The Imps go into their game against Tranmere on Friday with very little left to play for other than pride. However despite the relevance of the game diminishing for us after a couple of bad results, the consequences of it could be felt for a long while afterwards.
Cast your mind back to October 15th 2007. Do you recall it? I remember it well as it was a time of great personal upheaval for me, and the night before I’d sought solace from my troubles in a televised Imps game against MK Dons. I wasn’t saved from my malaise though as we got properly thumped 4-0 in front of the watching nation. October 15th saw John Schofield fired after only signing a three year deal five months earlier.
I’ve already blogged about March 28th 2005, the night we entertained Scunthorpe United live on Sky. It was a blinding game that captured everything great about the Keith Alexander days. Yeo and Taylor Fletcher tore our enemies from Glumford Park apart and pushed us right into the automatic promotion race. It also pushed those players into the spotlight with opposition scouts not even needing to leave the comfort of their armchair. Taylor Fletcher was snapped up by Huddersfield and Yeo went to New Zealand in deals many speculated were linked to their performances on the box.
I can continue if you’d like? Imps v Cambridge on a miserable Friday the 13th in 1998 that ended in a 1-1 draw but did massive damage to City for the direct and aggressive style of play. John Beck was heavily criticised on screen by Alan Brazil that evening and he was sacked shortly afterwards.
Of course being on the box isn’t always a curse. Back in the early 1990’s an FA Cup tie with Bolton Wanderers led to lots of exposure on Sky TV with Andy Gray even coming down to the Bank for a training session. For a sort while we were the darlings of the box, until another plucky underdog came along of course. We did lose the game 3-1 though, and since then success on TV has been hard to come by.
How about our first National League game against the then unknown quantity of Braintree Town? We didn’t even feel we should be in the league and they handed us a 1-0 defeat and a sharp taste of the reality of our situation.
In fact it is very hard to find any example of Lincoln City performing above expectations in recent years on the idiot box. Aside from the win over Scunthorpe and the televised play off games we’ve always failed to live up to the hype when the cameras come calling. I recall a 3-1 defeat by Fleetwood where the only positive to speak of was the fact Jamie Vardy failed to score. I recall being beaten by Luton 1-0 in the FA Cup, being beaten by Swindon at home at a crucial point in our automatic promotion push under John Schofield…. I can’t bear to go on because it’s bringing up really bad memories. Perhaps most recently and most painful was the wanton destruction of an out of form City by Grimsby this Christmas.
What’s my point? My point is TV and Lincoln City do not go well together, and the signs for Fridays encounter are not good. Chris Moyses spoke this week of having offered contracts to all those that are going to get them, so players are not playing for their deals in this game. We don’t have a chance of the play offs now, but Tranmere do. They have home advantage and a cross to bear as we prevented them from entering the first round proper of the FA Cup for the first time in their history.
It gets worse too Imps fans. The commentators on the show are former Grimsby Town and Tranmere man Ronnie Moore and Paul Hurst. I suppose they could have got an ex Imp in, but why bother when there will be two on the pitch looking to score against their old club in Jeff Hughes and Gary Taylor Fletcher?
I almost forgot to mention that the last time Lincoln won at Prenton Park was October 1950, and the last time we scored more than one goal there was 1977. Just digest that for a moment, we haven’t won at Prenton Park since hanging has been abolished. History isn’t on our side, form isn’t on our side and the entire pundit panel are not on our side. What is on our side?
The omens do not look good despite the rhetoric from the club that the players have rediscovered their fight. Have they really? Was the lure of staying in the play off race not enough to fire that fight? Do we honestly feel that they couldn’t get themselves up for games with a meaning, but are more than ready to show the watching fans what they can do on TV? If they turn on a performance are we concerned that it’s because they’re in the shop window?
Of course I don’t believe our players are as mercenary as that, but lets say Bradley Wood has his usual barnstorming outing putting in tackles and getting about everywhere. Other teams don’t have to spend money sending someone to find it out, he’s right here on the telly doing it while they tuck into a nice korma with their missus and sip on a glass of vino. It’s the easiest scouting mission they’ll ever go on.
So please excuse me but I don’t relish us being on TV and I don’t see how anything mildly positive can come from televising the match on Friday. We know the season has petered out miserably, and now the watching world (I’m not sure on viewing numbers so forgive my terminology) can see it peter out in front of them. However if we turn it on and derail the Tranmere hopes it could mean a couple of our key players become coveted by other clubs. Chris Moyses said contracts have been offered, but as yet we’ve had no firm confirmation on to whom, nor whether they have actually been signed.
Forgive my negativity today, but it is actually born out of hope. I feel this squad are better placed for an assault on promotion than any since we’ve come down. I feel strides have been made in the last twelve months on and off the field to leave the club in stronger shape. The green shoots of recovery are there every time Jack Muldoon scores a goal, every time James Caton beats a player and every time Greg Tempest puts his body in between the ball and the opposition. I just feel we need it to be kept low key and under stated as much as possible.
So come Friday I’m afraid you won’t find me in front of the TV watching the game. I’ll be in a garden centre somewhere with my missus debating on which grasses will make a nice border for my new garden path. It doesn’t make me a bad fan, but I’ve been burned watching City on the box before and I’m damned if it’s going to happen to me again.