Andrew Abbott's Blog

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Entertainer.

Gary Barlow at the Motorpoint Sheffield Arena.

I’ve kept this back until the end of the football season but a few days ago we ventured over to Sheffield to see Gary Barlow. It was my wife’s birthday present. I was considerably outnumbered by ladies of a certain age, not that it was any great hardship for me.

We’d got top of the range seats, not on this occasion out of my great generosity but because I was quite late booking them and the most expensive were the only ones left. We were on the VIP list too.

Now when I say top of the range I mean very near the stage, the seats themselves were nothing like as plush as those at the Drill Hall and it was just as well they were close as the moment the show started the whole audience rose to their feet, my five foot and a bit wife considerably dismayed that she was now enjoying a view of the backs of the people in the row in front. We also queued for ages only to find we could have gone straight up to the VIP area to receive our gifts, a shopping bag, mug and a signed programme. Unsigned versions were being sold at £15 though so that made it a bit better and the mugs are a nice souvenir I suppose.

That’s got the moans out of the way, the rest was pure pleasure. Barlow really is fantastic live and I can’t wait to see the upcoming TV programme with James Corden because he certainly hasn’t had it all his own way career wise. All the well known songs were featured although he didn’t do my favourite, This House and Take That numbers were fully covered. In fact he revealed they will be back on tour next year and I certainly will want to see that show.

There is a part of the performance where a member of the audience is invited up to have a song delivered just for her. You may just have seen this on Central local news, the woman was from Derby. The lady in question was in such a frenzy of excitement I thought she was going to need oxygen. She said she had done it for the children at her school, yeah right.

That lady will never forget her night at the Sheffield Arena and neither will we, it was amazing.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The bright lights beckon.

All the time I wrote for Give me Football with their millions of readers I nurtured hopes that maybe one day a message would pop into my inbox inviting me on the radio or the paper, they had been intoxicated by the allure of my prose.

Apart from an admittedly very pleasant afternoon spent in the boardroom and in the directors box of Watford FC where I was a guest of the PFA there was no such recognition.

I moved on to Lincoln City Mad and another blog, both of which attracted large numbers of readers, nothing.

Now I sit here in my lonely garret sharing my thoughts with my small but beautifully formed readership when what should happen? A tweet from Rob Makepeace of BBC Radio Lincolnshire. Would I care to come on to William Wrights drive time show to have a chat about Saturdays debacle? Fame at last, of course I would.

This sort of thing happens to people all the time of course but it was a first for me. I gave a phone number for where I would be at 4.30 and waited. At 4.35 I assumed I’d been bumped but no, the phone rang and I was speaking to a young lady from the station. Ok to put you through to the studio? Yes, lead me to it.

Funnily enough I‘d been nervous when that first message came through, now I was calm. I was quite surprised how long I was on, I’d expected a couple of questions but in fact it went on for a good 10 or 15 minutes. I could hear the studio discussion between William Wright and Rob and then I was on.

Later driving home I heard myself on the news. It didn’t sound like me at first. I was also represented on the news as saying I thought the club had done everything in its power to prevent the incursion. You can re read yesterday’s article to remind yourself of what I really thought although I certainly hope the FA see it that way.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Strange end to a decent season.

Lincoln City managers and players have on occasion tried to blame fans for the negative vibes coming up from the terraces blunting home form but on the occasion of Barnet’s visit to Sincil Bank for the final game of the season City were ahead when a section of fans spilled on to the pitch not once but twice. Barnet’s manager seized the moment no doubt thinking he could make some capital out of the situation and ordered his team back to the changing room. When order was restored the game recommenced. At the time of the halt City were not exactly coasting but looked as if they could see out the remaining three minutes. Nine minutes of stoppage time was announced and Barnet equalised eight minutes later.

The irony was that the incursion came from the ranks of a group of supporters who deserve nothing but praise for the way they sang and got behind the team all season. Those responsible for the disorder were blamed for City accruing two less points than they otherwise would have and the remainder of the crowd let them know what they thought. An unsavoury end to a season that had begun, and ended with great promise. The final two home games were a delight to watch and there was an away victory in between.

Much worse is to follow I’m sure when the FA get to hear of all this as they will. I dread to think what will happen but I have to say, following the Cambridge game when there were almost as many police as away fans, all in riot gear, presence at the Barnet game was minimal in fact I didn’t see any officers at all. I gather though there were two in attendance. The fact of the matter though is that fans run on to the pitch at the end of the final game and there is minimal discouragement from the club. Announcements were made and ignored as they always are but I’m sure after this City are going to have to put in place much more robust security and the punishment will leave the club in no doubt they are responsible ultimately. The best we can hope for is a fine and that money has to come from somewhere and it will come from the playing budget. I can’t imagine the transgressors having a whip round.

What a shame because this season has been a significant improvement and but for an iffy spell in the middle we might have been looking forward, with some justification, to the play offs. The manager has come in for criticism, I struggle to think why, but by and large this has been a great improvement on the last few seasons and there has been much to savour from several players. Talking of which, Miller was player of the season. Newton (my choice) was Echo player of the season, away player of the season and runner up in the fans poll. Congratulations to Miller, not my choice as I say but a deserving winner. It’s significant that these two are defenders and the defence generally has had a much more solid look about it. Praise is due to Audel and unsung hero Nat Brown as well as Townsend in goal. I single out Sheridan, Tomlinson and the occasionally maligned Power for mention, it’s not his fault he keeps being named man of the match you know. I also really enjoyed cameo performances from Kobi Arthur. Good luck to you in the future.

The sheer pleasure of going in to the last few games of the season without the executioners axe hovering over our necks cannot be underestimated. Another much maligned group, the board of directors, are due recognition for keeping the show on the road. They will rue the day when the FA make their pronouncement as to how City are to be treated and will consider that the situation was not of their making. If it were me I would be considering previous last games and the situations where fans came on to the pitch unchecked and thinking that should not have been allowed at the time but now the clubs luck has run out. Speaking as a fan who would not dream of entering the field of play. I would have liked the opportunity of applauding the team at the end of the match, to show my appreciation of their efforts. That was denied me.

Rant over. Have a good summer. I believe there will be some football to watch?

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Long Good Friday.

Faces for Cambridge United that is. I must admit I expected a tonking from our illustrious opponents but instead City emerged as the class act sweeping away Cambridge rather more easily than the scoreline would suggest.

This week’s Lincolnshire Echo made interesting reading, the sports section at least. Sean Newton saying that the Imps had performed better against the top sides. It was failure to dispatch the dead wood that has been their downfall. Had City done so, and with a bit more ruthless home form it might have been the Imps heading for the playoffs and with current form the way it is would have done so with considerable optimism.

Manager Gary Simpson was also quoted in the Echo stating that his intention is to secure the services of two strikers and it was as plain as the nose on your face yesterday that City’s deficiencies lie in their lack of punch up front. Had they put away a third of their chances it would have been Cambridge heading back south on the end of a thrashing. Talking of strikers our old friend Delano Sam-Yorke took the field for Cambridge after the half time break to a very nice round of applause from the City faithful. Maybe he is one of the two. I do hope so.

I said to my companion after half time that whoever had the task of naming the man of the match had their work cut out. Every single player was performing well. The passing from City was probably as good as it gets at this level of football. However as the game progressed a player did reveal himself head and shoulders above the rest and the crowd were not best pleased that for the second home game in a row that player was withdrawn. Presumably the manager felt that Kobi Athur’s ball retaining skills were needed to see the game out. He could hardly have done better than the departing player however; Jake Sheridan appeared to exert some kind of mystical attraction to the ball. At least it gave the crowd the opportunity to show what they thought of Sheridans efforts, the player exiting the field with the plaudits of the fans ringing in his ears, a well deserved standing ovation as generous as any I can remember. I certainly could have stood another ten minutes of Jake. When Sheridan was later revealed as MOM even the manager joined in the applause.
Finally from the Echo sports editor John Pakey ran an Imps Q and A session in which was suggested that City’s season ticket holders might wait to see what next seasons budget might be before renewing. Not so said Pakey:-
“You need to see some flair, you need to see some attacking, you need some goals to really get you excited and make you want to buy a season ticket”

Couldn’t have put it better myself and on yesterdays evidence presumably plenty were motivated to do just that, at least as soon as pay day comes around.
All in all then a very good day at Sincil Bank. I can’t remember the last time I had such an enjoyable afternoon and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one leaving the old stadium with a real spring in my step.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Power-full second half fails to conjure up a goal.

As befits a game sponsored by the Royal Air Force the ball spent a good proportion of its time up in the wide blue yonder, at least for the beginning of the home fixture v Dartford. Unfortunately City could not find the quality our august protector’s display in everything they do and the ball ping ponged around, the game desperate for someone to get hold of it and do something creative.

Having said all of that there was a period when City really started to play. With Dartford being in the precarious situation they are, the opposition could not sit back and soak up the pressure as is often the case and it looked for a while as if we might have a good old ding dong on our hands. Sadly this was not to be the case. City lost momentum and Dartford, despite the efforts of their manager interviewed on BBC Radio Lincolnshire as their own local radio hadn’t got a team at the match, to talk up their performance they simply weren’t very good. The first period fizzled out to the bemusement of the home fans, who’d expected more, the half having a real end of season feel to it.

Things didn’t improve much as the second half wore on and the manager started to make changes although his first move, to replace Jake Sheridan, to general incredulity as the player had been enjoying one of his best performances in red and white. He looked well chuffed to be coming off. What got the crowd disgruntled was that the manager had taken off a player who was having a real influence on the match and certain others had been a byword for anonymity, yes Kris Bright, I’m talking about you, remained in situ.
Any dismay at Sheridans demise was quickly replaced by pleasure when the home fans were treated to a real firecracker of a performance by on loan Kobi Arthur who really is a box of tricks. Initially he did the hard bit, beating his man only to put in a weak cross but soon got into the tempo of the game and City started to look a different proposition. The clock ticked down and the Imps could not put the ball in the net. Not for the first time of course.

As Alan Long announced the amount of injury time, as is his usual custom he also revealed the name of the sponsors man of the match and he probably wondered what the reaction of the crowd would be as their choice was, once again Alan Power. He needn’t have worried as firstly there is no way the Royal Air Force would be booed at Sincil Bank-ever. Secondly the choice was uncontroversial and was greeted with cheers which must have been music to the Irishman’s ears. He was one of three or four players deserving of the accolade, Sheridan would have been my choice but for me Power put in a shift. He always does of course but his efforts were gilded with the accuracy of passing and foresight that of course he must always wish to produce but cannot necessarily do so. That’s why he’s in the Conference and not higher up.

If I had the dubious honour of naming City’s best performer every week I would write down the name of a player who I think is the epitome of consistency and creativity. Any player surpassing his performance would deserve to be named man of the match. If no one did so I would have no embarrassment in coming up with the same name over and over again. That player is Sean Newton.