SWB Review of 2016 (Part 1 of 2)

Another year has passed, another twelve months that has been written into the annuls of Lincoln City history. For a few years now we’ve had to content ourselves with blind hope and the eternal optimism that lurks, deeply rooted in outwardly pessimistic Imps fans minds.

2016 has been different though, 2016 was the year when that optimism became free and was able to spread and grow. 2016 was the year when unfounded hope became grounded and realistic chance. 2016 was the year it all seemed to begin to change, and here is my all-too brief overview of what has happened since December 31st, 2015.

January

The Imps saw in 2016 in relatively inauspicious circumstances, snatching a 2-2 draw from soon-to-be relegated Halifax. Craig Stanley and Liam Hearn were on the score sheet, the latter getting his first goal back after returning from an ill-advised loan spell at Barrow.

City bring in Leeds striker Robbie McDaid on-loan to try and stop the poor run, but a home defeat by Dover all-but puts paid to our hopes of finishing above them. Our chase for a play-off spot faltered following further losses to Forest Green (1-0) and play-off rivals Wrexham.

Under fire manager Chris Moyses was singled out for abuse after the 3-1 defeat at Wrexham, and he responded by swearing back at the fans. The early season promise seemed to be evaporating quickly, the manager who worked for free was deemed, by some, not to be up to the challenge.

January 30th finally brings The Imps their first league win in just over two months, Guiseley are beaten 1-0 in a side rejuvenated by the return of former Imps defender Jamie McCombe, and the arrival of a tricky forward from Shrewsbury called James Caton.

We end January in 11th place, only 5 five points off the play-off spots but behind both Gateshead and a Cowley-inspired Braintree who have a significant number of games in hand.

Off the field fans were rocked by the passing of former striker and absolute legend Percy Freeman. Big Percy netted 23 times from 35 league outings during the 1975/76 season, helping secure the Division Four title with a record number of points.

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Percy Freeman, Imps legend. RIP

February

City have just three games in February, but find themselves hitting something of a purple patch. The injection of trickery from Caton, and the calming influence of Jamie McCombe brings just the tonic we needed after losing ground in the play-off race. Young winger George Maris also signs on a youth loan, but his impact was negligible.

Fan hopes are raised as we thrash fellow promotion hopefuls Eastleigh 3-0 at Sincil Bank, with James Caton and Matt Rhead both scoring spectacular goals. A week later an uncharacteristic error from Paul Farman saw us draw 3-3 with Altrincham, although in the grand scheme of things the loss of that point meant very little. One of the scorers for the opposition that day was a young striker by the name of Jonathon Margetts.

The month ended with our routine heavy home win against Southport, Caton scoring twice more and Robbie McDaid putting a late third in the net to secure a comfortable 3-1 win.

Liam Hearn’s time is finally up at the club. He doesn’t feature throughout February, and despite stating he wants to remain and fight for his place, he’s shipped off on loan. Apparently, nobody lost any sleep.

We end February with a sniff of the play-off hunt, nothing more. Both Braintree and the rabble from Crabble look poised to join Grimsby and Forest Green in the end of season lottery, and all-but the most optimistic, rose-tinted spectacle wearing, die-hard, deluded fan thinks we can do it.

I write a blog claiming we can do it.

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I thought it was do-able from here. Wins over Dover and Wrexham in January would have helped somewhat.

March

After a brief resurgence in February, march brings nothing but more frustration, more anger and ultimately more defeats. A win against Aldershot and a credible draw at Macclesfield look like decent results on the face of things, but an injury to Jamie McCombe in the 4-1 defeat at Dover puts paid to any aspirations we haveof playing in the Football League in late 2016.

Bradley Wood is sent off for a deliberate but instinctive handball as we go down 3-2 to Tranmere, although youngsters Robbie McDaid and George Maris claim a goal each on the Wirral to at least give the score an air of respectability, and it is only a goal three minues from time that finally defeats us.

March ends with a 1-1 draw at home to Gateshead, and it has by then become very clear that we are preparing for a life in the National League in 2016/16. Young players such as Elliot Hodge, George Maris and Alex Simmons get a start whilst Kegan Everington is also seen late on from the bench.

By the time April Fools day has arrived even I have to admit we’re not going to trouble the play-off race, predominately because it is mathematically impossible.

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Elliot Hodge found himself in the starting eleven in March

April

The bubbling resentment towards Chris Moyses finally comes to a head as we lose 2-0 at Bromley. Once again he is involved in a confrontation with irate fans who seem to forget he is working for free and has assembled a team that, in the main, have competed in the top half of the table for the first time since our relegation. Just days later Chris announces he is stepping down, the stress of managing a full time football club an his own civil engineering business becoming too much.

As a reaction to this my own anger boils over, and the Stacey West blog is born, starting with an article defending Chris and wishing him all the best. I’m sure my blog’s inception isn’t really news worthy in a review of the year, but I don’t care. I write what I want.

The first game after Chris stands down brings a win for City, 2-1 at home to Chester. Once again it is McDaid and Maris with the goals. The season peters out from there, a draw against Southport is followed by a 3-2 home reverse against Woking and finally a 3-1 loss away at Champion Cheltenham. Attention now turns to who might end up managing our football club, and an early front runner is North Ferriby manager Billy Heath who guides them to the brink of the National League.

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George Maris is congratulated by Chris Bush after scoring in our 2-1 win over Chester.

May

The month our season ended, our worst nightmares came true and the New Imps Order started in earnest.

Firstly we finished the season in 13th place with 61 points, which was our highest finish of our non-league stay, but four points shy of our best total. Many see this as a indication we hadn’t progressed. The investment from Clive Nates, and the arrival of players such as Bradley Wood and Matt Rhead gave us a firm base to build on though, and unbeknown to us that had already been noted by other club’s managers, two in particular.

Grimsby win promotion to the Football League after Braintree in the semi finals and Forest Green in the final. It’s a bittersweet moment for Lincoln fans, it’s nice to see a plastic football club with no soul lose in the final, but it’s awful to see out stinking rivals go up as well. It was like trying to chose which arm you have to hack off with a rusty saw.

Our misery is short lived though as Braintree management duo Danny and Nicky Cowley arrive to much fanfare in front of a packed open forum at Sincil Bank. The event will eventually be talked about like the Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester – you won’t meet a Lincoln fan who won’t claim he was there.

I was, of course, there.

The month was dominated by speculation as to which Braintree players Danny would bring with him, and which we might release. The first bit of news was the Matt Rhead handed in another transfer request, mainly due to the distance he has to travel to Lincoln. In the press he speaks highly of the Cowley brothers, and they speak highly of him.

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The big man wanted a move closer to home.

June

Not much really happens in June, so my round up of the first six months ends somewhat abruptly with very little to report.

Alex Woodyard arrives from Braintree fairly quickly, as does Sam Habergham and Taylor Miles. Braintree fans begin to wonder which player will be the one left turning out the lights before a move to Lincoln.

Fan Andrew Helgesen launches ‘Cowleys Campaign’ to help try and raise some funds to assist in the signing of more new players.

Whilst watching a really poor England team curl up and die in France, I have the idea of bringing back the Imps fanzine Deranged Ferret. I’m not sure of the correlation between rubbish national sides and off the wall fan humour, but I’m sure there must be one somewhere.

Coming soon:

Part 2, which covers the last six months. That’s pretty obvious I suppose.

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Thanks to Amazon’s bloody awful ‘author supplies’ chain, there is still just one way to buy ‘Who’s who of Lincoln City 1993-2016’:

If you want to buy direct from Amazon then click here

 

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Who is the big bloke stood next to Raggett?

This was the question that was asked of me around lunchtime yesterday. One of my numerous little birds messaged me saying he’d walked past training, and he’d seen an unfamiliar character stood next to Sean Raggett. Apparently he was a ‘bloody big lad’ and was definitely a new face.

The time was 10.59am. At 1.30pm I was hosting yet another get together, this time for my nearest and dearest. I had just two and a half hours to try and uncover the mystery man’s identity.

It’s not always easy for a blogger living so far outside of Lincoln. I couldn’t pop down and look for myself, and I wasn’t likely to get to chat to Danny or Nicky to bring you the news. The Lincolnshire Echo hadn’t broken a story either, so I put on my best Columbo rain jacket (metaphorically) and began asking questions.

Once we’d established ethnicity I offered a few options to my source. It was Akinola, this guy was too tall. I trialled a couple of other players, Morgan Ferrier being one. We’d been linked with him by one of those god-awful ‘click to find out’ website and I thought their might be something in it. I knew the player sounded too tall for Blair Turgott as well.

My first guests arrived and an unconnected little bird was talking to me about Jordan Chiedozie, a striker from we might be interested who who recently returned to Concord Rangers after a spell at Boreham Wood. It wasn’t him either.

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Then 1.30 arrived, my deadline was gone and I was at the mercy of our local media outlet, and they didn’t disappoint. The 6’3 player who’d been spotted was former Standard Liege winger Erwin Senakuku. I’m told he trained well, he looked a little raw and uncut but he has bags of potential. You’d expect that from someone who served his time at a top Belgian club, although he has recently playing for Royal Football Club Seraing, currently of the Belgian third division.

Last season he finished with 7 goals in a poor season for Seraing as they were relegated. The year prior to that he was playing for top flight Charleroi where he scored 20 times for their reserve side. If this doesn’t sound like the modest goal return you’d expect from a winger, you’d be right.

After completing his haul last season he spoke (in French) to website dh.be, and said (roughly translated thanks to google translate) the following:

“It was a personal satisfaction for me to finish top scorer,  but it would have been a lot better to finish the season on a good note. We would have wanted a victory to close our campaign.  I could have done better, this total is not huge amount, but I did not play every game.  I prefer to play in the centre than on the flank.”

So our new winger is far happier in the middle, and not only that but he hit twenty playing for a top Belgian sides reserve team. He clearly has a bit of ability, and he sounds very much like the sort of player you usually expect to surface at a League One or Two club. I know DC said that he has family in Lincoln, but I’d also wager a bet that the degree of success we’re currently experiencing helped in convincing him to approach us for a trial.

It’s not often a team at our level has exotic names such as Senakuku and ter Horst on trial is it? I’m just hoping by the end of January we have another exotic sounding name playing for us, something along the lines of ‘Akinola’.

 

 

There’s only two Danny Rowe’s

Once upon a time there were two Danny Rowe’s, and both of them appeared for AFC Fylde. The Fylde fans coined the witty song that forms part of the title to this scurrilous piece of rumour and half truth that you’re about to read.

According to rumours on social media (where else do we get rumours from these days?) the Macclesfield Town winger Danny Rowe has been spotted around Lincoln in the past few weeks, fuelling a rumour that he is poised to make a move to the Imps in January.

Macclesfield’s Rowe is not to be confused with the Danny Rowe currently tearing up the National League North either. That Rowe is well known to Imps fans for a misfiring spell under Gary Simpson a few years back. The Rowe we’re familiar with has not been linked with City, despite outscoring everyone in the league below us. I suspect his attitude and approach wouldn’t fit in with the Cowley ethos.

To confuse matters even further both players have had spells at Stockport as well as Fylde. For the purpose of this article we’re going to need to refer to them by there middle initially as well. The Rowe that appeared for us is Danny L Rowe, the Macclesfield player is Danny M Rowe.

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Danny Rowe. Recognise him? No? That’s because this one hasn’t played for us.

 

Danny M Rowe has been at Macclesfield for a couple of seasons now and has previously had spells at Stockport (as mentioned) and Barrow. He’s a wide midfield player and that does seem to correlate with the shopping list our manager has, but is it enough to produce a decent half rumour?

Personally I’m not convinced (and given my form that means he’ll probably b unveiled tomorrow). He’s got pedigree at this level, but I think that wide position is more suited to a Blair Turgott or Simeon Akinola. Those are players with whom Danny and Nicky will be familiar, and surely they constitute a far better investment?

Danny M Rowe has made almost 100 appearances for Macclesfield and has scored five goals so far this season, but despite this National League experience I can’t see him being the player to fill Harry Anderson’s boots. He’s quick and tricky, and he’s had a good season so far at Macclesfield, but he would command a fee at present. He’s a fixture in the Macclesfield first team, and whenever I’ve seen him play I thought he was alright: nothing too special, just an able winger.

Has he been seen in Lincoln? Was he down at the Bentley with Michael Bridges, Dwight Yorke and anyone else you care to mention? Or was he linked with Lincoln by another of those god-awful trolling fisherman on social media who like to spread lies and incorrect comments purely to catch people out?

I guess by January 30th at the latest, we’ll know the answer.

Miller: Too Posh for Dover?

Speculation regarding the eventual destination of in demand Dover striker Ricky Miller took another turn this week, as Barry Fry admitted Peterborough are in the race.

In the Non League paper Fry admitted his Peterborough outfit were looking to place a bid for the former Boston forward, but Dover weren’t answering their calls.

“We’ve tried getting in contact with Dover, but they’re not returning any of our calls. It looks like they want to keep him there to help them get into the Play-Offs. I can’t blame them really for not taking calls, I probably wouldn’t.”

If Miller remains at Dover it will signal a risky strategy by Jim Parmenter and the loathsome Chris Kinnear.  Miller has hit 23 goals this season and is out of contract in May. He’s bound to be hot property, and his agent could secure him a good financial package if he choses to leave, meaning Dover would get nothing for their prized forward. Now I might not be a fan of Big Jim and his grand idea’s for his little club, but I do know he is a businessman. Businessmen usually know a bit about money, specifically how to make it and how to retain it.

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Barry Fry, probably reading a text from Chris Kinnear.

 

The news that Posh had entered the race got me thinking, and as a firm fan of conspiracy theories I’ve come up with one all of my own. Knowing the underhand tactics the boys from Crabble like to indulge in, what if they had picked up the phone to Big Barry?

I have a tendency not to believe everything I read in the papers, and therefore when Barry Fry says Dover haven’t returned his calls, I find myself looking for the story behind the story. If Barry Fry tells you his car is black, be on the lookout for him driving a blue one. If he tells you it is a sunny day, wear a rain coat, and if he tells you he won’t be signing Ricky Miller, expect the deal to be all-but done.

The conversation might have gone along the lines of, ‘yes, we can talk about Ricky Miller’. Posh might not want the forward immediately, after all they’re not doing badly in League One at the moment, they’re sat just outside the Play-Offs themselves and have scored as many as any of the four teams above them. Miller would represent an investment on their part.

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Football League bound?

 

What if instead of Miller moving now, they agree a deal that will take him to London Road in May, once Dover’s play off assault has failed? Posh might be willing to wait for their potential golden egg, and as we know Mr Fry loves a good scheme and it often seems to be at the expense of our very own Lincoln City.

What would Dover want in order to let Miller go? Well maybe they noticed the impact that a certain Mr Anderson had whilst he was at the Bank. Now if Barry would be so kind as to recall Anderson under the pretence that Posh needed him back, that could dent our own hopes, and in turn boost Dover’s own Football League ambitions.

It’s far fetched, fanciful and a bit of fun but when it comes to Barry Fry, Jim Parmenter and Chris Kinnear I wouldn’t rule anything out. Those three men seem to have more disdain for Lincoln than John Wilkes Booth (you’ll need to Google that kids) and in my minds eye I can see them sat around the table at a service station off the A14 cackling manically to each other as they launch a (failed) bid to derail the Lincoln Loco.

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Who hates Lincoln more?

Ipswich ticket frenzy

4194, or in words four thousand, one hundred and ninety four. That is how many tickets non-league Lincoln City have sold for the FA Cup clash away at Ipswich, and that still hasn’t satisfied demand.

That demand has sparked controversy though, as the Imps change in fortunes has prompted a change of heart with the stay away fans. Typically there has been some resentment growing between those who were there ‘when we were crap’, and those that are coming along now, boarding the loco as we press on full steam ahead. Are the loyal 2,000 or so justified, or should we focus our attentions on supporting our team and not trying to root out those following us because we just got good?

Firstly I’m going to make a point about the product on offer, because to many football is a product. To me (and to a majority of you) it is a way of life. Lincoln City is in our blood, it features on the walls of our houses. Our bookshelves are littered with Imps stuff and we have boxes of memorabilia. Win, lose or draw we follow the team through thick and thin. We’re one of those hardy 2,000 or so that will turn up even if we know we’re going to get trounced by Welling. Some of you are even there on the terraces at Nantwich on a cold evening before Christmas supporting the team. Not me I’m afraid, but it doesn’t mean I love the club any less. We are Lincoln City.

For many though football isn’t such a way of life, it is a form of entertainment, a product if you will. If that product is substandard or failing to reach your expectations, then you don’t put your hard earned money into it. Let me try and put this into some context for you; take Star Wars (I’m going somewhere with this). I quite like Star Wars, I enjoyed the first three although I was too young to go to the cinema and see them. When the second trilogy came out I heard fairly bad reviews, so I just didn’t go. Many true fans did though, many staunch Star Wars followers went and watched the films, happy to come back and criticise. I wasn’t that committed, so I saved my money (probably spent it on that seasons away shirt). However, when I heard the latest film was half decent, I decided to go and look for myself. I wasn’t barracked by other Star Wars fans, or belittled because I didn’t really give two hoots about the films with Ewan McGregor in them. I like Star Wars in the same way as some of the returning faces like Lincoln City. I don’t like it enough to watch low quality episodes though, but when it reaches my expectations I’m happy to fork out. Many of the newer faces at Sincil Bank feel the same way about their football.

It may be a clumsy likeness, but I’m just trying to demonstrate that the ‘new’ faces at the ground have every right to be there and have their reasons for staying away in the past. Maybe they didn’t have their Boxing Day ruined by the Guiseley defeat to the same extent that some of us did, but their money is as good as anyone else’s, whether they came to watch awful football in 2013 or not.

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Queuing outside the Bank, photo pinched from LCB

 

I actually find it very amusing that for a short period of time at the beginning of the season we were celebrating the attendances as much as a goal. The fervour around hopefully breaking 3,000 against North Ferriby, 4,000 against Sutton and then 6,000 against Tranmere was exciting and signalled that Lincoln were back. For a while a barometer of our success was how many new and lapsed faces we attracted to Sincil Bank. Now that is ‘job done’ so to speak, many are resenting the Johnny-cum-lately types. Now instead of celebrating the fact we can take as many away to Ipswich as most Premiership clubs, some are resenting the surge in popularity.

Personally I find it bizarre that people are asking ‘where were those 4,000’ in the wake of Ipswich sales. Success is going to bring people in, and on a Saturday afternoon in 2012 some of those people found better things to do in their eyes than watch a god-awful David Holdsworth side struggle to beat teams made up of part time players . Now we are back on our game those fans want to spend their money with us, they want to watch an aggressive and energised Danny Cowley team compete with anyone and everyone put in front of them. We only move forward as a club if we increase attendances, so the battle for Ipswich tickets should be applauded and not lamented as some sort of cancer threatening our club.

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Like gold dust. I’ve got mine!

 

I feel for all fans who have missed out or who are still struggling, whether they watched us lose heavily to Plymouth in the FA Cup or not. I was very close to missing out myself, I got one of the last tickets of the second allocation after mistakenly believing I wouldn’t need to stress too much. I didn’t start banging on about the new faces ruining it for us all though, because their money will help us maintain our current situation, and perhaps even better it. The blame lay with me naively not queuing up for a ticket. The club did as much as they could, putting them on sales after a home game for instance. What more can you do to ensure fans attending games get first dibs than sell immediately after a home game?

I also found it amusing / angering that many of the dissenting voices on social media started with the line ‘I couldn’t get from x, y ,z to buy my tickets’, and yet they went on sale straight after a game. If you are one of the die-hard 2,000 or so that have been there through thick and thin, why weren’t you able to buy tickets immediately after a home games? Couldn’t make that particular game? Does that make you less of a fan? No of course not, but it does demonstrate that you don’t have to be there for every game to be a fan.

I was also tickled by the criticism of the ticket office, in particular social media posts moaning about telephones not being answered. With the threat of administration most of the staff were laid off, leaving just a couple of faces to run the office. Times were hard and the club did what it needed to do to survive. It was a heart breaking time for many at the club, but it was a necessary evil to help keep us afloat. Up until the last six months or so there was no need to bring anyone else in. Selling a couple of hundred tickets for an away match at Bromley wouldn’t justify taking on extra bodies, and to spend in that area would seem a folly.

Therefore when this big away day suddenly lands on our doorstep there is inevitably going to be an increase in the workload of the staff left over. Those staff work hard, day in day out for the club. They do their absolute best, but with the greatest will in the world they haven’t been able to answer every phone every time. It’s easy to sit at home hitting redial and swearing when it doesn’t get picked up, and it’s easy to criticise if doing that 300 times doesn’t result in you getting your tickets. Einstein once said the definition of madness was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome, so perhaps after call 150 or so, you might have planned an alternative strategy? Maybe buy online? Maybe go to the club and queue? Maybe do something that didn’t result in a constantly ringing phone driving the already hard pressed staff mad in a ticket office a thousand times busier than it usually is?

The underlying theme here is that it is easy to criticise, it is easy to moan and blame people for you not getting a ticket. Whether you were there when we lost to North Ferriby in the FA Trophy, whether you travelled to Nantwich, or whether you started following the Imps in 1945 I’m afraid nobody owes you anything. You’re not owed a ticket, you’re not owed any sort of priority at all. The club do their best to reward the fans who come to games by offering them up firstly to season ticket holders, and selling them after a game, but there’s only so much they can do. We’re getting better, more fans are coming back and despite doing their best, there is no way the club can reward you for all of that loyalty.

The good news is that we have been awarded another 700 tickets for the game. Be quick though, you know they won’t hang around for long.

ter Horst looking for a chance to shine

News broke yesterday of Hull City youngster Johan ter Horst training with the Imps. Sadly, unlike your reliable news outlets I was enjoying Christmas cheer down in Cambridge and couldn’t get on a computer to blog about it. Today, free of Peroni and back home I decided to have a look at the youngster from Kent.

ter Horst is a English born youngster, his father moved to the UK in 1992. He is Grammar School educated, coming from Harvey Grammar school in Folkestone, and it was with Folkestone Invicta that he made his name.

His 26 goals in the 2013/14 season saw him alert a host of top clubs, as well as Hull City. It was the Tigers who fought hardest for his signature, eventually landing the striker on a three year deal and beating off competition from Stoke, Charlton and Aston Villa. At the time his manager Neil Cugley commented that it was Steve Bruce that helped seal the deal, as he too had moved away from his hometown (Gillingham) as a youngster to seek fame and fortune.

ter Horst hasn’t broken into the first team at Hull, but he is still a boy with a big future. The scouts flocked in Folkestone when he first broke through, and there’s no smoke without fire. If the jungle drums tell scouts a plaer is worth watching, nine times out of ten he is.

Danny and Nicky first came across the pocket sized striker in the National League South a scene they have extensive knowledge of. Speaking to the Lincolnshire Echo he revealed that ter Horst was a wanted man;

“He did very well at Folkstone and had about five or six clubs interested in him. He’s having a look at us and we’re having a look at him. It’s an important time for the boy so we want it to be right for him and for us. He makes great runs and is never far away from a goal. He’s played non-league football before which I like.”

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ter Horst at Folkestone looking an awful lot like a young Lee Hendrie.

 

He’s been on the fringes at Hull City, classed as a youth rather than a reserve player. A year after his move he spoke to kentonline about his experiences with the Premiership side:

“When I first signed, I saw the place and spoke to Steve Bruce. This season it’s different because we’ve moved to Bishop Burton College, where the academy’s based. It’s alright but I’d prefer to be where the first-team are. I have trained with the first team a couple of times because when someone’s ill, they need someone to make up the numbers.”

ter Horst has been described as an out and out forward, the traditional ‘little man’ who can play off a target man to find runs and space. Former manager Cugley likened him to Kevin Phillips after he witnessed the former Sunderland man come up through the ranks at Baldock Town, a comparison that should get pulses racing at his potential. ter Horst is classed as both an intelligent footballer, but a level headed and intelligent person as well.

There’s little doubt that his time at the club will give Danny Cowley a chance to see if the personality is right before a potential move. ter Horst couldn’t sign for the club on a youth loan, as he is over the age of 20 although  I suspect Hull want him to get some first team football and I’d expect a loan deal until the end of the season, should both parties decide it makes sense to progress.

With DC looking at the young striker I suspect it puts paid to the rumours of a return for Jonny Margetts. He hasn’t featured in an Iron line up since November 19th, and despite being constantly linked with a return it does seem more likely that we will add a youngster to the ranks rather than another experienced head. With Theo Robinson still in the fold, and the talented Adam Marriott working his way back to fitness it makes more sense to accommodate a young player on loan rather than commit to a more experienced head with increased expectations of first team football.

Is it time for a Fry up?

You lot know me by now, I love a good rumour especially if it seems to have some substance. One has reached me today and like a good little blogger with nothing better to do before Harry Potter starts at 7.30pm, I thought I’d write about it.

There’s lots of speculation about which players might be targeted by Danny and Nicky in the coming days and weeks. Popular opinion has a wide man joining us to replace the Harry Anderson shaped hole left by the young man departing. There are also persistent rumours of a versatile defender coming in, one already known to the Cowley brothers and one who might give us a degree of further cover.

At first glance it would seem like we need a player capable of filling one of the wide defensive positions. Callum Howe is putting significant pressure on Sean Raggett and Luke Waterfall, but Sam Habergham and Bradley Wood are forced to play through the pain barrier if they pick up a knock. It seems highly likely that we will recruit someone to offer that cover, bring personality to the squad but also not break the bank. I imagine the money will be saved for the game changer up front.

A little bird has told me today that a certain Matt Fry is unsettled at York City, and if that is the case I can see him being a potential target. There are rumours that DC has spoken to a defender he already knows, one with whom he worked at Braintree. Matt Fry goes back much further than that though, he turned out for Concord Rangers under DC too.

He is a left sided defender, but I’m reliably informed he can play a ‘Lee Beevers’ role, which translated means do whatever is asked of him across the back four. He would definitely offer cover as well as the versatility we have lacked since Lee’s injury. The rumour seems very plausible from our end. The stumbling block would be York City.

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Is he ginger? He looks ginger. We don’t have enough ginger players.

 

I am surprised Fry has fallen out of favour there. York are bottom despite beating North Ferriby, and have been shipping goals for fun. The arrival of Sean Newton will do nothing to stem that flow, and against City the other week they looked disjointed and completely lacking in organisation. Matt Fry could surely have a role to play, but if his face doesn’t fit then he may not get a chance. He was a McNamara signing, and now Jackie has gone maybe the new regime wants to stick with players he knows, like Newton. (at this point I wish I had emojis on my blog, because I’d use that ‘laughing / crying’ face numerous times. Sean Newton a defender?)

Before any readers start talking about signing players from lowly teams, remember this. We released Jon Nolan with a flea in his ear, maligned by our fans as work shy and having an attitude problem. Just a few days later he rocked up at Grimsby and gave them an injection of life they needed for their promotion charge. If Matty Fry is indeed surplus to requirements at Bootham Crescent then it may be a case of their so-called trash being our treasure.

Fry does have a decent background having started out at West Ham before making 13 loan appearances for Gillingham and 32 more on loan with Charlton Athletic. From there he appeared to be in free-fall, leaving the Hammers to find permanent first team football. He had a brief spell with Bradford (6 appearances) before stopping off at Concord Rangers, helping them to beat Lowestoft in the 2013 play off success, a win masterminded by some bloke called Danny Cowley. Fry was soon off in search of football at a higher level, this time with injury hit spells at Dartford (16 games) and Eastleigh (3).

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Fry at Eastleigh. I could have found a smaller picture if I’d looked really hard.

 

He wound up back at Concord Rangers and the Cowley effect saw him again rejuvenated. He followed the managers to Braintree and made 29 appearances as they finished third. On signing for Braintree, Fry told his local paper:

“It is no secret that I have a good relationship with Danny. I turned down some pretty good offers before I came back to Concord last summer and it was a good move for me. Danny was one of the main reasons behind that and all the boys will tell you how much of a pleasure it is to play for him. When he got the job he gave me a call but it was all professionally handled and it was a move I was keen to make.”

He also credited our manager with helping him work towards fully recovering from injuries that blighted the early part of his career. He spoke of Danny and Nicky drawing up individual training schedules targeted at building strength in key areas and avoiding repeats of the injuries that perhaps stunted his career after some impressive outings for Charlton. Like most of their former players, Fry likes Danny and Nicky a lot.

It was somewhat of a surprise then, when instead of coming to Sincil Bank in the summer,  he chose to play for Jackie McNamara at York. Of course he is long gone, and perhaps the defender has had a change of heart and feels that ours are the managers whom he can entrust his career to. he’s only 26 and still has time to make his name in League Football. He did have a two-year deal but if York are remodelling perhaps there could be a ‘mutual consent’ situation arise that see’s him move for nothing?

It might just be that I’m speculating wildly to avoid having to go through to the kitchen and help my missus wash up. If this article is followed by five more about Blair Turgott, Ricky Miller, Simeon Akinola and Danny Rowe (Macclesfield and Fylde) then you’ll know these keyboard battering hands haven’t suffered the indignity of a Fairy Liquid bath.

The Boxing Day Hoodoo Strikes Again

“Hark now hear, the Lincoln sing. The Grimsby ran away. We will fight for evermore, because of Boxing Day

I first heard those magical words in 1988, several years after we had last played Grimsby Town. Something used to spark the imagination about a Boxing Day fixture, something that kept my old man singing songs from ten years previous. He was singing this particular tune as he prepared to go and watch us beat Kidderminster Town 5-3, three days after Boxing Day in 1987 (I love my old man to pieces, but sometimes his songs don’t bear chronological relation to anything). Unfortunately I was misled by my father as to the level of success we achieve on Boxing Day, and although in 1987 we managed a 2-1 win at Boston, generally speaking the 26th of December is not a good date for Lincoln City.

Of course yesterday nobody ran away, certainly not from Lincoln City. Guiseley fronted us out in the bitter cold winds, and chance favoured them instead of us. It gave my left over turkey a bit of a sour taste, and made sure the next few days a little less ‘celebration’ and a little more ‘anticipation’ for New Years Day. We shouldn’t have been too surprised though, because we seem gripped by a Boxing Day hoodoo.

Take last year. The 1-0 defeat at home against Halifax Town was our sixth game without a win. In context it was ‘just another defeat’, in reality it was another defeat against opposition we expected to beat on Boxing Day. Halifax were relegated at the end of the season, and our next win didn’t happen until January 30th, ironically coming at home, 1-0 against Guiseley. I’m sure we’d all take that in five days time.

In 2013 it was the turn of Grimsby Town to inflict the festive misery on the Imps. Jake Sherdian was sent off, and in an example of how far we have come, Bohan Dixon kept Jon Nolan on the bench. Three days later it was Halifax again compounding a miserable festive period, trouncing us 5-1 after Alan Power’s 12th minute dismissal.

2012? Grimsby beat us 4-1 at the Bank. 2011? Grimsby again, at home again, this time a Liam Hearn goal snatching the win for them. Francis Laurent and Conal Platt started up front for us. Let that sink in for a moment. Yes we lost yesterday, but we have taken some massive strides since 2011.

The harsh fact is we’ve only won one Boxing Day clash since we’ve been in the National League, and that was the 2014 win against Alfreton, a win followed up by victories against the Codheads and Barnet. 2014 was a good Christmas for Lincoln City, although by January 10th we were back to our inconsistent selves, losing 4-0 at Eastleigh.

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Often our best hope for a good Boxing Day result is snow, and lots of it.

 

Mercifully the year we were relegated there was no Boxing Day football, the dousing of snow we endured kept football at a minimum, in truth probably the very best thing that could have happened. The less football we saw in the 2010/11 season the better. I still wake up remembering the joy every time a  home game was called off.

For our last really good Boxing Day result you have to go back to December 2009, seven years ago. At the time we were in free fall, motor mouth ‘manager’ Peter Jackson had gone, Mr Personality Chris Sutton had arrived and the club looked to be in the depths of a relegation battle. We hadn’t heard of Davide Somma at the time, or his knack of scoring goals for fun. We went into the Boxing Day clash with Chesterfield expecting nothing more than a trouncing and confirmation of the fact we were absolute crap.

We won 2-1, and if memory serves me correctly the biggest cheer of the day was reserved for Jack Lester as he missed a penalty at the Stacey West end. I would say it was a Merry Christmas, but with Brian Gilmour up front for you, Christmas can never truly be ‘merry’ in the strictest sense. If only we knew what was coming.

In 1999 it was Halifax again (3-0), 1997 Rotherham (1-0), and in 1996 Hull City beat us 2-1.

Let’s keep going back shall we? I feel inclined to mention Boxing Day 1985, a fairly unremarkable 2-2 draw against the Spireites. I want to mention it because a reader of my blog, Warren Ward, scored our second goal as we got a point. A point wasn’t much good though, Warren didn’t play again until April 22nd, and by then we were all but relegated. His three from five games at the tail end of the season couldn’t keep us up.

1984, Orient beat us 1-0. There was no 1982 Boxing Day fixture, but on the 28th we lost to Huddersfield. Even in 1947/48, the year we stormed to the Division Three North final we lost the festive fixture, 3-2 to Accrington Stanley. I picked that game because the superbly named Jimmy Hutchinson (no relation) bagged a brace.

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Lincoln City 1985/86. Warren Ward should be on here, he isn’t.

 

I picked a few random seasons from my books as well. 1962 Aldershot beat us 4-2. 1971 Southend beat us, 1970 Colchester, 1968 Port Vale did us 1-0 in front of 12,208 at Sincil Bank.

What is the point of me bringing you all this misery I hear you ask? Did we not suffer enough losing in dramatic fashion to Guiseley yesterday? Yes we did suffer enough, but our fathers suffered over Christmas before us, and before them their fathers suffered too. In fact their fathers also suffered. In our very first Boxing Day fixture we faced Horncastle Town competing for the Lincolnshire Senior Cup. The date was December 26th (obviously) 1884, and we lost 3-0 on The Wong. It was our only our fifth competitive game, but we were already setting precedents. The harsh truth is this: if you’re a Lincoln City fan, prepare for a shit Boxing Day.

The only exception to this terrible curse is if we play Macclesfield or Boston, two teams we have registered wins over on December 26th. Sadly Macclesfield could have done us a favour by getting a result this year, but succumbed to a late Jeff Hughes goal. It was Jeff Hughes who scored our winner against Boston, Boxing Day 2006. Hughes sat out the 2005 0-0 draw with Boston.

So what of New Years Day? Do we have another monkey on our back, and do Guiseley have a real chance of seizing on our festive frailties?

Our first ever NYD clash saw us beaten 5-1 by Newcastle United (1893), but in the main things do tend to pick up. The freshly christened ‘Boxing Day Hoodoo’ does seem restricted to that short period in and around Christmas Day, by the time the New Year arrives managers down the years seemed to have kicked some arses and got a response. Whilst we’ve lost all but one of our Boxing Day clashes in recent years, we’ve drawn three and lost one of our New Years clashes, with the closest fixture in 2014 (Jan 3rd) bringing us a 4-1 win.

Let’s just hope that Boxing Day 2017 sees Sincil Bank under six feet of snow, with no chance of a match until at least January 1st!

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Boxing Day 2010/11 season. One of the highlights of the campaign.

Christmas is over: Back to work

Wasn’t it a great day yesterday? The yuletide celebrations undertaken against a backdrop of Lincoln City top of the National League. With ‘just’ a double header against lowly Guiseley to look forward to, it seemed we might be seeing 2017 arrive with us still top of the heap. We won’t.

In truth until 3.37pm it didn’t seem to be all that important that we snatch a win. Nobody in the top six was looking like securing three points, and a draw would be enough to keep us top regardless. Football does have a habit of biting you in the ass, and just 48 hours after I released the graphic of Lincoln City top of the tree, we’re not there anymore. I expect some Tranmere fans are busy on a stolen laptop as we speak trying to knock one up all of their own.

There’s also some irony that the man who scored the goal to knock us off our perch is none other than Jeff Hughes, the former Imps who arrived at Sincil Bank a wet-behind-the-ears youngster and left us as hot property. Now, as his career winds down he seems to be the main threat to our attempt at regaining league football.

There’s no blame coming from me for today’s game. It was windy, but as far as I know wind affects both teams. There was a dubious red card given to Elliot Whitehouse, but that was perhaps to even up the scores after Guiseley also had a player sent off in poor circumstances. The only explanation for today is we were beaten, fair and square, by a team that had a game plan they stuck to. Let’s face it after failing to taste defeat for a couple of months, perhaps we needed a little prod. Perhaps.

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Two men with more to think about in the next couple of days than cold turkey and taking that unwanted jumper back to Next for a refund.

 

On reflection a draw would have been a fair result from a fairly turgid game, and if it wasn’t for the heroics of Maxted in the Guiseley sticks we might have got at least that. This wasn’t a tale of two goalkeepers though, and criticism of Paul Farman would be grossly unfair. The ball ended up in the net, it swirled in the wind and on that occasion it was Guiseley who were the benefactors. Paul Farman has done plenty to put us on the top perch on the 25th, and I would be pretty hacked off to read anything on social media blaming him for us being second on the 26th.

I suppose it’s easy for a blogger like me to be gracious in defeat when I don’t have to worry about it for months on end, but what can we really say? It’s been proven that we struggle against direct teams, and in the strong wind there’s often little choice but to go direct. We lost, Tranmere didn’t and we drop to second. We do have a game in hand, so our fate is still ours but I’d rather have points on the board. That said if we get those three points it will leave the so-called ‘super’ white army looking back up at us. There’s a long way to go in this title race, and there will be more twists and turns.

New Year will see a further shuffle around, Tranmere travel to Macclesfield which won’t be an easy trip, and we host Guiseley, a team who show much better form at home than on their travels. As the chasing pack all look to correct certain wrongs from today, it will be interesting seeing who is in the ascendency come January 2nd.

I suspect Danny will be itching to spend some of that money that has been stashed away from the FA Cup run, and if I had to pick one point out it would be the lack of a ‘game changer’ to come on and make an impact today. Harry Anderson offered a really unique threat from the bench, he (along with Marriott) changed the game against Tranmere and perhaps could have had an impact today. I’m not bitter about losing him, but DC will be aware that he has a war chest, and he’ll be aware of a need to spend (some) of it.

I did note young Harry had Boxing Day off, not appearing in the Peterborough 18 that drew at home. I wonder what it was that made Posh want him back so urgently for him not to even have a spot on the bench?

So we press on, the unbeaten run is gone but in a way it relieves some of the pressure that began to build up around the place. We are not unbeatable, we still have work to do to and we still have a fight on our hands. The more level-headed fan knew that anyway, but on a bitterly cold afternoon in Yorkshire we got a reminder of those facts.

Losing isn’t so much of a problem in itself, but failing to bounce back can be. We have lost back to back games twice this season, but I’m damn sure Danny and Nicky will spend the next few days plotting to ensure it doesn’t happen a third time.

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Were you naughty in 2016? Did Santa not bring you the self proclaimed ‘Book of the Year’ for Christmas?

Fear Not: The ‘Who’s who of Lincoln City 1993-2016’ is for life, not just for Christmas.

 

If you want to buy direct from Amazon then click here

If you want to buy from me on New Years Day them come and find me in the Trust Suite ahead of our revenge clash with Guiseley.

Copies will be limited, so please come early. I’ll be there from 1.30pm until 2.30pm, close to the bar at the back of the bar.

Merry Christmas to all my readers

Happy Christmas everyone, and thank you for all your support in 2016.

Like most good things at Sincil Bank, my blog really started as a reaction to the ‘Chris Moyses Swearing Saga’. I was having a tough time in a really challenging sales management role, and I identified with the frustration the then-manager had when receiving abuse on the side lines. As we know eventually Chris stood aside and allowed the club to take further steps forward, I was not so lucky.

My work brought me an awful lot of stress, and my one means of escape was this blog. In the beginning it was maybe one or two articles a week, read by a hundred people or so. I remember the first post that broke 200 readers coincided with a really bad day where we missed a significant target. I realised writing and expressing myself was actually a great comfort and distracted me from my god-awful job.

As the months have progressed so has the blog. I’m grateful to Danny and Nicky for giving us plenty of positivity to seize on and write about, as well as to Bob, Clive, Roger and the whole board for making it popular to be pro-club! Most of all though thank you to my football club and it’s wonderful fans, who have provided me with a great distraction during a time of increasing personal anxiety and uncertainty.

The blog led to the book, and the book led me to believe that perhaps what I write really is enjoyed by many. Knowing that I had such great support I resigned the role that was impacting so heavily on my life, and I’ve found something new, something that will give me time to develop my writing but also affords me the same level of responsibility as my old job. The turnaround from last December 25th has been phenomenal, and it’s in no small part down to the confidence you guys give me whenever you read my blogs.

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The Football Blogging awards were a real highlight last month, although they seem years ago now. I’m keen to see if I can get nominated and voted onto the awards again this year, but this time we’ll take a table full of Imps to represent LN5 on the national stage. I enjoyed the night immensely, but I was only the representative of a superb fan base.

Last month I hit 13,000 views for the third month on the bounce, and today I’m sat on 17,000 for December. These numbers don’t mean income, they don’t mean anything other than acknowledgement that mine is a blog Imps appreciate. The real significant numbers are 7,000 against Oldham, 6,300 against Tranmere and (at the time of writing) 3,800 against Ipswich.  So thank you, all of you, for supporting me but more importantly for supporting our club once again.

You might not realise it, but by simply reading my blog and commenting on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve helped me through a really tough year, and seen me out of the other side. I’ve made more friends in just nine months than I could ever imagine, all through DF, the Stacey West and my (critically acclaimed) first book. Come January 3rd I start my new role, but I’ll do my damnedest to make sure that I keep blogging and recording the developments of this special season.

Anyway to all you Imps out there, stop reading this and commence your day of drinking, eating and good cheer. It’s a good time to be an Imps fan and we all deserve to celebrate today as much as we can. You’ve earned it, just like you’ve earned the last six months of on field success.

Here’s hoping for more reasons to be cheerful in May.

Gary