Andrew Abbott's Blog

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

An old fashioned night out. The Proclaimers at the De Montfort Hall Leicester.

Do you remember the Proclaimers? The geeky twins with the glasses and the impenetrable Scottish accent. Well they may not have had a hit for a while but they’re still around. In a surprisingly rocky performance the duo rattled through their repertoire, old and new with great aplomb at the De Montfort Hall, Leicester last night.

The audience of course, of a certain age, wanted to hear and sing along to the oldies but there was new material, the brothers are not resting on their laurels with just the old standards.

It’s 25 years since letter from America was in the charts, just as good today as then, Sunshine on Leith, heard that a few times at Easter Road, Let’s get married, I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) I’m on my way, the songs kept coming. The pair are not big on audience participation but it was a warm performance for all that. The proclaimed (sorry) Scottish independence advocates were very much at home with a largely English audience who lapped up the Caledonian crooners. They in turn seemed genuinely moved by the enthusiastic reception.

At the end the audience were made to work really hard for an encore clapping cheering and stomping until their favourites, together with their accomplished musical support, reappeared for three more numbers. By this time we were on our feet and the old hall was bouncing along to the feel good music.

Out we went to the car park right outside the venue and home along the newly dualled A46, 55 minutes back to Hykeham. What’s not to like?

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Enigma with too many variations.

You certainly couldn’t complain of not getting value for money yesterday at the 12th Imp Sincil Bank Stadium. For a start there were two different Lincoln City’s on display. The first, decent, hardworking, finding their men and bettering their, for this level, illustrious opponents.

Then there was the City that appeared after the break, half asleep, incoherent, not appearing too bothered to be honest. Then, the former team started to reappear as Stockport County first equalised and then took the lead, twice, and the home team woke up to the fact that there were points to be taken. City didn’t deserve to lose this match, a sentiment to be heard amongst us old fogies of the Lincolnshire Echo Stand, yet it looked as if that was going to be the outcome. City certainly didn’t deserve to be booed off (again) either and that would have been a predictable outcome too, such is the disenchantment with the club felt by the fans.

As it happens the Imps valiantly pressed on, refusing to give up, a trait that will have heartened the ever dwindling home support and, predictably, if anyone was to break the Hatters hearts and gladden those of Imps, it was Jamie Taylor who provided the finish. Earlier it was Taylor who initially broke the deadlock with a deft headed goal from the not always fully appreciated Jake Sheridan’s cross, as good a goal as you will see, certainly in the lower echelons of the football pyramid. An excellent free kick from John Nutter to savour too in this end to end encounter.

So what does all this tell us, are City improving? Well, the Imps are now five games undefeated which can’t be bad, they went into injury time needing a goal to draw and got one, that can’t be bad either, their goalscoring is good but on the minus side, conceded three goals having looked so solid in the first half. One other big bonus is the scoring exploits of Jamie Taylor, a major plus. Will he still be here at Christmas? Well now more than ever City are a selling club and if a decent fee is offered and that keeps the show on the road, so be it. Our much maligned manager can take credit for unearthing this particular diamond.

On the subject of the manager, is David Holdsworth any good? One thing is for certain, Lincoln City cannot go on sacking managers in the hope that they will stumble on the right one eventually. That is the tactic that has got us in the mess we are in, in my humble opinion. On the other hand, again, only in my opinion, the sign of a good manager is that he can change the teams prospects with a good substitution or with the benefit of the half time break, whether that be with the aid of the proverbial hairdryer or a more subtle approach. No sign of that yesterday when the team went in at half time looking like Barcelona and came out more like Bardney B. No noticeable improvement after the substitutions either so we await further enlightenment.

Delighted as we must all have been with that late late show, it’s a salutary thought that City are still bumping about with the stiffs at the bottom of the league and drawing at home is relegation form. Still, it’s the cup next and we’re really good at that aren’t we?

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Definitely NOT Fab U Lous Dahling!

Can you remember the last time City ran off the field of play without boos ringing in their ears, half time even? I don’t boo but I can understand the frustration and it is this; Lincoln City are a full time outfit. They play football for a living, five or six days a week. The likes of FC Halifax Town go to work like you and I during the working week. Then they come to Lincoln, backed by 500 raucous fans and play us off the park.

This is the FA Cup. The great leveller. I can understand the likes of Halifax, although in a previous incarnation a league club, just like us, but they come here, having done their weeks work and they are inspired by the surroundings and they play their hearts out. Why don’t we? Our players are rescued from the world of work but it’s not just Halifax. I’m fed up of part time outfits coming to Lincoln and making us look like amateurs.

You would think that City’s players would be the ones going that extra mile, busting a gut, they can have a lie in on Monday morning, Halifax can’t. City could run themselves into the ground. Even in our impoverished state they will have had a massage, warmed down with expert supervision, re hydrated and eaten correctly having taken the benefit of nutritionists and health professionals.

For the record I didn’t agree with the synopsis on the radio, Halifax shaded the first half sure but were not outplayed. City had numerous opportunities in the second half and they should have had superior fitness and it should have showed. I’m fed up of being outclassed by similar opposition.

The boos were, I believe, not for the team but the manager who is far from popular but I don’t believe this one is down to him. I look to the team to retrieve their reputation on Tuesday, such as it is.

Friday, 19 October 2012

The cup that cheers.

When the fixture was announced, Lincoln City’s chances of progress past FC Halifax Town in the FA Cup were swiftly discounted by their shell shocked fans. Since then, something of an up turn in form has led to some having a bit more of a spring in their step. It’s always necessary, when anything like confidence in the Imps ability in a cup competition surfaces, to contemplate their past, lamentable record. Still, if City can come away from Wrexham with all three points then perhaps all is not lost in the clubs quest to at least get into the competition proper.

Halifax were put to the sword against Boston last weekend so anything they can do? No we really shouldn’t be tempting providence to that degree but very recent performances
suggest we need not be too fearful. Halifax’s form is good however as is their confidence as a look at their website reveals “The Imps enter the competition at this stage and will be grateful of the distraction from their poor league position.” Ooh get them!

Jamie Taylor is the star performer at the moment and he told the Lincolnshire Echo his FA Cup experience so far is little better than City:

"You are probably speaking to the wrong person when it comes to memorable FA Cup stories!

"For a start I have never experienced a great run and the only time I did reach the third round was with Dagenham, but we lost 5-2 to Southend.

"A few years back after I left Horsham, they then went and pulled Swansea out of the hat in the second round.

"So as you can see, my history is not the best, but hopefully this will be my year because the FA Cup has not exactly been kind to me.

"Whatever people say about this competition, it's a part of football folklore in this country – everybody loves the cup.

"People ask you about the big games, who was the best player you played against and so on.

"At the moment I can't really tell them anything which is why I would love to finish my career knowing I have made a good impression on it.

"Every player has a dream of making it to the third round and I would love to have Newcastle in the third round.

"My dad Alan is a Geordie and I went to watch them play Wigan last year.

"It was an outstanding experience and even as a Liverpool fan, St James's Park is a fantastic stadium with an amazing atmosphere."

Lets not get too carried away though although a cup run is very much on the managers wishlist, particularly with gates having slipped away alarmingly of late.

Last home game the Imps did attract a reasonable following although they conspired to lose the game having played reasonably well. Let’s hope the fans are disposed to giving the team the benefit of the doubt after their heroics in Wales. Cup form has been slightly less dire these last few seasons and another bit of a run would fit the bill nicely.

Lincolnshire this week.

You know, for a county that regularly returns Conservative MP’s we certainly are taken for granted and the latest snub is the refusal of DEFRA to grant the Lincolnshire sausage legal protection meaning only sausages made in our county can be described as Lincolnshire. This is on the basis that lots of vested interests who regularly contribute to the Tories can continue to make money at our expense, oh no, silly me, on the basis that there is not enough local link to the product as opposed to the Cornish Pasty that is protected. You know what to do come the election.

Bridge news, yes there is some. Plans for the proposed bridge to span the railway at Brayford in Lincoln have gone on display. The proposal, which is part of a wider plan to relieve the problem of the railway now that the barriers are down so much and which will also feature a pedestrian bridge on the High Street and, for my money will lead to the pedestrianisation of the High Street although this is denied for the moment. This should at least allow walkers to get from the north to the south of the shopping area. In a week when Raspberry Village announced it was closing citing access problems amongst other things, these initiatives can’t come soon enough.

In Boston a proposed new bridge over the Haven have also gone on display and very fine it looks too being a bowstring design. This together with the market place improvements which caused so much disruption both to the town and to businesses but which mercifully is now complete will give Boston a much improved look as the town competes in the ever more difficult battle to attract shoppers.

You wouldn’t expect to have to estimate how much petrol you will need before you fill your tank up would you? When it comes to parking in Lincoln however you have to pay for your ticket up front and frequently find yourself returning to the car park to put some more money in the meter. What tends to happen though is that you don’t do that but go home instead after your purchased time limit whether you have finished in town or not. This issue was discussed at the 6th annual Linking Lincoln City Centre Masterplan conference. At least there is a masterplan. Pay as you leave parking payment was high on the agenda :- Kate Ellis, assistant director of planning and regeneration, told the Lincolnshire Echo: “We should be able to implement pay on exit parking fairly quickly.

“I would like to think that in a year’s time we are at this conference saying it is the first initiative to come out of the strategy.”

Park and Ride remains the Holy Grail, for some reason this is now dependent on the proposed Eastern bypass but it was felt pay on exit was a step in the right direction.

“Whether all of our car parks remain pay and display or some become pay on exit is going to need looking at,” Ms Ellis said.

“I have to confess I did go to Peterborough for an emergency passport and parked in a pay on exit car park at John Lewis and it was really handy.

“I was there for five-and-a-half hours and it cost me £6.

“We are not talking about a traditional highways parking strategy for Lincoln.

“We need to ensure it allows us to deliver and support our growth strategy for the city.”

Finally Cannon and Ball were in the City for the traditional curtain raiser, publicity wise, for the pantomime at Lincoln Theatre Royal. They will star in Dick Whittington this Christmas. Having had the pleasure of meeting Bobby Ball in the Bombay Restaurant after last years show, it was obvious his enthusiasm for this most British entertainment is undiminished and this years offering should be just as good as usual. Judging by the stories of financial woes at this wonderful venue it is vital that they have a successful run this year. Do catch the show if you possibly can, you won’t be disappointed.

Well, that’s this week’s review behind me. Have a good weekend and best wishes to Lincoln City in what should be an easy passage into the first round proper of the FA Cup. (Oh no it won’t!)

                             Rock on Tommy! Picture from

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Who’d have thought that?

Last Friday I wrote of the Wrexham game : “It’s difficult to be too optimistic although stranger things have happened.” Well a very strange thing did happen, City broke their duck away in spectacular fashion, winning in Wales. Not only that but there have been one or two signs lately that the much maligned manager might be starting to turn round another disappointing season. Firstly the Luton game which really ought to have been a home win but for a most uncharacteristic error by Paul Farman and an all too familiar defensive clanger to gift Hatters a two goal advantage. The general display was good though. The manager does not need telling however, he needs to address these lapses of concentration.

The home reverse was followed by a good point against Mansfield, although they are having their problems at the moment. A win at home to Forest Green put the Imps effort into context though and now our heroes go to second placed Wrexham and put four goals away to burst their bubble. Two goals conceded, essentially when the game was won admittedly serves to underline the fragility that is still an unwanted part of City’s persona.

So October is so far not proving to be quite the mountain we all thought it may be and with Jamie Taylor hitting the net regularly and indeed goals coming from all over the place including a deserved reward for young Connor Robinson, things are certainly starting to look up.

Of course, Taylors goalscoring exploits are bound to have eyes turning to Sincil Bank and the problem with such a well publicised tale of financial doom and gloom coming out of the club, as used to be the case during John Reames’ tenure, is that other clubs start to get the impression that the waving of a relatively small amount of cash in City’s direction usually does the trick when it comes to the spiriting away of prized assets at knockdown prices. City really don’t help themselves sometimes.

However, let’s not get too critical but instead allow ourselves to enjoy this surprising development. It’s fair to say that David Holdsworth has not so far won over the fans but there can’t be any who actually want him to fail surely?

Next weekend a change from the league programme with the arrival of the FA Cup. Not a respite from the need for wins though as progress is vital if City’s economic hoodoo is to be overcome.

Friday, 12 October 2012

International Duty

That’s right, City are in Wales this weekend to face the daunting prospect of trying to extract something from their trip to the principality with a visit to Wrexham. The Imps will be buoyed by the point gained at Mansfield Town. Every little helps but it’s worth pointing out that all is not that well at Mansfield these days and Wrexham will present a considerably tougher prospect. Talking to not exactly a Stags fan but certainly a football follower, Forest fan actually, with his ear to the tracks in Notts it’s hard to fathom who is the least popular with his fans, David Holdsworth or Mansfield’s Paul Cox at the moment.

Not to get too bogged down with football politics it’s been another strange old week in Impdom with the team, for my money, playing Luton off the park, at least for spells only to get struck down by that all too familiar current problem or problems rather; inability to score and individual mistakes. Both traits are acknowledged by the manager but the fans are looking to the gaffer to put these things right. So far he has not displayed an ability to do so but we live in hope.

There are some bright points starting with keeper Paul Farman which may seem a bit strange in the week when said keeper got Luton off to a flyer palming the ball in the net but such indiscretions are very few and far between with Farman and he more than redeemed himself with his display at Mansfield. It’s worth remembering that the much vaunted Rob Burch had a red face on more than one occasion and the sainted Alan Marriott was not invulnerable. He wouldn’t be playing at the level he is if that were the case.

Other plus points, for me, are Andrew Boyce, again maybe not his most sparkling performance against the Hatters but I really like watching this player, and Tom Miller. We’ve also got Peter Gilbert for a few games and I like the cut of his jib too. All defenders you’ll note, we’re having to wait to make any judgements on the strike force but it would be remiss not to mention Jamie Taylor, a player who quite literally gets us out of our seats.

Right, that’s cheered ourselves up, back to earth with a bump as we consider the prospects for points to lift us out of the bottom four and it’s difficult to be too optimistic although stranger things have happened. A look at the league table tells us everything we need to know. Wrexham second, City fourth from the wrong end. Now if that isn’t tempting providence I don’t know what is.

Lincolnshire this week.

It was announced this week that visitors to Lincoln's legendary Christmas Market will have a less crowded experience thanks to changes which are to be made to the layout. The market saw a 25% increase in attendance last year, after the heartbreak of having to cancel the year before and police had to close the entrance to the castle at one point. Holly Parker, events officer at the City of Lincoln Council, told BBC Radio Lincolnshire: "We've designed the castle to mean the flow of traffic going through is all one-way and we don't have any two-way traffic.

"We've also worked on a system where people come up Steep Hill and down Spring Hill, again, reducing the need for any two-way traffic where any conflict could happen."

It’ll be here before you know it.

The Lady Imps have shown none of the hesitancy of the Lincoln City board of directors, dismissing manager Glen Harris after only one season in charge despite finishing fifth in the FA Women’s Super League. Harris was philosophical: "It's a results business. The buck stops with the manager and we've not amassed as many points as we wanted to.

"They've decided due to our finishing position and how they want to move the club forward that they want a change of leader and ultimately I pay the price."

Chief executive Luke Negus-Hill said: "In our first season we got to fourth place and the ambition was to finish above that and we haven't quite achieved it, results haven't always gone our way.

"It's nothing personal. Glen's a great guy, he's done a great job and he's been instrumental in getting us to where we are, including getting us into the Super League, but it's a results business.

"We feel a change and a new impetus into the team will get us to where we need to be."

If you live or work in Boston you’ll know the locals can have a very cavalier attitude to parking in the town. Now some illegal parkers will be aware of the error of their ways, the police have been round the market place ticketing those parked outside the marked bays. Boston market officer alerted the police to the illegally parked vehicles who duly issued tickets.

Well, it’s been around for a fair while but Newport Arch in Lincoln has been placed on the East Midlands at risk register by English Heritage. This move is to attract support by way of grants to maintain the structure. The arch has vegetation growing out of it and nets have been put in place to prevent masonry dropping onto vehicles passing under it. There was that famous incident when a lorry got itself wedged under the Roman gateway but the historic entrance still stands. English Heritage says the move has enabled other buildings such as Taylor’s bell foundry in Loughborough and the Chapel of St John the Baptist to obtain financial help and hopes the Newport Arch could similarly benefit.

You can’t keep an old salt down and in the latest twist to the Jolly Fisherman saga it has been decided to keep the design for the new Jolly statue the same as it ever was and repair the existing one. He may get a new spade though. If the statue cannot be saved it will be replaced with an identical one. This brings the curtain down on a story that has been running as long as the old end of the pier shows.

Well, time for a plate of cockles and a nice Thermos of tea. Have a good weekend.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Lincoln Comedy Festival. Henning knows bestest; Henning Wehn at the Drill Hall.

A German comedian, that should be a barrel of laughs. Everyone knows the Germans have no sense of humour. That’s the central tenet of Henning Wehn’s act, that and, as he explains, the fact that we Brits have a stereotypical view of the Germans whereas they hold no such views on us. He then proceeds to list several stereotypical German views of the Brits, or rather the English although he has a good go at the Scots later. Strange that as the last time this routine was performed it was at the Edinburgh Festival. He’s such a charmer though that you do rather forgive him the jibes. Wouldn’t want the Germans to think we’d no funnybone would we? We’d sooner have a laugh than get on with our work was one of them. Well we certainly had a good laugh at this comedian, perhaps he’s a lot cleverer than we give him credit for.

Wehn tells how he came to this country, how he got into comedy. An affirmation that we can be kind and accomodating, only to knock us down a peg or two in the next breath. He’s totally unafraid of political incorrectness, that in itself is worth coming to his show for. Health and Safety takes a kicking. He shows us pictures of people dressed up in German uniforms, we laugh, slightly nervously. If it had been Jim Davidson he’d have been slaughtered. We also learned the Germans aren't too keen on the Dutch either, Bernard Manning revisited?

On he goes until he announces that he’ll do an encore if we repeat some words he offers us, the audience repeat them timidly, fearing a set up. It isn’t and he does the encore. Ruthlessly efficient these Germans; and funny. Yes definitely funny.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Oh dear what can the matter be?

The manager loses no opportunity to explain that the budget is one of the lowest in the league. The board are working hard but hamstrung because few fans are attending home games. The fans, to read some websites, suspect that there is investment available but there are few new faces appearing on the board. Au contraire, say the board, watch this space. Everyone is fed up of watching the team lose.

The visit of Luton Town at least raised the prospect of a decent home gate although at a touch short of 3000 even that much improved attendance is still adrift of the break even figure but something like 2100 home fans represents a significant increase in the previous interest and an impressive 800 odd from Luton made for a good atmosphere in the stadium.

The stage was therefore set for City to raise their game and have a right good go at the opposition to let the stay away fans see what they have been missing; City’s last two home fixtures have produced wins. To be fair the team did have a good go at the Hatters although the manager’s choice of formation with just Jamie Taylor up front caused a few groans. Undaunted, City set about Luton with a vengeance before the game took a depressingly familiar look. Chances created and spurned before goalkeeper Paul Farman of all people gifted the opposition the lead with an uncharacteristic flap that saw the ball end up in City’s net.

Home fans were expecting some changes at half time but it was the Hatters who, no doubt stung by their complete inability to make headway against the Imps, that goal apart, Shaw and Rowe-Turner coming on to beef up Luton’s resolve. No sooner were the formalities completed and the second half underway when Luton doubled their lead again with with more than a little assistance from the home side. The defence like rabbits caught in the headlights leaving Jon Shaw the simple task of slotting the ball past an unmoving Farman.

City did finally get on the score sheet in spectacular fashion as Farman repulsed a Luton attack and the ball went all the way to the other end where Taylor lashed a thunderbolt past Tyler in the Hatters goal to bring the home fans to their feet

David Holdsworth did at last send reinforcements to the attack with the introduction of Colin Larkin and, a little later took off Peter Bore which baffled me a little as Bore was having a positive influence and surely experience was needed, and replaced him with the boy Robinson. Didn’t understand that, didn’t understand one up front. The changes proved too little too late and the game fizzled out as did City as an attacking force.

The game ended with the now familiar boos but it had been an upbeat performance from the home team but who, once again unhinged themselves with sloppiness in defence not to mention that howler from Farman. City really should have won this game on the evidence of their performance and now enter the twilight world of the bottom four of the division.

Do you remember the theme tune to that old sitcom “Auf Weidersehen Pet”? Some of the words went “no one said it was going to be easy” and I don’t think any one with Lincoln City connections were so presumptuous. By the same token I don’t think any of us thought it was going to be quite as difficult as it is proving either.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Roll back the years.

There was a time when the visit of Luton Town to Sincil Bank would have barely caused a ripple in the Lincoln pond although they have always seemed a much bigger club than City thanks to Eric Morecambe and that run in the top division that seems many moons ago now. It must seem like it never happened to Hatters fans just as Forest supporters must wonder if their heyday was a dream.

Did we have a heyday? Yes, of course but it was never along the lines of our illustrious opponents and you would be getting on a bit now if you remember the days when City regularly battled it out with the biggest names in football. There I go again, getting all morose. Tomorrow is a chance to relive those heady days when we were a football league club at least and occasionally a successful one.

The big time was far from the mind of manager David Holdsworth this week as he discussed in his regular column in the Lincolnshire Echo the relative virtues of a regional league. In yesterdays Echo, an article on the fact that City cannot afford, as a matter of routine, to send players for a scan to assess the extent of injuries. Any fan will be aware that our football club must cut its cloth according to its means and we should applaud them for trying, at least, to run a tight ship. The problem is, for this fan, that I feel we are being prepared for continued life at this level or below.

Football is about dreams and escape. City fans dream of an escape from the drudgery of our current existence. Do they really want to hear about the present straightened circumstances? David Holdsworth will want us to hear the message to justify the Imps present lowly position but does that sell tickets? I don’t think it does. In my view, whilst acknowledging that no one will be inspired to watch a side struggling at the bottom of the league, we are after all down to the real hardy few, a bit of inspiration might not go amiss. Surely there is something uplifting we could hear about? Paul Farman’s selection for England C perhaps? That has hardly been shouted from the rooftops.

A look at the Dunstable Today website reveals an article all about the forthcoming game, just football, no sob stories at all as well there might not be with a club sitting fourth in the table, two above you know who. Our own website features an admittedly tongue in cheek offering entitled “Your club needs you” as indeed they do but is that what we’ve come to? You can download a flyer and what? Put it in your window, hand it around at work? Anyway, I’ll be there and I hope you will be too. Your club needs you.