Andrew Abbott's Blog

Friday, 26 August 2011

Good Friday-or Fright Night?

At least, now that elusive win has been attained, fans can look forward to a home game for a change with the visit of Stockport County. It’s a Bank Holiday too so the potential is there for six lovely points and a few days off to boot. If only life as an Imp was that straightforward. Following the Hatters visit, Darlo away is next so by Monday night our season could be well and truly launched or we could be back wondering where our next win will come from. Or something in between.

Steve Tilson will have been wearing a very satisfied look this week as well he might as his double substitution immediately changed Tuesdays away game in the Imps favour with two very neat looking finishes from Kyle Perry followed, as usual by a late goal, Anyon possibly unsighted as Telford got what turned out to be a consolation but this sort of thing has really got to be eliminated if City are to do well this season.

From rags to riches Stockport will be no pushover but in reality their new moneybags status has not propelled them much higher in the league than the Imps and, as Tilson pointed out in the Lincolnshire Echo today a large bank balance did not prevent Fleetwood taking a beating in the week either. The manager believes the key to success for City is an unbreakable team spirit although it does help that, for the first time in a considerable period the team does possess goal scorers and by possess we mean they are actually our own players as opposed to loans which makes a pleasant change. The jury is still out on our defensive capabilities though, particularly to the end of games where City’s ability to see out the match is questionable, well perhaps hopeless might be a better description particularly compared to, say Kidderminster who left the Imps chasing shadows in their quest to turn around the recent game. Indeed, teams in the division we now find ourselves in seem very happy passing the ball around, in contrast to our own heroes. Let’s face it; we couldn’t do that to any great degree even when we had a decent side, apart from a brief flowering under John Schofield.

Sorry to harp on about the old days but team togetherness is probably the single most telling attribute in a successful side, particularly at our level. When you look back in our history the Taylor, Murphy, Beck and Alexander teams all had it in abundance and it remains to be seen whether the present management have the necessary welding abilities but Tilson has made more than a few references to his desire to foster it at Lincoln. Mind you, given the lack of cash at the club he would say that wouldn’t he?

Let’s hope the recent home form hasn’t put off the faithful and there’ll be a good crowd at Sincil Bank tonight to see if City can make it two wins on the trot. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

I’m working on it, night and day - Tilson

Todays write up for the away game at Telford in

For those who subscribe to the “one win and were off” school of thought Lincoln City have another chance to kick start their season with a game tonight at Telford. Not many fans were guilty of over confidence pre season and those that were expecting an easy ride back to league football now know otherwise. It’s certainly true that teams in this division are pretty cute when it comes to dead ball situations. The problem for the Imps is that free kicks are their Achilles heel at least at the moment and we would hope that much effort is being put in to rectifying this situation. It has to be presumed that the players are as frustrated as the supporters at playing reasonably well only to come unstuck the minute the opposition get the ball at their feet. Mind you, it would help if the team tried not to give so many free kicks away, particularly within range.

Steve Tilson told the Lincolnshire Echo he and Paul Brush are “rarely at home at the moment” and that mulling over team matters has become a 24 hour obsession as they search for that elusive first win. Telford did just that at the weekend, at York of all places and it remains to be seen whether they kick on from that or whether City can get amongst the points themselves. Lincoln will be freed of their supposed shackles, not having to perform in front of us oh so demanding fans. Part time Telford’s manager Andy Sinton told the Echo if anything they were the underdogs and at a disadvantage home or away. Mind games not just the preserve of Mourinho and Ferguson then. Last time at New Bucks Head the Imps ran out winners, 3-1 in the FA cup first round, itself a collectors item.

As for the City supremo three points however garnered will fit the bill:-

“The victory will come and I’m really not bothered how we achieve it” he told the paper.

Amen to that.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Another chance to shine

Oops, forgot to post my pre Friday article in Vital Lincoln, however much you re-read it we still lost!

Well one thing about the beginning of the season is the games come thick and fast and after a disappointment, which Tuesday undoubtedly was, it’s not been long before another opportunity to set the record straight presents itself. Judging by some of the comments received at Vital HQ fans are more than ready for the team to do just that with some supporters wanting to see the proverbial running through brick walls a bit more in evidence.

There has been a suggestion that some players are getting uptight about playing at Sincil Bank, which of course was bandied about last season too. Gavin McCallum was particularly vocal on the matter of the home support last term, which struck a lot of fans as a poor excuse for some, let’s face it very poor performances by the team and his name is all over the local press now although this time it’s Steve Tilson making the suggestion and it’s made with the caveat that he really needs to get his act together after a couple of lacklustre shows. He’s not on his own and it occurred to this correspondent last Tuesday that it’s the players from last season who have failed to shine with Ali Fuseini, Adam Watts and the aforementioned McCallum struggling to make their mark. Tilson is going to have his work cut out to move some presumably higher earners on to free funds up on the evidence so far. Those players on contracts are going to sit tight so it remains to be seen how the squad will shape up and there is a danger that we will have last seasons man management problems all over again.

One player who has confounded his critics is ‘keeper Joe Anyon who put in a glittering display against Kiddy, giving a glimpse of the form that lead many to believe his career would go in a totally different direction to the way it has panned out for him. Long may that continue. That’s not to say everyone is failing and even the staunchest critic would be hard put to maintain that two games into the season is a suitable period upon which to pass judgement. City fans are unfortunately too used to seeing abject surrender to be relaxed about seeing the team struggle so early in the season but surely talk of the team being booed off against Kidderminster was a bit wide of the mark and any adverse reaction at the end of that game was for the erratic refereeing display wasn’t it? No doubt you’ll make your views known through our forums.

Talking of nerves the cameras will be at tonight’s game so any shrinking violets won’t know which way to turn. As was stated in a previous article surely the players City have recruited are here in the expectation of playing in front of larger crowds and on the TV. What’s going to happen if the season is successful as we all hope? Well, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

That sinking feeling

I look at the realisation that it's not all going to be plain sailing in my latest article on

Any hopes we had that the first home game of the season would bring with it a new optimism and finally shake off the hoodoo that was pervading proceedings at Sincil Bank were swiftly shattered as Kidderminster Harriers performed a smash and grab raid, departing Lincoln with all three points following a now typical defensive hash up that left players and crowd wondering how the hell that happened. It would be churlish to suggest the result was somehow unfair as Kidderminster did look a halfway decent set up, though hardly world beaters and, as City started to huff and puff in the second half, having started ok, wouldn’t put it any more than that but as the game wore on the Imps looked increasingly unable to turn the game around.

Manager Tilson did attempt to rescue matters with a triple substitution, which together with one from Kiddy would have been funny had it not been for the fact that City were well and truly chasing the game at that point, the fourth official all fingers and thumbs trying to get the electronic board to work and no one any idea what was going on as the seconds ticked by. Those six minutes of time added on might have been largely attributable to that incident as much as Kidderminster’s, perhaps understandable, time wasting which eventually let to their ‘keeper being booked. The Imps began to look more and more ragged as did, it has to be said, the officials and it really was no surprise that our heroes could not snatch victory from the jaws of defeat or even get the goal that would have rescued a point and City now boast an unenviable home record of played one lost one which, if you tally in last seasons home performances which of course we shouldn’t, makes for uninspiring reading.

All of the above leads; again we shouldn’t be doing this, to conjecture as to whether we have the right man at the helm. Let’s hope these negative thoughts can be well and truly dispelled with a good performance against Wrexham on Friday. Let’s face it; those of us a little longer in the tooth will remember that our last foray in to non league football took some time to get going. The trouble is, the team really needed to get off to a good start to bring the less committed fan into the ground and give the board some financial muscle to fund reinforcements. They’re not going to stir from their armchairs if they think it’s the same as last season which it looks like at the moment. It’s worth saying though there was none of last seasons lethargy and lack of commitment about last nights show, indeed there was much to be optimistic about. Josh Gowling is obviously inspired by the captaincy and let’s hope it brings about a transformation in him such as we saw with Delroy. He certainly needs to cut out some of the errors displayed last night and when he does fans will hope to see a career relaunched in his case.

Steve Tilson, speaking to BBC Lincolnshire was concerned the players had showed some nerves in the home opener. Surely though, part of the attraction of signing for Lincoln was the prospect of playing in front of larger than average crowds and they must be aware that there would be expectation from the faithful much as we tell ourselves that there is a long and demanding season ahead of us. Fans must always believe that there is the possibility of glory ahead even though we keep those expectations to ourselves? At the moment those notions are well and truly on the back burner.

Well, as they say tomorrow is another day, or rather the day after tomorrow and the players will not need reminding that a win against Wrexham will ease those negative vibes. At least we’re not in the same position as you know who!

Friday, 12 August 2011

An appointment with destiny

For the writer the start of a new season offers up plenty of cliché’s to kick start the keyboard after a few weeks inactivity, new dawn, new era, change of direction etc etc but for Lincoln City and their long suffering supporters it really is a case of into the unknown despite the fact that non league is hardly uncharted territory. Even before our inaugural descent from league football at the first opportunity presented by automatic relegation and promotion, City had been dumped out of first class football before. The fact of the matter is that none of us have much idea how the season will pan out and the great fear is that the descent that, in truth started some seasons ago will continue and further humiliations will beset us.

To make matters worse, the Imps did not enjoy any tangible success from those relatively good times engineered out of adversity by the late great Keith Alexander apart from two play off final appearances and, perhaps more importantly the sort of attendances that some of us thought were gone forever. At least that interest from the wider football community of Lincoln and the surrounding area gives hope that there is still a desire locally for good quality professional football at Sincil Bank (or elsewhere if we dare say that). The gate for the final ignominious game last season showed that, even after the season we endured, an appetite was there from supporters who had largely given up on the team.

Maybe, as was the case with Keith, our management duo will emerge as men of the moment, cometh the hour cometh the men as it were, after all Keith was not a rip roaring success at the first time of asking. It’s not unfair comment to say that last season really could and should not have ended the way it did. Muddled direction and poor man management at least contributed to the debacle as did a lack of supervision and drive at boardroom level. To virtually tell a team that they were not good enough and to largely replace them and then, effectively have to rely on those same players to try to rescue the season at the death is simply no way to run a football club and fans would hope that lessons have been learned. The fact that, particularly, the season ending injury sustained by Delroy Facey when he was in his pomp and loan players being recalled blew the ship well off course is really no excuse. Should a club averaging over 5000 attendances just a few seasons ago really have been so dependant on loan players? As we found out clubs loaning out players will do with them as they wish, they pay the wages after all but having said that this supporter will perhaps not regard Sunderland FC with quite the same affection as previously.

So where do we go from here? Well pre season has produced a mixed bag. This correspondent has only witnessed the County Cup final so far but that game seemed to continue where we left off. A match that was eminently winnable, in this writer’s humble opinion. Having gone behind to a sloppy goal City then got well in contention. That in itself was a welcome improvement but then, after a reshuffle of the team we had the now customary capitulation at the end, not only to let the lead slip but to lose the tie. The manager was clearly relaxed about the outcome and will no doubt say that he was using the fixture as a further pre season friendly but fans might have hoped that the management would have understood that for a club with such a paucity of success in knockout competitions to see the captain raise the cup at the end might have made a nice change for the supporters particularly as the opposition was our dear neighbours.

It’s not all doom and gloom. The club have clearly signed some talented players who we hope will entertain us in the months to come. For this correspondent the capture of Josh Gowling was a most welcome surprise and other fans who have seen more of the team will point to others. If the players can get off to a good start the Lincolnshire public have shown that they are still interested and hopefully good attendances might convince the board that the boat could be pushed out a little further if there are prizes to be won. That would make a pleasant change too.

Enjoy the season.

Friday, 5 August 2011

A word about our new correspondent. As I embark on a new venture with Lincoln Vital website here is my first article

Like a lot of football fans I was taken to my first game at Sincil Bank by my Dad. In those days it was a near as Fathers got to helping out with the children. I guess it must have been the dog days of our time at Championship level, we certainly got beat most weeks, excellent preparation for what was to follow. As time went by we went together, with one or other of my children and then, I suppose, I took Dad. It’s funny. Through football I got to know my Dad. My Father was no different to other British Dads, not exactly hands on, that was left to Mum but as he became an old man, we would go off to the Bank together and, for evening games we would stop off for a couple of pints on the way home. There was none of that Father, Son awkwardness, we had football to discuss.

About a year ago I got a chance to write about the Imps. I subscribed to the Professional Footballers Associations web site, Give me football and they were looking for a correspondent for each of the Premier League and Football League clubs. I applied and waited for a reply. I waited and waited until, after much reminding I was invited to submit a test article for appraisal. I wrote about Chris Sutton, wealthy footballer and what was in it for him at Lincoln. I was accepted as the Lincoln City correspondent. It was at that point that I started to wonder what I had let myself in for. There was no brief, they would do the reports we were just to write in with our thoughts and opinions but, unlike a fan web site we had to bear in mind that this was the footballers own in house magazine so we had to mind our p’s and q’s. Oh and one more thing, we had to publicise ourselves. The PFA suggested we run a blog and use the social networks. I had no idea what to do to start a blog so I wrote to my editor asking for help. None was forthcoming.

Undaunted I decided to try Twitter, feeling Facebook a little too young for me, anyway my Daughter had banned me from it. I had already started on Twitter a little earlier. By this time I had my first article published. It flowed from my keyboard despite not professing to be any kind of football expert or indeed an expert on the Imps, I leave that to others but I’m capable of expressing my feelings and the first article was well received. I particularly remember an exiled fan from New Zealand getting in touch to say how much he had enjoyed my article and my own reminiscences of life in Lincoln and following City. Buoyed by that I fired off another article. Cue more waiting. My article didn’t appear in Give me Football. I contacted the Editor. They were not going to run with it. I got some handy hints and they were apologetic but it was an early lesson I had to learn. Articles had to pass muster or would not appear. Over the next few months a battle ensued to get my articles published, not because they weren’t good enough but because I was competing with their paid writers. The Lincoln City coverage was patchy to say the least and my twitter followers were telling me they were enjoying my stories far more than the stuff the website was producing, even complaining when regular stories from me weren’t in evidence. My stories were taking 48 hours to appear by which time they had lost their topicality. I needed readers but there was a little grid showing the most read stories and mine were usually at the top.

By this time I had enough published material to contact City. I confidently sent an e mail in with a link to my published stories asking for some publicity on the web site or in the programme. I received no reply. I wrote again wondering if they had misunderstood what I was about. It was not some fan web site; I was representing the PFA and therefore the players. The more publicity I got the more publicity I could generate for the club. Furthermore, there would never be any criticism as our brief was to show the club in a good light. Nothing. In fact not one single e mail I sent to the club about Give me Football was ever even acknowledged. I was beginning to find out about my beloved football club and how it regarded its supporters. I was about to find out what football thought of League Two and its followers too.

I don’t want to give the impression that all this was drudgery, It wasn’t. My articles were being regularly published now, without editorial change, apart from the headlines. Professional editors seem to want to make their mark and my carefully thought out and witty (I thought) teasers were routinely subjected to the sub editors hatchet and replaced with banality. Oh well, it’s their web site! Part of the appeal of writing for Give me Football was the incentive scheme which promised “money can’t buy” prizes for those whose stories were most successful, either in terms of readers or quality of writing. There were to be league tables of the writers showing who was doing best except these never appeared. Over the months it started to be apparent that the PFA were tiring of their own writer’s scheme. In fact no writer, except one received a money can’t buy experience and that writer was me. One Thursday I received an e mail asking if I would like to attend the forthcoming Watford v Derby County game as guest of the PFA. They were presenting the Championship player of the month award to Watford’s Danny Graham. Given that the alternative was watching City get trounced once again it was a no brainer.

I had a great day at Vicarage Road, met Graham Taylor and introduced myself as an Imp. I was very well received and it was clear the great man still holds the club in great affection. I wrote a write up of the day and this was published as a Give Me Football article, no disclaimer stating that the views expressed were my own. It was all dressed up with links to the fans competition. It looked really good, my finest hour. It was also my swansong as it happens, a couple of articles later I got an e mail saying they were not taking any more fan articles.

By this time I’d got the writing bug and enjoyed seeing my work published on the net. I e mailed the editor of Lincoln City Mad and spent a happy (in writing terms not football) remainder of the season giving my thoughts on things red and white. I’d also been contacted through twitter by Poacher the Imp’s alter ego Gary Hutchinson who was working on a revival of the old City fanzine The Deranged Ferret. He asked if I would like to contribute to the opening publication. I jumped at the chance.

I stayed in touch with Give me Football but it became clear that the fan writer scheme was dead and buried. The hoped for increase in readership had not materialised, neither did the incentive scheme, league tables and money can’t buy experiences, apart from my trip to Watford. In a final amusing if it wasn’t so sad, side swipe I was told the amazing fact that more people log on to read their articles on the premiership than read us fan writers efforts on the fortunes of more humble teams. It would all be academic anyway as they don’t cover non league teams so I would have been out in the cold in any case. Word reached me that Vitals would be interested on taking my stories. I was told that Lincoln City Mad was not going to continue as it was so; once again I grasped the opportunity to see my work on the net.

My take on the season and matters at Sincil Bank will begin shortly.