Wednesday, 23 May 2018
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
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!
Thursday, 17 May 2018
I’m not sure what the accepted wisdom on away matches in the evening is. I remember years ago John Reams saying the team would normally be expected to take a leisurely coach journey on the day whatever the distance. Times were different then of course.
That is not the approach with the modern day Imps and we know they travelled last night. Presumably if they’d given up on the tie they’d not have gone to the expense. We’re all used to watching European games these days and we know that a draw in the first leg is not a disaster even if that’s at home. I’m sure that’s Danny Cowleys view where as we know defeat is not something to be considered an option.
My guess is tonight’s game will not be that different to the first although there will come a point where one team or the other, or both, will decide they have to go for it. Here I believe City may have an edge. Whilst Exeter were at Wembley last year the Imps have a much more recent visit to recall and how did they get there? A penalty shoot-out. Football at the final stages of a competition is often a case of fine margins, could this give us an edge? City have gone from knockout failures to specialists and we know one of the Cowleys specialities is knockout competitions and this is one aspect of their arsenal that attracted the board to them. It makes sense to a small lower league or non league side as we were then, to have the chance to make more money by progressing in a cup competition. Of course they did more than make money they broke records and made, for us a fortune that has enabled the manager to prepare well by staying over without having to break the bank. We’re not in a cup competition but were in a knockout one and now two games from even more spectacular progress.
I see Shrewsbury have made it back to Wembley again in very short order, what price on City doing the same? I’m really quite confident that we may.
Sunday, 13 May 2018
It was a strange feeling this season, bidding farewell to your fellow supporters for another year not knowing whether that’s it or if further adventures await. Obviously we know there’s another game but will there be another Wembley final? After yesterday I couldn’t say. Conventional wisdom would suggest with no lead to defend the Imps will be up against it as I’m sure they will be but, for my money, particularly in the second half, City looked as if they had plenty in their locker to hope they may yet make a game of it.
I don’t know whether it’s the fact we’re all seated and particularly now that, certainly where I sit everyone is a season ticket holder so it’s the same faces every game and you do get to know everyone around you. We go in a group of four but we know everyone we sit with now and all chat quite happily together but actually know virtually nothing about each other and never meet apart from at the game. Take the lady I sit next to, we chat quite animatedly about the game, much to my friends amusement and, in the case of yesterday when my wife accompanied me, bemusement. I was asked after the game had we scored whether my wife would get the hug or my neighbour. The truth of the matter is, particularly after a good goal I’ll hug anyone, male or female and frequently do.
Anyway, moving on but sort of staying on the same subject I met some very charming members of LISA, our new(ish) female supporters group last Saturday evening and a very entertaining experience it was. I came away from chatting to these women pondering on the future and whether the sea change we are now seeing at the club is actually replicated in the support. My fear and I guess yours is that one day the bubble will burst, the Cowleys will move on and the support will dwindle. After Saturday I’m not convinced that will happen. It seems that LISA members, if the ones I met are indicative, have discovered something new in their lives and they absolutely love it. It can’t be just the new female supporters I think and hope we all love it and will want to continue attending games come what may. So maybe things have changed forever. It would be nice to think that.
So back to the game and apparently according to Sky a battle between the forces of darkness or probably more accurately dark ages and the brave new dawn. That, in my view is so much baloney. Exeter were better in the first half, Lincoln in the second. I haven’t seen it but these lower league productions amuse me. The TV company assemble a team of “experts” to analyse the game but instead of the Champions League winners and seasoned top end performers you get for Premier League games there is a motley collection of has beens and never were’s anxious to prove what superstars they were in their day at City’s expense usually. The truth of the matter is they weren’t otherwise they would be pundits on the top shows wouldn’t they? All this long ball verses culture it really is the stupidest nonsense. Was Glenn Hoddle long ball, was Beckham? The acid test is, can you get the ball in the net? Yesterday the answer was no. Will that be the case on Thursday? I wouldn’t bet on it.
Friday, 11 May 2018
I don’t know whether music is inspiring my Imps writing at the moment or the Imps are inspiring my interest in music but one thing you hear over and over is the fans are encouraging the players to deliver. Probably over deliver. Danny Cowley says the Imps are ahead of the curve. That may be so much kidology. I distinctly heard Cowley say getting promoted from league two would be easier than from non-league. What he didn’t necessarily infer is that it would be back to back promotions which is probably what my fevered imagination took it as.
Much speculation as to the Imps wealth or lack thereof at the moment with City being anxious not to appear awash with cash. Of course historically we are but it’s not all about the playing budget, there’s the training facility and, is it my imagination or do City stay over on the Friday rather more than they did? Why not would be my reaction both from the viewpoint of being better prepared and also, given that the club seem to be able to train at some impressive and exotic facilities it’s an extra fillip for the team. An example of that would be the Checktrade Final. City trained at Arsenal, Shrewsbury at Brentford. Swanky or what? As Lincoln City players I’m pleased they have these occasional professional treats and I hope they see it as one of the bonuses of being an Imps player.
So we come to the thing money can’t buy. Us. We certainly can’t say we’re unappreciated, we’re praised by players and management and even the opposition so we must be doing something right. The thing we do well, I think is unconditional support. The prime example of that would be the Crewe debacle. This is a source of some embarrassment with the players and managers but even so the players know as long as they try they will receive only support. There have been bad performances though. I’ve been taken to task for describing a display as abject but I write what I feel at the time. Last weekend the first half was getting that way although the second half was better. Any more of that kick and rush and we’re out in my view but I can’t believe we’ll see a performance like that again. I said last week I didn’t think nerves would play that much of a part but I’ve never seen the team look so anxious.
My thought last week was that City are seasoned big game performers. Every game at Sincil Bank is a big game, they’ve played at Wembley in front of over forty thousand. I thought they would be experienced enough to rise above the jitters. It didn’t pan out that way but I’m sure tomorrow will be different. If not, we’re in for a long afternoon.
Sunday, 6 May 2018
If I’m honest I expected City to win the last game of the season at a canter. Three, four goals maybe. In the end had it been a horse race Danny Cowley might have got a fine for using too much of the whip. Yeovil clearly hadn’t read the script and neither had City. It was easy to see the plan, blitz the Glovers and maybe play a bit of football once the Imps were out of sight. Well you know what they say about the best laid plans.
The problem about playing plan A and B at the same time is, well there’s no plan B. Not quite true as it happens and when it came it was a case of remember me? Yes, Tom Pett, for so long awaiting his chance in the wings and when he got it, played a delightful dink that wasn’t at all easy to put City on the road to the play offs. You could almost see the tension drift up to the stratosphere like the smoke announcing a new Pope.
The scene was all set with the now familiar packed bus, the massive queue for a pint at the Eagle, the cry of “no more real ale in the tent” just as we were almost smelling our beers. As it happens a nice cold lager was just the job, in fact we could have done with some more as the sizzling weather and stultifying play got us all hot under the collar. A few, more than a few glances at the smartphone as Mansfield were first losing and then tying their game. Surely City weren’t going to fall so late in the race?
No. It felt a mighty close run thing though and City are going to have to up their game if they’re to progress still further and on to Wembley but you know I just wonder if the Imps have left their nerves on the pitch and we’ll see a different City take on Exeter City next Saturday. I do hope so. I couldn’t take much more of that.
Friday, 4 May 2018
Around this time last season we were hoping to be able to enjoy league football for the following campaign. If you look at it along those lines for next season we all have nothing to lose. It’s either league two or league one. It hasn’t been a season of struggle in fact it’s been largely untroubled after those first few weeks when City had to get used to the standard they had to reach. They did that quite easily.
Tomorrow will be tense I’d imagine but not that tense. I find with the atmosphere generated there is excitement, encouragement and a high degree of noise. Those old days when the crowds fear is felt by the players are, in my view, a thing of the past. Every crowd likes to think of itself as its clubs twelfth man. Few are but we are one of them. A few wins over the last couple of seasons are directly attributable to us, a tired and uninspiring performance turned on its head by the fans to drag the team over the line.
In all honesty I’m not expecting that scenario tomorrow. City will be fit, reinvigorated, purposeful and motivated. They want the playoffs, we want the playoffs, Danny wants the playoffs. Usually what Danny wants Danny gets and I’m very confident the team will deliver tomorrow. If they don’t, what’s the worst that can happen? Another season in league two. Boo hoo.
I’m bringing along my very good friend the Boston United supporter tomorrow. I’m hoping we serve up for him a real treat, a world away from the football experience he has at York Street. I say that not out of swank but I’d like him to see what truly blessed football supporters we are. What a thrill it is to be at a game where the supporters support, loudly, unconditionally and from the first whistle, before that in fact. Where it’s an occasion every game, unmissable.
I just know you, my fellow fans will deliver, I hope our team will deliver, we know they will be giving it their all. It’s going to be a great day, I just know, this is our time, I’m convinced of that.