There’s little doubt we are currently watching one of the best Lincoln teams for a long while. Last night I proclaimed on social media I thought it was the best side in a decade. In order to achieve that feat it would have to be a better side than John Schofield’s play off semi-finalists of 2007.
As I have an extra hour to play with today and my body clock isn’t as easy to put back an hour as my normal clocks I decided to do a pound for pound comparison of yesterday’s squad compared with the Imps team that took to the pitch on the corresponding date in the 2006/07 season. On the 28th of October 2006 we beat Swindon 1-0 away to go top of League Two. Tough competition for the class of 2016.
I would like to point out that I’m going to have to be really objective here. I know some players read my blog (cheers boys) but I can’t let that cloud my judgement if I’m going to get an honest result. Also I haven’t planned this in advance, I’m literally matching the players up one against another as I type.
Alan Marriott v Paul Farman
Ouch, started with a tough call. Paul Farman is my favourite Lincoln keeper since Alan Marriott, but Mazza was an outstanding stopper who deserved his testamonial. I’ll never forgive Peter Jackson for treating him the way he did. I’m afraid at this moment in time Mazza edges it purely for his consistency of performances over a spell of several years. However Farms isn’t far behind and if he continues to perform to the levels he’s found in the last twelve months then I have no doubt he could go on to eclipse everything Mazza achieved at Lincoln.
Lee Beevers v Bradley Wood
That’s right, Lee Beevers was our right back the night we beat Swindon, and ten years later he could have been compared to himself had it not been for that cruel injury on Tuesday night. Remember I’m comparing the Lee Beevers of ten years ago to Bradley, not Lee of today. Even then it is an incredibly tough call. I’m going to say that I think Bradley Wood of today could give Lee Beevers of ten years ago a run for his money, but Lee went on to achieve good things at a better level. It’s a tough call, but as it’s 50/50 I’m going to plump for Bradley Wood because I’ve never seen him lose a 50/50!
Paul Mayo v Sam Habergham
Sam Habergham, all day long. I was never the biggest Paul Mayo fan anyway and I feel that Sam has more to offer going forward as well as being more than a match defensively. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of our England C left back as yet, and running at 80% I think he’s a better option than Mayo.
Nat Brown v Sean Raggett
Again a clear win for the current defender. Sean Raggett is getting better and better, and his partnership with Luke Waterfall is beginning to look incredibly solid. Yesterday we conceded two which was unlike this defence, but Raggett increasingly looks lik a player who will play higher than the National League, and probably higher than League Two as well. Nat was a limited centre half who played with passion but didn’t have the ability to reach the levels Raggett does. My only whinge with Raggett is sometimes he carries the ball out of defence and you just want him to play it easy and drop back into position. Despite that it’s a win for the current team.
Adie Moses v Luke Waterfall
We’re comparing a player on his way down (Moses) against a player on his way up (Waterfall) and it’s a close call. I think had we been comparing six months ago I’d be tempted to go with Moses, but his spell at Lincoln was at the tail end of a decent career. Waterfall has come on leaps and bounds since being given the captaincy and has possibly been our most consistent performer over the last ten games. This is looking like a whitewash, but the current side gets it again.
Defence: Tough on Paul Farman coming up against a real club legend in Alan Marriott, but other than that the defence of 2016 is (in my opinion) much better than the defence that topped League Two going into November of 2006. The best defender of 2006 (Beevers) is with us now!
Ryan Amoo v Harry Anderson
The question here isn’t would Anderson get into that Lincoln side, that answer is obvious. The real question is how did Ryan Amoo ever get into the side in 2006? He wouldn’t make the bench in 2016, in fact he would probably be out on loan somewhere like Halifax or Fylde. No contest.
Nathan Arnold v Jeff Hughes
At last a proper match up to get my teeth into. Nathan Arnold is a league quality player, of that there is no doubt. Jeff Hughes ten years ago was just embarking on a sterling career that would see him play at a really good level. I like Arnold a lot, he has a great engine and an eye for goal, but Hughes was in his Lincoln prime in the 06/07 season and even with my tinted spectacles on I can’t give this match up to Arnold. Two players who would grace any team at League Two level, even today.
Lee Frecklington v Alan Power
Now we’re talking, now I’m beginning to see what the 2006 side did have to offer. After a mediocre looking defence we’re into a real powerhouse of a midfield. Lee Frecklington ran the show that season and was pushed out of the club by ego Jackson a season later. Alan Power is another Lincoln City stalwart who deserves a promotion to add some glitter to five years of real battling. I really rate Power and I’m delighted to see him in the side but if someone offered me 2006 Lee Frecklington to play alongside Woodyard I’d take him all day long. This one goes to Freck.
Scott Kerr v Alex Woodyard
Scott Kerr divides opinion even today. Many have him down as a pointy and shouty workman with little substance and a lot of bluster. Others have him down as an unsung hero, a workhorse who kept running above and beyond the call of duty to try and pull the Imps out of the mire. For the record I have him down as the latter, and therefore this isn’t a straightforward choice. Woodyard though, well Woodyard is different class. He does the unsung work and a lot of the dirty work, but he does it in such a way that you notice what he’s doing. His passes aren’t always the easy option, but nine times out of ten they hit their target. Like Kerr he perhaps needs to add a goal or two to his repertoire, but if he does then they boy could go on to play (and I’m not living in cuckoo land here) top flight football. That’s how good Woodyard could be, and I’m afraid that puts him a cut above Scotty Kerr.
Midfield: It’s a tight battle, John Schofield assembled a decent midfield back in the day. It’s a draw overall, but I think the margin of victory for Anderson over Amoo gives the mantle to the class of 2016. Again.
Mark Stallard v Matt Rhead
Now here’s a clash you wouldn’t want to get in the middle of. Anyone getting caught in a Stallard and Rhead sandwich would come off worst. They’re actually very similar players, both rough and tumble forward men with a reputation for being bruisers, but both possessing some really neat touches and flashes of skilful inspiration. Both score goals at a good rate and both bring something unique to the side. I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to call this, so it’s going down as a draw. I know some might say Stallard was a bit more mobile but I refuse to undersell the importance of Rheady to the current side. I think he’s been a revelation this season, he’s bounced back from the whole transfer list thing and shown such amazing character that I can’t honestly say I think Stallard was better.
Jamie Forrester v Theo Robinson
Well for a start Jamie scored his own goals and didn’t need to claim them from other people. This is a no-contest like Amoo v Anderson, Jamie Forrester oozed class from the second he pulled on a Lincoln shirt to the moment he left the club. He lacked the pace of Theo but his football brain compensated for that as he got older. His touch never, ever let him down and he was perfect foil for the big man Stallard. In 2016 the general consensus is that we need a Forrester style player in and around Matt Rhead, and at the moment that hasn’t proven to be Theo Robinson. Time may prove me wrong, but this one goes to Jamie.
Up front: It’s a win for the 2006 pairing of Stallard and Forrester. They’re the best centre forward pairing we have had in an awful long time and history hasn’t dulled their appeal for me.
On the bench
It’s just a straight out ‘which bench was stronger’ question here. Against Swindon it was Simon Rayner, Colin Cryan, Leon Mettam, Martin Gritton and Ollie Ryan. Yesterday it was Jamie McCombe, Terry Hawkridge, Taylor Miles, Elliott Whitehouse and Jack Muldoon. Again I think 2016 edges it for depth and versatility. In 2006 we were fine unless we needed a change anywhere across the midfield, whereas yesterday we could change any position on the field bar Paul Farman. The squad as a whole is incredibly strong and that is reflected on the bench.
John Schofield / John Deehan v Danny Cowley / Nicky Cowley
Up to October 28th 2006 I probably wouldn’t have heard a word against John Schofield, but after this game we lost five of the next six, and in the season run in we won just twice in 15 games including the play-off semi finals. Was there a plan B for Schofield? Probably not. The squad wasn’t strengthened adequately in the transfer window, and again in the summer and we paid the price. I don’t think in a years time we’ll look back on this season and say the same things about 2016/17 Lincoln. When we hit a bad patch earlier this season the managers had the resourcefulness and character to make the changes that corrected the slump, and I think history will eventually back up my choice of our current managers over the 2006 paring.
So overall I make that eight v four in favour of the 2016 side. Could they hold their own in League Two? Undoubtedly. The 2006 squad overachieved in those first few months of the season and then capitulated, whereas I firmly believe this current side will be in the mix right up until the end of the season.
I refuse to do a like for like from the season before because the Keith Alexander years were beyond compare, and to build the squad he did from administration would amount to much more than a straight forward match up, player to player. However I’m confident in saying now that this is the best side we’ve had in ten years.
Up the Imps.