The current injury situation has been clear to see, and assistant manager David Kerslake admits that things are tough at the moment.
With two games now also being lost to Covid, this interview carried out with our assistant manager before the announcement seems even more relevant.
“At the moment you do have to wonder ‘what did we do?’,” said the former Tottenham and Leeds defender.
“The first two thirds of the season went brilliantly well for us, everybody’s had to deal with the problems with Covid and injuries, but just recently everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong with regards to keeping players fit.”
“I think the tight schedule has been huge, we don’t carry a big squad and a lot of the players we have are young players in their first full season. Going Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday it takes a toll, on your body, although some of the experienced players have gone down too. Definitely the tight schedule has been a major factor in the current situation.”
Despite the adversity the squad are facing, David explained how they are still focused and determined to end this excellent season on a high.
“We’ve got a fantastic bunch of players, and one thing I know the gaffer has said time and time again is they are a young group, they’re honest, and they’re just getting on with their work with their faces bright.”
Whilst many fans know of manager Michael Appleton’s playing career, only those of a certain age will know of David’s impressive spell on the pitch. He came through the ranks at QPR, represented Swindon, Tottenham and Leeds whilst also appearing in the PFA Team of the Year three times at the start of the nineties in a Swindon side which earned promotion to the Premier League.
With Swindon now in our league, David can see some similarities between their success, and our trajectory.
“I do see similarities between my time at Swindon and where we are. When Ossie Ardilles asked me to first go there, he had taken over from Lou Macari who had them playing very much route one football, get it forward early. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Ossie decided he wanted to change it and that is very similar to what has happened here at Lincoln.
“The last manager did brilliantly well here, and the manager, like Ossie, has changed the whole footballing ethos of the club. Also, we were quite a young team back then at Swindon, so it is similar.”
Kerslake also played under the likes of Glenn Hoddle and Howard Wilkinson, but it is the 1978 World Cup winner who made a lasting impression on him as he moved into coaching.
“Certainly, Ossie was a huge impact on me as a player. Every time I played for him, I felt like I was going to go out there and be the best player on the pitch. Of course, it doesn’t always work out like that, but Ossie gave me so much confidence and freedom.
“I’d like to think that has given me an element to my coaching today. I like to see young players express themselves, with pace, running at people and being able to pick out a final pass in the final third.”
Despite his stellar career, David admitted he doesn’t refer to his time as a player when coaching the current Imps squad.
“I don’t really talk about when I was a player. I certainly use my experience when coaching and dealing with players, but I don’t say what I used to do when I was a player. I just draw on my experience, there’s no point in me talking about playing with Jurgen Klinsmann and Teddy Sheringham because they’re too young to know about them anyway!
“It is nice sometimes for a footballer to know that a coach has some sort of experience. I’m not saying you have to have that, but I think players respond a little bit more if you know the nuts and bolts of the games.”
David appeared 29 times for England at youth level, a record for a while, and has worked at numerous clubs as a coach and assistant manager, including Nottingham Forest and Spurs, and that has certainly helped the squad development this season.
“I think I know what is needed for a young player to come through the mill, I was England youth captain for quite a bit and I did five years in the academy at Tottenham when I first started coaching. It’s something I care deeply about, as does the manager.
“It is fantastic for the supporters to have a player come through which is one of their own, so that is something the club are working very hard on with the academy as well.”
The Under 18s might have been eliminated from the FA Youth Cup a couple of weeks ago, but an impressive performance has fans talking, and David admits there will be discussions around who might be ready to step up.
“Whoever Tom Shaw and the guys tell us have made progress we’ll be looking at, getting them involved with first team training in the pre-season, and we’ll see if we can get them with a little bit of experience and maybe even start like Sean (Roughan) did. Obviously, the manager has used him wisely, dipping in and out of the first team, but they can’t come in and be expected to play every game.”
That might be for the future, but right now there are nine huge games left for this exciting young squad to impress and with key staff like David Kerslake working behind the scenes, the players will remain grounded, focused and benefitting from a wealth of knowledge and experience.