Andrew Abbott's Blog

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Froome ever the diplomat.

I’ve been a cyclist all my life and I’ve followed the Tour de France ever since I owned my first TV set. I don’t reserve my support for Brits. Bernard Hinault was a particular favourite, Steven Roche another.

Latterly, with the pre eminence of the Sky team we’ve been treated to dominance on the continent that has never been there before. Bradley Wiggins was a colourful winner but even when he was taking the plaudits on the Champs Elysees there was a gangly figure about to take his crown, Chris Froome. Froome is an enigma, born in Africa, he’s nevertheless a Brit but where Wiggins was quickly bestowed with a knighthood after his one win Froome has had to be content with an OBE. Now, after his fourth title that has to be put right.

This year’s contest was deliberately skewed away from Froome by the choosing of a route designed to appeal to his competitors. He still won. I don’t complain about that and I suspect neither would Froome. It’s not particularly in the competition’s interest to have one man dominating but the fact remains that Froome is stage racing and particularly the Tour de France’s tour de force. He can’t stop winning it.

Froome specialises in mountain finishes and time trials. They were reduced this year. Insofar as it’s possible to feel sympathy for the French it’s rather like us with football. They’re supposedly the dominant nation in cycling yet they can’t win the TDF to save their lives. Their best hope, Romain Bardet having finished second last year, finished third this. He was probably only on the podium at all due to Sky’s disinclination to have their own man, Mikel Lander upset the applecart by gaining the two seconds he needed to claim a podium finish himself.

Through it all Froome just got on with the job of securing the race with what he does best, the time trial. He also has the best team behind him in Sky for whom the architect of all the success, Sir Dave Brailsford, has rather blotted his copybook of late resulting in Froome getting perhaps more flack on the roadside than is strictly necessary. Brailsford got a knighthood too. Froome ignores all that thanking the disappointed French fans for their fantastic support in halting French. When I think of some superannuated football players strutting their pampered stuff around the stadia of the world picking up millions for doing not a lot you have to admire these cycling athletes even if they don’t help themselves occasionally.

So far Froome has avoided the doping inspectors attention. I personally believe he is clean. I do hope I’m right in that, I’d be most surprised if he wasn’t, that just wouldn’t be the Froome way.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Lincoln City serve notice on League Two.

Just when you were probably looking forward to a good nights rest after those sticky evenings of late Lincoln City kept their supporters tossing and turning for all the right reasons announcing the signings of Michael Bostwick and Harry Anderson from Peterborough United just before bed time last night.

Does this signify some sort of tectonic shift in power and influence here in the mysterious east? Do Posh deem the players surplus to requirements? Either way it’s a mighty double signing for the Imps who have coveted Anderson for some time as we know but to obtain the signature of Bostwick, I was going to say prise away but he was on the transfer list as Posh always do with players in the last year of their contract but nevertheless the captures represent a seismic shift in the profile of the club and is bound to have got the rest of the league sitting up and taking notice.

I’ll bet a certain well nourished Scotsman is spluttering into his cornflakes this morning at that news. He probably thought he’d dealt City a huge blow signing Lee Angol from under our noses but now he knows he’s only got the apprentice with the Imps scooping up the sorcerers themselves.

The club in general and Clive Nates in particular have been, rightly, playing down City’s prospects in the immediate future, Nates pointing out City’s infrastructure is still far from fit for purpose for life certainly above league two but nevertheless the club have announced their intention of having a good tilt at going straight through the league we are now entering as many of us hoped they would. If last year’s squad was good then this one is, for us, out of this world and surely fans can hardly wait for the season to start and see how the new look team does.

We can allow ourselves a pat on the back as the season tickets sales and enthusiasm in general must have persuaded the board that there is plenty of steam left in the supporters zeal and desire to get behind the club and the players. Those new players know they are coming to a club where they will be well backed, home and away with a very large following of motivated fans who will encourage them to do their best and show their best and if they fall flat on their faces, well, you only do that when you’re really trying and that’s all we ask.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Some great news but a reality check needed.

Alex Woodyard has agreed to extend his stay with Lincoln City once again. That is good news by anybody’s standard. Given that the manager was trying to tie down Woodyard and Sean Raggett one must assume either Raggett does not want to sign an extended deal or negotiations are going to be more protracted. Either way we shouldn’t be perturbed.

I think we have to be realistic about both players, they will move on to bigger and better things sooner or later. Neither owe us anything after last season.

Woodyard is a different animal to Raggett. He’s Cowleys man. He’s followed Cowley wherever he’s gone and he’ll do so again in my view so when Danny departs so will Alex. What comforts me is that Danny and Nicky Cowley, whilst full of ambition want to take our club further forward before moving on. I think we can pat ourselves on the back for partly facilitating that. If crowds had risen to four or five thousand and season ticket sales panned out at say three thousand the managers might have come to the conclusion that their time at Lincoln was coming to a close.

As it happens Lincoln City were, to all intents and purposes the best supported team in the National League, along with Tranmere. Now, thanks to season ticket sales they will be up there at the top of the best supported League Two clubs. We need to keep it that way. The Cowleys will want to see us filling Sincil Bank on a regular basis, even if results do not always go our way.

That’s what we have to do to keep them in my view and even then they’ll go eventually so enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Making hay while the sun shines.

We’re all still basking in this, for us City fans, unaccustomed optimism and general feelgood factor. Enthusiasm has continued throughout the summer as evidenced by the fact that season tickets continue to be bought even after the reduced price cut off and the level of interest in the forthcoming pre-season friendly against Lincoln United.

The cynic in me wonders what will happen to all this new found bonhomie and confidence and particularly attendance figures once the inevitable downturn occurs. Hopefully a sea change has occurred with Imps fans and interest in the team will surmount any negativity which would be the result of a setback or two. The likes of Ipswich, Norwich and Burnley to quote a few seem to have mastered that loyalty conundrum, no reason to suppose we should necessarily be any different to them.

Whilst I’m in this, for me, unusual bout of uncertainty the acid test will of course come once the managers decide to cash in their chips and move on to bigger and better things. We can only hope that when that time comes we ourselves will have moved onwards and upwards so that a continuity starts to assert itself due to our enhanced status and we can attract a better quality manager to carry on the good work. That’s where fan loyalty comes in both from the point of the selling power of the club and also maintaining the confidence of the board to continue investing.
One hope in that regard is that maybe the next manager is already at the club, watching and learning. Knowing what we do about the Cowleys and the board I don’t think that’s too forlorn a hope.

In the meantime of course everything seems to be proceeding according to plan even given that some of our squad players have moved on. There was an inevitability about that but those players do, I’m sure leave with our best wishes.

We the fans are the constant in all this although there is an admirable continuity emanating from the board with new additions added all the time making their own financial and expertise contribution. As for us, we need to keep what we’re doing. It’s not too much to ask for our support whilst it’s all going so well. The trick will be to continue if it all goes a bit pear shaped. Are you up for the challenge?

Friday, 16 June 2017

A whole new ball game.

Years ago in the days of message boards which I suppose were a precursor to the digital football age we're now in I used to style myself The Impossible Dream. Behind that epithet I used to wax lyrical about the prospects for Lincoln City. At about the same time that most super of super fans, Chris Ashton used to write a column in the Football Echo under the title The Oracle of Optimism.

I don’t think either of us in our wildest, or most impossible of dreams ever imagined ourselves, having witnessed the most magisterial of promotion and championship campaigns and mulling over the implications of over 5000 season ticket holders, awaiting the publication of the football league, yes that’s right, football league fixture list with Lincoln City so favourably positioned.

Ah yes, I hear you say, but what about new signings? Well we all like to get excited about them but I’m sure news is just around the corner and in fact the Echo are reported City have had two out of three offers accepted and new signings are a possibility, subject to contract.

Any writer will tell you inspiration is the key to a good paragraph or two and what sparked this particular bout of enthusiasm is the trailer that I’m sure you’ve seen for a tribute to the season past entitled “Impossible is just an opinion”.

I’m sure older supporters pine for the old days of the Football Echo, which was a marvellous publication, on the streets an hour or so after the final whistle but there was no local radio, at least not till later and that for a lower league football fan was as good as it got as the national daily’s certainly didn’t stoop so low as the fourth division, maybe a couple of lines in the Sundays.

What struck me was the quality of the product we are now eagerly awaiting which I suppose is testament to the sheer volume of material available as City seemed to be hardly off the television and we must pay tribute, as the club do, to the fantastic cover given to us by BBC Radio Lincolnshire.

Personally I’ve gone from feeling somebody up there doesn’t like us to feeling truly blessed but as Danny Cowley has taught us the impossible is not a dream and not even an opinion. If you work hard enough and believe and stick together it can be a reality and it’s here right now.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Swan or ugly duckling?

For the blogger, not much to write about but for the loyal fan maybe no news is good news but is the lack of activity on the surface a sign that City are not going to be making significant progress or are the Cowley webbed feet thrashing furiously under the surface?

Firstly what we do know and it’s all good news. It’s a bit old now but Luke Waterfall and Callum Howe have signed extensions to their contracts, which is very positive but the big story of the close season is the season ticket sales which at 5050 for a club so recently in the doldrums is remarkable and might well put them at the top of the tree as regards season long committed support. So the fans have matched the ambition of the managers and board of directors. It’s such a pleasant change to be commenting on this harmony of outlook and, as far as I’m concerned sends a message to the managers particularly that the fans are behind them.

Of course that’s not the end of the story as there are a sizeable number of junior red Imps joining us each home game and away support will be much greater so maybe we’re looking at six, six and a half thousand average from a standing start. Personally, after averaging five thousand last season I’d be disappointed with that if it ended at that level and we’d had a decent season.

I don’t believe it will for the simple reason that the average gate is going to start off in the five or six thousands and it started at a much lower level last year. I think we’ll start to see some transfer activity come July, seeing as the football league contracts don’t end till June 30 and, if there’s inspiring news as I hope there may be we could sell a few more and there does come a point and we’re not all that far off it when spaces become at a bit of a premium and people may decide, albeit at a late stage to get a season ticket rather than miss out.

It’s worth pointing out that provision in the Stacey West Stand will have to be allowed for where a club may bring a large support and there are several of those games coming up so the club, presumably has a limit as to how many season tickets are allowed and the Stacey West situation brings the number of spaces down for home fans to something like 8200 which sounds a lot but bearing in mind the gates at the end of last season and the number of tickets allocated already, not counting complimentary tickets and other considerations the club will have to tread carefully.

Who’d have thought that would be a problem for the board to consider as they peer down from (for us) the mountain of cash they’re sitting on. I do hope you’re savouring every moment as it’s a once in a lifetime scenario for us all and unlikely to occur again.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Plotting a way forward for the Imps.

There’s a board meeting at the offices of Lincoln City’s sponsors, Software Europe today where the Imps hierarchy convene, no doubt with the addition of Clive Nates on line and one would imagine there are few dark clouds on the horizon to be dealt with.

The board, as with ourselves the fans, will no doubt have an eye on the predators hovering around managers and players most notably Raggett and Woodyard but there could be others. The manager says that’s a good thing and I tend to agree with that. Departures are inevitable and, if the price is right, a good thing for a club with money in the bank already who are then able to go out and source a suitable replacement.

I suspect the managers are here for another season or two and that in itself is persuading the more bankable players to stay put for the moment. The danger is one day of course an unmissable opportunity will come along and we will lose the managers and our star players. Personally the likes of Peterborough United and Aston Villa do not concern me but the name West Ham does. Even then it’s going to happen at some stage and I’m sure we all want the managers to be rewarded for what they have done for us just not yet.

That is where the board come in and I don’t suppose they need the likes of me to tell them this but Lincoln City need to have a plan for the continued development of the club post Cowley brothers. Already I have heard it said that City see Ipswich Town as a model worth following and I heartily endorse that. The thing about the Tractor Boys is they retain the loyalty of their fans through thick and thin and it’s been a bit thin lately yet 16000 still turn up for games in a population area similar to Lincoln.

I hope I’m not clutching at straws here but there are already signs City are heading in the right direction with season ticket sales now heading towards a 5000 target. There’s every chance sales could get there too as it becomes a self-perpetuating phenomenon with fans judging that tickets at least for where people want to be in the stadium start to become scarce and if the team are successful fans could well imagine that unless they purchase a season ticket they might not get to see some matches at all as happened last season. So I think the club are quite right to publicise the credit option for supporters which, when you think about it, even with a bit of interest, supporters can see games for no more than paying on the day. The difference is they have to commit for the whole season.

I think there is a progression being formed in the club with the continued employment of Jamie McCombe on the coaching staff. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s not the next manager in the general scheme of things although I’m perhaps getting ahead of myself here but I do believe City have never been better placed to progress, going into the next season well-funded and with more fans clamouring to support the Imps and with a wealth of business acumen on the board of directors.

There’s certainly never been a better time to follow the Imps and never a better chance of lasting success at a much higher level than we’ve been used to and I hope either today or at some stage an item on the agenda will be is a new 12000 seat stadium sufficient for Lincoln City’s needs?

We live in hope.