Andrew Abbott's Blog

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Imps Stag-ger at the last hurdle and lose at home for the first time in a year..

I didn’t know what to do at the end, we’re certainly not used to losing at home and didn’t deserve to lose in my view. Whether we deserved to win is debatable.

City weren’t at their best that’s for sure and neither was the referee although I’m loathe to blame the officials and aren’t doing but after a decent enough first half, better than decent to be fair in a feisty encounter at Sincil Bank the man in the middle seemed to be rather too consumed with letting the game flow and failed to spot some glaring fouls, most notably on Anderson in the build up to Mansfield’s goal.

City themselves, cheered on by an even bigger crowd failed to rise to the occasion and paid the price. I’d told myself on the way home I wasn’t going to comment on the Mansfield manager but he cavorted around the pitch as if Scotland had just won the world cup. I suppose that’s testament to his understanding of the gravity of his teams win and, to be fair, which I really don’t want to be but what would you rather have, a character, which he undoubtedly is or an accountant who never does anything newsworthy? I’ll make no further comment although I could but I had a word with myself and very nearly listened so that’s that on the subject.

I’ve said on a number of occasions in this blog I don’t pretend to be a tactician but I would like to see a different approach every now and then. Much though we love Matt Rhead I thought he had a, for him, lacklustre game although you can’t fault his effort.

Personally I’d like to see more of Elliott Whitehouse. I’d like to have seen more of Ginnelly but that was forced on us and I understand Nathan Arnold has been seen with some kind of pot on his foot. I thought Habergham looked exhausted, no surprise when he went off and clearly Waterfall is not fully fit although having said that Dickie was excellent in my view and maybe that was a tactical change and he was preferred. I’m generally an optimist but maybe the manager was not going on about a small squad just to irritate me.

Still, let’s look on the bright side, it’s only one loss in a year’s worth of home games, City played well but not well enough. Things could be worse, much worse.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Stag hunt for Imps but let’s not get led down the garden path.

Whatever you may say about Steve Evans he’s good entertainment and this week he’s been buttering up to Imps fans saying how marvellous we are. Danny Cowley meanwhile wants us to not get carried away venting our spleens on Evans but sticking to the matter in hand, supporting Lincoln City. I think a mixture of both will be apparent.

City are really getting going now and have leapt up the table recently. I said a few weeks ago that the Imps needed to get to grips with the standard of league two and once they did so I was confident they’d then get motoring. They will certainly want to continue tomorrow.

Unbelievably, given the stature of some of the clubs in league two at the moment City now sit atop the attendances league which when you consider that includes Coventry City, Luton Town Swindon Town and Notts County that’s certainly a testament to the Cowleys pulling power. Tomorrow’s game will increase City’s average still further with a gate of between nine and ten thousand given that people were still on holiday when the season began.

Personally I did think there would be some more big games this season but so far my expectations have been exceeded and this weekend’s repast will top the season so far by some distance in fact I’m expecting an atmosphere that will live long in the memory and a win on top will raise the roof not that it will keep our favourite Scotsman quiet for long.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Sour grapes as City harvest the fruits of the Forest.

A fellow blogger suggested in the week that the days of Matt Rhead starting every game for City were numbered and was taken to task by a reader for suggesting such a thing. Last night Rhead started on the bench. I’d suspect this was partly psychology on Danny Cowleys part as Forest Green Rovers or their manager have it in their heads that the Imps are a one dimensional lump it up team. They’d know as by all accounts that’s all they did last night.

More importantly it was an awful night in Gloucestershire yesterday and it suited City’s game plan to introduce Rhead at half time so a plan B there Mr Cooper. As befits a manager with his head on the block Cooper declared City had no real chances at all. Well they had one and they took it and that’s what gaining three points in a smash and grab raid on a dreadful night is all about. City are now fifth and FGR are in the relegation zone.

Danny Cowley said before the game City must beware as FGR are a wounded animal. Only time will tell whether they are capable of recovery or fatally wounded. After last night despite all their managers words of bravado and some very suspect comments from Rovers’ Scott Laird FGR look not so much wounded animal as lame ducks.

We await developments with interest, after all FGR’s chairman’s avowed intention is to be playing in the Championship in five years. Not looking very likely so far is it?

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The small matter of Forest Green Rovers.

If I read or hear the expression small squad again I’ll scream. Don’t reporters go to school? Three times in the Echo’s latest article, one a quote from our august leader. Yes we have an er, limited availability issue in connection with players. Wasn’t that a conscious decision? We missed out on a player, two others are out on loan but one’s a goalkeeper. We need to get over it.

I don’t expect FGR have any issues with a sm…inadequate roster and I’m willing to wager tonight is a fixture most City supporters would give their eye teeth to win. Perhaps more dangerously I think there is an expectation we will win although no player should express that view in the presence of the manager I’m sure.

City are on a good run of form now, FGR are struggling with the standard of league football, which we know all about. The tide will turn for them but we must hope not just yet as I’m no different to you. I really want to win this one.

Then on Saturday there’s a further game I really want to win. But that’s another story.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Chris Froome. Is he the greatest British sportsman?

Regular readers will know I do like my bike racing and I’ve been following the Tour De France for more years than I care to remember. I do the occasional wobble round the countryside too.

For years professional bike racing has mainly been the preserve of the continentals with the occasional foray by a lone Brit trying to break into a pretty closed shop. It’s tough, very tough and therein lies cycling’s image problem. It’s so difficult that some riders have succumbed to nefarious practices to try to get an edge in the world of two wheels.

The continents hold on the world of cycling has been greatly loosened by the emergence of Team Sky whose reason for existence has been to wrest the Tour de France crown from the establishment and they’ve been very successful at that firstly with the engaging and charismatic Bradley Wiggins and latterly by a man who could not be so described, Chris Froome.

Froome has the demeanour of, maybe a lawyer or accountant. Unfailingly polite, a very nice man. Does he have a core of steel? No, it’s Kryptonite. Froome soon saw off the enigmatic Wiggins and established himself as Sky team leader for the TDF. He’d previously been labouring under a mysterious illness which almost saw him ditched by Sky who could see his potential but the results didn’t follow. Once they’d got to the bottom of the health issues Froome was off. Like a rocket.

Froomes problem was/is, that the continentals, particularly the French do not like being upstaged in their own back garden. They are to cycling what we English are to football. We invented it and we can’t seem to win at it, with one exception and that was a long time ago. So it is with our Gallic neighbours. It’s one thing being beaten by a Spaniard or Belgian but a Brit? Non, non, non!

Nevertheless, beaten they are but now Froome has added the Vuelta a EspaƱa, the Tour of Spain to his collection a feat so unlikely that it has only been achieved twice before. It’s basically a 4000+ mile bike ride in a matter of weeks with climbs so difficult it frankly shouldn’t be allowed.

Through all this Froome is unstintingly complimentary, it’s all down to my team mates, the crowd are a great help, vive la France! The Spanish are gents. (They are by comparison to the roadside French race fans)

Behind all this lies the problem that won’t go away, doping. He must be cheating say the uncharacteristically unsportsmanlike French. Pah!

Sky was formed specifically to buck the trend, to be whiter than white, transparent. Anyone caught cheating is out. They’ve kept to their word but also their own halo has slipped a bit over some legal but questionable historical practices involving Wiggins. Their previously untouchable head honcho, Sir Dave Brailsford is no longer regarded in quite the same way. He got a knighthood on the strength of Wiggins winning the TDF and his work with British cycling, so did Wiggins. Froome by comparison couldn’t even get on the podium in the annual Sports Personality of the Year.

Perhaps therein lies Froomes problem. There’s grit, determination, talent but personality? Not a lot to be honest but nevertheless what he has achieved and I’ll say it here, by honest methods, I’m sure of that, puts him right up there in my view and if he’s nominated I’ll be voting for him in Sports Personality and if he doesn’t get a knighthood after this well he damn well should.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Imps on the road to success.

I had a feeling City might do something at Stevenage despite the Boro’s lofty position. The Imps had to shake off an iffy start and going behind but, listening to the commentary on BBC Radio Lincolnshire I got the impression Michael Hortin and Thommo thought something was on for our heroes but it was an unlikely series of events that led to the win, City getting the winner whilst a man short.

It’s been reported elsewhere and in this blog that League Two is a much tougher proposition than we’d assumed but the Imps seem to have got to the standard required a few weeks into the new season so we can only hope they continue the improvement. The manager has said would like to see the club in a reasonable position come Christmas and can then push on in the quest for further success.

I think another consideration though is that City have played some likely contenders so far, it’s not difficult to imagine the likes of Exeter, Luton and Wycombe for that matter doing well this season so perhaps it’s been a bit of a baptism of fire that has seen the Imps struggle for consistency in the first few weeks.

We now face two games against teams who have an approach to business in a different way to City if I can put it that way, Forest Green Rovers and Mansfield Town whose method is to throw as much money as possible at the quest for glory in contrast to City’s more organic methods which is of course is the only option as we don’t have a chairman with almost limitless funds.

I’m probably as critical of these new money clubs (not that you can accuse Mansfield of lack of history) as anyone although in FGR’s case as far as I’m aware the chairman’s money was honestly earned and Mansfield too and they’re entitled to spend it as they wish. You look at clubs like Rushden and Diamonds though and I think that's a salutary lesson in not trying to run before you can walk. Goodness knows it’s been a struggle for Lincoln City over the years so I don’t think anyone can argue we are undeserving and I think our board, even if we may get a bit impatient at times, has a mind to secure lasting improvement in Lincoln City’s status.

A look at the history of Lincoln City is difficult reading and it’s been a case of survival rather that scaling the heights but you never know, with all the stars in the correct alignment as they seem to be at the moment, complete cohesion between directors and supporters and boundless enthusiasm for attending games maybe now is our time, even if we don’t behave like lottery winners.

Friday, 8 September 2017

That was the week that was.

After all the excitement of the last week followed by that sinking feeling when it was announced that we were not allowed to register Simeon Akinola meaning the transfer was off it feels like nothing much is happening but in fact another game against a top performing club, Stevenage, looms at the weekend.

I don’t know about you but it seems to me that every game now we are back in the league is a big game and a considerable step up from where we were. This merely underlines, for me, how low we had sunk having to regard games against the likes of Dover and Sutton (with all due respect) as exciting prospects. What made it worse looking back was that personally I could see no way back but then came the revolution and we are back and of course we’re all rejoicing in that.

As witness the fact that we’re all rejoicing the Imps are to be cheered on by another four figure following I understand at Stevenage and another sell out as far as home fans are concerned the following weekend when we entertain Mansfield. As at mid-week Stags had sold something like 1200 tickets for that next home game so every prospect of an even bigger gate than the Luton game. A 10000 attendance surely beckons, maybe as soon as next weekend.

All of which brings me to the subject of this week’s rant, sorry reasoned dissertation, why are we still pleading (relative) poverty? I hesitate to question the wisdom of our great leader, my position still is anything I have is his for the want of asking but I’m starting to get a little irritated by the constant reference to our small squad. That it is a small squad is beyond doubt but presumably that is by design or maybe it’s a coded hint that matters are not progressing as quickly as desired on the training ground saga. Mr Cowley has not mentioned that lately, maybe he’s getting frustrated.

What Lincoln City need to do is give the Cowley brothers the impression that the Imps are in a better position than some of the predators that will surely offer themselves if the brothers show a desire to move. The fans can do no more, frankly, than fill the stadium and give them the sort of support away that will raise the hairs on the backs of players and managers necks.

Looking at the gates, City now attract as many pay on the day supporters to Sincil Bank over and above season ticket holders of which there are many, as half of the leagues total gate looking at the average attendances, so quite why I’m still hearing that we can’t compete financially is a bit of a mystery.

This isn’t a criticism and I don’t know the clubs circumstances but I can’t help feeling some positive news on the stadium and definitely on the training ground wouldn’t go amiss.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Lincoln City. A blueprint for a successful club?

Walking back up to the High Street to catch the bus home I was earwigging some Luton fans discussing the game. There were some sarcastic comments along the lines of I thought Lincoln were going to run away with this league? Not from Lincoln I don’t think although City were the bookies choice to do well. After yesterday I certainly do think the Imps will do well. The consensus though was that Luton came for a draw. Danny Cowley said after the game that if any team were going to win it would be City and I’d agree with that, the Imps were the home side and played like it.

Forget Mayweather v McGregor, this was Mayweather v Mayweather with two evenly matched but contrasting teams going head to head in what felt like a top of the table clash even if it wasn’t. Certainly in terms of excitement and occasion it had everything with an even bigger crowd, once again all home tickets had been sold and a very healthy following from Luton. So the stage was set for a pulsating contest and it didn’t disappoint. After the game the applause rang out and you could tell both sets of supporters were satisfied with their team’s efforts as well they might be.

I try to find a different angle to write about, you can read a match report in many other directions and one thing that struck me yesterday was the Imps support. As the bus drew up to take us into town there were a group of us in our shirts and also four or five teenage girls waiting to get on. Off for an afternoons shopping you might think but no, they produced their season tickets and on they got. Similarly on the way home there were a large number of young females in City shirts on the bus and I notice around the Travis Perkins suite groups of women attending games together and I can’t help thinking that is a welcome development.

I got talking to a lady Tranmere fan at last seasons game and she remarked there was a much friendlier atmosphere at Sincil Bank than she was used to at Prenton Park and it can only be a good thing that there is a more representative cross section of support at Lincoln, young and old, male and female.

Another thing that is becoming apparent is that the club is listening to the supporters. I don’t suppose when they became directors any of the board thought they would be spending a lot of their time discussing how to fit more fans into Sincil Bank but that’s the conundrum.

When I first started writing about Lincoln City it was for the Professional Footballers Association website and I e-mailed the club several times explaining who I was and who I was writing for. The PFA asked me if I had been supplied with a press pass to get in and write about the Imps. They didn’t even reply to e-mails! Now supporters concerns and suggestions are noted and acted upon, for example the use of the Stacey West Stand for away fans and the possible future sharing of that area with home supporters when away fans are not expected to be so numerous. I also understand that the club are considering a scheme whereby if season ticket holders are unable to attend a game their seat may be resold by the club so someone else can attend.

This is what I’m getting at with my headline. A club which treats it followers with respect and appreciates that they have views and ideas too. For years football clubs have taken their supporters for granted and have given them no consideration at all. Modern day cannon fodder. That’s all changing at Lincoln and a very good thing too.

Friday, 1 September 2017

No new faces, different ones.

So we sat with our phones poised for any news and nothing happened in the end. Not for want of trying on the management’s part I’m sure.

As is pointed out in today’s Echo web pages though the squad members have given the manager plenty to think about as he contemplates his team for tomorrows clash with Luton Town. This has a top of the table feel even if City are mid table but it’s very early days. If the Imps play like they did last Saturday and on Tuesday with our supposed squad team (where have I heard that before?) then they have every chance of adding to their points total and starting September handily placed in the league.

One things for sure there will be another big match atmosphere with Luton bringing an impressive four figure following and the home areas virtually sold out again. With fans returning from holidays we should be close to the magical 10000 figure I’d guess. It should make for another pulsating afternoon.

It’s a real novelty for me to see City second in the attendances table after the first month and testimony to the enthusiasm Danny and Nicky Cowley have drummed up. City have always been decently supported but to see them above the likes of Notts County, Swindon and Luton is truly remarkable. In order to really progress the club need to keep that loyalty through thick and thin and there hasn’t been any thin so far but with the season ticket sales that won’t be a problem this season.

Danny Cowley repeats often that we have a small squad which I must confess I’m starting to find a little irritating and although we have a far more numerous board of directors and decent levels of investment in that area when all said and done for City to raise their profile attendances have got to hold and rise still further if the club is to have the resources to progress further up the league structure.

The board cannot be expected to entirely shoulder the burden so we all need to have a mind to increasing City’s fan base but with the stadium approaching capacity on match days now that is a very welcome conundrum for the directors to ponder. When I first started to visit Sincil Bank 20000 gates were not unusual and the city was far smaller in those days.

I never thought I’d see the days when a 10000 seat stadium was insufficient. I’m certainly loving the journey.