings a bit in midfield, but Lewis Fiorini is probably the one I’d mention here. In on loan from Man City, he’s got a keen eye for goal and isn’t afraid to have a pop from distance. He’s coming into his own, for sure.

Burton Albion v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One
19-year-old Lewis Fiorini has scored three goals in 12 appearances so far at Lincoln!
Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

MC: Sunderland have made wholesale changes to the squad since the two sides last met, are there any of our players who have caught your eye so far this season?

BW: In terms of new faces? Hard to look past Hoffmann, to be honest. It’s a headline transfer, bringing someone in from Bayern, of all places!

I know he’s technically a January signing, but I’ve been really impressed with Carl Winchester. Gotta love a right back who chips in with a goal or two!


MC: Lincoln have already qualified for the next stage of this competition. Do you think Appleton is likely to select the weakest team as possible within the rules and if so what might that look like?

BW: If it was up to Michael, I’m sure he’d love to give some of the lads a break, but as mentioned, injuries are dictating a lot right now. I think last Monday, they were running off 14 fit players in total, it’s a proper crisis right now!

With the Wigan game off due to call ups, I’d hope it’ll get some walking wounded back to fitness, and a part of me wonders if the kids on the fringes might get a run out on Tuesday to help bulk up the numbers.


MC: Lastly, will Lincoln make it three out of three in the group or will Sunderland their EFL Trophy defence with a victory?

BW: It’s genuinely a tough one to call. We’re pretty threadbare at the minute, so as long as we make it through the 90 without any more injuries, we’ll be happy.

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