Andrew Abbott's Blog

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Rewriting history.

Do you find yourself watching the highlights of the latest game involving Lincoln City and wondering if it was the same match you went to?

I had that strange feeling yesterday. The article I wrote certainly struck a chord with many of you and I probably had my best readership figures since I started doing the blog. Most were in agreement with my sentiments, I thought it was a poor performance but saw no reason for derision. Any “proper” football fan will view games in the context of a season not a single game. That old adage it’s a marathon not a sprint is certainly true for football following.

Of course now that, particularly premier league football is available on TV you can get to view football as a product that you view in stand-alone mode if you like. This is quite separate from supporting your local team where you take the rough with the smooth.

There was some talk of booing after the game and I see the Grimsby Telegraph has taken up the Danny Cowley comments where he said many other fans would have booed. There was certainly something after the game but, over on the Selenity Stand side it was imperceptible more a sigh than a boo and, as has been said if there was booing it could have been for the referee who I thought did not cover himself in glory although he got better later in the game.

The point I wanted to get across was the highlights revealed nothing of what struck me during the game. I was slightly taken to task by a reader who thought my comments that certain players fell well below their usual high standards were harsh but I stand by them whilst admitting that the players I singled out are usually our most consistent and celebrated performers so you notice when they play like mere mortals.

The highlights showed a good game where City were particularly unfortunate in front of goal or you could call it profligate. One things for sure, you’ll never hear a boo from me, not to Lincoln City players, never have, never will.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The Lincoln City theory of relativity.

I said in the pub before the match that City’s game v Crawley Town had nil nil written all over it.

For a few minutes at the start I allowed myself the thought that I was wide of the mark in my assessment as the Imps once again started brightly. It didn’t last long. City’s problem today was virtually no one had a good game. Eardley, Rhead and Dickey were ok. Vickers would have been my man of the match. The rest were ordinary at best. Alex Woodyard looked all over the place and Raggett was awful. Hopefully Norwich weren’t looking or they’d be wondering where they put the receipt. Then again perhaps that’s not so bad.

City came up against a Crawley side that are making up the numbers in league two but have no intention of giving up their place in the division. The Imps did not have the guile to overcome a resolute Crawley rearguard, nowhere near. On today’s evidence the window cannot open too soon.

Yet, as I texted my very good friend a Boston United supporter who just happens to be my boss I realised I really had nothing to complain about. The Pilgrims had lost at home again. They have no money, under a thousand were in attendance, their relatively new manager appears clueless and here I was moaning that our gate was only just over 8000 and City had failed to go fifth. I found myself almost apologetic for my arrogance

So yes, it was a lacklustre, turgid display. City’s shot shy attack failed to inspire themselves or me. The midfield were clueless, defence wobbly. Would I swap where we are for any time in the last twenty years? No.

I'll shut up then.Probably the best policy.

PS. Adam Murray resigned as Boston United manager last night. The Pilgrims are firmly in the sort of endless spiral of managerial upheaval which we're all too familiar with. See above.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Back to basics and the new kids on the block-but not to everyone else.

In a new encounter for both clubs City play Crawley tomorrow but that’s because Crawley’s rise has coincided with the Imps’ demise. Still, better late than never and it’s, unusual for the Imps to have absolutely no history between themselves and opponents. Danny Cowley will be clued up on them though, as usual.

It’s back to the league after an interesting week which some tried to dress up as controversial but when you look at the gate, given that City are on a high as far as support is concerned the actual percentage of regular supporters, and by that I mean this year’s average, the number of fans attending against Everton was about the same as would be usual for this sort of minor competition. I don’t know what the formula for dividing up the proceeds of the gate is for this competition but looking at it logically with the best part of 4000 in attendance at least there was the possibility of City banking a bit of money even if it was only sufficient to top up the tea bag fund.

Off the field City added further to the back office if you like capability with the appointment of an in house lawyer to add to CEO Liam Scully’s cohort then I think you’ll agree City are planning for the long term and dare I say it not particularly anticipating remaining in the position they are in either. It’s all very exciting.

Personally speaking I thought City would push on in terms of results more or less where they left off last season and that has certainly not been the case given the fact that the league has itself moved on to a greater degree than we’d imagined but even so the Imps are very handily placed and I’m certainly not giving up on further glory this season whether or not the club is ready.

I suppose the worry for the club is that this present wave of euphoria will wear off with a resulting drop off in support. This could happen of course but I do think City have latched on to something the city of Lincoln has. You can say to people here are some shops, come and do some shopping or you can offer them an experience, nice food, music, special events. I think this is working for the city and Lincoln City too. It’s more than coming to a game now. City are offering a footballing day out, better food choice, the fan zone, legendary players to meet as I did the other week.

All this make home games a not to be missed event in my view and City haven’t had that since Keith’s days but more than that there is the very real possibility of even further progress or at the very least the sort of consolidation financially that the Imps haven’t enjoyed in many a long year.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

JMD takes his chances.

I don’t really want to get involved in the boycott controversy. If a fan doesn’t want to go fair enough but to try to persuade others not to support our club? I don’t get that. In a world where clubs can’t afford a reserve team I’d have thought a so called B team competition would be a good thing. I’ve seen some great reserve games with players freed from the pressures of the league. This is different in that there’s a Wembley final. Boycott that? I’d walk to Wembley to see City play there whatever the name of the competition. Anyway, it’s your decision. I hear the argument about Premier League under 21 teams getting in league two and I’m dead against that and think it’s unworkable but I leave our club to defend their position.

Last night was, I thought a fascinating encounter, Everton obviously were schooled to spray the ball about but were quickly undone by two great, in their own way, goals. Jordan Maguire Drew’s exquisite free kick delivering what we always hope to see where City get an opportunity around the box. Everton, according to Danny Cowley cost good money to assemble and featured a couple of expensive signings so you’d expect something of a fightback and for the Toffees better quality players to have better footballing brains. Their goal was anything but exquisite though, scruffy would be a better description.

On reflection Everton didn’t really threaten City’s goal all that much and there is an argument, I’ll agree, against letting these teams in the competition. When my son was at Forests school of excellence the emphasis was on pass pass pass. Scoring was almost an irrelevance in fact in games so many passes were rewarded with a goal. The idea was to retain the ball. City could, I’m sure benefit from a bit more of that in League Two but the be all and end all of the game? Not for me.

So there we are. I went, I enjoyed it, I’d go again. I make no further comment.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Uptown top ranking.

The Beat ft. Ranking Roger/The Selecter. The Engine Shed.

There were one or two bewildered student types at The Engine Shed last night but it was mainly an audience of baby boomers some resplendent in trilby’s, there were braces and Ben Sherman shirts and a good time was had by all.

Both these bands have been around a long time in various guises but they managed to produce an authentic sound and by the end the place was rocking helped in no small measure by a terrific set from The Beat. Ranking Roger aided and abetted by his son who brought a more modern almost hip hop angle to the sound and they produced a repertoire of new songs and old favourites, The audience lapped it up.

Ranking Roger has a great rapport with an audience and this was a venue perfect for him, his rude boy hat and coat soon jettisoned as the hall and the band warmed up and by the end of the session the crowd were baying for more. They didn’t have long to wait as the stage hands engineered a rapid change of set including removal of one set of drums and installation of an organ and settings for a large line up as The Selecter appeared out of the darkness and ripped into their presentation starting with the theme from the Avengers for those who remember it (99% of the audience).

If The Beat have metamorphosed several times they’re probably eclipsed by The Selecter who, like the Beat even had two outfits of the same name on the road at the same time although The Selecter without Pauline Black is rather akin to the Rolling Stones minus Mick Jagger. They didn’t disappoint and they too did old songs and new and managed to satisfy their fans with all the musical mileposts, On My Radio, surprisingly not the grand finale as it was when I saw them at Glastonbury but the precursor to a rip roaring non stop show ending medly that had the audience dancing and singing without exception. It was more party time than gig and the band, joined by Ranking Roger and son for the last song, their own take on “Madness” by Madness. It, predictably brought the house and the curtain down.

Except there wasn’t one but I’m sure Ranking Roger said to Pauline Black “that was the best one” as well he might, it was a fantastic show.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Getting all the ducks in a row.

You’re probably getting a bit tired of me waxing lyrical about City’s progress but they are getting there I’m sure. One thing that has exercised me is the lack of news on the training facility. My fear was that the management team would get disillusioned and start to wonder if they’ve taken the club as far as they can.

It was heartening then to read in the Echo that progress is being made albeit more slowly than had been hoped. I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Danny Cowley is involved to a large degree. This in itself is heartening too. There’s a tendency to wonder, every time a vacancy is announced, is he in the frame? There will always be speculation but, for the moment at least the impression I get is that club and management are as one and my fears may be groundless. I suppose we should have realised that these brothers are in the business of building a lasting legacy wherever they go. True we snatched them away from Braintree and I do sometimes feel a bit guilty about their plight but in all honesty, despite their chairman’s bravado could they really have provided the platform City have, or anything like? I think they knew it was time to go when they did.

When City stayed full time after relegation there was a thought that they somehow remained football league in a kind of exile and that, once promotion was achieved they would be able, seamlessly to slip back into fully professional ways. We now all realise that was hopelessly optimistic. Last season’s scramble over tickets proved that was not the case and almost everywhere you turn there’s work to be done but the club is doing it. Running an outfit like Lincoln City was always akin to climbing a mountain but, in terms of time and place, an expanding and vibrant city like Lincoln needs a football club that matches its ambition and now we have it. It is a bit frustrating that it is such a mammoth quest but exciting nevertheless to be involved and gratifying that the club has invited us to be a part of it and so many have accepted.

As to the playing side, Cheltenham away, another club who have been through it although they largely avoided the pain of realignment by getting promoted straight away after relegation. Danny Cowley has a good relationship with Gary Johnson and his son Lee at Bristol City, not that there will be any sentiment for old time’s sake as the Imps look to extend their recent good run. It’s a difficult place to go but I wouldn’t put it past them.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Imps settle into a rhythm.

The last, indeed only time I was in Swindon for a match was a fantastic smash and grab raid by City, Jamie Forrester grabbing the winner in what seemed like our only attack. Last night seemed to follow a similar vein although there were other chances and an arguable “goal” that was waved away but nevertheless City emerged triumphant and Swindon is one of those places that always seems a daunting prospect so it’s doubly satisfying. Anyway, what is daunting? City's players are performing in front of the biggest crowds in the league at home so five thousand in admittedly an impressive stadium is hardly going to give them the heeby jeebies.

I keep reading of supposed murmurings of discontent but I really can’t imagine why. Just as I resented the thoughts that popped into my head that the powers that be at City wished me to accept our non-league status it’s easy to slip into a mind-set that were back where we belong but as we’ve all realised League Two is now another place and we’ve no right to assume that we can just tootle along as we did before (until the roof fell in).

Anyway, there’s no discontent about last night’s result and City have, almost imperceptibly slipped into quite a virtuous circle of picking up points and now occupy a highly satisfactory league position that surely even their most exacting “fan” would have accepted if it was offered at the start of the season.

In fact, it could hardly be improved upon with City cruising along under the radar not particularly drawing attention to themselves and with the resources to strengthen after Christmas. Defensively it couldn’t be much better and with all these clean sheets all it takes is one goal and we’re home and dry. I’ll certainly settle for that.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Cambridge get a point organised.

First I just want to say I shook hands with an old teacher of mine, John Kennedy today. He said he remembered me even though I last spoke to him 48 years ago and I believed him. He was a very good teacher and a very good goalkeeper although I think he spent his day shaking hands with sixty somethings like me who remember him as an exceptional English teacher rather than goalkeeper. For my money he was both.

On to the game and I think we’ve just got to accept that this game will not be an exception. Cambridge didn’t come to Lincoln to play for a draw in my view but they certainly didn’t want another loss. They followed a game plan and it stood them in good stead. Three changes to the team took its toll and an experiment with Billy Knott as a sort of winger didn’t pay off. We’ve got enough real ones, I don’t really know why we did that other than to get Billy back on the pitch.

Last week City looked like world beaters initially then got worse. This week they were poor in the first half and failed to improve. It wasn’t really a big deal, they didn’t lose and are very handily placed going forward, it was entertaining. Did Luke Waterfall do enough to retain his place, yes. Will he? Probably not. As a unit the defence were effective. I was astonished to read that some people were criticising Bostwick and Woodyard. I don’t pretend to be an expert but I think I know two good midfielders when I see them. Maybe Bostwick is a centre half at heart but for me he’s more than worth his place.

I found myself watching various good individual performances. Neil Eardley is the sort of player that makes me glad I bought a season ticket. Bostwick and Woodyard (see above) are a delight to watch but it is in attack that it all starts to get a bit questionable and no one more so than Matt Green who is playing like a man with a millstone round his neck. In an ideal world he’d have a nice rest but would you leave him out? You can’t question the workrate and you never know, one goal and he could be taking the match ball home.

I do just want to say I may have been a little premature in writing Matt Rhead off, I thought he was first class yesterday. Maybe he’s the answer to the misfiring front line. In any event he put in a shift that had the fans on their feet. I don’t in all honesty expect Rhead to be starting too many games but if he’s going to perform like he did today all I can say is welcome back.

I’ve said before and we’re all agreed, the step up to league two was a quantum leap and clearly it’s going to take time to fully make the adjustment. Nevertheless, we’re in a good position, holding our own unlike some recently promoted teams I could mention. There’s money in the bank and I think if we’re still in this position come Christmas some of it will be spent. Matchdays are a revelation, far better than anything I’ve experienced before, promotion campaigns excepted. I’m certainly not complaining.

Friday, 13 October 2017

The silent majority.

It used to be known as the library but then along came Danny Cowley and now it’s not allowed for supporters to snooze away Saturday afternoons in the Selenity Stand, he just won’t tolerate it. One thing you don’t hear much of though is criticism of the team. I assumed that was the case all over the stadium but apparently not, according to the Echo and other blogs which is something that really surprises me. Professional football is a game played by human beings for the pleasure of other human beings. If you don’t want human frailties along with triumph take up computer gaming or something.

Apparently last Saturdays win against Chesterfield was the subject of some grumbling. Not from me and not from those who sit around me. Sure, the first half was better than the second in terms of excitement but as the manager pointed out there’s other aspects to the game such as the nuances of defending a lead, hanging on when you’re under pressure. Seeing the game out.

I presume this negativity is not coming from those of us that have sat out the last few barren years. The present team, indeed the whole set up is a world away from the stuff we have had to watch and that’s with all due respect to those players and indeed managers who have tried their honest best to turn the situation round. You just have to put it all down to experience and move on as best you can. It didn’t work for whatever reason. I hear criticism of past managers and players but I can’t imagine anyone came to Lincoln with the express ambition of failing.

Just to cheer ourselves up and I can’t in all honesty think why anyone might need cheering up at the moment, the present situation has come about from one of those very rare (for Lincoln City) moments in time when pretty much everything lately has gone right for the club. You can tell that from some of the comments you hear from other clubs, managers etc. It’s easy to be magnanimous when you’ve just beaten someone, not so much when you’re the loser. They don’t like it. My message to them is, you can lump it.

So we welcome Cambridge United, a club Danny Cowley has some time for. From City’s point of view an eminently winnable game. Maybe the Imps will win, maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll win in style, maybe they won’t. It could be a classic, it could be dull. That’s football and if you don’t like it you know what you can do don't you?

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Brilliant Bozzie bosses Blues.

I don’t know whether it was just me but I’ve felt since we signed him Michael Bostwick was struggling just a little. Maybe it was the pace of league two, maybe it was fitness, we do ask a lot of our players but, whilst Bozzie clearly looked a very good player I was waiting to see the true Bostwick. Yesterday, for my money we got it. Woodyard got the champagne but if it had been me choosing man of the match Bostwick would have met the sponsors if only to show we were glad the undoubted talent was emerging.

I’ve read elsewhere that Chesterfield were awful. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that. City were very good in the first half and threatened to swamp the Spirites and then were not at the races in the second. They didn’t need to be that good to get the points frankly and weren’t. Awarded a penalty, that was as near as Chesterfield got apart from a rasping free kick well saved by Vickers. Not much doubt about the penalty although a chap on the bus was trying to argue otherwise but City should have been much more careful particularly around the box with a referee rather more inclined to reward the away team than home. A better opposition would have made the Imps pay.

Spirites may have been terrible but I do wonder if we played them at the right time. They improved in the second half, or did City get worse? Jack Lester will make a good manager in my view and their fans seem to be on side, over 1100 to see a team bottom of the league is a good turnout even given the short distance but I think and hope they will soon improve and put their present difficulties behind them. I’ve seen enough of City’s travails to wish a similar fate on a proper football club with decent supporters so good luck to them.

Talking of good support, once again the Imps performed before a large audience of boisterous and noisy fans. No sign that the novelty is beginning to wear off and hopefully it won’t. I’m quite sure if City are round about where they are in the league now come Christmas the manager will want to put a big effort in and that will mean further investment. How big an investment will be an easier choice for the board if Imps fans are continuing to back the team. Yesterday wasn’t the most brilliant football match you’ll ever see but as a spectacle it was a first rate afternoon and that, dear fellow supporter is down to you.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Imps not taking anything for granted.

I used to dread reading any of Bob Dorrians pronouncements and I’d imagine the thought of having to say something meaningful to the press didn’t exactly fill City’s chairman with glee either. That was then of course and now Bob doesn’t have to do a lot of talking as there are several in the club who do it for him. The players speak for themselves with their performances too. There can’t be too many unhappy fans about either unless you count those who can’t get a seat for a game. Even there the club are being as inventive as they can to maximise revenue and opportunity to spectate.

What’s prompted these observations is an article in Thursdays Echo and a subsequent tweet by a prominent fan and fundraiser saying even now some of us are wondering when we’re going to wake up, or words to that effect. Cap’n Bob was waxing lyrical on the reaction of the fans to the current success story at Sincil Bank and it’s certainly remarkable that the supporters have returned to the fold and embraced their club in the numbers they have.

The club, in turn have really upped their game in my view and the latest addition to the clubs profile is the new fan zone which I’m very much looking forward to seeing on Saturday. I’ve said several times before so I’ll not labour the point, the Sincil Bank experience is now a world away from where it has been for the last few seasons as well it might be. As was also pointed out by Dorrian, the league has moved on apace since we left it so much so that it’s almost unrecognisable from the one we left, so we did need to see a reaction to that.

What heartens me is that the board are not simply basking in our new found status. I get the feeling that the business brains amongst the directors are really enjoying plotting a course for the club that will not only minimise the danger of slipping back again but to possibly move further up from the position the club is now enjoying. This is essential, in the short term from the viewpoint of retaining the present management team, who will want to be constantly reminded that the club is still moving forward but, as we all know they will eventually depart and the higher up the pyramid we are and the more fit for purpose the club are perceived to be once we do have to look at attracting the right person to continue the development, the better.

I’ve said before, given that the stadium is more or less operating at capacity I’d really like to hear of some progress on the training ground and that the club are driving the quest for a new stadium. If anyone was unconvinced of the need for that they’ve surely now realised that is an untenable position. What a conundrum for the club to have!