Charlton AthleticSport

Charlton Athletic new boy Conor McGrandles on his favoured position and how serious injury at Norwich gave him extra drive

When a player leaves a club, the reaction on social media from fans is quite often a telling indicator of their contribution.

And when it was confirmed in late May that Conor McGrandles would not be re-signing with Lincoln City this summer, Imps supporters were quick to show their appreciation and also disappointment at his departure.

The Lincolnshire outfit’s loss is Charlton Athletic’s gain as they swooped for the midfielder, 26, to make him their fourth signing of the  transfer window.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be here,” McGrandles told the South London Press: “It’s been in the pipeline for a few weeks now. After the season ended there were initial talks, so it’s been going on a wee while.

“I was looking at everything, on and off the pitch, that would suit me best. After speaking with the manager here I decided this was going to be the best place to kick on.

“I had a few [chats with Ben Garner]. He explained the style of football and how he sees me fitting into that. Everything that was said we both agreed on, and it’s not often that happens in football.

“I waited until the season was over to make my full on mind up [to not sign an extension at Lincoln]. I didn’t want to make it dilute what I was doing on the pitch. I wanted to keep clear headed and then make my decision from there.”

McGrandles played in a holding role in his second season at Lincoln but was described as a “very talented attacking midfield player” by Michael Appleton, manager at the time, when he signed in July 2020 after being released from his contract at Milton Keynes.

So has Garner indicated where he fits into his plans?

“I’ve played most of my career as a forward-thinking midfielder,” said McGrandles. “Obviously I can do that defensive side, but I think we’ve both agreed that my best position is being that more attacking [role].

If he ever needs me to play deeper he knows I can do and that I’m more than willing to, it’s no problem.

“It’s great to be in those attacking positions in teams like this [Garner has indicated he wants Charlton to be dominant in possession and on the front foot]. I need to improve on a few things but this style of play and this team is only going to help me.”

McGrandles’ first season with Lincoln saw them reach the League One play-off finals, losing to Blackpool at Wembley.

The next campaign was more of a struggle but they pulled clear to finish 17th.

McGrandles suffered knee ligament damage five minutes into their penultimate fixture, a 2-1 loss at Accrington.

“It was a worry at the time because I’d never done anything to my knee before, so I didn’t know how serious it was,” he said. “Luckily it wasn’t as bad as some of the injuries you can have.

Picture: Kyle Andrews

“I absolutely loved my time at Lincoln, I haven’t really got a bad memory. Wembley was bittersweet. After the initial disappointment, when I look back now I’m really proud to say I have played there in a game of that magnitude.

“I’ll never have a bad word to say about anyone at Lincoln. I just think I needed a fresh challenge.”

McGrandles, a Celtic fan, made his debut for hometown club Falkirk a week after his 17th birthday.

He made 88 appearances for the Bairns before signing a three-year contract at Norwich City.

“I played in the Scottish Cup semi-final when I was 17 at Falkirk,” said McGrandles. “At the time I didn’t think about how big it was, playing at Hampden, but I’m extremely proud to have done it.

“We played Hibs, we were 3-0 up at half-time and got beaten 4-3. So it could have been a bit better.

“Gary Holt was my manager at Falkirk the previous season and then he went there to be first-team coach. He was heavily involved in making the deal happen.

“It was a great experience to go over there at such a young age.”

McGrandles had one senior outing for the Canaries. He broke his right leg in two places while back at Falkirk on loan in February 2016.

But McGrandles does not blame that setback on him not making more of a mark in Norfolk.

“In a sense it probably helped me because it made me realise what I need to do to get back playing at a good level,” he said. “I didn’t do as well as I wanted to there, and me getting injured gave me the drive to get myself back up to the levels I knew I could.”

Picture: Kyle Andrews

McGrandles went on to win promotion with MK in 2019 and also collected their Young Player of the Year award as they finished third in League Two.

He played 26 times despite three months out after a horror injury at Oldham on the opening day.

“I fractured my eye socket and cheekbone,” said McGrandles. “The bones all healed up pretty fine but it was my eye which was the problem, it didn’t move for a few months – it just stayed in the same position.

“I had to wait until that sorted itself out. I was a wee bit scared at the time but then after that I’ve never really thought about it.”
Charlton is the fifth stop in McGrandles’ career.

“I want to be at a big club – I’ve probably not had one of this magnitude where I hoped to be playing week in, week out and have that expectation on me to hopefully be winning most games,” he said.

“I really think that pressure is going to do me a lot of good. Living in a big city is going to be a lot different, hopefully I can enjoy and grow from it.”

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