Andrew Abbott's Blog

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Visible means of support.

It’s not for me as a blogger to attempt to cheerlead the Imps but my goodness me judging by some of the comments I’ve been reading on social media this week I wouldn’t like to be in the trenches with some of the keyboard warriors who appear to have given up on City already if the negativity I’ve been reading is anything to go by.

The Imps are going through a sticky patch, there’s no doubt about it but a couple of drawn games and the loss of the league lead is hardly a disaster not that you’d know that from some of the doomsayers.

With all this lack of confidence comes an unfortunate and in my view unnecessary criticism of individual players principally John Akinde who’s only crime as far as I can see is not scoring many goals. Anyone who cares to look can see the players indispensability to the side but this aspect is ignored in the, well I won’t call it clamour, there’s not enough of them but lets say the call for Matt Rhead to start. For all I know this may be what the manager has in mind but surely that move would be a return to a more one dimensional approach when we have so much more in our armoury now?

Anyway, again, it’s not for me to criticise my fellow supporters but surely, in that role it’s up to us to get behind the team and, well, support. We’ve built up our reputation as a vociferous and partisan crowd as has been commented on by various managers so let’s not slip into the bad old ways of players preferring to play away from home as has happened in the past.

In any event we have a break from the rigours of the league this weekend, perhaps we needed a change of scene and a golden but lets not be too gung ho about it, difficult chance of progressing to the third round of the FA Cup and with it the chance of landing a real big fish either at Sincil Bank or away at a famous venue as we so enjoyed the season before last. The task of disposing of Carlisle United stands in the way of further progress first though and they held our heroes in another two draw sequence earlier in the season.

Maybe the manager will ring the changes for this game. Personally I’d like to see Matt Green get a chance to impress but I’d think the manager will give a fair amount of emphasis to this game what with the prize money on offer and the chance of further adventures should the Imps overcome Carlisle but were going to need all our resources going into the battle and that includes us the supporters.

Cup or league we’ve come too far in this journey to falter now and it’s as good a time as any to remind ourselves that our enemies are outside the walls and not within and furthermore there is a prize greater than any of us could have dreamed of waiting to be grasped. Are you up for the fight? I know I am.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Lincoln City back on top. Let’s have a good moan.

In a pulsating encounter against a team who, to quote a great man, will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season, City went toe to toe and came agonisingly close to a famous victory. Both sets of supporters had their moment in the sun. Both, I would suggest, should have gone home happy.

For me, this game had everything and not all of it on the pitch. The 617 squadron had meticulously prepared a spectacular display just before the kick off. I know this because the lady I sit next to had helped out with the preparations. Sadly it didn’t come off but they made up for that disappointment by completely drowning out the racket I’m sure the Mansfield fans had hoped to make at Sincil Bank yesterday. Until their last minute equaliser that is. Stags manager, not for the first time, made a fool of himself with a pathetic whimper about Lincoln City, I don’t know whether this was directed at players management or fans or all three but he described us as “smug”. He’d wiped the smile off our faces as indeed he did.

In order to do that you have to firstly have that smile. We certainly did when City looked like grasping the winner. Well do you know what Mr Flitcroft? I was still smiling at the end. Sorry about that. I was smiling because your expensively assembled team couldn’t do what was predicted pre match. It was said in some quarters that City needn’t bother turning up as they were no good and were going to be demolished. Well that didn’t happen.

For some reason City’s performance produced as many brickbats as plaudits. I can’t for the life of me see why. Many were saying they couldn’t see the Imps being top at the end of the season. Why ever not? Some were saying Rhead and Green should start. Really? Matt Rhead has been and is a marvellous servant to the club. His value is as an impact sub these days. Impact subs come on at the end not the beginning.

Matt Green I have every sympathy for. He does a good job whenever he is called upon. I have a horrible feeling he’ll be gone at Christmas, mores the pity. We saw from the Stags fans what they thought of him. I’ll feel the same if he goes.

All in all it was an excellent display in my book. If we’d had Freck there’d have been every chance we’d have won but we didn’t and neither did MK Dons so City rise back to top like the cream in the gold top we used to get on our cereals when we were kids. That’s how I see this City side, win lose or draw they never let me down and usually they rise to the top. If they’re still there at the end of the season you can quote me on that.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Gentlemen verses players.

It’s a decent headline and maybe I’m struggling to make the narrative fit the bill. It’s to do with the way things have been lately. Mansfield the gritty former mining town. The designer suits can’t quite keep the eye from the dirt under the fingernails. It’s not that far away yet the accent seems from a different era. To me there’s a feel of frontier settlement colliding with the genteel cathedral, University City. Lincoln wasn’t always so and you certainly wouldn’t describe it as posh, not by any means.

You wouldn’t associate Lincoln City with money either whereas Mansfield Town positively drip with it. No club associated with Steve Evans has been exactly short of the readies whereas City have had to acquire their new found wealth the hard way. A cup run and the best gates in the league enable the Cowleys to keep up with the wealthier classes of league two and Stags are certainly among them.

The money’s been well spent too. Whatever you may think of Evans he laid the foundations of the squad they enjoy today. I think we’ll see plenty of that quality on Saturday. He’s a good talent spotter and a good manager too as evidenced by the job he’s doing at Peterborough.

So it’s a fascinating rumble in prospect. The tickets were sold two weeks ago. Stags manager David Flitcroft has been ruminating on the Imps supporters ability to sway refereeing descisions our way. A strong referee is needed to prevent the poor dear being swept away by the noise we create making it a one sided game. All I can say is he can’t have had us watched that much if he believes that. If anything several of the refs have displayed an I’ll show them attitude and we’ve lost out as much as we’ve gained.

To listen to many of the opposing managers you’d think we were the league ruffians and it remains to be seen how we judge Mansfield. Perhaps rough diamonds and quite what that makes us I really wouldn’t know.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Two peas in a podcast.

In years gone by for the supporter of a fourth tier team there wasn’t a lot to get your teeth into. Few papers carried much about the fourth division, there was no local radio so you didn’t even know what your manager let alone the players sounded like and apart from the results at five o clock on Saturday and the Football Echo news and views were hard to come by.

It’s no reflection on today’s Echo but the Football Echo really was an excellent publication. It was on the news stands at about six on a Saturday evening, I know because I used to deliver them and was a comprehensive review on City and the local football scene with league tables and interviews. You name it, it was in there.

A couple of notable names from the past were the redoubtable Maurice Burton, the Echo’s City reporter and later on a certain Chris Ashton, the Oracle of Optimism who was I suppose an early incarnation of the fan writer who are so prevalent today, myself included and I certainly would cite Chris and an example I follow of the critical friend most of us try to be when giving our views on the club.

Now fans in general and certainly Imps supporters are spoilt for choice and the first port of call for the avid searcher for all things Lincoln City has to be BBC Radio Lincolnshire. Where would we be without them?

Now, the latest development in their output is the podcast. Usually a handy digest of the weekend’s happenings or a taster on a Friday of what’s to come. This weeks offering however was an extended interview by Michael Hortin of Danny and Nicky Cowley. I don’t know whether this was intentional this was a real eye opener for all the right reasons as far as this Imp is concerned. If ever we, as fans wanted some assurance that the Cowleys are still committed to the cause, that the ideas are still flowing and that there is scope in the project for some time yet, this was it.

Danny Cowley does not actually give an answer to the questions, the politicians could learn from him. Whilst you don’t get a direct answer to a direct question what you do get is a wealth of information. It’s just that you learn what he wants you to know not what the interviewer wants to find out but it was hugely encouraging to hear of the complex world that is now behind the scenes at Sincil Bank and of the effort to extract that one per cent that can make the difference between success and the ordinary. The organisation that goes on to get that little bit more than the other outfits we are competing with is mind boggling but what shines out like a beacon in the dark is that the quest is still on. The desire to succeed with this, our club, is undiminished. The inspiration that drives our dynamic duo is, if anything increasing as each week goes by.

If you haven’t heard it yet please do. You’ll be enthused and energised yourself. You can listen or download it through the BBC’s new Sounds app. You’ll be glad you took the trouble to look it up.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

City progress to the second round of the cup. Danny not happy.

About two and a half thousand people who presumably sat through the turgid stalemates against Cambridge and Carlisle decided to give this one a miss. More fool them. What they missed was a rip roaring cup tie that had everything.

Despite the warnings from the management about depleted troops, walking wounded etc City put out a strong side and at two nil, with two wonderfully well worked goals the Imps appeared to be coasting towards the next round and with it £36000 of prize money.

That situation wasn’t to last long. Just as we were congratulating ourselves on not only hanging on to a lead but adding to it Northampton Town not only pegged City back but scored again to equalise. City slick in the first half, in fact everything they weren’t against Forest Green Rovers, had added to their lead in the second and then started to unravel. Cobblers fans suddenly found their voices with the inevitable two nil and you, well you know what comes next.

Just when it looked like a replay was on the cards and in injury time Bruno Andrade atoned for his error that led to Northamptons second and blasted the winner from range. Cue the sort of pandemonium that we’re starting to get used to. City were through.

After the game Danny Cowley was the only one expressing displeasure. Not as much as if the Imps had to go through a replay but decidedly downbeat.You get the feeling, when were all watching the goals again next week the inquest in the City camp will be totally at odds to the elation we feel. Three fabulous goals, a titanic battle where neither side knew who’s going to win and an injury time winner.

Danny, professional as ever is more concerned at the goals conceded, as well he might. It was a cup tie after all though and they can be totally different games to the league version but good teams defend from the front and yesterday City didn’t. For all that though City have beaten a very good team in Northampton. They may languish in the wrong half of the table but that is the result of a poor start under a different manager. They won’t be there come the end of the season I’m sure of that.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Imps open the door on another FA Cup competition.

Danny and Nicky Cowley looked like the cat that got the cream as they posed for the assembled media at the photo call showing off the almost complete Elite Training Centre just outside Lincoln.

It’s surely no coincidence that the open day coincided with the first round of the historic tournament and no surprise that the FA were in attendance to signal their approval of the way City have invested the proceeds from that great run in the cup two years ago. The Imps stock must be at an all time high at headquarters as they proudly show off the training complex just outside RAF Scampton. That base is doomed but the Imps go from strength to strength and the training centre, we would hope is a symbol of the future prosperity of City. The fact that the prize and TV money from the cup exploits have been so meaningfully spent, not on executive facilities or a fly by night dash up the league but on tangible assets that will cement the Imps future must surely be what the FA bigwigs needed to hear about as they fend off the barrage of criticism headed their way from, amongst other distractions the ill fated sale of Wembley.

Of course the training ground has the Cowleys name running all the way through it like a stick of Skegness rock and didn’t they look pleased with themselves as they posed with the famous old trophy? Did anyone else get the feeling that won’t be the only time they have their picture taken with it?

The Cowleys already look totally at home at the complex even in its unfinished state. I hope it’s not just wishful thinking that got me musing on a certain amount of permanence in evidence as they surveyed their new baby. Those rumours keep on surfacing every time a juicy (or not so juicy) vacancy comes up. A little less fervent certainly and in any event did they look at all restless? I’d like to think not.

It seems quite amazing to me that there are only two survivors from those exploits, three if you count Harry Anderson who wasn’t even an Imp by rights and Sam Habergham is fast becoming a distant memory. The present crop want to emulate the success of those great times. They’ll do well to get anywhere near and it’s ironic that a club with one of the flimsiest FA Cup records should be lauded now by the FA as a shining example of what can be done with a run in the cup.

If they’re going to get out of the starting blocks this year they first have to wriggle clear of Northampton Town who will, I’m sure provide hefty resistance and are in great form. The Cowleys Imps will, as ever, be plotting and scheming a way past them. It should be another great contest.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Imps may have checked out of the trophy or maybe not. We’ll have to wait and see.

In a thoroughly enjoyable match City couldn’t quite get over the line against Wolverhampton Wanderers under 21’s at Sincil Bank last night. We’d had some success in penalty competitions in this tournament but this time it was the youngsters that prevailed. As it happens, and I can appreciate some detractors view that this underlines the rickety state of the competition, the Imps don’t know yet whether they are still in or out.

The penalty competition provides an extra point to go with the point from the draw and at the end of the game I wasn’t sure where we were. Too much televised football gets you out of the habit of thinking about the rules of the competition and I suppose the lack of the sort of scoreboard that could make matters plain adds to the confusion.

Anyway, it was a pleasant evening and unusually a stress free experience as I’m sure you like me, if you’re going to the games, are of the opinion what will be will be. If we go through fair enough if we don’t, well it’s not as if we haven’t been to Wembley is it? I was reminded a bit of the reserve team games I used to attend when we had such a thing and I think that’s the level of importance given to the games by the Cowleys. They certainly didn’t look too despondent at losing the penalties.

Before that, a look at the Wolves and Imps shirt mini exhibition provided by Danny Nesbitt and Gary Hutchinson that I found most interesting. Danny I know and Gary I was pleased to meet for the first time. We actually go back some way on line as we have collaborated on some writing projects but have never actually met in the flesh. Now we have so it was a double pleasure.

Because of the exhibition we turned up in our seats five minutes before kick-off. The crowd was just under 3000. Just like the old days really, not that I’m anxious to return to them.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Akinde and Bozzie inspire Lincoln City to a memorable win.

I came away from this game thinking City got out of jail here. I thought of the comments Mark Cooper would be making and for once I’d have to agree with him. His team were fluent, accurate, strong. If we’re being honest, a joy to watch.

Then I got thinking of some of the comments before the game, one in particular:-

"At the end of your career, no matter what you've won, it's the respect of your peers that's important.”

I considered that quote and the context of the game became clearer to me. That’s so much nonsense, as is a lot of the stuff coming out of FGR. Sorry Mr C. Results are what matter and, once again, for the fifth time running is it? You lost. Null points. Nada, nothing.

FGR ran rings around the Imps, City were decidedly second best and yet what did it come down to? Two defensive errors that City capitalised on. Result? Three points.

Now to be fair, Cooper didn’t come out with the drivel we’ve come to expect from defeated managers, in fact, as I alluded to previously I do wonder if this supposedly vitriolic dislike of each other has run it’s course. He was honest and forthright about his team. Yes they looked great, I don’t think we’d disagree with that but those two slip ups handed the points to City which brings me back to my original point. You can say what you like about the respect of your peers but what matters, what it all boils down to, are wins. That’s the sole criteria. Sorry Mark, your team looked great, you’ve got some fantastic players but you lost. Again.

Danny Cowley revealed after the game that the Imps have been battling to get certain players fit but my abiding memory, apart from the elation of the final whistle, two memories in fact. John Akinde turned in the sort of performance we’ve all been hoping for. Can we all shut up now and let him get on with it? Secondly, after a couple of slightly below par showings lately (in this context below par equals far better than most) Michael Bostwick is back to his imperious magisterial bear like Herculean best. Long may that continue.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

If you can’t beat ‘em adopt the moral high ground.

Yes it’s the much anticipated visit of Forest Green Rovers this weekend. Is there something of a thaw in the permafrost? Mark Cooper seems to be going out of his way to effect an air of conciliation:-

““Full credit to Lincoln, because they get 10,000 people through the gate, so they’re entitled to pay what they pay for players - we get a couple of thousand, so it becomes more difficult for us, but we have had to have a small squad to make sure are quality is good this year and we need to be lucky with injuries and suspensions.”

That’s glossing over the massive investment of FGR’s owner previously although I see their latest financial results showing a profit but, yes, City pay big money, Cooper was not the first to say that and why not? It’s not as if its borrowed money and why shouldn’t City’s players be well remunerated, they’re playing in front of the biggest crowds in the league.

Before that we had some nonsense in the local paper from a fan who’d managed to get his views printed, something about tika taka football I mean honestly what planet are these people on?

Cooper himself delivered one of those back handed complements saying his side are playing flowing football whilst agricultural Lincoln take the direct approach but we do it well. Thanks for that. It’s all very amusing and would be even more so if City win on Saturday but after the last few days how many of us will be approaching the contest with our usual chutzpah?

Still there’s no better team to regain your mojo against and this tie does seem to often herald something of a rekindling of City’s fortunes. One lives in hope.