I was once lucky enough to attend a dinner at the Bentley Hotel commemorating the record 1976 season in which The Imps managed to smash all point records. I’m not going to harp on about the achievements of the squad because I’m sure you are all aware of exactly what was achieved that season. For me seeing those players who did those great things before I was born was an honour and I took my Dad along as an Fathers Day treat to really make the night quite special. The players themselves were all fantastic taking time out to chat to everybody and make sure everybody felt as much a part of the evening as they did. However as I sat watching the Imps legends my mind began to wander…..
I’d like to take you through a bit of my Lincoln City history if possible. Once again I’d like you to indulge me as I stray away from the usual debate on of who to play at right back or whether booing is acceptable (it isn’t). Today I’d like to get sentimental and issue a heartfelt acknowledgement to the man who introduced me to the drug that is Lincoln City.
Back in October 1986 my Dad took me to see my first City game, which turned out to be a complete washout. 2,000 people came to Sincil Bank to watch us get stuffed 4-1 by Hartlepool and for some reason I was hooked, although I can’t for the life of me see why! I assume my Dad bought me sweets or something on the way home as a bribe and I guarantee there would be a stop at a local drinking establishment. In turn my Dads first game was way back in the early 60’s and his father, my granddad, took him. I am led to believe my granddad witnessed the promotion side of 1947, which whetted his appetite for Lincoln City.
I had been brought up on a diet of stories about the great John Ward, the great Percy Freeman, the great Sam Ellis, etc etc. It’s often hard for a youngster to digest how good these players were, and although what they achieved was fantastic I still retained an ounce of scepticism. After all it was only the Fourth Division they won. My granddad always staunchly defended the Imps and proclaimed the 1976 team was possibly ‘the greatest city side ever’. That’s why 30 years on I attended a function to commemorate something I hadn’t experienced the first time round. Sadly my granddad passed away before we attended the dinner, otherwise I have no doubt that three generation of Hutchinson family would have shaken hands with Graham Taylor instead of just two.
My granddad is not only remembered as a true gent but also as a Lincoln City fan, and there are very few pastimes that can define a man as well. Your allegiance to a football club can make or break you; it can make or break your weekend, your week or even your year. 1988 was a great year for me, purely because we came up from the conference, ditto 1998, ditto 2003 albeit a failed play off final. Which football fan reading this remembers 1996 as a great year? I certainly remember balmy summer afternoons in the grip of Britpop and principally the year football came home.
Which takes me nicely back to the Bentley Hotel on April 6th 2006. As my father and I sat back watching Dennis Booth recall drunken events from that great year I noticed a tear in my Dads eye. He told me that his Dad would have loved the evening seeing his heroes so many years on, and he remarked that perhaps in many years time my son would take me along to a dinner of similar standing and only then I could know how he feels. Although admittedly I couldn’t get a feel for how my Dad felt the sentiment really struck home. Family are family by birthright and as the saying goes you cannot choose them. Quite often two family members are completely different and have to attempt to find common ground in order to share a conversation, but at that moment as Dennis Booth sat down I realised that our common ground was already in place. Thanks to something my Granddad did sixty odd years back my father and I have something to share together as only father and son can. In all honesty I have to say we are a different as Mo Mowlem and Kate Moss, but we have a glue that will hold us together for a lifetime. Football (Lincoln City in our particular case) may often be maligned as a hotbed of deception, bad behaviour and wasted money but I personally can forgive all that just for moments like that dinner, that night.
I think John Ward perhaps best summed it up for me. My dad was explaining that when we buried my granddad we placed my ‘John Ward – Lincolnshire Poacher’ scarf with him that once upon a time he’d given to me. I was sat attempting to force down a Prawn Cocktail when John tapped me on the shoulder. I started to explain the story to him and he stopped me dead. He said to me “Your Dad just told me, we just don’t realise as players what we mean to people”. He happily signed the menu for us and carried on his business and believe me when I say John Ward was spot on. Players and managers and even officials cannot possibly understand what this beautiful game gives people. It gave my granddad and my Dad a platform to enjoy each others company, it gave me a platform to enjoy my fathers company.
Ten years on and we’re still going to football together as much as possible. I was sat by his side on Tuesday as we debated the 0-0 draw with Solihull and I expect we’ll do it for as long as we possibly can.
Bit sentimental today I know, but hey it’s a real football blog, and sometimes football isn’t about what happens on the pitch. That’s only part of it.