Time to move the mountain

I’ve woken up on this damp Bank Holiday Sunday to the news that Matt Rhead has handed in a transfer request, his second in as many weeks. I think the fact Rhead was unsettled was the worst kept secret in the city, not even a clever Bob Dorrian interview could throw us off the scent. I just can’t work out whether I’m upset or sending him off with my blessing.

My very first feeling upon reading the news was anger, purely because anyone who rejects our club in essence rejects the fans too, and I don’t handle rejection well. I remember when Daryll Clare allegedly drove to Lincoln with the intention of signing, but received a phone call and a better offer in the car park outside the ground: I immediately hated him from that day forth. Even typing his name made a little bit of sick come up into my throat. I hate Daryll Clare.

Matt Rhead has just had the best season of his career, scoring more times for us in one campaign than in over 100 appearances with Mansfield. Aside from a prolific spell with Congelton he hasn’t ever truly been a top goal scorer. It seemed very harsh to me for him to immediately want to cash in after one good season. After all CM gave him a two year deal for a reason and now he wants out it feels like a slap in the face. We ‘made’ him so to speak and now he wants to repay us by jumping on the cash express bound for the back water of Barrow in Furness. Terrific.

However once I moved on from that initial pang of ill feeling I began to see the bigger picture, something I’d already commented on in the past. Matt Rhead is 31 years old and so arguably has passed his peak of physical fitness, and lets be honest fitness isn’t what his game is about. If Barrow do come in with £90k, or even maybe £75k we’d be crazy not to take it. I’ve heard similar figures banded about for Akinola of Braintree and there is very little comparison between the two. Rhead’s star is as high as it will ever be now and I strongly doubt he’ll have another 20 goal season in his career. Someone young and hungry like Akinola or Dale Southwell would be an investment which could earn us big money. Besides we paid nothing for Matt Rhead, he doesn’t owe us anything.

Rhead

I’ve heard is favourite karaoke song is ‘I Owe You Nothing’ by Bros. Either that or ‘Eggs and Sausage’ by Tom Watts..

 

When Barrow came in for Liam Hearn he immediately caved in and spoiled what could have been a great season for him. When the same money laden minnows made the call about Matt Rhead there was no fuss, no tantrums and no disappearing act. He stayed put, quietly and with dignity and continued to score goals. There are those who felt his latter season form wasn’t as strong as it could have been, but against Woking his introduction made a big difference. He never let the rumour or speculation affect the effort he put in and I think as fans we should respect that.

If you take away the goals (which seems silly to do with a striker, but bear with me) then what type of player is Matt Rhead? He’s strong but ultimately lacks mobility. He’s good in the air but rarely gets off the ground when challenging for the ball. He was an unknown quantity early doors, but eventually teams got to understand how to frustrate him and nullify his threat. Some fans argue that our dip in form came about because opposition defences got wise to him and we had no plan B. Going into this season those same teams know all about him and that’s why I doubt he’d get another 20 goals.

He’s undoubtedly a talented player when he wants to be, the overhead kick from outside the area and that delicious chip against Eastleigh prove that he can play a bit, but when you need a runner and someone willing to chase balls down then he isn’t your man. In games where we had a lack of possession last season having Rhead on the pitch was almost like having ten men. He did divide opinions, my old man hated him casting him as lazy, arrogant and slow. I liked him, I liked the way he drew defenders to him and allowed space for other players, and I loved his niggly tactics to unsettle keepers and defences. If the opposition fans hate one of your players it’s because they are effective, and there was lots of hate for Rhead. However when things got tough he was often anonymous, not through a deliberate lack of trying but through a lack of energy and stamina.

I never saw how he’d fit with the high energy philosophy of Danny Cowley though, his physique and lack of pace could have been mistaken for a lack of commitment. I envisaged him being an impact sub and a bit part player as a new young and vibrant Lincoln team emerges under the former Braintree boss. Danny Cowley openly stated they’ll be looking to sign young players, and with or without Rhead that would have meant at least one striker. If that striker was someone like Dale Southwell, someone who can run chase everything down, how long would Rhead have been a starter? I’d fully expect us to sign two or three forwards now, and I would put a months wages on them being young, hungry and full of running. Whether they get 20 goals in another thing entirely.

Imps 2 Woking 3 097

Matt Rhead contemplates whether the ball is like the chocolate wrapped ones he got for Christmas.

 

So I think it’s appropriate to thank Matt for his efforts last season, and for remaining focussed on the task when other weaker players would have had their heads turned. Whatever your personal thoughts on his style he did score a lot of goals, probably the goals that saved us from a relegation battle. He came for free and he really owes us nothing, especially given that a fee will come our way as well. At 31 he isn’t a Premier League star being greedy and following the cash, he a bloke just like me and I imagine he’s painfully aware that his career will come to an end in the next couple of seasons. He needs to go where the money is to set him up for life after the game, because he won’t be retiring and sitting back on a throne made of gold like Ashley Cole, he’ll be dropped into the real world of 9-5 and expected to cope. You can’t blame him looking for a few extra pound notes now his stock is worth more than it ever has been, and I certainly don’t begrudge him putting a few more beer tokens in his bank account in preparation for his life as a hod carrier once non league football ceases to pay his wages.

So good luck Matt, thanks for the memories and for the love of god don’t come back and score against us next season.

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The Special One Returns

After unceremoniously dumping Louis Van Gaal just hours after winning the FA Cup, Manchester United have appointed perhaps the worlds biggest name to replace him. The Special One is back after a less than special season in 2015/16. He’s a manager with a big point to prove, and he’s joined a club with perhaps a bigger point to prove. Mind you the riches in our game mean that this season we have a lot of world class managers with a point to prove. We also have Arsene Wenger.

My first prediction for next season is that it will be the last we see from Wenger. I’ve veered from disliking him to appreciating his input into our national game, but now I think the time has come to step away. He joined our league and revolutionised the way our big clubs approach games. He built a team of Invincibles that swept aside all before it domestically. However he’s struggled season after season and a couple of FA Cups can’t mask a miserable spell in the Premier League. They may always be there or thereabouts in the top 4, but they haven’t mounted a serious challenge for too long now. Next season could see Arsenal finish outside the top four in a long while.

The reason I think this is because I strongly fancy Jurgen Klopp to have Liverpool pushing all the way next season. It pains me to say it because as a kid I was surrounded by smug Liverpool fans, and even now I constantly hear how they’re a big club, the peoples club blah blah blah. The fact is Liverpool looked very dangerous towards the end of the last campaign and the Europa League final appearance was just rewards for big changes made at Anfield. If he can bag a striker more fitting to his style than Benteke then I can’t see why those smug fans can start their relentless crowing about how good they are.

However I think next season will be the story of another tussle in Manchester for the Premier League crown. There’s no doubt Pep will want to succeed with Man City, he has a win rate of 71% in the games he’s managed and he’ll see no reason why that might not continue. However just across the city his nemesis will be plotting his own route to success, getting one over on his old enemy and the club that sacked him. I admit I like Mourinho, I think he’s a very good manager and a good character for our game. He’s a showman and he takes pressure off his players with his antics. That will suit United as they’ve played most the season with more pressure on them then ever before. A lack of attacking football and a habit of disappearing completely left the players looking almost afraid to shoot. Even the cup final win was uninspiring, with them labouring to a narrow victory over a vastly inferior Crystal Palace side. However Mourinho will take the pressure off players like Martial, Smalling and maybe even Rooney. If he chooses to switch Rooney to an advancing Frank Lampard role he might get some success out of England’s fading hero. As soon as I heard the news I decided my money was on United next season, and unless one of the top five sign Ronaldo or Messi I can’t see me changing my mind. They’ll have to sign a couple of players but I’d wager that is already in progress with rumours of Ibrahimovic already circulating. I’d fully expect Juan Mata to move on though.

I think a Manchester 1-2 with Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea picking up the scraps further down. I think of all the big name managers in the Premier League Conte will probably struggle the most. He’s another disciplinarian coming into a side peppered with undisciplined and volatile characters. Eden Hazard should have been ashamed of the way he performed last season, and he’s by no means alone. If Conte loses the dressing room then I’m afraid Chelsea will do nothing of relevance in the competition next year.

However all this will bring more misery for Wenger. The signing of Grant Xhaka will have to be matched by at least a world class striker and a world class centre half if they’re going to have any chance of pushing on for glory next season, and that is as long as they retain the services of Sanchez and Ozil. With such an interest in our domestic game at the moment I’m convinced that the Arsenal board will take the opportunity to bring a new face in at the end of next season. Who that might be, I don’t know but this might be the season where the old man gets usurped by the new breed of exciting foreign managers.

By the way if Roy Hodgson left England now, which English manager would be championed to do the job? Eddie Howe? Sam Allardyce? Danny Cowley?

Ched Evans: Would you?

There’s rumours that Ched Evans has been linked with Barrow this evening in a move that may be less controversial since the decision to retry his case. Despite that would you be happy if a man with his personal history signed for our club?

I’ve had this discussion a couple of times with friends of mine, and I have to say that I would be upset if he moved to Lincoln, but not for the reasons you think. I suspect he would quickly become another Lee Hendrie, a man weighed down by his issues unable to perform to his previous abilities in the lower leagues. I actually don’t think he was that good anyway and I know a number of Sheff Utd fans who feel the same. I think he’d struggle now to get the fitness back he needed and he’d struggle with being the target of heavy tackles in a tough league. However whether he’d add value or not is irrelevant when considering if he should be allowed back into the game, what is relevant is his conviction and retrial for the rape of a young woman. Or is it relevant?

Lee Hughes caused the death of a person through suspected drink and / or drugged driving. He then maliciously left the scene of the crime to sober up, and yet he signed for several clubs upon his release without too much fanfare. It was widely believed he’d paid for his crimes and had earned the right to return to his profession. I agree with that sentiment even though I think he is an absolute cockwomble.

Luke McCormick also drove after an all night session, and he ploughed into another car killing children, two of them. He had excessive alcohol in his blood and had been driving carelessly. He served his sentence and now plays league football with Plymouth Argyle. I don’t remember a single person protesting when he returned to the game, not one. He’s even the club captain.

Ched Evans and an equally as dubious friend took a drunk young woman back to a hotel room and… well I think you know the rest. His friend was not convicted of rape yet Ched was. I’m not going to discuss the in and out’s of the case as it isn’t my place to, but recently he was granted a retrial. He served his time and paid his due to society, and he didn’t cost anybody their life. His behaviour was reprehensible but nobody was killed, not an elderly man and not two young children. However when he tried to return to play for Sheffield United there was uproar. Famous people got involved such as the darling of London 2012 Jessica Ennis and Beautiful South singer Paul Heaton. When there were rumours of him signing for other clubs the mobs were out with pitchforks. Imagine if he’d tried to sign for Plymouth? We won’t have this arrogant and dirty young man play for us, but we’re happy for a man who contributed directly to the deaths of two young children to serve as our club captain.

Ched Evans is no role model, but not every footballer is. Their behaviour is often not in keeping with the way you’d expect your children to behave, and yet society puts them on a pedestal for the wrong reasons. If I had been good at football (which I’m not) then I would have followed it as a profession. I wouldn’t have killed or raped anybody, obviously, but I might not have thought at every turn that my actions were influencing young people. I’d go to work, do a job and come home to live my life. If Ched Evans had worked in a builders merchant and committed his (alleged) crime would he have been able to return to work? Yes. Would society accept he’d served his time and moved on? Yes.

If you don’t allow the young man to get back into the game then what else can he do? He’s clearly not a smart man, nor one with much integrity or morals, but he has a right as a free man to pursue the things he is good at in order to make a living. He may earn stupid sums of money for being average at his job, but that is his trade and the climate in which he works. By openly denying him and publically protesting his arrival at their club in my opinion Sheff Utd and their fans were directly discriminating against him. He served his time and with his conviction being quashed he’s (currently) a victim of a miscarriage of justice. He is a morally bankrupt victim with questionable social habits, but a victim nonetheless. Even if the retrial finds him guilty again he has served his time, the sentence laid down by the law of this land. Society as a whole should be ashamed of the way he has been vilified and hounded from potential job on his release as a reformed character, and he is reformed in the eyes of the law.

Lots of people in the real world make mistakes, big mistakes but they can atone for them and rejoin society, it’s what living in a free and just country such as ours is all about. However it does make me question society when a drunken idiot who may or may not have raped a drunk girl is driven from his profession, but a double child killer is welcomed back with open arms.

First on the agenda….

After a couple of weeks waiting new Imps boss Danny Cowley finally released his retained list today, and in doing so he gave me something to write about. I could have been watching Game of Thrones now, or sticking my stickers in my Euro 2016 sticker book like a child. Instead I feel the need to write about the retained list and then post it online in the hope you’ll read it.

I think the first person I have to speak about is Liam Hearn, and trust me this is also the last time I will speak about him. Liam really frustrated me because I still feel he has a lot to offer the game at this level, but in signing for Ilkeston he has proven a lack of ambition, or so it seems. He’s receiving the usual vitriol from Imps fans, and even I felt it necessary to block him on twitter, as if he’d really care about it. However I’ve been thinking a lot about Liam and I’ve come to a conclusion that perhaps he isn’t the massive prat we all think he is.

Yes he let us down when we needed him. Yes he always seems to be injured, or at least thinks he’s injured and yes he’s dropped down the pyramid in what looks like a classic example of losing his bottle. However I ask you to consider this: Liam Hearn has had not one but two career threatening injuries. I’d wager that during his spell on the side lines there were doubts about his ability to play the game again, maybe even his overall mobility came into question? Maybe a player bounces back from one such injury, but two? Sure he was lucky enough to keep that sharpness to his game, but psychological damage can be just as devastating as physical damage. I would expect it tough for a footballer to admit that, and if he was fearing serious injury all the time maybe he would make strange decisions, like going to Barrow? I expect that wanting to go into coaching at a relatively young age shows he’s thinking ahead in his career, maybe he’s lost his edge like Chris Eubank did after the Michael Watson fight? He’s only human and whilst he hasn’t made the decisions I’d like him to, he’s made the one that is right for Liam Hearn. Sincerely I wish him all the best, despite blocking him on twitter. If you’re reading this Liam I’m half sorry. The other half of me is still hacked off you went to Barrow.

tempest

It just looks like James Caton has his hand down his shorts here. He doesn’t.

 

Also a surprise player technically released today is Greg Tempest. Many fans felt he’d been worth another year and despite being invited back for pre season training he now has a point to prove. I liked that Danny Cowley spoke of Tempest and Robinson having a month or so to prove themselves, I imagine what they’ve actually got is a month or so to see if any better players can be attracted to the club. I like Greg as a character but if I’m brutally honest it took until perhaps the home win over Southport for me to see his virtues as a player and even then I wasn’t fully convinced. He tried hard and had a good attitude, but he was limited in his passing ability and gave the ball away too often. Some of last seasons players were always going to be released and I expect Greg will find somewhere else to ply his trade before pre season training starts. He’d fit in well at a North Ferriby or Gainsborough but I don’t think he has what it takes to be part of a top three National League side. I also think with Craig Stanley having triggered a clause in his one year deal to secure an extension that the dressing room was becoming a little crowded with midfield players. Given a choice between Stanley and Tempest I’d go for Stanley every time as he knows what it takes to be successful at this level, that may not be the general consensus but I think there’s more to see from ‘Stanners’, the only man to have a nickname longer than his actual name.

I can’t help but feel that if Danny had absolute power over who stayed or went then one or two of the longer contracted players might have been packing their backs. I was very surprised to see Callum Howe offered a new deal and I imagine both Lee Beevers and Luke Waterfall might have been sweating had their deals been up for renewal. The fact is we conceded too many goals last season, something the new bosses are all too aware of. Someone has to be to blame for that and we know the gaffer is a fan of Paul Farman, so the blame has to lie elsewhere. Chris Bush was probably fortunate to trigger a clause in his contract too, but of those three I’ve mentioned it wouldn’t surprise me to see at least two of them shipped out on loan early next season, especially in the case of Lee Beevers who has been no more than average all season long. Think Tony Diagne and Nat Brown – this seasons two year deal is next seasons released player.

I’m not surprised that Matt Sparrow hasn’t been retained either, I expected much more from him this season, and I think it’s clear his heart will always be up the A15 in Scunthorpe. He was never going to run through walls for the red and white and his little dummy spitting incident on social media tonight proves he wasn’t a fit for the club. I imagine it didn’t take the Danny long to spot he wasn’t committed to the cause when he looked into his eyes, that’s if he hadn’t spotted it from the endless DVD’s of this seasons games where ‘Spadge’ (that’s a proper nickname) was often conspicuous by his lack of input.

Sparrow

Once an Iron, always an Iron.

 

I am delighted that they’ve chosen to offer Elliot Hodge a new deal. I caught a lot of games towards the tale end of the season and I liked what I saw in young Hodge. He looked strong and stocky with a nice touch and I’m sure with the right coaching he will take his chances. Conner Robinson has had his chances and unfortunately he hasn’t taken them, but Elliot looks different. Young Alex Simmons has also been offered a deal, and although I haven’t seen enough of him to comment too much I am impressed that the new bosses want to keep some of the younger players in and around the squad. Given their history of working with young people I can’t help but feel this is the best opportunity since Keith Alexander for young players to break through, if they have the talent. With Kegan Everington and Andrew Wright also offered deals I doubt very much that we’ll see returns for George Maris or Robbie McDaid as there is no point in drafting in other teams young players when we’ve got some of our own.

Unfortunately I also doubt we’ll see a return for James Caton, despite his good form when he arrived from Shrewsbury. I think he rushed back from his injury too quickly because he never really reached the heights of his early performances at the end of the season, and if the manager has watched the last few games I doubt he will have seen anything to convince him we need to bring in Caton. It’s a shame because I think he has a lot to offer us, however his talent does warrant a league club taking a punt on him. I expect him to rock up in the north east with either a league two side or maybe an aspiring National League side like Tranmere.

I strongly suspect that the next five or six names you see linked with the club will either be players the Cowley brothers have worked with already, or have seen in action themselves. As a manager myself (although not football) I look to bring in people who I have worked with in the past, even if it just the odd one wherever I go. I did it at Jewson and I have done it in my current role. If you bring someone in you’re familiar with you bring in an ally, someone who knows you and will undoubtedly have your back. Whilst the managers don’t really need this they’ll look to introduce some familiarity into the squad as a platform to accentuate their ethics. If they already know player A is on board with their philosophy then it’s one less head they need to turn in the dressing room, and one more voice praising their approach. I would wager ten years wages we see at leastone ex Braintree player arrive at the Bank before August is upon us.

I’d like to finish by commenting on the article I read earlier about Matt Rhead. I thought it was very clever to stress how important Matt was to the club, but also to admit he has a price. It almost sounded like a hook was being dangled in front of Barrow with a price tag of £100k on it. Personally to mention that figure in regard to Matt Rhead is absolutely crazy, but if someone is prepared to pay it then we should snap their hand off. 20 goals a season or not a six figure price tag could buy us a younger and more mobile replacement such as Dale Southwell or maybe Simeon Akinola? I’m not suggesting we actively look to sell our 20 goal hero, but I’m also not suggesting that he is priceless. After all football is a business and money does talk, especially one hundred thousand pounds.

My apologies to Grimsby fans for using words like conspicuous and accentuate in tonight’s blog. Google has a great thesaurus if you’d like to know what some bigger words mean.

It’s been a traumatic few days

It doesn’t matter what I said in my blog last week about Grimsby Town, when all was said and done their promotion isn’t something I openly cheered. I was delighted Village Green got beat because they’re an abomination, but this week facing so many gloating Cod heads has been tough. It turns out that the game wasn’t only a win / win, but by definition also a lose / lose. The rich boys from the village may have been kept where they belong, but the Cod heads all around me got exactly what they wanted. It made it even harder to accept when what they got is the one sole thing we want for our football club. We want it and they got it. I’m jealous, pure and simple.

Let me tell you about my current situation. I live in the Wolds and I work at a place in Louth. I am in charge and working for me are at least one and a half Cod heads (one is Man Utd season ticket holder but his successful club is Grimsby). I am friendly with managers of depots in Scunthorpe and Cleethorpes who are also Cod heads. I speak regularly to the Grimsby depot and the first port of call there on the phone is a Cod head. Of my football supporting clients I’d wager at least 85% have some affinity to the scum from Blunder Park ranging from season ticket holder to knowing at least seven of their squad. I am surrounded almost entirely by fans of the Cods, or Town as they are fondly named by locals.

Tonight I had a meeting a two hour car journey away, and the driver for this journey was a fellow manager and die hard ‘I’ve been to Wembley and I’m going again’ full on fish fancier. He’s a Cod, his kids will be Cods and their kids will be Cods. He also has a mobile phone packed with different footage from Wembley this weekend. He’s got them at Peterborough services, he got them outside Wembley and he’s got stuff from inside the ground. He’s got links to other peoples filming from different parts of Wembley. Do you know how I know about his extensive collection? He showed me, forcefully and incessantly. We arrived at the meeting early and I was forced to remain in the car while he played clip after clip of loads of blokes singing something about Padraig Almond to the tune of Achy Breaky Heart. I suffered it all.

We went into the reception area for the meeting and another Cod manager turned up. He made a beeline for me an immediately I got a whole barrage of witty one liners about league football, some Solihull Moors based banter before that catchy Amond song was repeated. Their only song repeated. He spoke endlessly about how the weight of non league football had been lifted and how nice it was to be a proper team again. It was endless, and all the time I had Achy Breaky Heart rattling around in my head.

Lincoln059A

I didn’t have a picture to express my pain, so here’s something to cheer you up. ‘Laughing’ Jon Nolan looking like he’s about to be both sent off and set upon by a load of blokes in blue shirts. I hope they get him.

 

On the way back I was obviously delighted when the driver chose to go the scenic route, past Blunder Park. He stopped and refused to go until I took a photo of the sign outside the ground proclaiming they were a football league club. Then we went  down the sea front where a flag and shirt hang on a road crossing like a celebration of town pride (or like a memorial after a car accident), laughing all the time as I was forced to relive every moment of their triumph and every plan he had for this weekend and completing the double. He even offered me a ticket for the game and a chance to ride in his mini bus with the other Grimsby fans. Inside I died a little.

I died a little because even though I was living my worst nightmare I also felt somewhere in my heart that if the boot were on the other foot I would do exactly the same. I’d talk about trips to Blackpool, Doncaster and Portsmouth. I’d delight at just two relegation spots and all those lovely potential promotion spots. I’d laugh as they endured local derbies with village teams and endless trips down to the smaller grounds of London. I’d rub their noses right in it because I’d be bloody delighted we were football league.

The hard facts are I’m jealous it was them and not us. I want the weight of non league football to be lifted. I want Lincoln to be on FIFA 17 and I want to go to proper teams like Blackpool and Portsmouth. I want to have that moment where all the hard work, all those miserable defeats at home to Welling watching different average squads muster enough points to stay safe but not enough to change their purgatory. I want to have a pride restored and gain the football worlds respect for bouncing back yet again and becoming stronger in the process. I want a winning team that doesn’t have to try and qualify for the FA Cup. I want it all and to see the joy on the face of men whom I’ve swapped abuse with all year really does pain me. They’re football fans just like me with one subtle difference. Their team has been successful and mine has not.

I came home feeling a little deflated and thought about going to bed around nine. I sat back and thought about one throwaway comment one of the Cod heads made. He said he thought that we would be amongst the favourites next year. It wasn’t meant to console me or patronise me, it was a moment of genuine football discussion and opinion that I often share with these guys. It missed the target when he first fired it at me, but like a homing missile it hit as I sat in my kitchen. He’s right, we are.

We have the spine of a decent team with some good players contracted for next season, which is more than we’ve had since we came down to this division. We have a stable financial footing at the club which we haven’t really had since we came down. We have a good fan base with the potential to grow and we have fine facilities compared to our peers. Most of all we have a manager proven at this level but with a point to prove to the level above. He’s been there and done that when it comes to finishing in the play offs and he comes here to go to the next level with the facilities and structure that we now have. He’s not here for pound notes (although I’m led to believe he will be compensate for his efforts) but he is here to show he can do a job. Believe me as a manager of people I know those motivated by something other than money are the ones who truly do stand out in their field. This isn’t David Holdsworth or Steve Tilson or some other journeyman name that circulates whenever a job come up. Other people wanted this guy and his brother, they’ve made news and their approach to the game is something that leads to success. They had it at Braintree, they had it at Concord and now they want to have it with Lincoln City. I believe truly that they will.

So with that in mind I’ve asked my company to book the May 2017 meeting somewhere in Lincoln so that I can offer to drive the guys there. In fact I’m going to get my company to book the meeting slap bang in the Sincil Bank pitch so they have to sit there and look around our stadium for an hour. I’ll learn more than one bloody song and sing them after every sentence spoken at the meeting. I’ll record the whole Lincoln City championship season, every minute of every match played and I’ll put it on a computer chip and have it implanted into their heads so the only thing they can see, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is Alan Power lifting the National League Trophy.

Maybe then we’ll be even.

Maybe.

The Stacey West

I read other Lincoln blogs when time allows, and despite having a terrible time at work at present I found time to read Steve O’Dare’s blog about Imps fans and the Stacey West, and obviously I thought I’d share my views on the subject. It’s what I do, I drink and I share my views (Game of Thrones reference there for all the GoT fans amongst you).

I’d guess from the name of my blog you’d realise I have more than an affinity to the Stacey West End, a name that has stuck over and above Clanford and Railway End for good reason. I watched my first game in there on October 5th 1986. I watched the Conference side of 87/88 claim the title from there and I climbed the wall and ran onto the pitch as a young kid when we beat Wycombe 2-0. I sat in there with my granddad and my Dad over the years making memories. I cried in there against Blackpool in 1992 when I first attended a game after my granddad passed, and when I was regressed during my training to become a hypnotherapist I went back to the days three generations of Hutchinson’s stood side by side watching the occasionally Mighty Imps. I sat in silence as that CENSORED Danny Hylton scored and celebrated for Aldershot to condemn us to this basement league. Through the hard times and the good I’ve sat squinting at the opposite end of the pitch wishing we were attacking the SW end. It’s where I belong.

Clanford End Sincil Bank Red Wimp

The Railway end in it’s prime

 

Steve wasn’t entirely right about the 617 wanting to be back there, they moved well before the decision was made to hand the stand over to away fans. The official line back then was money and the costing of having it open, but the poor views had seen fans leave in their droves and maybe the perceived ‘singers’ moving elsewhere was a nail in the coffin. Rather than want a return to the SW perhaps the 617 indirectly caused it to become abandoned and unloved as it is now.

As Steve correctly pointed out though a return to the SW should surely now be viable? I’m not one to get carried away at the investment we’ve received, but I would hope it is sufficient enough to maybe gauge if home fans would like to return to the stand for at least a year or two before the ground move comes to fruition? The 617 may not want to move but other fans like to sing who are not associated with the ultras group, and at present to have us peppered across the main stand isn’t going to encourage us to sing our hearts out. I sit to the right of the halfway line (I’m right side wherever I sit) and when I join in a 617 tune I can often either not hear them properly or those around me look at me like I’m singing in the St Andrews stand. I used to be a vocal fan but recently I’ve become an introvert, sat in my seat studying the game and cheering only when we score. Maybe I don’t want that, and maybe others don’t want it either.

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This is what a Stacey West crowd should look like. Without the dodgy sponsor.

 

Yeah the views are better from the sides, but nothing can beat that thrill of seeing the ball nestle in the net just a metre or two in front of you. Sitting in the clouds allows for noise to travels but it doesn’t get you up close and personal to the action. When Torquay missed that penalty in 2003 to push us towards the play offs I was as close to the post as I could get without wearing Alan Marriott’s shirt. The fans put the penalty taker off, kicking towards a hostile and passionate home support had to have an effect – it certainly spurned Simon Yeo on to bag a brace when he came on in the semi finals a week later. Being able to question the referees parentage in within earshot of him certainly adds to the match day experience.

Maybe the 617 do want to stay where they are and fair play to them. They bring something to the table on a match day and have an identity which they protect fiercely. However some fans want to just sing without belonging to anything more specific than Lincoln City football club, and for those people there doesn’t need to be a ‘block 7’ or (and I hate this expression) a ‘singing section’. All they need is an end of the ground where they know they can go and sing their heart out. Once upon a time the whole of Sincil Bank used to sing, but now the 617 have the lone voice whilst the others look longingly back at twelve Dover fans in the left of the traditional home end just wishing we could respond with a song.

Chester fans

Nowadays a meagre away following sit in what used to be the home end.

 

If the club really want to attract fans back there maybe it could be the designated ‘smoking end’. I know a few boys who would swap a half decent view for a lungful of poisonous toxins at half time.

Joking aside home fans have a traditional end and whether the views are good or not they’ll migrate back there given a chance. Liverpool have the Kop, United have the Stretford End and we had the Stacey West.  The club have been scoring spectacular wins recently with the appointment of the Cowley brothers and the attraction of investment, but if they really want to ice that cake like Mr Kipling then they need to reopen my stand. If they want us to have an ever-so slight advantage when kicking that way they need to get bums on seats behind the goal so I can stand up and proudly proclaim ‘I’m the right side, I’m the right side, I’m the right side Stacey West’, and so I can make my ample frame as big as possible when the opposition are coming through to score in a misguided attempt to make a difference. I don’t want to be a face in the big stand with everyone else, I want to return to my home behind the goal with my Dad and all my memories of years gone by, at least until we get our shiny new ground elsewhere. Please Bob, at least give us one last hurrah at the end when it all began for me.

Why the Cowleys need Liam Hearn.

Warning: There is a profanity in this blog, second to last word. If you’re easily offended by the f-bomb please skip it, its not integral to the overall theme of the writing. If you’re not then by all means read on, it made me chuckle when I read it back.

First I was suggesting Steve Thompson could be manager, but now I’m suggesting the fragile part-time Imps Liam Hearn could do a job for us. I must be on crack, right?

Wrong. However before I go into Liam Hearn (not literally) I’d like to set a context for the blog, so I’m going to talk about the men of the moment, The Cowleys. There’s a lot been said recently about their appointment and in 100% of the comments I’ve seen it is positive. The club is brimming with happiness and good vibes, possibly more so than at any other time in recent history. I think Bob Dorrian could probably walk into any pub in town and someone would buy him a pint, four years ago they would have thrown him out of the window. A wave of euphoria is sweeping the city and I half expect Bob to appear in his Bermuda shorts riding that wave down the High Street.

In my opinion the reason is for the first time I can ever remember we have gone to a club already successful at our own level and taken their manager. We’ve found someone with an unblemished record where the only point to prove is that success follows them around. Braintree are left feeling bitter about the bigger club swooping in and stealing their crown jewels. Read that again Imps fans, we’re the bigger club thieving talent from elsewhere. After years of being a selling club taking cast off players and managers sacked from our rivals we’re now the playground bullies. Admit it, it feels good.

Imps 2 Woking 3 090

I couldn’t find a picture of Liam Hearn as he hasn’t been spotted in a football kit this year, so here’s Bradley Wood carrying an imaginary bag of sand chewing on an imaginary Cuban cigar.

I can’t think of a time when we’ve actually gone and appointed proven, innovative people with big careers ahead of them. In a conversation with a friend the other day I said we needed to find the next Martin O’Neill and be the next chapter in a rising managers story. I feel we’ve done that, we’ve got a duo who really do have the right ideas and are arriving at just the right time to put them into practice. Even my Dad rang me tonight and said ‘something feels different about this boy’, which roughly translated means we didn’t argue about it so it must be a good thing. That’s how we decide about what’s right for the club or not, if we agree it’s usually right.

One thing we don’t agree on is the enigma that is Liam Hearn. You remember him right? He was the proven goal scorer that felt like spending Christmas sat watching Barrow, the guy you used to see score then go off after an hour, or come on with half an hour to go and score. The talented and tricky forward  was unfortunately more breakable than an I phone screen, and had a worse attitude than Jon Nolan. My Dad thinks he’s a malignant disease spreading his bad vibes through the squad. I kind of agree but think that the fact he scores goals, and regularly is enough to give him a second or third chance (depending on your view of his Harrogate loan).

If our new bosses are really on their game then they’ll know that for all Liam’s faults he has a touch of class about his game. He is absolutely a proven scorer and alongside Matt Rhead could score in excess of 25 a season hands down. If he hadn’t gone in December then I think it would have been us losing to FGR in the play off semis. At least. I’m not sure any of my readers could deny that. On his day there is no forward more lethal in this division, not Ross Hannah, not Ricky Miller and not even Gary Taylor Fletcher.

So perhaps that first big task is to chat to Liam and ascertain if there was a problem or if he really is beyond saving. His talent is unquestionable but his attitude and state of mind are not. Maybe they can get him on his game? Maybe part of PE in schools these days is sports psychology, and if so maybe they recognise the value in trying to bring him back into the fold? Maybe.

I suppose there is a chance he really is a massive disruption and a spoilt child and that he has absolutely no future here at all, and will next be seen at Barrow or Alfreton or somewhere getting treatment on his ankle/arm/leg/attitude. Personally I think his goals are worth at least considering trying to save, however I trust entirely in what our management duo choose to do.

Unless they get rid of Bradley Wood, then I’ll go absolutely fucking mental.

Fans Forum – my thoughts

A couple of hours ago the wonders of modern technology allowed me to pull up a chair in my own kitchen in rural Lincolnshire and watch the fans forum taking place at Sincil Bank. This sort of thing still amazes me, I remember a time my Dad used to call the bar at the ground to ask what the scores were before we had a teletext TV. Nowadays I can watch the unveiling of a new manager as if I was there. Kind of, my internet is pretty poor so I may have missed a few little bits.

The confirmation of Darren and Nicky Cowley’s appointment came just a few hours before they took to the stage in front of at least two live streams and a packed Centre Spot bar (is that what it’s still called?). I’ve never known such an open presentation of a new management team, and I’ve never known them paraded immediately in front of so many fans. I think that tells us that Bob and the board are delighted with their acquisition and wanted to shout it from the rooftops. Indeed when Bob Dorrian took to the microphone he was applauded and cheered. He joked how it made a change and for once you had to agree with him. He’s become a much maligned figure at he club as he tried to steer the good ship Lincoln City through the dirty waters left by the previous administration. He deserved his moment presenting the new manager and he deserved the applause of the fans, not just for this but for overseeing such a turnaround in the clubs fortunes.

Of course nobody had come to give the chairman his moment and that be that. Danny and Nicky took to the stage in matching white Lincoln City tops and sat somewhat reservedly at the top table. With Alan Long in his ever familiar role of compere the questions began, and as they did a new chapter in the Lincoln City story also began.

During the Q&A they mentioned how their teams always get stronger as a season progressed, but in the case of this forum they were very strong from the off. They answered questions succinctly and directly and were incredibly candid with their answers. They seemed like humble men although both very focused on their football ideology. They talked early doors about adding value to the club and enjoying the winning feeling. I expect after the past nine years in management that they do enjoy winning, they’ve done enough of it.

Danny spoke in depth about having a clear strategy and a definite style of football, and I think this was one of the most refreshing points they made. They want the team to play the sort of football that gets people off their seats, and they’ll give blood sweat and tears to make that happen. There is an awful lot of focus on hard work, but in the right areas. However this wasn’t just a few applause winning sound bites though, not some carefully scripted quotes to keep the assembled media happy. They spoke truthfully and passionately about what they want to do, and they had the fans believing them. They have me believing them.

They knew how many clean sheets City kept last season, and how many goals we conceded from set plays. They understand teams in our league and how to beat them, citing his strategy for the Grimsby play off first leg. They’d spotted the Cods are a possession team and chose to push the play through the players who take too many touches, namely Jon Nolan. That got a little laugh of course, and I’d wager money that Danny knew exactly what he was doing when he mentioned Jon Nolan and that they’d beaten Grimsby twice. It may not have been scripted, but if it were I doubt their answers could have been written any better.

The boys clearly understand Lincoln City and what they have to do in order to be successful. As well as bringing their model they’ll move up here (in a house given to them by the club) and we’ll see their mother at ‘every game’ cheering them on. These boys have family values but also understand they need to become part of the city and immerse themselves in the culture. Remember they’ve given up a combined 25 years in the teaching industry to attempt to implement their successful blueprint onto our football club. They’ve already started doing an audit on the staff and players, confessing to know about 25% of what they need to currently. If they were only first aware of the interest on Monday then they have certainly been working hard this week, perhaps harder than me stock taking. Perhaps. However the smart money suggests they have been in the frame for a little longer than that and maybe this has been on the cards for a while with the last week simply stage managed to ensure everything is kept respectful. However the possibility arises that had Braintree gone up then they may have stayed there, so perhaps our arch enemies Grimsby have done us a favour!

I really liked them talked about being able to replicate success if you knew how you’d achieved it. Danny Cowley struck me as another educated man like David Preece who takes time to understand the game and has the intelligence to see things from different angles and perspectives. That is why I championed Preece as the next manager, because I think in order to really be an innovator and a pupil of the game you have to be a clever man. Harry Redknapp gets his ‘success’ using tools available to him, but he’ll never be an innovator and industry leader like Arsene Wenger has been.Danny Cowley has the air of a man who is on a different  level to the journeymen managers doing the rounds. Bob really did mean it when he said he wanted a fresh manager with a new and exciting approach. This time I have to say I think he’s got it right.

Of course only time will tell and Danny knows not to put undue pressure on the team. He thinks top 10 should be the minimum aim and after that you look at the next goal, and then the next goal each in bite sized chunks. It’s an age old management ‘trick’ if you will to set smaller achievable goals to grow confidence rather than one hard to reach target. If players (or in my case staff) have goals they can achieve then they’ll push harder to get there, and without realising it take pressure off themselves. Danny Cowley says he thrives on pressure, but doesn’t want the players to burden themselves with it unduly. Start by saying top ten, then play offs, then who knows? Champions? They reached third with a part time team training two nights a week, if they’re training everyday and dedicating themselves full time to their craft, who knows what might happen.

There’s a lot of things to be decided over the coming days, they’ll look at a retained list and I’d be very surprised if young players like Eliot Hodge were not on it. They’ll look into players eyes to ascertain how hungry they are, and I suspect they’ll see a fire burning in the eyes of players like Bradley Wood. They won’t be in any immediate hurry to replace Paul Farman though, the gushing appraisal of his character and personality as well as his ability will have had the popular keeper smiling this evening.

I know it’s early days and it is very easy to get caught up in hype, but there is no doubt Lincoln City FC have pulled off quite a coup by securing the services of these talented young men. They’re sports scientists and professors of their craft. They understand success doesn’t just come from a motivational speech and bigger wages than the next team. They know there is a pattern and a method to achieve success, a combination of both hard work and fully understanding how and why everything is happening on and off the field. I’m confident they can use that to bring success back to Sincil Bank.

Welcome to Sincil Bank Danny and Nicky, I am genuinely excited to have you leading our club on to the next chapter.

It’s also struck me that this is the first time the Lincoln City manager has ever been younger than me. I feel old and a small piece of me will always resent DC for that. Unless he wins the league, then I’ll forgive him. Or maybe the FA Trophy.

Deranged Ferret Awards 2016

What was your goal of the season? What’s your favourite away trip? Who would you send on a free transfer to Boston?

As we’re bringing back The Deranged Ferret it’s time for you to vote for your highlights and lowlights of the season for the first time since we’ve been in the fifth tier. There’s the standard set of questions from Ferrets gone by here for you to email over to us for collation and the final awards. You never know we may even find a prize for one person drawn at random from those that reply.

Please do take the time to reply, and please do send in your contributions to the Ferret. Your input is crucial in reviving the now retro fanzine and bringing it back into print.

Things are coming along very nicely, Ben and Ben are busy writing and coming up with idea’s and I have a meeting with a printing firm next week to thrash out a few details. We’ve opted to stick with the original design and format of DF where we can, aside from a few adverts. We’re looking for advertisers now so if you have a small business or hae something to promote please get in touch: derangedferret16@gmail.com.

Chester fans

Chester fans – were they the best to visit the Bank this season?

 

David Preece will be penning something for the next edition, and we’ll have a section for the 617 boys who will be talking about their scene and match day experience. Marcus Needham will hopefully be doing what he does best and talking about pubs and drink, and there will be a guide to the clubs coming up like Solihull. We’re planning on doing four issues next season, so in the first instance  we’ll offer a subscription package based around that, with additional postage options.

Anyway that’s enough rattling on for now, in the meantime if you’d like to copy and paste the questions below and get our answers over to derangedferrt16@gmail.com before May 31st then you can be entered into a prize draw to win a free years subscription to the Ferret. A FREE SUBSCRIPTION!!! I bet that’s worth at least £8 and four first class stamps.

Can you afford not to enter?

BEST HOME PERFORMANCE?

WORST HOME PERFORMANCE?

BEST AWAY PERFORMANCE?

WORST AWAY PERFORMANCE?

BEST TRAVELLING FANS?

WORST HOME FANS?

GOAL OF THE SEASON?

WHERE WILL WE FINISH NEXT SEASON?

WHO WOULD YOU GIVE A FREE TRANSFER TO BOSTON UNITED?

That’s it, nice and simple. Just email your answers to me to stand a chance of winning a years free subscription.

That’s all until the weekend when hopefully I can write something welcoming a new progressive manager (and his brother) to our football club.

Carolina Panthers v Miami Dolphins

Forest Green’s biggest away crowd of the season.

Danny Cowley and the Lincolnshire Echo

There are two topics tonight, but I blended the titles together to give you a flavour of both. If you’re here for the bit about The Echo you can always skip to somewhere around halfway. If it’s the new hot favourite for the Imps job you’re wanting to read about then I’d carry on from here.

I signed off my blog last night with a throwaway reference to the good job Danny Cowley and his brother had done at part time Braintree. If anything they’re one of the proper stories in this league, everything a non league club should be about. They have a poor ground and not too many fans, but they’ve achieved what they’ve achieved through hard work and skill, not money. I respect that, and I think their third place finish this season has gone largely unappreciated by me up until recently. They’re the highest placed part time team in English football and despite losing out to Grimsby in the play offs, they finished above them over 46 games. They also finished above big clubs like Tranmere and richer clubs like Eastleigh. That is in no small part down to the management duo.

Now I have to confess up until a few weeks ago I didn’t actually realise they were part time, I thought they had a backer like Barrow do or that awful outfit from the Port town of Dover, but they don’t. Their chairman has got a few bob, but as part timers there’s only so much of an advantage a big budget could buy, and there’s nothing to suggest they’ve spent much at all. I didn’t give them the recognition perhaps I should. Maybe I’m still bitter about that time we played them on the telly and I fell out with my Dad because we were so poor. In reality Braintree epitomised for me the depth to which we had sunk, playing a team I had genuinely never heard of. It’s how I imagine Villa fans will feel in Burton next year.

This wasn’t a one off for the Cowley brothers either. At Concord Rangers they led the team on the most successful patch in it’s history, going to the FA Cup first round and enjoying the taste of promotion. The truth is that these boys know how to manage, and crucially they know how to do it within the confines of a budget.

I had wanted David Preece as regular readers will know, but when he left the club I’d become resigned to Billy Heath. I wasn’t sure whether as a man I wanted him, but I’d got caught up in the investment angle and thought perhaps the North Ferriby money might find it’s way into our bank account. Secretly I wanted us to be the moneybags team getting out this league, and I thought Heath might  help attract that.

However I’m far from disappointed should it be the Cowleys. Steve Tilson was from the same area and he was nothing short of a disaster, but these guys are young and on the up. They’ve tasted success at part time level and they have a desire to bring that success full time. They talk a lot about implementing their model at another club, and it looks like we may be that club. If rumour and chatter is true  it seems it may be close to a done deal. As early as Friday we could have a new management team, and one of the like we’ve not really had before.

I’m fascinated to know what ‘the model’ they want to implement on the club is. I’m keen to see what has brought such success to Braintree and Concord Rangers and I want to see it work with our club. There’s no doubt we have the capacity to be a League Two, if not League One club but we need someone to bring that back. If this model they operate so successfully at part time level carries over to a full time club then we might just be in the final stages of pulling off quite a shrewd move.

Despite Danny Cowley being third on my own personal choice of managers, if he does come here I think it will be a real coup for the club, especially given his record so far. He’s young, ambitious and brings those fresh ideas Bob alluded too. Billy Heath kept the dogs from the press off the scent whilst Cowley concentrated on Braintree, but now the play offs are over the speculation can switch. As Hannibal from the A Team said, I love it when a plan comes together, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Bob and Danny say the same privately to each other in the coming days.

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Progressive and hungry for success

 

Speaking of ‘those dogs from the press’ I switch to the second part of my blog (and welcome those who didn’t really care what I thought about the new manager). It emerged yesterday that maligned Imps correspondent John Pakey is leaving after a decade to move to the BBC. John has taken an awful lot of stick in the last few weeks about his Grimsby Town connection and the nature of some of the Lincolnshire Echo site, and I think it’s both unfair and unjust. The world of journalism has changed significantly since Brian Halford had to write a piece a day about the mid 1990’s for publication. Nowadays the money is in clicks on a website and as well as good honest journalism John has to attract you to those websites so you read the adverts. I believe he always had an objective and informed view of the club and has done his best to deliver that through whichever mediums his role allows.

I wish John all the best and I hope he remembers his time as the Imps reporter fondly.

Now I’d like to tell The Echo how I think it could boost it’s clicks and views, and rather unsurprisingly enough that starts by employing me.

You see appointing a new correspondent is now more like appointing a new club manager. Back in the 1990’s the Echo was the only source of information, but now it is vying with websites, student websites, blogs like mine (!) and even social media. The guys on Lincoln City Banter always have the rumours first, and getting any sort of readable scoop is hard if  not impossible. Nowadays if you’re going to read the paper or click on the website it needs to offer you something that you really want. It needs to offer you a reason to read it’s pages rather than those of social media. Once upon a time The Echo was almost synonymous with Lincoln City, it was on the shirts and it told you all the rumours first and almost exclusively. If that relationship is to continue then they need to make their new chief correspondent someone that fans fully identify with. That means appointing a Lincoln City fan. I mean that as no disrespect John, I think he’s done a great job, however the way the product is delivered has really hampered him. To repair that the site needs to be more accessible and then become more of a focal point.

Imps 2 Woking 3 124

I couldn’t find a jpeg of the old Sports Echo, so here’s a picture of the Imps celebrating a goal instead.

 

The other thing I think they should do is bring back the Sports Echo. Even as a Sunday publication a Sports Echo would be incredibly popular, as it always was. Having the headline and match reports in front of your just hours after the game kept the reports relevant and fresh. Nowadays we have to read match reports five days after the match, by which time it’s old news.

The rest of the paper would be focusing on all sports across the county, with aspiring journalists writing reports from the games they attend. It would include comprehensive coverage of all our non league teams, plenty of sunday league action and all other local sport. It would be another advertising stream and it could help focus the attention on the sports pages of the website. I first felt moved to write way back in 1998 and I did that by writing a letter to the Sports Echo. The traditionally green paper was a must for sports fans in Lincolnshire and I still have copies bought after promotion in 1998  I firmly believe it would work well today. People like to buy a paper they think they might be in, and by widely covering local sports they could encapsulate a broad spectrum of people at local level.

Of course the downside of giving me the job is that I’ve no experience, no journalistic training nor any real experience of publishing, the media or how to even start writing a proper match report. I can’t have a laptop in front of me when I’m watching City, when we beat Eastleigh 3-0 I almost planted a cat food pie from Double ‘M’s over the guy in front of me. Put me in the press box and Michael Hortin is going home with a laptop shaped bruise and possible third degree burns from a spilt sugary tea.

However if you are doing interviews ‘Local World’ (that’s the local media business that brings together Northcliffe Media and Iliffe News and Media, obviously you know that….) and you think that merely wanting to do the job for my entire life is substitute for years of university study and then a decade and a half working my way up through the ranks, then you can contact me below. I think. I’m not great with the technical side of publishing and media.

Good luck John, cheers for your support over the last ten years.