I’ve recently finished reading a book called ‘The Game of Our Lives’ by David Goldblatt. If you get a chance and like to expand your reading beyond my blog and a few autobiographies I suggest you pick it up and give it a read.
The book looks at how the game has changed since the inception of the Premier League and in one part it suggests teams from off the beaten track cities and towns often suffer due to their inability to attract players. I’ve often spoken about how hard it must be to attract players to Lincoln given the weak transport links and lack of nearby ‘big’ clubs.
Even teams like Grimsby and Scunthorpe have had the benefit of being linked to the nations motorway network, but to get to Lincoln you will have to travel on at least one A road. Whilst it might not give our neighbours so much of an advantage it certainly leaves us as an unimpressive draw for players.
In the lower leagues now their are so many players and so few spots that squad places are often not as well paid. Is a lower paid footballer from London likely to stay within travelling distance of London or do you think he’s going to spend more of his wages travelling further just for a slightly bigger club? Dagenham and Barnet are both proof that clubs in London can attract a higher quality of out of contract players or loan players and gain moderate success that so called bigger clubs like us cannot.
I’ve seen insanely talented players like Dean Keates leave us because of location. Arguably Sean Newton and Jon Nolan had the same problem albeit with worse attitudes. Danny Rowe is turning in good performances back in the North west with Fylde scoring goals for fun. We’re lucky that Matt Rhead can bear two and a half hours in the car.
So for many seasons I believed part of our struggle really was down to location. We are a relatively big club for our league placing, we have a nice ground and a lot of history. If we were slap bang in the middle of London we’d probably sit where Leyton Orient do now, but because we’re in the middle of nowhere we are destined to struggle with a few Forest cast offs here and there.
However the arrival of The Cowley brothers has really added another factor into the equation that previously we haven’t seen, and that is solid reputation.
My blogging colleague Charlie Russell bagged an interview with Macualey Bonne the other day, and the promising striker said once he heard the Cowleys were in for him then it was a no brainer. Sean Raggett spoke of their reputation being a draw for him as did Sam Habergham.and Alex Woodyard.
These players were not bothered that they’d spend at least thirty minutes stuck behind a lorry on their way to the ground. They were drawn to our club by reputation alone. It didn’t matter to them that in order to get to training they’d have to negotiate a myriad of road works, diversions and obstacles, and that a road they used one day would be closed the next. They were playing for The Cowleys.
In actual fact it probably isn’t reputation alone, I suspect the club houses they get to stay in help, but you catch my drift.
This is a new weapon in our arsenal having talented young coaches who are respected and revered. We haven’t been blessed in my life time with a coaching team that inspires such respect in players from other teams. Sure a few might have wanted to play for former England international Chris Sutton, but I’m sure nobody was too inspired by anything other than David Holdsworth’s cheque book.
I’m not claiming that we are going to get success because our coaches have growing reputations, but I can guarantee that every win makes it more possible to sign a better quality of player. Maybe it’s a good thing that Danny Cowley is ‘dithering’ over bringing another midfielder in. It suggests to me that he has a wide pick of players and that is in no part due to us just being outside the M25.
Finally I think it’s prudent to point out that you only get a reputation in your chosen field for being good at what you do. Players and coaches only know of our management team because they do something noticeable and different. If they get that reputation amongst their peers, then mere laymen such as ourselves should be excited. We’d support them if they were a local businessman who’d ploughed some money into the club and taken the managers role on for free. We’d support them if they were an old ex assistant manager coming back to the club to try and replicate some old success. However players and football people support them if they are doing something different, something they want to be part of.
In that case players will come from anywhere. Braintree, Dover, Colchester or maybe even India. Who knows?
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