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.
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.
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.