Andrew Abbott's Blog

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Three Lions Pride Restored but now they’re coming home.

Not before the Third/ Fourth place play off of course. In terms of significance think Lincoln City v Norwich City and in terms of desirability, well I’m sure the players would rather be on the plane back but that is the lot of losing semi-finalists, Belgium will feel the same.

For me, Harry Kane’s sure footedness in front of goal deserted him in the game, chances were fashioned but not taken not just by Kane but by others too and, well Croatia got better as the game progressed and England faded.

All in all though a highly satisfactory World Cup and I’m sure there’s more to come as the re think at England level progresses. France and Spain in particular have benefitted from a root and branch reform, why not England? In fact if this is the embryonic team, with a relatively inexperienced manager we can look forward with hope.

Come to think of it, this has been one of the very few occasions I’ve actually enjoyed watching England at a tournament, the other being Euro ’96, itself a false dawn so let’s hope this time we really are getting a seat at the top table.

So well done to England, you’ve done us proud. We needed a break after the mess our politicians have got us into. At least there’s the holidays to look forward to, oh and the football season of course.

It would be quite wrong not to congratulate Croatia on their win and to wish them all the best in the final. They have had a painful and remarkable journey, historically, to this World Cup Final. Now go and win it.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Lincoln Loco steaming in a slightly different direction but in some ways not.

Farewell then Sean Long. That’s the bit of the Lincoln City story that doesn’t change. Fringe players offered a contract which they keep on the back burner hoping something better comes along. It’s a tribute to the stature of the club at the moment that usually an offer will be made as clubs seem more than happy to consider our outcasts as suitable for their first teams.

It was the same last season and of course in most cases the players go with our best wishes as we realise that, for the players the career is short and they need to be playing. We know or can be reasonably sure that replacements will be found.

They’re not advertised as replacements of course they are the players who will improve the squad and coming to Lincoln to dislodge the present incumbent. That’s understood by players and to a certain extent accepted. Until the chance of a move that is but at least they can console themselves with the fact that they were offered new contracts even if it was in a slightly half-hearted way.

I’d be surprised if Shane Long isn’t given a good reception if and when he returns to Sincil Bank. Whether that will be the case with Elliott Whitehouse remains to be seen. He has of course gone to Grimsby Town. Personally I think there has been enough business done between the two clubs lately to negate any bad feeling. The case of Nathan Arnold has highlighted that a player moving from Lincoln or Grimsby is not necessarily on a downward trajectory although my argument is questionable in view of Arnolds move to Boston United but there are other factors in play with that move. Not many clubs can expect to hang on to players who aren’t getting a game, particularly with no reserve side. The thought does occur though whether it is time for City to feature a second string? My Father used to tell me in the good old days City’s reserves played in front of gates of thousands. Could that happen again in view of the current supporter numbers?

The different direction could be a figment of my imagination but are we detecting movement away from our much derided playing system to something a little more, ahem scientific? I’d certainly like to think so. I have no problem with a simple and effective style but the better teams will easily negate those tactics and I’ve always thought the most successful teams will be fluid in their approach and able to switch things around as the circumstances dictate. Our manager is not one to let things stagnate and he is on a constant learning curve. The least effective manager will continue in the same rut convinced they are right and everyone else wrong. I don’t think ineffectiveness is a failing the Cowleys can be accused of.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Bob Dorrian.

News has emerged that Bob Dorrian has stepped down as chairman of Lincoln City FC. It’s hardly a surprise as it’s been hinted at many times.

I’ve been critical in the past, mainly of Dorrian taking to the airwaves to impart gems of news that he always managed to make sound worse than they really we’re although to be fair he’s had to preside over some very turbulent times at Sincil Bank and impart more than a little bad news.

It’s ironic now that, under his tenure the club is in as healthy a position as I can remember and I’ve been a fan for an awful long time.

It’s been well documented that Bob has kept the club afloat with large amounts of his own money. It’s typical of the man that just when he could bask in the good fortune he has been largely responsible for he would choose to stand down and let someone else take the plaudits.

I’m sure you would like to join with me in wishing Bob Dorrian well and to thank him for his stewardship of our great club. Great that is because Bob Dorrian has simply refused to let the club go down and because of his business acumen now has the possibility of going on to possibly the most succesful period in its history.

Thank you Bob. Thank you for our club. It’s down to you we still have it.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

A tale of two Cities and a Metropolitan Borough.

Now that the dust has settled on the Alex Woodyard transfer I have to admit I’m still gobsmacked that Woodyard has departed Lincoln City and particularly Danny Cowley. I saw Woodyard as Cowleys man and expected he would depart when Cowley did and to wherever Cowley went. Shows what I know.

A look at Woodyards career, pre Cowley shows a restless character failing to cement a place anywhere and only once he arrived at Concorde Rangers did a settled progression emerge. The rest we know.

I look also at the history of Lee Frecklington as I think there are similarities. There are two football clubs and one manager who keep springing to mind. Peterborough United, Rotherham United and Steve Evans. Now at the risk of being accused of getting ahead of myself, personally I’ve always seen these two clubs as of a similar size to Lincoln City although there’s no denying that both these clubs have enjoyed considerably greater success than the Imps. At the moment Peterborough have significantly less support than City, Rotherham a bit more although this could be down to stadium size. Both clubs eclipse City in the buying stakes and of course this is brought sharply into focus as Peterborough have prized away one of City’s most celebrated assets, Alex Woodyard. How has that happened?

Woodyard has said it’s the lure of league one football but I’m not so sure. Posh will have offered considerably greater wages although, somewhat mystifyingly the Peterborough chairman says Woodyard has chosen ambition over greed. What does that mean? Woodyard will have to get used to playing in front of considerably fewer supporters and nothing like the atmosphere of Sincil Bank. London Road is half a good stadium with impressive stands on one side and behind one goal. The other two sides are back to the fifties although the ground does have a nicely enclosed feel.

Lee Frecklington also found himself at Peterborough and progressed to Rotherham United where he played in the Championship. They of course are now back there. There’s no point in pretending that, attendances apart, Lincoln City are anywhere near Rotherham or for that matter Peterborough who have an owner prepared to spend big bucks to get what he wants.

Hovering over this story is the not inconsiderable figure of Steve Evans. We’ve got history of course and, for my money Evans feels he does not get the credit he deserves and the reason for this is his exploits at another of our local sides, Boston United. Now this article is not an attempt at a demolition job on Evans, he’s clearly a good manager with a proven track record of getting clubs promoted. He’s tactically astute, ruthless and with a good eye for spotting talent. What he is not is anything like Danny and Nicky Cowley.

Somewhat to our consternation, the Cowleys are about patient building, sports science, continuity. Evans is about big budgets, splashing the cash. The Cowleys see players as their boys, part of the group. To Evans players are commodities. To be used at his command. You couldn’t see Neal Eardley flourishing under his stewardship. You have to say though Evans track record stands examination but he can never get away from the image forged whilst at the Pilgrims. I think Evans will enjoy success at Peterborough United. I also say Alex Woodyard has made a big mistake going there but as ever, time will tell.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Woodyard to Posh. Who saw that coming?

Firstly it would be wrong not to wish Alex all the best in this latest development in his career. I’ve got to admit I never saw him leaving the Cowleys who have been his mentors for some considerable time.

The advisability of this move has to be seriously questioned in my view but plenty of players have done well at London Road and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t include Alex. I do question how Posh can come up with the money to prize away one of our best assets though. That may of course be naivety on my part but they play in front of modest crowds by League One standards although of course there are bigger rewards in the division above.

Posh’s chairman has said Woodyard has chosen ambition over greed. What does that mean? Maybe the play off failure will have greater ramifications than we thought, there’s no getting over the fact that Peterborough are in the division above City and status counts for a lot.

No club can expect to hold on to all its assets come what may so there’s a reality check for us here but there’s no doubt that Woodyard wasn’t quite the player he was after all the speculation over Luton and personally I did wonder if he had quite the capacity for advancement I’d imagined.

I must be very careful here or it will sound decidedly like sour grapes so I’ll merely say I look forward to enjoying the player or players that replace him. There’s one thing you can say with confidence, Lincoln City don’t need the money and I’d expect it all to go in the playing budget.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

End of term report. The student has excelled in all areas.

I sat at the shareholders meeting the time before last, my first and the air was full of jollity. After years of struggle and underachievement Danny and Nicky Cowley had been appointed and it was apparent then that the bad times were over. The team were doing well in the National League and the FA Cup, gates were well up, there was a general feeling of optimism.

Danny Cowley said something that has stayed with me: Getting promoted from League Two would be easier than from the National League. In my naiveté I took that as a statement of intent. It was probably intended to underline the enormous task that getting promoted back to the Football League was.

At the beginning of last season the word easy did not spring to mind as the team sought to adapt to life as a league club. It was anything but. Nevertheless the team did adapt and, whilst never truly looking like a tilt at the top three places could be anticipated the playoffs were seen as an achievable aim. Only later (correct me if I’m wrong) did Danny Cowley state that the play offs were the aim. I bet they weren’t, both from the manager’s point of view and the players. I believe they all wanted to continue the momentum and achieve a second promotion.

That the club didn’t, ought not to suggest that last season was in any way shape or form a disappointment. How could it be when the club did eventually finish in the top seven and not only enjoy a trip to Wembley but carried off the Checktrade Trophy?

There were two stand out players and you don’t need me to tell you this, Michael Bostwick and former crock Neal Eardley. Of the latter I wonder how many former managers are muttering over their cornflakes, how did I let him go, why couldn’t I do that with him?

As for Bozzie after, for me an uncertain start he has emerged as a signing of genius. Probably the only time our geographical position has enabled us to sign a player of this quality. League Two supporters should be grateful that two players of such standing will be around next season. They’re far too good for this level and yet they’ve both signed contract extensions. These are great times indeed and, if only because of the fact that these two players are with us and are content to remain with us indicates to me that the good times are unlikely to slip from our grasp anytime soon.

My son won’t agree with me but I really like Matt Green and in Ollie Palmer we have the sort of enigma that every fan loves. As has been stated elsewhere if he doesn’t know what he’s going to do next how can the opposition? Alex Woodyard perhaps hasn’t had as much of the limelight as previously but for me he’s carried on where he left off. I look forward to Harry Anderson fulfilling his potential with us and I watch the goal keeper situation with interest. I thank each and every one of the players for their contribution, Elliott Whitehouse will forever be remembered for his goal at Wembley and I simply purr with pleasure at the thought of having Lee Frecklington back with us again but you’ve all been great.

As we settle in to summer we await the retained list and new recruits. If it rains till September it’ll still be a great summer in Impdom.

Friday, 18 May 2018

End of the beginning?

Well there we are, no second trip to Wembley, another season in league two beckons. We’ll be older and wiser and hopefully will have used the experience of this season to improve next. City looked a weary outfit at the end, the defeated team always does but if this campaign has taught us anything it is that we were probably a couple short in the squad.

The club did of course try to add to the numbers and there lies another important difference between the club going to Wembley and the one that isn’t, finishers. Exeter felled the Imps with a couple of goals that would have enhanced any final, City could not respond.

I found a certain grim amusement in the commentator pressing on with his “long ball Lincoln” theme, resolutely direct was the expression I think as City passed the ball about looking more Arsenal than league two. However, like Arsenal, the ball did not find its way into the net.

I wouldn’t normally seek to include the referee in any culpability for City’s failings but I don’t think we were treated with equanimity. There again if you fling yourself to the ground every time someone brushes past you you’re going to get a reputation. Sorry Rheady, that’s you. His cut head revealing the extent of the misdemeanour that should have resulted in a penalty but didn’t and earlier on when Whitehouse’s strike was disallowed after a consultation with the linesman that should have resulted, if anything, in a penalty also.

All this is not supposed to convey the impression that City should have won, the right team has gone through but, not for the first time this season the decisions have not been kind to us. The management need to analyse why that is. They may need to look at themselves too.

If those paragraphs betray a certain weary resignation that’s about right however the season, by any standards for a newly promoted side has been nothing but positive and I’ve really enjoyed it. City showed they could retain and pass the ball last night, personally I’d like to see more of that and less lump it up. Clearly the close season transfer business is going to be crucial. Hopefully the geographical situation that Danny has spoken about can be overcome as we enhance our reputation. If Norwich can recruit I’m sure in our own more modest way with a supportive and numerous fan base, charismatic managers and progressive board not to mention a brand new state of the art training base, the Imps can do likewise. We all know, or think we know where City need strengthening. We can now sit back, take a breath and await developments.

Enjoy the holidays, your gardens, cars, bikes, allotments, whatever you do with yourselves whilst you wait for the season to start again. Up the Imps!