I’ve been busying myself this week with a bit of writing, predominately finishing my book about life as a football mascot. I’ve been planning and writing it (on and off) for fifteen years, but recently I’ve felt the story has come to a good conclusion, and it is time to be told. One of the ongoing plots in my book is obviously the history of Lincoln during my tenure as Poacher the Imp, and as such I’ve looked at the reigns of various managers and how they contributed to our downfalls or revivals.
I’ve always outwardly spoken of our recovery beginning under Chris Moyses, and I’ve been highly critical of Gary Simpson’s time in charge. However, as I pen the final chapter or two of my book I’ve realised I’ve been mistaken. I never rated Simmo as a manager, but begrudgingly I’m forced to accept that our turnaround actually started under him.
The problems that developed over the years 2009-2013 included a lack of a cohesive and competitive squad. We featured loan players, players on short-term deals and you never knew which eleven players would represent us from one game to the next. I appreciate for managers like David Holdsworth budget was an issue, but in truth it started around the time Peter Jackson came in. He began the break up of the squad, and we never got anywhere near settled afterwards. Until Gary Simpson came in.
Don’t get me wrong, as a tactician I think he was limited, and decisions like sending Farms out on loan, and playing Todd Jordan regularly still irk me to this day. He did put some foundations in place though, he reintroduced the concept of us not relying on loan deals and short-term deals all the time. He was the first manager in several seasons to put together a squad with a spine that spanned more than twelve months.
That sort of stability should be recognised as the very first building block of what we see today. Almost all of the players from his reign are no longer with us, but he laid down the benchmark for both Chris and the Cowleys. Having a regular back bone to the team is crucial, and he started that off after the Jackson / Sutton / Tilson / Holdsworth years. For more than a few months Tom Miller, Sean Newton, Alan Power, and Ben Tomlinson were the first names on the team sheet, which made a drastic change from the four previous seasons. With that came slightly better form than we’d shown in the previous seasons.
He also brought a mediocrity to the team, and that represented a serious step forward. For two years we’d flirted with relegation and the prospect of dropping off the radar altogether. Without achieving too much success he brought a mid-table side, one that could enjoy Easter without the spectre of a league clash against Gainsborough Trinity the next season. It didn’t please everyone, it certainly didn’t please me at the time, but looking back it was a major turning point in our fortunes. We were still at a low ebb, but we were marginally better than our lowest point. Resounding home defeats against the likes of North Ferriby seemed like bad times, but in context they were at least against a back drop of league safety.
So my apologies Gary, my writing has proven to me that I have been unduly harsh on you in blogs and conversations since 2014. When the story of Lincoln City gets told, it has to be noted that the revival began under Gary Simpson, albeit slowly and tentatively.