Andrew Abbott's Blog

Sunday, 29 April 2018

City unable to set up a celebration last game.

The hope was of course, after a really good couple of results and some positive off the field news to finish off the season already qualified for the payoffs in front of a full house at Sincil Bank. Well, we have that bit of the scenario, the final game was sold out days ago, as you’d expect but City will go to the wire and instead of a carefree festival in the sun (not that the weathers been behaving so far this week) the Imps will battle it out with Yeovil needing a point to go into the end of season lottery. We shouldn’t be surprised of course, this being Lincoln City, we never do things the easy way.

We should think long and hard about the season though. Would we have been happy with the situation at the start of the campaign? Yes of course we would. Personally I’d have been satisfied with a mid table finish. When you consider the season Grimsby Town have endured and even worse Chesterfield who are a club we were talking up as a role model for us a short time ago with their state of the art facilities, we're a world away from the position they find themselves in. Will Chesterfield be able to bounce back at the first time of asking? Apart from that lovely stadium their situation looks ominously like our own when we went down to me.

Talking of state of the art I wonder what training facilities Accrington Stanley have? Well the answer is I don’t know but I looked up what they are planning, here’s what the club are saying:

"Accrington Stanley have submitted plans to Ribble Valley Council for a training ground facility at Cockwood."

Cockwood, behind Read Garden Centre, is already owned by Stanley owner Andy Holt and plans have been drawn up which feature two football pitches.
“We have spent years looking all over Hyndburn for a suitable area and have been unsuccessful,” said Mr Holt.
“It’s essential that, if we are to take Accrington Stanley forward, the club has a training ground. We feel it is something that is holding us back at the moment although we keep defying the odds on the pitch.
“It is the very early stages as the first stage is to have plans drawn up. We have submitted the application and will see where it takes us.”

Quite how all that will be achieved on gates of under two thousand I really don’t know although it does help if you own the land already. We had a chat with their owner when City beat Stanley at Sincil Bank earlier in the season although he was mainly concerned, seething was the expression, at the penalty and sending off they had suffered. He must have awfully deep pockets if he’s funding that lot but it goes to show it’s not just the Cowleys who see the future of smaller clubs in off the field investment not necessarily pouring money into the first team.

Friday, 27 April 2018

The end of another breathless week.

Like many others I took myself off to the press conference yesterday and like several others I couldn’t get in and ended up in the Travis Perkins Suite where there was a live feed. It didn’t work all that smoothly and had I known I could have watched it at home on Facebook.

For me it underlined the need for better facilities in a new stadium but we mustn’t get the cart before the horse and that was very much the Cowleys theme as they expanded some more on their vision for the club.

I got more information on line later but it was an innovative move by the club and we mustn’t let a few gremlins get in the way of a well-intentioned effort at inclusivity by City but it underlined the present drawbacks and points to the direction City want to go in and a very exciting vision it is too. The new training facility or elite performance centre as we should get used to saying looks set to propel the club into the modern football age. There is nothing more the club can do in respect of the stadium at the moment and the Cowleys will very soon see their pet project a reality. If it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me.

I had hoped that we would get confirmation that Neal Eardley had signed a new contract and I did talk to a fellow fan who claimed to have some information in that regard but it was only conjecture and I won’t repeat it here. Instead we got the equally fantastic news that Bozzie had signed on the dotted line to extend his stay and he also gave an insight into his original signing and the good impression he got of the club.

The Imps fending off the attentions of predatory rival clubs, managers extending their stay, players extending their stays, a new, state of the art training facility. It’s all very encouraging.

We move on to a club who presumably are a little short of mod cons, Accrington Stanley. I should firstly congratulate them on achieving promotion on a shoe string. I think their style of play might do well in league one too although the lack of financial clout is bound to catch up with them sooner or later but as I always say, enjoy it while it lasts. City meanwhile aim to be party poopers and deny them the point they need to win the league. We’ve done well against Stanley this season and will want to end the season on a high ourselves so it will be another fascinating tussle to either enjoy at the game or at home on the radio. If my nerves can stand it.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Don’t like getting beaten by Lincoln City? Take a good look at yourself.

Once again some more nonsense from defeated league two opponents and their apologists. I thought they had more class than that. When Coventry City were victorious at Sincil Bank earlier in the season all I read from Lincoln City supporters was praise. Best side to visit the Bank. Although disappointed I agreed with that sentiment.

No doubt when Coventry were relegated they were full of hope that an immediate return to league one would ensue. It still might of course but it has been anything but easy and not helped by gaining no points against us on Tuesday. In fact in the end they were comprehensively defeated. According to the Coventry Telegraph we carried on from last season where we bullied our way to promotion and a battering ram scored our opener. Battering ram. Really? It looked as exquisite a finish as you’ll see to me. Bullies? I think not. Bullies are cowards and we require our players to stand up and be counted.

For the Telegraphs information the football league kindly supply a neutral referee to oversee all games. He (or she) decides what is fair or foul. True, Matt Rhead irritates me sometimes with his machinations but, if it is decided that is against the rules he goes in the book and thereafter moderates his actions or goes off, one way or the other.

Let us consider another of our detractors, the wonderful Forest Green Rovers and their successful and talented manager. They, you may recall although beaten home and away by City are the true guardians of footballs soul. Protectors of the game against ruffians like Lincoln City. You I seem to remember were going to find league two easy. Well my vegan friends, you almost did claim a record, that of the first club to be promoted to the league and straight back down again. You escaped that ignominy because Barnet and Chesterfield were a bit worse than you. If that’s the moral high ground you’re on it.

I would imagine these pathetic whimperings are either of no consequence or maybe a source of amusement to our managers. We’ve been compared to the Wimbledon of old. That doesn’t concern me in the slightest although it’s completely innacurate. The Cowley brothers will occupy a place in football some way above the Mark Robins’ and Mark Coopers of this world before too long. If you don’t like that you know what you can do.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

City make a statement: We’re little old Lincoln no more.

Little old Lincoln is how John Beck described his then club. Never one to miss an opportunity for self-publicity the inference was City should not really be in the position they are, they’re too small but thanks to me they’re punching above their weight.

That was disregarding of course the efforts of Bill Anderson, Graham Taylor and Colin Murphy but last night City swept all that away along with Coventry City. We’re not little old Lincoln, we’re big old Lincoln and we’re coming to get you.

Danny Cowley by contrast says that Lincoln City can be whatever they want to be and certainly the fans are league one already if not higher as last night’s turnout confirmed. Ironically that boosted Coventry’s average gate a little higher as there were more home fans in the ground. Here for the Lincoln?

Mathematically, City need one more point to be certain of the play-offs but that’s assuming Mansfield win their remaining games. It’s more likely to be Coventry disappointed after last night but I still think its Mansfield who will rue the day they appointed a manager who no doubt promised the earth and was on the first train out of town the minute something more appealing came along.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself but personally I’m pencilling the play off dates in my diary. Play off success usually comes the way of the team who peaks at the right time. We didn't do that previously. Now though we are a totally different proposition both as a team and a club. Put it this way would you want to meet us?

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Abject City rescued by Ollie and a bit of magic from Waterfall,

The Americans used to say of us Brits, we fall at every hurdle bar the last. That would seem to sum up Lincoln City’s performance today. Given the run around by an enterprising Colchester side freed from the constraints of promotion or relegation. Quicker, more precise, up for the challenge it was Colchester who looked every bit the promotion chasing side. City by comparison looked lethargic, disjointed, lacking in inspiration. Yet when it came down to it, down to ten men, no argument from me there, up against the wall the Imps delivered the killer blow to win the game and put themselves virtual certainties for the play offs.

At half time it was apparent that something needed to change and so it did. Ollie Palmer came on and if there were any doubts about his appearance previously there were none now. He had an immediate impact.

With ten minutes to go I’d have happily settled for a point. Nothing was going for the Imps. Ahead from a penalty, someone is going to be hearing about that despite the fact it was converted with aplomb, City then conceded a sloppy goal and when Michael Bostwick was sent off, again, no arguments although it was six of one and half a dozen of the other, it looked as if a draw was the best that could be hoped for. With a game in hand City though were still in the box seats, albeit that game is against Coventry.

Things started to turn for City when Colchester got the ball in the net only to be ruled offside. After that, in the cacophony that is Sincil Bank, City were swept home on a tidal wave of noise, willpower and sheer bloody mindedness. When a crowd and team conspire on this level nothing can stop them and so it was City who took the game and if you couldn’t hear the cheers in Newark I’d be surprised.

Thanks to Luke Waterfalls goal on the stroke of full time it is City who will head to the Ricoh Stadium as the team on a roll. I fancied our chances at Coventry and after this performance if you can call it that I’m up for it even more. City were frankly awful but, just like last season conspired to not only share the spoils but win the game in the unlikeliest manner imaginable.

Only Mansfield can now catch the Imps in the race for the play offs and City, improbable as that may seem after today look to be favourites to capture a spot in the end of season shake up. No one is going to relish taking on the Imps now and if they can win a game after that performance any opponents are going to think the fates are against them. I can’t but help agreeing with that viewpoint.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Season of the player.

It’s that time again and I see we can now vote for the player of the season on I’ve done just that.

It’s not over yet but what a season our club has given us. Not only cemented our place in the football league but we have become a bigger club before our very eyes. When we went for our day out at Ipswich Town last season I marvelled at the scene outside the stadium with all the people milling about and the feeling of anticipation. Now it’s just the same at Sincil Bank. The crowded pubs, the banter, the big game atmosphere.

With big game atmospheres come big game players and we have several. I’m not going to go through them as you know them and you’ll have your favourites. This is not intended to tell you how to vote but please do vote.

I want to mention a player who for all I know could win the vote and if he does he’ll deserve it, Michael Bostwick. If I didn’t vote for the player I have done I would vote for Bozzie. The reason I haven’t voted for him is I thought he got off to a slow start. He’s more than made up for lost time and is a pleasure to watch. Powerful, skilful and perceptive. One of our best if not the best signing.

I don’t think it will come as any surprise to learn that my vote went to Neal Eardley. He came to us for a fresh start. An injury basket case it was a career that had such promise and a shame it was unfulfilled. He may yet get the chance to play at a much higher level and I hope it’s with us. If he does or even if he doesn’t he’ll have the Cowley brothers to thank.

Somehow the Cowleys put together, with the back room staff at the club a fitness plan to get this wonderful player almost a constant presence. He’s rewarded the club with consistently accomplished performances.

There are others. I don’t want to sound like an end of season review because it could be the best is yet to come but it’s a good time to congratulate the players, all of them on their displays and to thank them for their efforts. Whatever happens it’s been a great season.

Woody: Now we know.

It was always apparent that there was more to come out of the Bradley Wood saga than a motoring misdemeanour. We now know the full extent and it doesn’t make good reading.

On Radio Lincolnshire last night when they broke the story they expressed the view that this would reflect badly on the club. I do hope not although there are those jealous of City’s success recently who could make something out of it. The club have put out a nothing to do with us statement as well they might.

My overwhelming feeling is sadness. Sadness for us that we lost such a good player. Sadness for Brad who should have tested himself in the football league. As fans we accept that wrongdoing should not be allowed to prevail no matter how good and how popular the player was. As a footballer he’s pretty much lost everything and will surely find getting back into the game after suspension well nigh impossible.

As a supporter, I can live with most things. I accept the limitations of footballers at our level, I can forgive tantrums and loss of form. The two things I expect from our players are that they try hard and have integrity. Of the former there can be no accusation in Woody’s case but I’m afraid as to integrity I can’t see any excuse for it.

On to matters topical we have another top of the range game to look forward to, one of just two remaining home games. As fans we’ve not been found wanting and tomorrow will be no different. I see Sincil Bank was described as “a cauldron” in the Wycombe Wanderers website on Tuesday night. There will be more of that tomorrow and its music to our ears to hear that. Gone are the days when Lincoln City players preferred playing away and gone are the days when the away team saw Lincoln as a nice day out.

Long may that continue.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Gareth takes us Beck to our past. Did we really pay to watch that?

As a player John Beck was a cultured midfielder playing at the top level. When he turned to management it was a different matter. His teams had to stick rigidly to the plan, no more than three touches then the ball must be belted into the channels where an unsuspecting full back would expect it to run out of play except it didn’t as Beck had ordered the groundsman to leave the grass longer in the corners. The ball would hold up sufficiently for a speedy player to reach it and cross. If you didn’t do that an early bath ensued, usually a cold one.

I always thought Gareth Ainsworth was Becks little indulgence. Yes I’m long ball but I’ve got Gareth who will weave about making idiots of defenders. We loved him of course and still do, maybe a bit less after last night but we loved him and he loved us.

So to the tutored eye, whilst a surprise, it was easy to see where Wycombe’s game plan came from, straight out of the manual. What we didn’t expect was the Chairboys playing for a draw straight from the kick off. In fact after a couple of minutes I really thought they were heading for the corners. They didn’t but I wouldn’t have been surprised.

As the home team it was up to City to rise above the delaying tactics but Wycombe were more than a bunch of spoilers. The referee came in for some stick although it’s difficult to see what he could do apart from adding the time on at the end. Rheady got the ball in the net, in fact it was in twice although the first time the flag was clearly up and whistle gone before the shot. The second was disallowed for pushing which is frustrating but an experienced player like Rhead must know his every move will be scrutinised.

In the end I thought it might be a decent point, Wycombe are not mugs and will probably get automatic. City, for me had too many flair players having an off night, Anderson, Frecklington. Even Neal Eardley wasn’t his usual sure footed self. On the other hand Wharton was terrific as was Allsop, Bozzie off the scale and Rhead was, well Matt Rhead. Oh, and City are back in the top seven. It’s not all bad, not by any means.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The lull before the storm.

I’ve been catching up with a bit of Imps reading and feeling a little more relaxed after the furore over the will they won’t they Ipswich saga. You have to admit all this represents a sea change in City’s status as, it would appear, a predator and this time a very credible one appears to have been rebuffed and we are assured the managers will be staying put. At one time any successful manager would have been off at the first sign of an improved contract so the fact that the Cowleys are still here even after last season’s triumph is in itself a big step forward.

Over the years, to be honest, the Imps have hardly had managers of a calibre that a bigger club would want to poach. That’s the uncomfortable truth. The last one, possibly the only one apart from Keith and you do wonder if some of the stories from his era were clever smokescreens, was Graham Taylor. I was astonished when he left third division Lincoln City for fourth division Watford but we soon saw why. It was only later, in Taylor’s book that we learned that he would have stayed had he been convinced the board’s ambition matched his own.

Does that sound at all familiar? Now we have all our soldiers in a row as it were with a perfect scenario of boardroom expertise, money in the bank, a large fan base coming to games come what may and the right managers. The only imponderable is how far the club can go and the answer is nobody knows. The thing that slightly irritates me is the view, in some people’s eyes that there is a ceiling, possibly at league one, that City cannot progress through. Why?

Before I go on I should mention a reality check, when City were in the championship last, it was simply division two of three at the time, so we were already at division one level rather than having two steps up the ladder to go. Are you keeping up at the back?

Just looking at the wonderful Colin Murphy leading the team out at Wembley I was reminded that a Lincoln team of his was within an ace of getting us up to championship level. That with very little money and a boardroom in open revolt. I can think of the likes of Carlisle, Luton, Bradford City, Blackpool and of course Bournemouth and Swansea City all in the top division albeit short lived in some of those cases but nevertheless it can be done even in the premier league age so let’s have less of those glass ceilings and a bit more ambition.

Of course the reality of City’s quest has to be balanced against last weekend’s result and the considerable obstacle of Wycombe Wanderers before we can start to think about Liverpool or Spurs but both of those clubs have been opponents of Lincoln City in the same league so let’s dream big if we’re going to dream at all.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

City back to earth with a bump one week after Wembley.

I suppose I’d allowed myself to get carried away after the Checkatrade Trophy win on Sunday. Listening to Friday Football on the computer on Saturday morning where Clive Nates was one of the studio guests cranked up the anticipation. He’s always such a positive influence on me and this time he brought us news that we’re always keen to hear, the impending new contract for the Cowley brothers.

Maybe this was a planned thing after all the angst over the past week and the will they won’t they surrounding Ipswich Town brought about by Mick McCarthy’s walkout. I’d refused to get too carried away by all that but it felt like I was on my own as Impdom threatened meltdown despite all the reassuring noises coming from the club. Perhaps it was felt that a word from someone in authority would calm things down and there’s no bigger boardroom authority at the moment than Clive Nates.

The new contract was the big news of course but it overshadowed another announcement, the impending joining of the board of another Sportvest member. As far as I can see from the companies house records there are three main figures behind Sportvest and this means two of them will be on the board assuming it all goes through and with it, one hopes, more significant investment for the club. I don’t normally attribute South Africans with a particular penchant for humour but one thing Nates said made me chuckle. Asked by Michael Hortin about the development, he ventured the opinion that another investor had fallen in love with the club? He’s only human was the reply, well it made me laugh.

Yesterdays result was not a reason for mirth unfortunately. Not a tale of a valiant effort unrewarded more a case of after the Lord Mayors show and Danny Cowley could not hide his disappointment after the game when interviewed by the aforementioned Mr Hortin. There was plenty of scope for optimism but Cowley was having none of it. Ask me again later in the week was the best that could be dragged out of him.

Not long to wait either as Wycombe wander into town for what was always going to be a massive game on Tuesday. Downcast as he is at the moment, matching all our demeanours this morning I’m sure but win lose or draw the Cowleys and their mentor Clive Nates have made every Lincoln City game a momentous one. You may approve of that or not but it’s certainly true.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Back to business.

If you’d asked the question would you swap your day out at Wembley for promotion or even a play-off place probably at least 9000, those who regularly attend games, would plump for promotion?

That’s not to say it wasn’t a memorable day and long overdue and of course, being Lincoln City we might have had that first Wembley experience several years ago but the stadium was being redeveloped. Chances are we’d have lost though whereas we didn’t and those memories will be all the more golden in years to come.

We should now be firmly focussed on the next few games and I dare say the management and players are but we fans continue to fret about the likelihood of the managers staying. The managers will be unconcerned because they and only they know what will happen. Players don’t worry about that kind of thing. Personally, whilst it’s very much on my mind I don’t worry about it because it’s wasted effort and I don’t like to do that. In any case I am relatively unconcerned and the reason for that is it’s the Cowleys we are dealing with. If our manager was Steve Evans or Mark Cooper I’d be equally pessimistic. Evans would be off at the first sniff of something more lucrative and we know that because he did.

However, I look at two things. How satisfied are the Cowleys with life at Lincoln and what is the likelihood of a better offer being made (not an offer, an offer better than they have with us)? There are any number of clubs who could greatly increase their wages we know that but let’s just take Ipswich as they are the ones in our minds at the moment. Massively in debt and losing money every week and with increasingly vitriolic fans demanding a return to their glory days which were some considerable time ago. Plus free flowing passing football. An East Anglian Real Madrid. A good man, Mick McCarthy, who most professionals agree did a good job, was hounded out. Would you go? Would the Cowleys be capable of delivering that style of football?

One, the most important, reason I’m so confident is the Cowleys are not motivated by money they are motivated by building, renovating, improving both themselves and their charges and their club. The Cowleys, adored, lauded, recipients of the Lincoln Civic Award, followed by 27000 supporters to Wembley. I could add the Cowleys who have stated they will be moving their operation to Lincolnshire. Plans can alter, I know that but if I were in their position, confident in my ability to keep on improving and not interested in an easy life I think I’d be inclined to stay right where I am for the present.

So we go on. In the words of the song, The road is long, there are mountains in our way, but we climb a step every day. That sums it up for me but starting with Port Vale tomorrow it will take a monumental effort to get where we want to be, however the tools are there and if they make it, given the relationship between fans and club and particularly fans and the manager you could truly say Love lifts us up where we belong.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

What a day, but it’s not the end of the journey.

I delayed writing anything about Wembley and I don’t know why to be honest. I approached the day full of excitement, in fact it started the day before as we went down the club to wave the team off. I did actually wave, much to my wife’s amusement, it just seemed the right thing to do.

On to the day and we travelled by the Hogwarts Express as I seem to habitually describe it, not that I have any idea what it looks like, otherwise known as the Lincoln Loco, the special train laid on from Lincoln Central to Wembley Central. It's handy, certainly on the way down but the length of time taken to get back is a bit wearing. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking there could be other opportunities to organise another trip to Wembley so may do differently if that’s the case.

The day itself was everything I hoped it to be except that, because of the weather and because we didn’t get there with too much time to spare we didn’t have a good look round the stadium or have a drink although we made up for that after the match.

You don’t need to have a description of the game itself from me I’m sure but I had a message from my friend the Boston United supporter even before we got home to advise me that Matt Rhead should have been sent off. This was not received by me in the spirit it was intended and neither were further comments from the south of the county that there was a handball which should have resulted in a penalty and an incident involving Matt Green that could have been punished. My comment that someone seems a little jealous of our day in the sun seemed to calm things down.

My view of those incidents having watched the game again is that Rhead was perhaps a little overzealous in his “welcome to Wembley” introduction to the keeper but, whilst I’ve seen red cards given for similar occurrences I didn’t think there was sufficient intent to merit one. Having said that if it were our keeper I might think differently. As to the Matt Green incident I think any fan and any manager would expect him to go for a loose ball so I’m discounting that. Shrewsbury however would feel most dismayed at not getting a penalty for a handball, Waterfall was it? It wasn’t spotted by the officials and certainly not by their supporters as it was our end. All I can say is phew!

It’s funny how your perception from being at the game changes when you see it again having recorded it. I thought the referee sided with Shrewsbury, now I don’t. I also thought City did not impose their game on their opponents, now I do.

All in all I don’t think there was any difference between Shrewsbury, almost certain to reach the championship and City who look a decent bet for the play offs or even automatic if you’re feeling particularly chipper, apart from the fact that City took one of their chances and Shrews did not. For that I’m eternally grateful and will forever hold Elliott Whitehouse in my esteem.

As to Shrewsbury Town I wish them the best of luck and hope they do indeed attain promotion to the championship. For ourselves I’m getting increasingly optimistic, if we can keep the Gods onside, that I may yet see Lincoln City back at that level too. I don’t think I’m dreaming this.

Monday, 2 April 2018

All together now.

I had a stroll round the lower part of Lincoln the other day, downhill to us locals, hoping to see some sign that City were at Wembley next weekend. There was a bit but not that much although all around the city council have erected red and white bunting which, in these straightened times was a very cheerful sight and proof that a good proportion of Lincoln are firmly behind our heroes.

Funnily enough we were in the upper part of the city yesterday where most of the shops are locally owned and that was a sea of red and white with some very inventive displays of support for the team. I suppose in many ways that is unsurprising, being locals but in some ways unexpected as I didn’t see the boutique owners and posh chocolate purveyors to be amongst the Imps most fervent supporters but of course you don’t have to be to show you’re behind the team. My neighbours who are getting on a bit now, whilst always being interested in City and partial to attending the odd big game, are now season ticket holders and very much looking to the trip south on Sunday. A look round on match days will reveal it’s not just youngsters getting the Imps bug.

Danny Cowley refers to Lincoln as a football city which is not the way I’d have described it, certainly when compared to say Nottingham or Sheffield. However being around the stadium on a match day as I’ve said in this blog before would actually seem to bear out the Cowley appraisal.

When I was just a slip of a boy and being taken to games by my Dad perhaps it was a football city. With a population of about seventy thousand and regularly attracting gates of around twenty thousand that is a goodly proportion of the population but you have to bear in mind there was precious little else to do and of course the football on offer then was championship standard, hard to believe as it is.

Nowadays the city is a totally different place and certainly much bigger and dare I say it football mad or maybe it’s more accurate to say Lincoln City mad. With, I gather now twenty six thousand due to travel to London you do wonder what sort of gates the Imps could get if they were able to offer a much higher standard of football. Danny Cowley said at the agm he saw Swansea City as a good analogy of the potential for Lincoln. I’d add to the mix Burnley, much smaller than Lincoln. Is that what the Cowleys themselves dream of?

We’re all musing on Wembley, let’s save some thought for after that. Why not? After all impossible is just an opinion.