Andrew Abbott's Blog

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

City prevail where Spurs fail.

It was probably in view of that epic encounter when Newport County couldn't quite manage to cause the shock of the FA Cup that prompted the Imps to tear into the Exiles with even more than their customary zeal at the start of last night’s match at Sincil Bank.

After a terrific double act by Matt Green and Rheady City somewhat let matters slip and Newport levelled but in the end it was a masterclass by all three strikers and, as Newport tired as we thought they would, they registered an emphatic win. Probably as good a time as any to play Newport who nevertheless gave a good account of themselves.

Not that City were exactly fresh as a daisy at the final whistle. I don’t know how Danny Rowe made those last two powerful runs before he eventually came off and Harry Anderson seemed to be running on empty. I’m sure Matt Rhead knew he’d been in a game too, not that he’d show it.

All in all then a highly satisfactory and another hugely entertaining game, no wonder 7500 turned out to create another cracking atmosphere.

Talking of cracking atmospheres we now keep our phones charged as we await any morsels of news coming our way from the Bank on the last day of the transfer window. On last night’s evidence the need for a front line striker is greatly diminished as all three attackers gave virtuoso performances with Rhead, Green and Palmer bagging a goal each and some fancy interplay between them.

However, no one, I’m sure is of the opinion that as we go into the business end of the season there will be no need for high quality reinforcements in the wings so we await developments with even more than the usual fervour.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Woodyard staying put.

We’ve now had the great news that Alex Woodyard has expressed a desire to stay with the Imps despite an EFL club meeting the release amount in Woodyards contract. Presumably not Luton or at least not the Luton bid of £120,000 for the player as it was described by the club as amongst the highest ever received for a City player.

This is a huge fillip for the club and supporters but, I’ve got to say not a huge surprise to me. Whilst the club may be swayed by a big offer I think we know enough about the esteem the Cowleys are held in by the club, in fact as a shareholder I’m certain of it, within the bounds of possibility if the Cowleys don’t want something then it won’t happen.

Similarly, again in my view, Woodyard is Cowleys man. It is the Cowleys who are responsible for the player’s development thus far, that and the mega talent he has and I believe he sees his career as intertwined with theirs. So, as far as I’m concerned when the Cowleys depart, Alex’s number will be on speed dial. I think the Cowleys see their teams built around Alex.

As those of us who have been up the aisle may recall, let no man put them asunder. I wouldn’t go as far as to say till death do us part but I wouldn’t mind betting it’s not far off.

I hope I’m right.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Life. A game of two halves.

Michael Portillo at the New Theatre Royal.

As we all know it’s not new and the audience certainly wasn’t, in fact we felt quite youthful as our fellow Portillo fans creaked up the stairs of Lincoln’s theatrical gem, the Theatre Royal. Appropriately for a predominantly football blog the talk was entitled a game of two halves but it wasn’t about football at all but the career of Michael Portillo, formerly a senior member of the Conservative Government who entertained those of us sufficiently interested in politics when his career spectacularly nosedived and fatally crashed on live TV and he was exposed to the full titillation of an audience of millions as he was ejected from politics in the night of the long knives. Think football can be a bit of a rough house? Politics is brutal.

Undaunted and still a relatively young man Portillo continued his career combining his historical background with a love of railways and reinvented himself as a TV presenter. His Great Railway Journeys amongst other railway orientated interests and political punditry on late night BBC 1 prompted a nationwide speaking tour of which Lincoln was the latest stop.

Portillo surprised me with his easy manner and evident stand up skills as he kept his audience enraptured with insider tales displaying timing that a lot of comics would be proud of and a genuine rapport with the packed audience at the old theatre. A sprinkling of surprisingly well told jokes and quite rude patter gave the assembled oldies the feel of a late night review rather than a political chat.

The mood altered as Portillo described his metamorphosis into a railway anorak and he displayed a considerable knowledge of both the political situation and state of the railways as he effortlessly moved on to the question and answer session. No questioner, and there were some good ones from the audience, was denied an answer as he moved from the rails to brexit and beyond.

The assembled throng disappeared into the night for a welcome cool off in the evening air, the theatre session being both warm work and really quite intense but it’s unlikely the Lincolnshire audience for Great British Railway Journeys, Great Continental Railway Journeys and Great American Railroad Journeys will diminish after this show, he certainly left his audience wanting more.

Whether they’ll be able to stay up for This Week, BBC 1 11.45 Thursdays is a different matter. There’s always catch up or the iplayer.

Friday, 26 January 2018

The Cowley effect.

As a writer, you sometimes sit at the keyboard with barely a thought in your head but once you get going the words seem to flow and next thing you know you’re having to use those precis skills you learned at school to cut it down a bit. Other times some inspiration comes from elsewhere.

I was reading the Echo website and an interview with Bob Dorrian and with no match this weekend that seemed as good a place as any to expand on Bob’s words with a fans eye view of Impdom. Then came the bid for Alex Woodyard and that took precedence. On further reflection though, given my thoughts on the Dorrian interview maybe the two are intertwined.

We all hoped and prayed that the Luton bid would be knocked back. For a start, hopefully, City can resist £120000 to keep one of their best performers at Sincil Bank. As Danny Cowley pointed out. We’re in the business of building here not take the money and run.

Bob Dorrian was once again marvelling at the support the team is now getting as indeed we all are. The gate last Tuesday absolutely blew out of the water all the other attendances and surely the Chelsea gate will be a full house if only because some non-fans will be curious to see what Chelsea’s youngsters have got in their locker.

Are the size of the gates that surprising though? On the face of it yes. On the other hand Lincoln is a growing place, a young city with students bringing down the demographic and the many attractions the city centre has to offer encouraging the younger population in at weekends and in the evenings. Is it any wonder some of them have started to see Lincoln City as part of the entertainment on offer?

More importantly, City always have had a relatively large fanbase but the toll of disappointment after disappointment has reduced the enthusiasm. People these days will not necessarily follow the team through thick and thin, at least not the sort of thin times we’ve had and it was inevitable interest would wane but it was always there.

Now of course the Imps can offer a winning side, decent facilities, new initiatives, charismatic managers and footballers capable of stringing a sentence together. Supporters have thrown themselves behind the journey and yes, maybe jumped on the bandwagon but once on they’re enjoying the ride.

Long may that continue.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Imps serve up another trophy cracker.

It was better than that to be honest, both teams absolutely tore into each other, Peterborough United dispelling any notions of taking it easy with their forthcoming FA Cup against Leicester City looming.

It was City making all the running when Neal Eardley stuck out a boot and guided the ball into his own net. He looked visibly upset for some time but of course he could do that ten times and still have his City account very much in credit as far as we fans are concerned. However he’d have felt a lot better when Danny Rowe scored a spectacular goal to level the tie.

Peterborough got back in the lead with as good a goal as you’ll see in a long time only for Matt Rhead, long the butt of Posh’s fans baiting got another equaliser. How he must have wished it was at the other end where 1000 odd Peterborough fans would have been nice and close to witness it.

Inevitably it was former Posh starlet Harry Anderson who fired City into the lead right at the death and just when we were anticipating four minutes of injury time that felt like fifteen Matt Green broke away as Posh were throwing everything at an equaliser and put the tie beyond doubt. Cue pandemonium amongst the considerable home support.

It had been a blistering, breath taking display from both sides. Just for a change and in my view to their credit the Peterborough Telegraph offered the following comment:

“Anyway it actually made a welcome change to watch a side ignore the slow-tempo, passing of the ball sideways and backwards which appears to be writ large on page one of that coaching manual. It certainly helped create a rip-roaring cup tie between two fully committed sides that was in the balance until former Posh player Anderson converted a high-tariff volley in the 90th minute to put Lincoln 3-2 ahead, a margin they extended with virtually the last kick of the game through speedy striker Matt Green to spark great celebrations among the home support.”

Mentioning no names, well just one, Mr Cooper, could this be why Lincoln City are playing in front of near capacity crowds because fans want to see attacking up and at ‘em football in the British style rather than a poor man’s Real Madrid? Just a thought.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Lincoln City not good enough for a start.

I don’t suppose we should be too surprised at Saturdays draw at Barnet especially after City to all intents and purposes failed to get off the bus till half time. A team suffering defeat after defeat, a change of manager, The Bees fortunes were bound to pick up sooner or later and at least the Imps emerged with a point for their troubles. The problem is, whilst City don’t lose many there haven’t been that many wins lately and they are slowly sinking in the table.

Probably no better time then for a distraction in the form of the much maligned Checkatrade Trophy to take our minds off the league and instead entertain thoughts of a Wembley appearance, a first Wembley appearance.

I’ve enjoyed this competition and have been to all the home games and will be at Sincil Bank tomorrow. I don’t think it will be quite so sparsely attended either, in fact I know it won’t as the club announced on Friday they had sold 4500 tickets. Peterborough United chipped in that they had shifted 400 so it should be a gate of at least 5000 which will again be one of the biggest in the competition. They won’t be on their own either I suspect as the prospect of a trip to North London becomes a possibility.

It certainly won’t be easy although Posh may be distracted with an FA Cup tie coming up shortly but will nevertheless not want to be rolled over by their neighbours. Out of the two though the FA Cup will take precedence I’m sure.

We seem to have a bit of a relationship these days despite Barry Fry’s reputation as a wheeler dealer, and I don’t see anything wrong with that, its football not the stock market. City may well field three former Posh players who will want to give a good account of themselves if they play. City have mixed it up a bit in the Trophy but at this stage of the competition Danny Cowley will want to progress if he possibly can.

Peterborough like a bargain, don’t we all but I think they have shown themselves to be a decent club to know and we certainly are feeling privileged to have Michael Bostwick and Harry Anderson in our numbers, they didn’t have to let us have them. Another way of looking at it is if these players are surplus to requirements what must the rest of them be like?

All will be revealed tomorrow.

Friday, 19 January 2018

A revolution beginning. Ever so quietly.

Proof if it were needed for fans of Lincoln City this week that the club is moving gradually upwards. Danny Cowley followed on from his capture, particularly, of Harry Anderson and Michael Bostwick in the summer but others too with some blockbuster signings in the last few days. Even though they were short of match time together I think it was there for all to see on Saturday what a very good side City potentially are.

It’s not just the managers, the club has taken huge strides towards their aim of becoming a much more substantial football club with behind the scenes recruitment. The whole club is a step change from the outfit of a year ago.

Take ticket sales. Now I know this isn’t without gremlins but buying a ticket for a cup game if you’re a season ticket holder couldn’t be simpler. Gone are the days of queueing through the night and taking time off work. If you’re not a season ticket holder, well I wouldn’t know about that but it’s like going to see a premier league side. You wouldn’t turn up hoping to get in on a Saturday. So it often is with the Imps.

There has been some speculation this week as to whether City may need to fend off the attentions of other clubs who may covet our managers. I don’t think we need to worry about that just yet. Because of the Cowleys efforts and our support the Imps are the match of most clubs in league two and many in league one and even some championship clubs in terms of viability and desirability. I don’t want to be rude about other clubs but I think at the moment City are as well placed as they’ve been for some time in terms of holding on to what they’ve got.

The Cowleys loyalty to the club depends very much on their perception of where the club can go and it’s ability to match their ambition. I’m going to say this now I think the Cowleys believe they can get our club to the championship. Note I didn’t say they believe they will do so but believe it can be done. I believe it can be done. Danny referred in interview to the potential here. I don’t think they meant another promotion. I think they want to leave a club that is not only capable of significant elevation but able to maintain that status in the long term.

One of the Cowleys reasons for optimism will be demonstrated tomorrow when Imps supporters will make up about half of the crowd at Barnet. I watched Norwich City at Chelsea in the week (have to say they were unlucky) and the commentator marvelled that they had 2-3000 supporters there.

Just remind me how many we took to Arsenal?

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Imps create best ever display.

I’ve forgotten how to put pictures up and in reality my laptops probably too old to do it any more but in any event you’ll have seen it, a Lancaster powering out of the Coop stand set against a vivid yellow backdrop. The RAF roundel at one side and 617 squadron banner at the other. Painstakingly produced and executed perfectly by the patrons of the big stand. Ironically the orchestrators and facilitators of this magnificent spectacle didn’t see it at the time, that was the privilege of the rest of the stadium and particularly the Selenity Stand, the Library. All we could do was stand and applaud. It was awe inspiring. Well done to you all.

Kind of following on from that I want to share with you a tweet from one of our debutants, Jordan Williams. “Wow. Fans were unbelievable, I haven’t enjoyed my football that much in a long time…..”

That is precisely what we the supporters are aiming for. We want players to love playing in front of us, to revel in the noise and the atmosphere and the numbers. We want our players to relish playing at Sincil Bank and for opponents to feel intimidated and uncomfortable there. Not in a nasty way, not personal insults or threatening behaviour just our indifference as far as they are concerned and wholehearted support and, yes, love for our team. Yesterday was another step along the road to City becoming a sort of mini Barcelona where everyone in the locality has affection for the team and people are clamouring for a ticket to get in.

You could certainly detect discomfort in the Notts County side at the end of the game, whether that was as a result of the team or the supporters efforts or both. For the last twenty minutes Magpies looked like they couldn’t wait to get on the bus.That's if they had the energy to climb the steps. You know an away side are hanging on when the keeper gets booked for timewasting and there was only one team looking forward to another six minutes injury time.

I just must say something that occurred to me some time after the game and it concerns the referee, awful as he was and Danny Cowley. I just wish Danny would leave the fourth official alone. I think it’s actually causing us harm. Complaining to an official isn’t going to alter anything. Danny is neither use nor ornament sat on a step by the press box. The supreme irony is that the orchestrator and facilitator of our current success, the manager couldn’t find a seat to sit on because there wasn’t one, they’d all been sold.

More importantly, and this isn’t the first time, officials are coming to Sincil Bank with a pre conceived notion that City are the bad guys. Yesterday infringement after infringement given against the home side despite the fact that the away side were using every kind of gamesmanship in the book. Some incidents clearly should have resulted in a free kick to the Imps but weren’t. Then as night follows day a stonewall penalty is waved away because the referee has decided in advance we’re fakers.

Anyway, rant over it was a great spectacle and a superb performance, the new players looked a big improvement, we looked potent going forward and resolute at the back. We’re going to cause some teams a hell of a headache and the run in to the end of the season is going to be electric.

I can’t wait for the next game.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Lincoln City serve notice of intent.

Older readers may remember the song Welcome Home by Peters and Lee. I fancy myself as a bit of a music aficionado and it’s a dreadful racket by anyone’s reckoning but nevertheless I couldn’t get it out of my head.

We are of course welcoming Lee Frecklington back and, by any standards that is a big signing for City and signals to anyone who may care to notice that Lincoln City are not in league two to make up the numbers.

I couldn’t help but muse on Frecklingtons journey and reflect that it does mirror our own demise because the club he departed to, Peterborough United and the club he ended up at, Rotherham United were for many seasons on a par with City. Maybe I flatter myself a little in Posh’s case but we have all spent some time in each others company.

Both of those clubs have been operating at a much higher level than us underlining our own deficiencies because, for me, it was more than possible that we too could have gone onwards and upwards but instead we went down down deeper and down, whilst we're on the subject of corny old songs.

Now however, as we heard in Clive Nates interview with BBC Radio Lincolnshire the club are making every effort to use this present benign period to propel the Imps further upwards. City’s problem, historically, has been lack of cash. Whilst that will always be a concern the situation at the moment, money in the bank from the cup exploits and greatly increased gates, the prospect for improvement is there.

We heard at the annual general meeting that the club are of the view that a stadium greater than the mooted 10000-12000 capacity might be necessary when the time comes. As things stand, should City make it to League One the present accomodation will be insufficient for some of the bigger games. What a problem to have.

Meanwhile, games don’t come any bigger that Saturdays epic encounter with Notts County. We’re fond of citing Grimsby Town as the big one but with their present lowly league performance there won’t be a bigger one than Saturday. Having, hope I’m not tempting providence, survived this far of the transfer window intact leaving aside Raggett and Dickie and discounting Knott which wasn’t a huge surprise, the Imps will be pitting a very strong side against our near neighbours and a truly massive game can be anticipated.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Ugly duckling trophy starting to look a bit more swan like.

£100,000 earned so far from a competition many do not want doesn’t sound too bad to me and I’ve got to say has produced some good entertainment at Sincil Bank. Danny Cowley upped the ante last night making a direct plea to Imps fans to support the team in the remaining fixtures. We shall see what effect that has.

Having alluded to the supposed boycott this tournament is traditionally poorly supported at least in the early stages but I don’t think City fans can be accused of apathy, frequently producing gates far bigger than others reflecting the general upsurge in interest for all things red and white at the moment.

Talking of which Radio Lincolnshire last night partially replayed an interview with Clive Nates which I hadn’t heard before and it made interesting listening detailing as it did the boards determination to improve the clubs profile whilst thing are on the up by which I mean not just the continued tenure of the Cowleys at the club, important though that is, but the huge local interest in seeing the team. This is underlined in no small measure by another sell out game this weekend when the blockbuster local derby with Notts County takes place. Nates gave an insight into the way the club is run particularly when recruits are sought. They're certainly all putting in the sort of hours that would sap the energy of us lesser mortals and it was great to hear the efforts the club is making to haul City up a few more notches in the football firmament.

We are of course feeling a little tender over the transfer window situation with, so far, only Danny Rowe to show for the managements no doubt considerable efforts but last night showed whilst the squad may be depleted City can still compete and let’s not forget it was against a league one club so no need to get too worked up about that.

Be nice to have a bit of good news though.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Never heard a Dickie bird.

Well, who saw that one coming? Rob Dickie not just returns to Reading but is immediately snapped up by League One Oxford on a permanent deal.

I’d assumed Dickie was a replacement for Sean Raggett but now City not only lose him but Dickie too. Good job there’s no football this weekend.

In my view and regular readers will know I claim no expertise in these matters, Dickie is no Raggett or, for that matter, Waterfall. I’ve read elsewhere maybe Dickie was miffed at being left out to accommodate Waterfall and I’m certain City would not have offered the sort of deal Oxford were prepared to agree. Either way he’s gone and we must say with our best wishes as he’s done a fine job. That leaves the club, not awash with new recruits as we’d allowed ourselves to imagine but short in the one area we’d admired all season, defence.

With just the one new recruit so far, the loan of Danny Rowe, Imps fans, as usual find themselves underneath the table searching for scraps despite last seasons substantial recharging of finances and huge increase in gates and season ticket sales. If we’d imagined that no longer was the case and City were now at the top table this week has shown we’re not which dismays me. Danny Cowley is fond of saying the City fans are Premier League, well League One certainly but, despite the performance in the league which give real reason for hope I still feel like a poor relation compared to the likes of Mansfield and Notts County who not long ago scrapped their (our) women’s team and had the begging bowl out. This was quickly followed by the offer of £100000 to try to prise away one of Forest Green Rovers best assets, which was ultimately successful. Twas ever thus.

Add to the mix the mysterious lack of any information on the training ground and I have to admit my usual red-and-white sunny disposition has taken a bit of a knock.