Andrew Abbott's Blog

Monday, 30 August 2010

Norfolk - nothing is what it seems

This is an entry I made to a travel writing competition in The Daily Telegraph. I'm still waiting for my prize!

The setting sun glistened on the muddy banks exposed by the receding tide. In the distance Noah's Ark rose out of the marsh. It looked like a large shed perched on top of the wooden hull. As we drew nearer we could see it really was a large shed atop a wooden hull. Perhaps it was Noah's Ark, nothing's necessarily what it seems on the east coast. Setting sun, east coast? Yes that's right a sunset on the east coast of England, this is Norfolk so prepare to suspend belief.

We press on through the salt marsh, the boats sit awkwardly where the tide leaves them, crazy angles against the failing light, then returning birds chatter irritably at us, this is their territory and we are invading it. In the distance a man, yellow oilskin coat to protect against the easterly breeze, begins to dig for bait, a fisherman trudges away for his tea, crabs in his tray, still alive. We try not to think of their fate. This is holiday country set amongst real people who eke a living from this sometimes savage coast, but it is not savage this evening it is benign and strangely welcoming.

In the distance the chimneys of the Lifeboat Inn hint at a fire inside, despite the fact that it is July. We enter the bar, coughing at the atmosphere, most of the smoke seems to be in the room. Is there a table in the restaurant?Yes, good.

We look outside, it seems quite dark, in the distance, a light on the marsh. I tell my wife it's smugglers, there's a look on her face that shows she's ready to believe me, we giggle, it could be the famous five, Norfolk's like that, it's become a stylish place to be but not particularly stylish if that makes any sense. Earlier in the day we took a train from Weybourne to Holt, a steam train of course, more Famous Five or was it The Railway Children? You really could get carried away in this neck of the woods.

So delightfully old fashioned and yet the yummy mummies and their high powered husbands will be here come Friday, at least their 4 x 4's will have some real country to contend with, don't think much of their chances of getting a signal on their Blackberry's round here though, perhaps that's the attraction.

Our cottage is the loveliest place but it's only ours for a few days. There was no sense of "oh well it's only for a short time" when we arrived it was everything we'd hoped for, inspiring and artful, cleverly homely and anonymous at the same time.

Too soon it's time to go but fortunately Sandringham House is on the route home so we visit her Maj's holiday gaff, laughingly described as a family home, yeah right; nothings what it seems in Norfolk.

Is it ok to shed a tear over the demise of a neighbour?

I wrote this after I had been accepted by Give Me Football but before I was given a password etc. I've kept it ever since and not submitted it for publication and never will now because it's not really what gmf are looking for but I enjoyed writing it and it's from the heart. It's not necessarily how my fellow fans would feel but perhaps their attitudes will change when they get older. I thought at one time I could send it in whilst on holiday and I still might write something along these lines but it will need a complete re write. The picture on the right is a game I attended many many years ago with my friend Dennis Reeson, we both watched City together but also went far and wide in search of a game, in particular we went to see Derby County as they were in the first division. We had been to see Derby v Boston in the FA cup and Boston played ever so well to secure a draw and in fact almost won it. They came unstuck in the replay which was played on a weekday afternoon because of restrictions on the use of electricity, may have been the miners strike.

Little did I think I would end up working in Boston or indeed having work published on the subject of Lincoln City.

About ten years ago I went to work in Boston. I was staying late one day as City were playing a pre season friendly there. I went to get some fish and chips and went back to the office to eat them and make a cup of tea and one of my new bosses stopped by the kitchen and asked me if everything was ok. I explained I follow the Imps and my boss Richard told me he was a Pilgrims fan, it was the start of a friendship over and above the usual employer/employee. After all these years we're still mates and enjoy a chat about the footy and of course these have been tumultuous times for Boston United.

Richard asked me if I'd come to watch a Pilgrims game with him and I said yes provided he came to watch the Imps with me. At that time Boston were riding high in the conference and were to be promoted to the football league that season. We all know what happened next........

I took Richard to see us play Hull City, we sat in the Coop stand. It was when Alan Buckley was manager and when we got it right we looked a good side. We played particularly well that day and won. There was a big crowd and a fantastic atmosphere, to be fair there usually was when we played the Tigers. Richard was not just impressed he was seismically shocked. Boston played in front of about 1500 not bad for such a small town; we had about 6000 in the Bank. He thought the players looked, well, bigger than he was used to certainly far more skillful and athletic. He couldn't see how they were going to bridge the gap.

Boston took their place in the league; this isn't an article about them although there's plenty of material, perhaps some other time. Football chat became banter; we had our financial problems. We had to accept them as equals. It was a shock, Radio Lincs gave them equal prominence, I don't know, what do you think? More than parity sometimes it was like Lincoln who? Lincolnshire Echo too, it did get to me a bit. I started to dread the day they finished higher than us: I would never hear the end of it. When we played that first game at York Street Richard invited me to his house for a cup of team and some cake before the game. Part of me was excited part of me wished it wasn't happening.

Gradually City's financial position improved, Pilgrims started to unravel. After a relatively short illness Boston United all but died, the whole story came out, it wasn't a normal story of bad luck, bad planning, they were relegated and began their descent down, down. They were out of my way. I was glad, not that Boston United were down, just my particular awkwardness with the situation was removed from me. I think it's fair to say we Imps generally are well disposed towards Boston United. It seemed to me they were subsequently punished and it affected the fans, ordinary people like us, just wanting to support our team. I know the chairman, he's a good man, I know a lot of their fans, they're just like us, decent people, bit cocky perhaps but then who isn't where local rivalry is concerned?

Now I feel very different, I wish them well, glad they got promoted, at least one Lincolnshire team had a good season.

A few years ago, the time I'm writing about we had Hull, The Iron, Stags Grimsby Magpies Peterborough now all gone one way or another. The latest of course, Mariners. How are we supposed to feel? Well of course part of me wanted to go ha ha ha, just like they must have done when it happened to us, them on their lofty perch safe and secure. How the mighty have fallen and for all our thoughts of parity with Grimsby Town from where we've been they have been high; and mighty.

I didn't go ha ha ha as it happens, I thought of that day with them damn dog at Torquay and Burnley, yes thank you Mr Des Lynam, a very good day for football, not if you come from Lincoln mate. I thought of the awful football we had to watch and how we were everyone's cup final, which Grimsby are going to have to come to terms with because it will be "former Championship side" and everyone will want to teach them a lesson just like they did with us. I didn't laugh; it just brought it all back.

I started logging on to the Grimsby Evening Telegraph. They were saying what we would say, bravado, delusion then realization and a bit of horror. Well just you wait my fishy friends.

I hope they come back, soon, along with Mansfield. I want to shout "oo are yer" at them. I want to feel their distain and stare at them across the pitch I want games with a good competitive atmosphere, I want to hate it when they beat us and I want to gloat when we beat them and laugh when their manager has them on the pitch at half time and most of all I don't want to travel two bloody hours and kid myself it's a local derby!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

The New Season Beckons

Next is a series of articles in their original form and not all published on Give Me Football.

Welcome selection problems for Sutton ahead of first game.

Chris Sutton should have a virtually full squad to choose from for the season's opener at Don Valley Stadium, home (for the moment at least) of Rotherham United. Plenty of Imps fans are expected to make the relatively short trip to cast an eye over the new look team which should be blessed with considerably more pace than last season.

Surprisingly this is City's second shortest away trip following several teams' departure to pastures new and a good following should be assured if only because of the close proximity of a well known shopping centre and easy tram travel right to the gate. So the message to fans is; get your passes signed and support the Imps!

Adam Watts is a doubt with manager Sutton stating on several occasions that he does not know whether he will be sufficiently fit following rehabilitation after badly breaking his leg in an accidental challenge at Grimsby Town's Blundell Park. Daniel Hone is out on loan, perhaps puzzlingly in the eyes of some fans, so Sutton may have to make do and mend in this department with a very tough first outing in prospect against Rotherham's formidable strike force. The Millers have managed to retain the services of the prolific Adam Le Fondre.

A first league outing in Lincoln's colours is in prospect for goalkeeper Joe Anyon who will be well aware that he has a hard act to follow replacing last season's player of the year Rob Burch, City fans will wish him well, as we do for all the players old and new.

Midfield will present a selection conundrum for Sutton with the arrival of several new faces in this area of the team and with a resurgent Clark Keltie, fans will be wondering if there will be a place for captain Scott Kerr found himself out of favour following the new management teams arrival but battled his way back in to the side with typical industry.

Fans will also be interested to see if the new look strike force can deliver the goods, no doubt hoping that Drewe Broughton will be in the mood to inflict a little first day pain upon his former employers. Supporters are expecting to see some exciting wing play too this season and will be keen to see how Mustapha Carayol and Albert Jarrett not to mention Gavin McCallum slot into the team, provided of course they are selected.

This will be the first opportunity too for Imps followers to see Chris Suttons own team following the fairly comprehensive reshuffle over the summer. Having attended a question and answer session a few weeks ago it is apparent that the management team are anxious to recruit players that will excite the fans and hopefully this will result in increased attendances at Sincil Bank in the weeks to come as these have been on the slide recently having been built up to a respectable 5000 average a few seasons ago.

All in all then no reason not to be at the Don Valley Stadium at three o'clock this Saturday to see if City can break their duck at this venue which has traditionally offered very slim pickings.


This is slightly out of order but this is the test piece that I had to submit Give Me Football to gain a place in the PFA editorial team.

Every English and Scottish football fan knows Chris Sutton, legendary part of the SAS attack of Blackburn Rovers with Alan Shearer, glittering career with Norwich City, Villa and Celtic amongst others, famous also for turning down Glen Hoddle who wanted him to play for the England B side. What fans may not know is that Sutton is now manager of Lincoln City in League Two. Who? You might well ask.

Well, Lincon City is a small club in a small city in the East of England. If they were bigger and more infuential they'd be a poor mans Norwich City. Last year saw them "celebrate" 125 years of mainly tortured existence interspersed with the occasional excitement or even (whisper it quietly) promotion.

Lincoln City distinguised themselves by being the first football club to be automatically relegated from the Football League and into the Conference. At least they had the decency to be immediately promoted after one season, as champions, in those days you had to be champion to go up: no playoffs then. A single promotion followed by the inevitable relegation are the only matters of note latterly, if you discount going into administration and subsequent rebirth as a community club, whatever that means.

Administration did have a lasting effect on the ethos of the club. There's a determination, insistence even that those times will never return. Even more problems then for a young manager keen to make his name in the most difficult arena of football. No cutting and running with all the local traders cash for which they'll get 10p in the pound or some worthless shares, chasing that elusive promotion demanded by the chairman, just the daily slog of making ends meet or, at this time of the season persuading players who think they're worth £1500 a week that their immediate future lies earning less than half that playing for a club that makes Doncaster Rovers look like Real Madrid?

So what made someone like Chris Sutton, several seasons playing at top clubs on premiership wages and by all accounts pleasantly situated with a business in leafy, affluent North Norfolk want to move into an apartment near the training ground and spend his Saturday afternoons in a dug out not very far from the not always discerning patrons of Lincoln City FC, who are only too willing to helpfully point out to him where he is going wrong? The short answer is your correspondent doesn't know, other than to question the sanity of the likes of David Cameron, Sir Alan Sugar, and Sir Richard Branson etc all who presumably don't need to get out of bed and put themselves through what they do either.

It's also fair to say it's a safe bet that Chris Sutton wouldn't regard steering Lincoln City to a league above or (stuff of dreams) the Championship for the rest of his career to be a particularly attractive option but you have to start somewhere and, if Wikipedia is to be believed Inverness Caledonian Thistle didn't want him so here he is.

So how's he doing? Well Lincoln City didn't get relegated which had to be item one on the clubs wish list. A pretty comprehensive clear out has ensued and this season's team will largely be Suttons. After the loquacious Peter Jackson, Suttons one word answer interview technique doesn't endear him to everyone although he certainly impressed the board of directors who took a punt on a complete novice but this may have been more to do with being between a rock and a hard pace due to the fact that apparently Jackson had spent all the budget.

Sutton manages like he used to play, hard but he's got a pragmatic streak too. Scott Kerr, the Imps longest serving player and captain quickly found himself dumped along with several others, too unfit was the gaffers verdict but Scotty is no shrinking violet. Player of the season previously Kerr did what he does best; grafted and now he's back in the side.

I don't know Chris Sutton; the closest I got to him was when he got sent to the stands (twice) and ended up two rows from me. There was never any chance of any banter though; I don't think he even knew we were there. Will he bring us success? I don't know and that's the beauty of football you just never know but I do know one thing. Lincoln City in May could be totally useless, a waste of space, unambitious and lacking in all departments but I've got my season ticket and they're my club. Come the start of the season I'll be there full of hope and expectation, all doubts pushed to the back of my mind. COME ON CITY you can do it.....Can't you?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Been a busy time

So not up to date on here.

Last weekend I went to Sheffield to see the Imps at Rotherham and we went shopping at Meadowhall, finished the evening at the generous Briton Brant Broughton where I was pleased to meet a fellow fan/scribe Chopper Imp who is involved with the Rivals website.Will try to get a bit more, including my article from Rotherham soon

Tuesday, 3 August 2010


Just read that post about becoming a real writer, well that told me, don't give up the day job!

Winding Down

After a funny old day, wondered where my hilarious article featuring Bob Dorrian and news of friendlies had got to so I e mailed the editorial team. I soon found out, it was no more, didn't get past the editor. Oh well I'm not the first and won't be the last.

Got a sympathetic and complementary e mail in response to my enquiry, I'd had preferred publication and no complements but that's life. I have to appreciate that gmf is a professional publication and although I'm not a professional writer I have to aspire to those writing levels. I'll learn and be a better writer for it.

Put that setback behind me an sent in another story which I had ready, was published without demur ( with a little bit of tinkering, just to show that they read it.)

Sent in a publicity seeking post to BBC 606, hope that will result in some more readers not to mention denunciation by their crazed contributors.


So frustrated last night, wanted to get on and say that I'd written an entry for a piece of travel writing for a Telegraph competition but my ancient laptop was on a go slow. Now that I think about it I'm not going to publish it just yet, what if the Telegraph publish it, well stranger things have happened.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

My First Published Article

This is the first article published in Give Me Football. I titled it Ere We Go.

Our New Writer explores Pre Season Preparations but this was published 27 July, 2010 under the title The Life and Times of a Lincoln Fan.

Ah the thwack of leather on willow. Summer picnics, hands dangling in the water as we drift along the river, a day at the coast, an ice cream, fish and chips on the prom, athletics on the telly, Wimbledon, strawberries and cream - thank goodness that's nearly over for another year and we can get on with the footy.

Hi, I'm Andrew Abbott, I'm a season ticket holder in the Echo Stand. I'm 56 and I've supported City ever since my Dad took me to Sincil Bank when I was 7 or 8. Ironically we used to be more or less where I've ended up. Dad used to stand at the back of the small paddock in front of the St Andrews Stand and I used to sit on the wall by the pitch. I went to school overlooking the ground, later at the City School.

Obviously after last seasons disappointment things were bound to change at Sincil Bank and the new manager (I suppose we can just about still call him that) was bound to want to make root and branch changes to the team so there has been a fairly comprehensive clear out and these personnel changes are well documented elsewhere in Give Me Football so I won't dwell on them here. What I do want to tell you about is an invitation only training session held last Thursday at Sincil Bank Stadium.

You have to be a bit eagle eyed to spot these things but they are on the Red Imps Website so keep your eyes peeled. These public training sessions are fairly commonplace on the continent I believe but City held one last season and it was deemed a success and the exercise was repeated this year. Before you get all excited and start looking for the next one you firstly have to be a season ticket holder to get an invite so if you want to be in on these things (not to mention free bus travel to and from games) you know what to do although you have now missed out on the early bird discount.

The session started with some intricate exercises presumably to prepare the players for the rigours of life in League Two and the idea no doubt is to get them used to playing football even though space is very much at a premium. I have to say as someone who is stuck in an office all day this all seemed hugely enjoyable to the players who were giving it their all and woe betide anyone who ballsed up (I'll get my coat).

On then to a small sided game or games as things were changed about a bit and I will say this part gave an insight as to what things may be like next season. I'm going to share something with you later in this article but I think it's fair to say we're all wondering where the goals are going to come from this coming season but if these players can reproduce the goal scoring form they showed in this session then we may have little need to worry. It is a big if though because of course no training session can be the same as a competitive game.

After a short comedy routine performed by the coaching staff which you had to be there to fully appreciate but it did involve the moveable goalpost and the groundsman won't be too happy with them we moved on to a question and answer session in the bar. I've not been to one of these before but I have to say I was impressed by the willingness to give straight answers to questions, fielded mainly by Ian Pearce but the other coaching staff were there although Chris Sutton wasn't.

Last Monday we heard from the Lincolnshire Echo, if we really needed it spelling out, that Davide Somma would not be joining us on loan or permanently from Leeds United. I don't think many fans would regard that as a surprise, much though we hoped it might happen. Perhaps this story ran as long as it did on the back of a need in this modern age to produce stories for the back pages in our local paper all summer long (if that's a pun sorry). Certainly I and I suspect most fans assumed that there would be at least one more signing to play alongside Drewe Broughton and (or) Delroy Facey, this is my exclusive by the way, it was explained at the meeting that the manager is now satisfied with his squad and there are not expected to be any more additions although loan signings may follow. On the evidence of what we saw maybe there's no need for concern, we shall see.

On an entirely different note and really nothing to do with Lincoln City I must admit to feeling a little saddened by the Howard Webb story. Referees look forward to games as much as players and fans and there is no bigger game than the world cup final. I've got a lot of time for Webb, he's a ref I like to see on a Sunday afternoon on the tv and I thought, given the circumstances he did a good job. You may disagree with me but if the quality of refereeing was half as good as Howard on a Saturday afternoon I think we'd all see a more entertaining game in keeping with the way fans like to see the game played in this country; hard but fair.

That's it for my first effort; I hope you enjoyed it and will continue to log on to Give Me Football to read my views. Search against my name on Twitter and click follow me and I'll send hints of what's to come just to keep you interested.

Don't you just love Sunday mornings?

Just finished the latest article, I really enjoyed writing that story. I seem to have evolved a style. I can't see any point in making my stories look like newspaper articles, might as well just buy a newspaper. I think it far better to create something different. In any case I don't seem to have a huge amount of control over the matter, when inspiration comes it comes and I just have to write it down. It just seems to happen that way. I hope that's good.

At least with my writing you're getting me rather than an approximation of someone else's work. Am I beginning to sound like a real writer?