Andrew Abbott's Blog

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Stylish City banish another bad memory.

One of our group told us that Jack Payne was with us on loan, that he wasn’t our player. In my heart of hearts I knew that wasn’t correct but what made it believable at the time was, well, we don’t sign players like Jack Payne do we? We’re Lincoln City. Very occasionally we get a player like Jack and we spend a while drooling then he goes back to his club or someone like Norwich City sign him.

When I got back home I checked, yep, he was our player. In fact I spent quite a while in a daze after that game. Radio Lincolnshire had tweeted me asking if I’d come on later so I was wondering if they would ring. They didn’t so I put the Man City game on the TV and mused on what I’d just witnessed. It was like one of those day dreams that I guess we’ve all had. City get taken over by a millionaire, appoint the right manager, get promoted and start playing wonderful football as we sweep up the leagues to the championship.

Except this isn’t a day dream, it’s really happening. Not the championship thing although that’s the next step and, for me, on yesterdays evidence we’re playing championship football already. This is happening and I can’t quite believe it.

Yesterday we put another episode in our lives in a locked box because we’d rather not think about it, two episodes in fact as both are inextricably linked with Southend. The play off final defeat and the relegation from the football league at the hands of Southend’s Steve Tilson. They’re welcome to him except they’ve consigned him to a locked box themselves. Good. I don’t want to mention his name again.

I was expecting a tough game yesterday, just like I was expecting one last week and the week before. Did we get one? We certainly did at Rotherham and against Southend it started off like it was two evenly matched teams. For my money it was champagne stuff. Southend were playing some good passing football and City were too. In fact I’ll go so far as to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen such good quality football from any Lincoln City side and I’ve seen a lot.

Graham Taylor’s team was functional and powerful rather than silky smooth. Colin Murphy did not believe footballers at our level could pass the ball with any consistency so didn’t try. Allan Clarke, remember him? He was brought in to play on the deck more, didn’t last five minutes. Keith Alexander, ever the enigma played some really good stuff then got sacked and returned playing a different brand altogether and John Beck, the winning was everything to him and he didn’t care how that was achieved, no he really didn’t. John Schofields side played some lovely football but, as always with us, it couldn’t last.

So to yesterday. Once again everyone put in a great shift. It didn’t take a genius to pick out Payne as the man of the match he was simply superb. Josh Vickers didn’t have his best game ever but a clean sheet is just that. Talking of drooling, what has happened to Harry Anderson? After months, seasons watching him run down blind alleys and cul-de-sacs the ball has finally dropped. At his feet usually. Shacks is back, with a goal and it wasn’t necessary to disappoint Cian Bolger to accommodate him as Bozzy was needed to cover for the rejuvenated Michael O’Conner in midfield. My cup runneth over. It’s taken the best part of sixty years of mainly pain and heartache to get to this point. I’m loving every minute of it.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Was there ever a better time to be an Imp?

If you’re anything like me you probably at some time looked at some clubs and thought, is it ever going to be our turn?

I’m talking about the likes of Rushden and Diamonds, Burton Albion, Fleetwood. Even the likes of Scunthorpe United and Grimsby Town have had their day in the sun and not a tickle for us. Until now that is.

I think of all those clubs, Mariners excepted, as smaller clubs than the Imps yet there they were, up in league one or the championship possibly. We on the other hand, had to pedal faster and faster to stand still until one day the chain broke and down we went. Would we ever have the money to visit the mechanic and get ourselves fixed up?

We know the answer of course and when you look at the cup run that went a long way to underpinning the rapid rise that we have all enjoyed, Oldham Athletic, who apologised to their fans for being beaten by us I recall, Ipswich Town, Brighton and Burnley, we’re ahead of one and on level terms with another. Ipswich are a very good example because by rights, going on population, they shouldn’t have had anything like the success they did. What was it that got them and kept them at the top for so long? Good club management.

Lets just pause there, good club management, not just good managers, they had those too but behind them was good, practical, pragmatic management and guess what? We’ve got that too. The Cowleys will move on, we know that, not for a good while we hope but they will but the board of directors won’t, not all of them at any rate.

All of this brought my mind to Southend United. It probably didn’t yours but mine works differently. Strictly speaking we should have leapfrogged them when we played them at Cardiff in the league two playoffs but of course we didn’t, we stayed put and eventually sunk almost without trace.

Now, once more, we play them again. It’s tempting to say our old friend Steve Tilson but he’s no friend of mine or yours, Steve Tilson, Southends manager that day is rooting for Southend. I bet he is. Despite the fact they sacked him he’s rooting for them. Well he wouldn’t be rooting for us would he? I’d imagine there’s nowhere he’d rather not be than Lincoln right now and I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say clearly he had ability with one club but not ours. He admitted as much recently.

Anyway, Southend, once they were above us now they’re not, just like Oldham and Ipswich. The last three games have given us Imps something of a shot in the arm. Trouble and strife were anticipated instead of which we have basked in the glory of three wins on the trot, no goals conceded and progression to the next round of a cup competition where we really will meet some old friends.

This will not last of course but, if there is a football God, and he is smiling down on us, just not this weekend if you don’t mind? This is one club and one ex manager we definitely owe one to.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Rampant City haven’t read the memo.

City continue to shock us in an entirely welcome way. Once again the Imps visited an impressive arena where a difficult afternoon was expected. Last season it was MK Dons, yesterday Rotherham United, normally an arid desert as far as points are concerned where the water bottle usually runs out for the Imps well before the final whistle.

The stage was set for the usual script. City, the league new boys “welcomed” to the New York Stadium, nearly full and a very tidy arena indeed, probably more along the lines that City would need than the MK one should they decide to move, for the expected extraction of three points, thank you very much.

For twenty minutes that scenario was a very much on the cards as Rotherham, a big team in every sense of the word set about their visitors. The Imps aren’t a particularly tall side this season. Would that bulk upskittle the away contingent? Not a bit of it. City weathered the early onslaught and set about Rotherham with gusto and by the time it finished I was reminded of one of those parties that go horribly wrong when someone advertises it on Facebook. Everyone piled in, emptied the bar, polished off the buffet, eyed up the lady of the house, and the eldest daughter and ran off into the night. The dirty rascals!

Cian Bolger continues to give his manager a headache with a second master class. Can he possibly be left out when Shackell returns? Much talk of the unfortunate Lee Frecklington this week. Where does he fit in when fit again? Once again Andrade and Akinde had to settle for the bench. Will they start a game any time soon? What about Tom Pett?

It was a new player that started the rot for Rotherham, Tyler Walker belting a cross over, practically on the line that had Rotherham at sixes and sevens, one nil and just before half time and then, early in the second, Harry Anderson with a pile driver header that no one was going to get a head or hand to. Text book stuff and a text book strangle hold to keep a firm grip of those precious three points.

We’ve a long season ahead of us. There may be more days like this. Most probably there will be days most definitely not like this but, as league starts go, not too shabby I think you’ll agree.

Friday, 9 August 2019

More of the same or a reality check?

Like me you will have enjoyed last week. It’s always enjoyable to win but to win and play really well, casting off the long ball jibes, is doubly pleasurable.

You may, as I did, wonder if your own interpretation of the Imps chances this season may need a rethink after the last outing. Well tomorrow at Rotherham will go a long way to pointing us in the right direction. I’ve been there a few times, usually seen a good performance but always come away disappointed. At least there will be a good modern stadium to revive those slightly quieter will we, won’t we move thoughts. After some time in exile Rotherham are finally back in the town. After witnessing several games at the Don Valley stadium, it doesn’t seem to have done the Millers much harm to be camped out there. Camped out is the expression I’d use for it too. I can’t think of a less suitable venue for football. I think I might have been tempted to find something else to do rather than endure that.

Anyway, enough of that. I’m sure anyone with Rotherham United connections wasn’t exactly clapping with joy at the prospect either but now they’re in a much more impressive site and furthermore, like many other clubs we used to regularly rub shoulders with but haven’t for a while, they have enjoyed a considerably higher profile having been in the Championship as recently as last season. If the pundits are to be believed they could be heading back there soon.

For me, Rotherham are a blueprint we would do well to heed and I don’t just mean the stadium. I don’t think historically our two clubs are that far apart. You would have to qualify that by saying not latterly of course but City are on a sharp upward course. Tomorrow may give a clue as to whether we are in a similar orbit or like a particularly loud or pretty firework put on a great show before fading away into the night.

Wonder what the hot dogs are like at the New York Stadium? All this talk of pyrotechnics has made me quite hungry.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

That’s entertainment.

How good was that? It’s early days of course and City will face much sterner tests than that provided by Accrington Stanley but in terms of an opening day win, that’ll do for me.

Apart from the sheer joy of having a now consistently good team to follow, finally after all these years, mainly of torment it’s fascinating to see the gradual progression of the Imps from, appropriately enough for a club from Lincolnshire, purveyors of fairly agricultural football to a considerably more polished product. That we are able to witness this progression is down to our great good fortune in having all our stars in alignment at the moment bringing good quality people into the boardroom, much needed cash in the form of investment and the right people at the football end of the operation who are content, we must say for the moment, to remain with us to see where their talents will take our club. On yesterdays evidence there’s much more to come.

Accrington Stanley were, I was going to say touted but that would be unfair, lets say Stanley have become known for good passing football which is very easy on the eye. City of course have had to deflect the barbs of those clubs and those managers, mentioning no names but we all know who they are, who think they are the true believers and the guardians of footballs soul. Well no one witnessing that performance could accuse City of playing biff bang football, far from it.

The usual progression for one of the lesser lights of the football firmament which of course we are, would be that our management team, after a little success, would be spirited away to ply their trade at a supposedly bigger club, say, for the sake of argument, a Peterborough United or a Doncaster Rovers where in due course they would again be enticed by, I don’t know, a Norwich City or Sheffield Wednesday. That this hasn’t happened is down to the fact that the club is able to match, for the moment, the ambitions of the Cowleys who clearly are more interested in leaving the club in a vastly and hopefully permanently enhanced situation than making a fast buck. All of a sudden those clubs who may think they look down on us, because they have generally been at a higher level and better off must watch as we gradually catch them up and, who knows, may overtake them and then it will be ourselves doing the preening. Hurrah for that.

As to the match I don’t think there was anyone who was less than good. Cian Bolger took my eye as did Bozzy and the new players slotted in as if this was their second season with the Imps rather than the beginning of their tenure with us. There was a real panache about City as they set about getting off to the perfect start. It wasn’t perfect of course but it very much met with my approval.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more.

Here we are then, another season starts and we emerge from the pre season shenanigans into the real world of league one. Results from the friendlies were mixed, shall we say but that’s all irrelevant, the real action starts now, with Accrington Stanley and where better to start?

Accrington were a league club and to all intents and purposes disappeared, or did they? Despite a lack of real support from the terraces and with one of the best managers in the lower leagues (do we say lower leagues now?) and with the benefit of a proper character in the shape of their chairman, Andy Holt, they continue to defy gravity and now contemplate their second season in league one as we contemplate our first.

There has been much talk that many of our supporters have no experience of City’s occupation of a league position any higher than the bottom rung of the league ladder and yet, when I was a much younger fan, there was a period, starting with the great Graham Taylor team, 1975/76, when of a period of ten seasons, City occupied league one level as it is now called for eight of them. I genuinely believed City had made the leap to a higher level. Of course, this being the Imps, they hadn’t.

The last time City started a season at the level we are now at the euphoria didn’t last till the end of it, City were relegated at the first attempt. It seems like only yesterday to an old fogey like me but in fact it was over twenty years ago. Most of us know what happened after that.

Sometimes, like most people I suppose I daydream about a wonderful thing happening, a big lottery win perhaps, something life changing. Strange I should muse on that as I don’t buy a ticket but, no matter, sometimes you have these thoughts but then you think, hang on, something good has happened just not in the way imagined and so it is with City. Something wonderful is happening, but it isn’t a huge event, like a billionaire taking over and getting us in the premier league, nevertheless a revolution is taking place before our very eyes and, unlike our billionaire, it’s unlikely that it will be snatched away from us. We will certainly lose the Cowleys one day, we may lose Clive Nates but we’re unlikely to lose the whole lot when someones interest wanes or progress slows or stops altogether.

So we contemplate life in league one, not in terms of a one season wonder, enjoyable as it was but as equals despite the increasing disparity of means as we climb the ladder. What we lack in one area we make up for in others. I hope I’m not being unrealistic but, as we look forward to the season I can’t help feeling that the next move for the Imps will not be back from whence we came.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Can no news possibly be good news? I really wouldn’t know.

Well how’ve you been, had a holiday yet? It’s certainly been quiet in Impdom lately. Personally I stepped back my twitter following as a result of all the West Bromwich Albion speculation. It’s not safe to say I told you so as the Albion haven’t yet appointed a manager although the latest speculation is it’s going to be Slaven Bilic. With that sort of name in the frame was Danny ever really in the mix, whatever the bookies might have said?

Albion let it be known, if we’re to believe what we read, that Danny Cowley’s demands were more than the former premier league outfit were likely to concede. A tenure of more than six months presumably. That assumes there was contact and the club said no permission was sought to talk. I know who I believe.

When you think about it, what was in that for the Cowleys? Apart from Sir Alex when he was manager I can’t think of a management team who are more secure than them at the moment. I’m not so naive as to suggest their remuneration package is anything like that which could be offered by any of the big boys but Danny has said he’s not motivated by money. Lincoln City is a club in their image. Let’s be a bit more realistic and mention two local clubs, say Peterborough United and Doncaster Rovers, both incidentally not looking for a manager so don’t read anything into that but can you imagine the Cowleys having anything like the sway they have at Sincil Bank with those sort of clubs, ambitious as they undoubtedly are? It’s going to happen but not with the likes of WBA or Hull City for that matter who, I hope I’m not flattering City here, are even less of a draw than the Albion.

I suppose in my heart of hearts I’d hoped for a flurry of activity starting with the capture of Mark O’Hara but that hasn’t happened and neither has anything else. According to Posh’s vocal chairman, who I have a lot of time for incidentally, a deal isn’t going to happen because City can’t afford the fee. I’m not sure about that either. A communicative chairman is one thing but business is business. It suits Peterborough of course to put out speculation like that about City, now uncomfortably on the same competing level as Posh and inconveniently on the rise as opposed to United’s seeming plateau. It’s good publicity for MacAnthony to remind Posh’s fans that we’re not on the same level financially, which were not but since when did finances get in the way of the Cowleys or City’s ambitions?

I think the truth of the matter may be that a bid or bids may be in the offing for one or more City players, the name bandied about is Bruno Andrade and if that happens that may trigger transfer activity. Even before the end of last season I was talking to a supposed friend of Bruno who indicated that in all likelihood he would be off and he may not be the last. Is that the end of the world? I would suggest not. Like all the others we’re a trading club and none more so than our friends down the A1 who seem to be in the enviable position of being able to speculatively take players on with a view to selling them. That, and a productive academy programme is surely the way forward for the Imps?