So for the second time in (almost) as many months I had the pleasure of sharing a dinner with the Cowleys, although this time they weren’t on our table to experience my skills as a witty raconteur. Once again though they were on hand to give a group of eager fans an insight into their world.
This dinner was another crowd funder prize and for me it was a chance to buy a present for my old man I knew he’d appreciate. When his ‘present days’ come up he never unwraps socks, gadgets or gentleman’s toiletries. Nope, he often just opens a card and gets told a date to be available. We love these Sportsman’s Dinner events, this is the fourth time his fathers day or birthday present has involved a table of ten, some pints and a guest speaker.
I’m not here to review the night or relay Danny and Nicky’s answers to you. If you wanted to know what they said you should really have bought a ticket. I’m not particularly going to talk about the great food, the generous £50 bar tab for each table or the great array of auction and raffle prizes on offer.
I’m not even going to bang on about winning a raffle prize, although I did. Christmas crackers. Posh ones too with bottle openers and mini screwdrivers in. None of your pound land rubbish. It’ll be a John Lewis Christmas in our house, at least immediately after dinner it will. I’m hoping the hats are made of finest silk. Anyway…..
I want to highlight some of the unbelievable hard work that went in to creating the event and making it special. Often at these sort of events there is a ‘top table’ with the special guests on, and then the paying customers on tables around the room. This event was different though, Danny, Nicky and Jimmy Walker were dotted about on tables, and even more impressive a handful of players made the trip as well. They were also spread out on tables, and we were lucky enough to get Bradley Wood with us. You’ll be glad to know he isn’t the rampaging, terrifying animal he is when he’s getting up and down the line on a match day. He even shared his starter.
What really struck me was the relaxed and informal interaction with the officials of the club and the fans. Alex Woodyard came in for some real stick bless him. During the Q n A session he asked Danny an amusing question about his partner, and for the rest of the event he was the butt of most jokes. At one point Danny said ‘if this was a class room, Alex Woodyard would be sat outside’, and then when the lad put in a bid on a weekend’s use of a BMW I8 it was revealed he drives a Smart Car. It was playful dressing room banter being played out to the crowd.
It wasn’t just the manager and players getting stick though, Alan Long acts as a seamless connection between player, manager and fan. He was ready to poke fun at people (me and Santa Claus in particular) in the same way the management did with Alex and Brad. It made the evening feel much less like ‘us and them’, and much more like ‘us’, which fits nicely with the theme currently running through the club.
Another thing struck me which was an auction prize donated by Bob Dorrian. He had a print from the 2002 ‘Save The Imps’ campaign bearing the signatures of Rob Bradley and Keith Alexander. It is a priceless piece of memorabilia, something each and every Imps fan would cherish. He brought it from his own home and donated it as an auction prize. It raised a good sum but I think it typified what Bob puts in to the club. Even now, when financial stability and on field success has been attained he is still giving personal items to the benefit of the club. Bravo Mr Chairman.
Commercial Manager Richie Bates was darting about everywhere, silently conducting the proceedings and dropping last minute ‘bombshells’ during the auctions. On occasion he suddenly ‘doubled up’ and made two prizes available which raised significant amounts of money. One night at the Branston Hall Hotel became two lots of one night, and a 20 man brewery tasting trip became two trip for 20 men at last minute. It was nicely orchestrated pantomime which had the room applauding time and time again.
In truth I was off my feet last night more times than I was against North Ferriby. Brad, Alex and Jamie McCombe got a round of applause, the Chairman did, the managers did, the hilarious Jimmy Walker got one too…. the good feeling just kept on coming. I’m sure the beer and good food helped, but as ‘des’ for the night I wasn’t one partaking in alcoholic beverages. I suspect the table with Zab, the Nez’s and Mr Dawson on made sure the beer and champagne didn’t go to waste, and whatever else they could lay their hands on was consumed as well. Those boys enjoyed their night a lot. We all did.
I know I keep waxing lyrical about what is going on at the club, but there’s good reason. The event didn’t feature a ‘so-called’ big name (unless former West Ham keeper Walker is a big name, which to some he is), but it did feature lots of interaction, lots of people having a good time and most of all unwavering support from the board. Not only was Bob there but so was Roger Bates and Kevin Cooke to name just two. It was well supported, well received and it raised more money for our fantastic club.
I’m going to end by mentioning an unsung hero at the club. My Dad and I arrived at six o’clock when doors were six thirty. As I planned to move on to a High Street pub for half an hour Ian McCallum came out and told us they were ready to receive. He ushered us in a good half hour before we were supposed to, showed us where we were sitting and then directed us to the bar. Halfway through the night he came and found me and asked how it was going, was everything alright and were we having a good time. Nice touch.
Not many know this but on Wednesday night I was down at the ground as well. I was meeting the stats guys who run the iCoach4sport business and are helping the club. We wanted to get together for half an hour so I can write about what they do and give you guys more of an insight. The ground was mostly locked up when we arrived as Danny and Nicky had taken the chance to have an evening with their partners, so it looked like we might have to find a McDonalds. Instead Ian McCallum let us into the exec boxes at nigh on seven o’clock to do our stuff. He’d been due to go home, but as we arrived and he knows what the iCoach boys do he let us in and stayed around for forty five minutes just to let us get on with things. His missus might not have been delighted, but nothing was too much trouble.
In fact looking back on the training day he found me and the other two boys a couple of times to ask how it was, and even at the next home match he found me again to ask if everything was alright. Ian isn’t responsible for the product on the pitch, but he is responsible for a lot of the experience off it, and he really cares about how the hospitality is perceived. He’ll go over and above to ensure fans and customers get everything they expect and more. I think him and his team probably got a round of applause too, and they definitely deserved it.
Don’t forget there’s a book out that would make a great Christmas present to anyone who supports Lincoln City. It’s earning rave reviews (well, two) on Amazon. It’s called ‘Who’s who of Lincoln City 1993-2016’: and there are more than one ways to buy it.
If you want to buy direct from Amazon then click here
If you would like to order a signed copy to collect from me on December 17th against Tranmere then please send £13.99 (and who to sign it to) via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org or by clicking here
If you’d like me sign a copy and post it out then please send £17.99 to cover P&P via PayPal to email@example.com, or by clicking here Don’t forget to include your address and who to post it to
Please note although Amazon offer ‘Prime’ delivery to buyers, they don’t offer it to me on wholesale copies so any books ordered through me will be posted out first class week commencing 12th December.