This season has been amazing, and it has had such an effect on the profile of our football club. I remember going into the ground against North Ferriby with my friend Ben Grundy, and we both commented on how great it was to have more than 3,000 fans there. This coming Saturday I expect no less than 9500, indeed anything below that figure would be deemed incorrect.
That understandably means that there is a large group of fans who have either returned from a self-imposed exile or have recently discovered their local football team. By now it is apparent they’re not just Arsenal day-trippers, so I think it is important to welcome everybody with open arms. Bums on seats means money in the till, and a successful football club is built on three things: money, fans and a bloody good management team. If you have those first two things then you have almost every tool needed to climb the leagues, and when you throw a good manager in you have a recipe for success. Therefore it is vital we embrace our new-found popularity.
So I have decided to do a series of guides to Lincoln City, covering a few things that new fans or returning fans might not be aware of. I’ll touch on a few of the anti-heroes of the past decade, a few of the stand out stars and I’ll cover why it is important to always boo the TV when Chris Sutton is on it. This isn’t meant to be a patronising article, but it is absolutely 100% meant to be tongue in cheek. Please remember that when reading todays introductory article, Welcome to Sincil Bank (part one).
I’ve decided to divide the different sections of the ground into easily identifiable and dangerously stereotypical sections, so should one of the returning or new fans (hereby know as RON) find themselves in an unfamiliar part of the ground, or talking to a strange person, they’ll quickly be able to identify who they are and where they are usually sat. Probably. Either that or I’m about to write a frighteningly judgemental and highly offensive piece of prose.
Let us start with the Software Europe Stand
Firstly the sight of the Software Europe stand singing and chanting is as new to RON as it is to anyone who has attended matches over the past twenty years. Whilst the whole of the Emirates Stadium is a library, our little corner of quiet contemplation was always the Lego brick on the St Andrews side of the ground. It was rumoured in order to be accepted into the cult-like zen of the quietest part of the ground you had to turn up with a John Grisham novel and a comfortable cushion in case things got a little too excitable. These days the atmosphere in there is very different, and you’ll find a couple of different groups in here.
This stand always housed those people who have been invited by the club, or need to attend through their profession. You’ll find journalists in here, you’ll find opposition managers and scouts too. If a potential new signing is in the house, he’ll be sat somewhere up here as well. The stand itself is actually quite spacious and well designed, there just isn’t enough of it for it to look good. The reason the people of importance are in here is because at half time they can disappear down a little tunnel to a bar that isn’t packed and doesn’t serve its drinks in children’s party cups. The referees assessor sits in here too, which makes me wonder how good the view is because I’m surprised some of the jokers in black get another stab at officiating a game.
It is rumoured that Michael Hortin was once told to be quiet because he made too much noise in here, and he only screams and shouts so much this season because he can. Wherever he is you’ll also be able to spot the lesser-spotted Thommo, shuffling around spreading his wisdom far and wide with a CV in his pocket just in case.
Now this may seem very bizarre to RON, but not so long ago the guys running the football club weren’t all that popular at all. I think before Danny and Nicky turned up they were considering getting bullet proof glass all around their seating area, just in case. Nowadays it is very different, right in the centre of our success and smack bang in the middle of the Lego brick stand are the people running our club. They all dress the same, smart suits and Lincoln City ties and you’ll almost always find them talking to people, accepting the thanks of the community and generally enjoying being directors (for a change). Their position is precarious though, one slip up on ticket allocations or one misplaced or misunderstood comment on an interview and they’re on the phone to the bullet-proof glass company. For now though Bob Dorrian, Clive Nates and the rest of the people at the top of our club get to sit on their padded thrones and survey a happy Sincil Bank. They’ll even be smiling, and there are few club directors that have ever been able to do that.
The Quiet Ones
This may surprise many people, but there are some fans who don’t want to come and sing for 90 minutes solid. There are some that want to sit and enjoy a game of football, and for the first time in many years we are serving up football that demands to be enjoyed. There are a group of fans who sit in the Software Europe stand who are happy just to occasionally cheer, but in the main remain dignified and studious of the game being played. Even more shocking is that (and I’ve checked this) not singing for 90 minutes doesn’t make you less of a fan! Who would have thought it? Apparently it is possible to go to a game, have a couple of pints and wear your colours but not sing every moment you’re in the ground, and still be a proper fan. I’ll be relaying that message to the dribbling nob-head a couple of seats across from me in the Echo stand who think it is appropriate to demand everyone sing (or slur, I can’t tell with him) all of the time.
There is some crossover with the next stand, so we’ll move on to the Bridge McFarland stand, once upon a time known as the South Park End of the ground, now famous for having beautiful views out across the City but being a little bit ‘North Ferriby’ to look at itself.
Posh People in the Boxes
Alan Long is such a man of the people, but he does take great delight in waging his own class war on the microphone by acknowledging the ‘posh people in the boxes’ when he’s doing his rounds. He’s not technically correct, I went in a box once and the poshest thing I ever did was examine a tub of humus in Waitrose to confirm I was spelling it right.
However in the Bridge McFarland stand, and in the Software Europe stand there are a group of people know as ‘sponsors’ who make up the majority of ‘posh people in the boxes’. These people are not to be under estimated. Why? Because they put their money where their mouth is, and not just on one ticket a game. You’ll usually find them looking smartly dressed in bars that have more than adequate staff to ensure minimal queuing times. If you’re struggling ask them who the Man of the Match was, if they just say whoever scored the goal, or ‘Matt Rhead’ then you’ve probably found a group of sponsors.
You will find a sub species within the ‘sponsors’ genre, and these are the manual labour sponsors. These guys are a little bit different, because rather than turning up as posh people in boxes, they’ll turn up like a stag do looking to drink the place dry. They’re just as important, and you can usually tell which ones they are because they’re nipping out of the box every five minutes for a fag or for more beers. They’ll be louder, rowdier and at least one of their party will have come in Adidas Classics and a pair of jeans.
Once upon a time we used to play teams that brought proper amounts of away fans, and they had to be sat in the Echo stand where they could make maximum noise with great acoustics. This season we’ve been blessed by only having two teams bring more than 200 fans with them for a league match (Tranmere and Maidstone of all teams). Therefore they get to sit in the corner of the two stands where their songs drift away on the wind, and they can slope off quickly out the back door and onto their coach before we’ve even got to the ‘touching me, touching you’ bit of our favourite Neil Diamond hit. Usually the away fan can be found milling around the Travis Perkins Suite before a game, most have been well-mannered and polite, but then so would you be if you were generally outnumbered by anywhere from 10-1 to 100-1. If you’re struggling to identify the away fan he’ll usually have a nervous smile of optimism on his face before the game, and a glum look of despondence afterwards.
South Park Faithful
The rest of the stand is made up of Imps fans, usually those with accessibility issues which I am obviously going to make no jokes about at all, and those who wanted to stay at and ‘end’ of the pitch when we lost the Stacey West. There are as many of them as there are Forest Green away fans, but they’re loyal and often overlooked. I won’t ever be able to fathom why they don’t return to the Stacey West end now it’s open, they probably think the queues for food will be shorter if they stay put. They’re a bit like the Software Europe quiet ones, but occasionally they’ll be able to shout an obscentity at the keeper which keeps them in touch with reality.
Tomorrow (or maybe Tuesday, who knows?) I’ll be looking at the ever increasing Junior Imps Club, explaining the difference between block 7 and the 617 and attempting to ;put some words together to describe ‘that bloke behind you’.