Andrew Abbott's Blog

Friday, 24 February 2017

Shiny happy people.

I may have used that headline before but it seemed an adequate description of the shareholders of Lincoln City FC assembled at the club last night for the AGM followed by an exclusive forum with the managers together with Nathan Arnold and Sam Habergham.

The accounts discussed were of course for the last years trading and I’m not going to steal anyone’s thunder by revealing the figures but of course they now represent a snapshot of the way things were and if things had not improved the way they did I don’t think anyone would be happy or shiny. They have of course so we’ll gloss over that.

Nathan and Sam I do have to say are two of the most articulate players you could wish to have at such an event which is no doubt why they were chosen and there was a bit of a laugh at Alex Woodyards expense as to why he was not, bit of an in joke I think although when I saw him in the flesh he seemed to be well spoken. There again he was dragooned into an interview on Radio Lincolnshire and after that perhaps not. Still Paul Scholes studiously avoided interview and now he’s a pundit so there’s hope for you yet Alex.

A couple of things stood out for me, firstly and I do trust this is not false hope on my part but there seemed to be every indication from the management that theirs will not be a short tenure at the club and the Cowleys are of the view that there is plenty of scope for enhancing their reputation further with the Imps and they see the future for the club very bright indeed if only promotion can be got. Promotion out of our league is going to very difficult, I think we knew that, but if it can be achieved further rapid progress could be ours. I hope I read that correctly.

It’s certainly true that, marvellous run that the Imps are on, what is it six wins on the trot and ten wins out of twelve? Some of those are cup games but even after that run City are just about keeping ahead of the pack as the other nights results underline as virtually all our chasers won.

The other point to mention is that this meeting comprising shareholders and directors, they (we, anyone can buy some shares and be invited to the AGM) are effectively the owners of the club and as such a mature audience but I can advise you, dear reader that there is every bit as much unbridled enthusiasm for the team and the managers as you will find in the Coop Stand on a match day and several shareholders took the opportunity to thank and praise the managers for what they have achieved already and this was humbly as you might expect accepted by the Cowley brothers who seemed quite moved by the tributes.

One man told a slightly taken aback Danny Cowley his wife had told him to announce to the AGM that she was in love with the manager but he also said she was going to have to get in the queue as he was too! I think that’s the way we all feel at the moment.

Monday, 20 February 2017

City on automatic pilot or adrenaline, I can’t decide what.

I wrote a few weeks ago that maybe the time has come for this cup run to end. I’d watched City labour to quite a leaden footed win against Dover on the Friday and then suffer what was for them a heavy defeat at Barrow. Not everyone agreed and I think if I’d been near Danny Cowley I’d have got a clip round the ear for my trouble. Since then they’ve looked anything but lethargic and have just completed five wins on the trot including dispatching championship and premiership opposition. In fact I do find myself wondering how things would pan out if this squad were competing in league one or, dare I say it, the championship. I think they’d survive.

If we can just hang on to the Cowleys for a few more seasons, what with the new found finances, courtesy of the FA Cup and their emerging TV stardom I do wonder if we might be testing out that theory for real. Burton Albion did it in quite similar circumstances why not us? I’m starting to think big as you can see but who’d have thought they’d see a time when the Imps were in the quarter finals of the FA Cup?

Already, and with due respect to Bill Anderson, Graham Taylor, Colin Murphy and Keith Alexander I think this cup run has now put the Cowleys at the top of the tree in terms of achievement notwithstanding that promotion has not yet been secured.

Which brings us nicely on to tomorrow’s game against North Ferriby United, more or less a home game in reality as there will be more Imps there than home fans closely followed by Borehamwood in the Trophy. The real pressure starts here in my opinion as City must, as near as possible aim for a perfect record if they are to achieve their aims. Do they look capable of it? Yes they do. Do they look jaded? No they don’t. We all make mistakes.

Having said that we don’t know what sort of influence the circumstances will have on the squad. Pressure can be very debilitating but I have to say, looking at the jubilant faces of the players on Saturday and the boundless enthusiasm of the management team as they dart here there and everywhere (do we have a corporate jet now?) if the pressure is bearing down it seems to have remarkably little effect. I get the feeling if you told the players they had to play every day till the end of the season they’d regard it as some kind of bonus.

As for us, we’d watch them every day if we could but for the moment, all the tickets are sold for Ferriby and I’m awaiting details for Borehamwood, I quite fancy that one.

Friday, 17 February 2017

It’s a family affair.

It feels like a weekend off after the tension of last Saturdays enjoyable encounter with Woking. The Imps, as ever will be taking the FA Cup tie with Burnley more than seriously and who among us would bet against the Imps pulling off yet another seismic shock and proceeding to what would certainly be uncharted territory?

I’ve greatly enjoyed the snippets of former FA Cup glory published on but I couldn’t help being struck with what a different football world it was all those years ago with tales of the team being invited to the theatre and other entertainments after the game. There were plenty of shenanigans and examples of gamesmanship going on though, not to mention playing on ice and snow bound pitches.

Yet I do wonder if this wonderful run in the cup has brought other quite endearing aspects out in the open. Twitter enables us all to be in touch wherever we are and I’ve been pleased to see pictures of Lincoln City mugs on far off desks and Imps coming out of hiding in former enemy territory and the general feeling that we’re finally able to declare our allegiance without fear of ridicule.

Here in Boston where any animosity is relatively recent, brought about mainly by the local media wanting to stir up an ancient rivalry that never was there to be honest. I’m getting good natured enquiries about the latest game and particularly interest in the latest cup performances. Even some Lincolnshire “us against the world” solidarity. In any case any rivalry only showed itself when we found ourselves in the football league together. Once that was over so was any unnecessary preening I found.

I’ve found some pleasure also in a re-found football solidarity which particularly showed itself in the tie against Ipswich Town but has also surfaced a bit in respect of the forthcoming game against Burnley. Although we ourselves are very minor players in football compared to Ipswich and Burnley I think nevertheless those fans have seen a certain bond between us. Bonds are made to be broken though.

So we await the morrow. Safe journey to those going. Don’t forget your Echo sponge finger. I’ve got mine which should amuse my neighbours and should go some way to explaining why I’m driving up and down my street in my Imps shirt honking my horn singing were on our way should the unthinkable happen.

Monday, 13 February 2017

City keep going, which is exactly what the fans need to do.

If anything I was a bit disappointed with the attendance on Saturday for the visit of Woking. I can’t really understand why people would queue through the night to see games which in the general scheme of things will be meaningless, by that I mean the FA Cup games against Ipswich and Brighton, then not turn up in such numbers to see a vital league game that was every bit as entertaining as the cup.

Woking, for whom I thought our old friend Jake Caprice was excellent, came and gave it a right old go although not for the whole game. Ironically the Woking manager was incensed by what he deemed City’s time wasting tactics at the end of the game when they were certainly hanging on and in particular when Danny Cowley allowed a ball which was heading straight for him, to glance off his head and into the crowd for a few more seconds. What would he have done, caught it and thrown it back for the opposition to score? Dream on. In any event, they spent much of the game trying to negate Citys high tempo tactic so six of one and half a dozen as far as I’m concerned.

Just back to the gate for a moment and then I’ll shut up but, again, an announcement was made that entry to the upper tier of the Coop stand was ticket only leading me to believe it was full, yet there was plenty of space in the end. It was the best gate in the league though, beating even Tranmere and if you have a better gate than them, it’s a good gate. We were saying, on a day like Saturday, a couple of years ago it would have been 1900. I just thought the players deserved 6000.

The new players were, I thought, highly impressive and it was another hugely entertaining performance. The tension is going to be there all the time of course and I’m not expecting any team to just come and lie down, we wouldn’t want that anyway.

City really do have all the tools in their box to complete the job they’ve started so well. Danny Cowleys prediction that the Imps will be stronger the game goes on and better in the second half of the season than the first seems to be the case. The squad is big and talented all through so hopefully injuries and suspensions can be accommodated.

With the shareholders meeting next week promising the best financial health report in generations and, we’re told a possible surprise announcement at the fans forum there’s never been a better time to be an Imp.

Friday, 10 February 2017

On the job learning.

Much can be learned in the heat of battle and it seems to me that’s the case, metaphorically speaking, for Lincoln City. Maybe some of the steam has gone from the ticketing situation for the forthcoming FA Cup, maybe it’s the realisation that there are only a limited number of tickets available for the game and fans have come to terms with it. Another possibility is that City are simply getting better at selling tickets.

Either way it’s been a steep learning curve for the club but I do feel they are taking on board the criticism they have received (no comment as to whether it was justified) and have adjusted accordingly. One thing I always drum in to the youngsters at my office is that communication is everything. News may not always be gratefully received but at least if you’re in possession of it you can’t complain you’re in the dark.

I think there’s a danger we can all start to behave as if we’ve always been in the position we are now, with a seemingly insatiable demand for cup tickets. Of course it hasn’t always been the case, far from it, City’s problems over the years have been mainly due to lack of cash. Maybe if there had been a fraction of the interest currently shown that might not have been the case. I’m certainly not going to join in criticism of Burnley for the lack of places available. They have complied with the regulations of the competition and that for me is that. We are starting to find in our dealings with smaller clubs in our present stratosphere that they are wanting to make large number of tickets available to City, even at the expense of having their own supporters outnumbered by Imps supporters. I don’t blame them. They assume (as we hope) that City won’t be around next season so they might as well cash in. That’s not the case with Burnley who would have to move season ticket holders to accommodate Imps. I don’t think we’d like it if the boot was on the other foot.

Our adventures this season has brought us into contact with two clubs we would do well to emulate, one being Burnley, a town quite a bit smaller than Lincoln yet they have graced the top division many times and do now. The other is Ipswich Town. Not really any bigger than our city yet they play in a 30000 seat stadium and they too have not only appeared in the top division but have won it and the FA Cup and the EUFA cup. City’s task is now to use the momentum gained to propel themselves onwards and upwards. If Bournemouth can do it why not us?

Finally, I wouldn’t want to give the impression that the Imps are babes in the woods. In my opinion they are learning and learning fast. The final straEight tickets are a brilliant idea and must be bringing a lot more cash into the club. It’s giving the fans what they want. I think we’ve all come to the conclusion that if we want to pick and choose where we sit we need to do more than turn up ten minutes early. City are making hay if you like but at the same time have given fans who failed to show the foresight of obtaining a season ticket, yes I’m one, the opportunity of putting right their error.

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that at the close of business today, which is the last opportunity to get a ticket that the best part of 1000 fans have taken up the offer. Surely almost everyone is going to want to renew next season getting us off to a great start to what we all hope will be a return to the promised land.

After that we all have a part to play.

Friday, 3 February 2017

That was the week that was.

It’s a bit like when people retire, they often say, how did I have time to go to work? So it seemed to me with City at the moment. You just wonder how they do it all.

We started off with that marvellous cup win seeing off Brighton and Hove Albion. I expected more from Chris Hughton in his after match comments, the pitch and the fact that his team are not used to playing sides like Lincoln were just two. Well, if you watched Huddersfield Town on the TV last night you’ll have seen another team who approached their game against Brighton in exactly the same way as City and they got exactly the same score too.

Now the dust has settled, just looking at the comments of defeated managers, starting with Oldham’s (now departed I see) the only manager to emerge from their brushes with the Imps with dignity intact seems to me to be the much maligned Mick McCarthy who at least had the grace to accept they’d been beaten by the better team. Maybe he thought he’d had that much grief what difference would a bit more make?

Given all the hype surrounding Theo Robinsons transfer, again, one wonders how on earth the manager kept his sanity seeing that it all kicked off on a match day and there has been much discussion about the move. Most fans wish Theo well, certainly I do. There has been considerable questioning of his motives which I’d also include myself in. Whether the move to Southend will prove advantageous to Theo I’m unsure. We’ll have to see where his career goes from here. Others questioned the managers desire to keep the player. We’ll not find much more about that but it’s obvious that league one sides pay more than non-league, even if they hope to be at a higher lever next season so it’d difficult to see that Danny Cowley had that much wriggle room there.

This week saw the regularisation, let’s call it that, of ticketing matters with the club effectively withdrawing the Bobs Bakers Dozen and six-pack tickets and introduced a new sort of one third season ticket. I think under the circumstances that’s a good move by the club. I wrote before that these multi ticket initiatives are fine with a half empty stadium but once capacity is within sight they cause problems as the club has to allow for all the ticket holders to turn up at once for the same match which isn’t necessarily going to happen. The new tickets are a smart move by the club, will generate more income and resolve the multi ticket conundrum.

Judging by the harassed look on the women in the office when I called in yesterday afternoon to pay for my Final StrEight ticket, having failed all morning to get through on the phone all this extra work is not entirely welcome but for the rest of us it’s another sign that, finally, City are very much heading in the right direction.

So there we are, no time to discuss the football but as it’s the FA Trophy this weekend, all the more reason to have your seat with a nice reserved sticker on it as assuming City manage to progress to the latter stages of that competition the queues will be forming round Sincil Bank again. That's not to mention the possibility that City may yet suprise the pundits and progress still further in the FA Cup. Presumably Final StrEight tickets will carry some sort of priority but even if City don’t make it that far getting sat where you want to be is going to get increasingly difficult, such is the interest the Imps are creating.

Long may it continue.