I sat down on a call with Max Melbourne earlier this week discussing his time at Lincoln City, and a big focus of our chat was the loan spells he endured away from the club, his return to the Imps in 2022 and scoring against Plymouth with his last touch for the club.

Max revealed the truth about the loan spell to Walsall in January 2021, and the impact new signings had on his position within the squad. City signed Cohen Bramall in that window, to support Tayo Edun and Sean Roughan, who were all pushing to play in Max’s preferred position at left-back. Max told me that he felt it was made clear to him, especially with the signings, that he’d never play for the club again.

“When the signings came in, in my position, it was a telling that my time at Lincoln was coming to an end. I never thought I’d come back to Lincoln and play again, and it was made apparent that they wanted me to leave.

“The initial conversation was that it was a loan that there was a chance I wouldn’t return. The club made it very apparent they wanted me to go on loan, it wasn’t really necessarily my decision, but it was the best decision for me at that time. I went there to play games and it was a really big help playing twenty games was a relief to myself and a confidence booster, after not playing [at Lincoln].”

Credit: Graham Burrell

Against all the odds, Max returned to the club the following summer and played a big part in the club’s pre-season plans despite it being public knowledge that Michael Appleton didn’t have Max in his plans going forward. Max played the first four games of the league season, due to a few injuries in defence, putting in valiant performances at the back. Max told me that he thought he’d never get the chance, even with the injury record at that time and he was shocked to find out he was playing.

“I came back in and played the games they asked me to play, I came into pre-season still trying to work my way out of the club. I would’ve loved to have stayed but I knew for my career and for the club that wasn’t an option.

“It got to the point where the season was coming around quickly, in my head I genuinely thought there was no opportunity here, and they’d do everything they can, even putting midfielders into defence, for me not to play. When the team was read out and I was in it [Against Gillingham], I was shocked, nervous but also excited to prove I can play at this level. I played the first four games, and I felt I did well in the first three, but [after the fourth game] I tested positive for COVID and during isolation, I got a call saying I’d be going on loan, and just like that I left the club again.”

Max revealed that he didn’t return to the club in January following his loan spell in January because of Lewis Montsma’s ACL injury, with the defender sending a message to Appleton asking to return to the club, which he said was a daunting experience, especially with his time at the club seemingly up.

“I didn’t actually return because of Lewis’ [Monstma] ACL injury. Things weren’t going well at Stevenage, and I didn’t want my season to end like that. I was scared, but I ended up sending a long message to Michael Appleton asking him to return to Lincoln and be able to return home. I was scared when I sent the message because it’s well-known in football, clubs can make it very difficult for you if they don’t want you and they’ll do everything they can to force you out, and I wanted to be fit and healthy to find a club for the next season.”

Credit: Graham Burrell

However Lewis’ ACL injury meant Max got an opportunity to feature against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, something he didn’t expect. He featured for the last thirty minutes of the game, with the Imps going on to win the game 3-1, with a hattrick from Chris Maguire against his former club. The following fixture saw the Imps take on Plymouth Argyle away from home, and with injuries worsening all over the squad, Max got an opportunity to start the game. Not many would have foreseen what happened during the game as Max went on to score the winner in stoppage time, with what ended up being his final touch in a Lincoln City shirt.

“I got the opportunity pretty soon coming off the bench against Sunderland for half an hour having not really played since leaving Lincoln, it was a shock but an excitement really. Going on to win that game felt really good.

“When I was told I was starting the game, I wanted to prove a point I can play at this level. Getting the opportunity to get in the box and when the ball came to me, my eyes lit up. When it went in, it was a bit of a shock, I’d potentially scored the winning goal and I was buzzing but it was a relief, I felt I was trying to prove a point and scoring was a high moment, especially with it being potentially the last time I touched a ball for Lincoln.

You can read more from my exclusive interview with Max over the next few days, as we also spoke about Michael Appleton, his departure from the club and his favourite teammate from his time at the club.

By Joe Briley

AllLincoln Site Owner.