Late on last week I started a light-hearted guide to Lincoln City for the 6,000 plus fans that have found their way back to the ground over the past six months.
I’m referring to them / you as ‘RON’ (Returning or New fans). I’m embracing our new-found and hopefully sustained popularity, and in order to facilitate a smooth transition from newby to die-hard, I’m doing a couple of guides to various aspects of the club. Last time out we talked about the people in the Software Europe and Bridge McFarland Stands. Today we look at the Coop (the stand, not the grocery store that never has enough people on the checkout).
So onto the Lincolnshire Co-op Stand, and I’d like to just break down a myth for everyone, not just the RON’s. The Lincolnshire Coop are your friendly local food stores, the ones where you can queue for hours whilst Linda stocks shelves looking on, and she’ll only come and serve you if Sheila presses the little buzzer under the counter. They have a mascot Kool Kat too, and over the years they’ve been a great friend to the club. The Coop Bank are not the same entity, they are the absolute bastards that almost caused the club to fold by demanding we search for alternative banking.
So Lincolnshire Coop only make bad decisions when it comes to staffing and designing too few car parking spaces in new stores. The Coop Bank are the ‘business savvy’ financial body that kicked out one of its most vulnerable customers eighteen months before we had a the footballing equivalent of a lottery win, achieved through the persistent hard work of everyone connected with the club. Well done Coop Bank, not only did you lose a customer which now has (metaphorically speaking) lots of money to invest, but you also lost my savings account of around £38. Double whammy.
Now we’ve got that sorted, who sits in the Coop stand? Well the first group you’ll encounter are the Junior Imps club. This is a wonderful scheme that allows Dad and Lad (or Mum and Daughters, but that doesn’t rhyme) to get into the ground pretty cheap. It’s recently allowed priority on tickets too, which hasn’t really been a perk until 2017. The JIC seem to have grown from around six families in 2011 to two whole tiers in double-quick time, meaning either Lincoln City are infecting our youth, or an awful lot of parents have spied they can save money by getting little Timmy (or Lucy, whatever) interested in the football. They sing a bit too, and joking aside it is great to see so many families coming to watch the Mighty Imps. It is how most of us started and hopefully it demonstrates a strong fan base for many years to come.
They also moan when they can’t get tickets (like today), but to be fair so does virtually everyone except our next group of fans: The Season Ticket Holder. They can be found in a couple of stands, but in the main they dwell in the Coop, always sat in their seat which is reserved with a little sticker to ensure they feel important. These guys have really hit the jackpot as well this season. It’s been well over a decade since there was any need for priority tickets, and designated seating wasn’t really a perk when you could pick a whole block after paying on the day. These hardy souls have put their money where their mouth is in the summer, and probably for many summers beforehand. They are the life blood of the club, the people giving our board a nice little boost ahead of the big kick off. They’re loyal and are at Sincil Bank through thick and thin.
But by god, don’t they make sure we know about it?
Up until the last six months the only thing being a season ticket holder has really earned you is the feeling of superiority over the plebs that pay on the gate. Any argument about loyalty could be trumped with ‘yeah, but I’m a season ticket holder’, or ‘I was there for Welling at home on a Tuesday night, I’m there every game’. Luckily their incessant god-complex has been dampened down now they get first dibs on tickets for all the big matches, they don’t need to feel important by constantly reminding you that they are financially stable enough to be able to pay for 24 football matches in one go. Now they can just wave their wads of tickets in the faces of all the RON’s who are forced to queue for almost every game of football. Have your moment ST holders, because next year instead of 1500 there will be 4000 or so of you and you won’t be able to revel in your self-importance (sorry Dad, I know you’re an ST holder too).
Next up are the 617. Now I know I’m on thin ice by trying to crack jokes or look light-heartedly at our resident noise makers. I’m hoping they have a sense of humour which is as good as their singing and bouncing, because if not I may get a slap this Saturday. Now I think the main point to pick up on here is the difference between the 617 and Block 7. Block 7 is where the 617 gather, and they encourage others to do the same. When many respond to the calling of the ring leaders the block is awash with visual displays, audio displays and a little too much topless man flesh.
Just to be in block 7 does not make you 617 though. If you’re in block 7 and you (for instance) damage a seat, then you are not 617, because they are a core of forty lads and not the whole block. They cannot be held responsible for you if you misbehave in the block, after all they’re only a small part of it. If you’re in there and you start a song that some think is inappropriate then again you are not the responsibility of the 617. However, when the whole block is bouncing and singing and their efforts spread like herpes around a brothel, infesting every man, woman and child in Sincil Bank, that is the 617. When an entire stadium joins in with a chant of ‘Allez Allez Allez Oh’ that originates from the Coop Upper, then that is definitely the 617. Are we clear? Do bad in block 7, you’re on your own. Be part of the atmosphere in block 7, you are 617. Until you do bad. Don’t sing in block 7 and you may as well wear a black and white striped shirt an enter the ground with six and a half pounds of rotting fish strapped to your heroin infested body.
Disclaimer: Of course their efforts are superb, and they should be commended for the way they have grown their core group and stuck to the principles in which they believe.
Another fan type that can be observed in the Coop, and probably anywhere else in the stadium is ‘the bloke behind you’. This doesn’t specifically relate to the exact bloke behind you, that would be unfair and discriminatory of me to say. Someone sits in front of me, and therefore I am the bloke behind them, but I am not (for want of a better word) a nob head like the bloke behind you.
Case point. It’s Imps v Dagenham and we’re 2-0 up. You’re on the edge of your seat as we nudge towards our ultimate aim of winning the National League. On 85 minutes Alex Woodyard picks the ball up in midfield, assesses his options and sprays it back to Paul Farman to eat up a few seconds.
(Shouts) “Not backwards Woodyard you bloody oaf.” (To other bloke behind you) “Bloody Woodyard is so negative again. I don’t know what they see in him. Useless, always passing back. The goal is the other way.”
You’ll begin to know who I’m talking about, you’ll have sat somewhere and had that guy behind you getting on one players back for no reason. They usually compound it by occasionally ramming a knee into the back of your chair, or farting and staying silent for a minute as everyone else sat around them pulls their shirts over their face to diffuse the air. Another one of their favourites is:
(Shouts) “Run for it then you fat bastard.” (to other bloke behind you) “Matt Rhead isn’t a footballer, look at him! He’s got a chest like a sumo. He can’t run, he can’t tackle. I don’t know why he’s on the pitch.” (other bloke behind you in reply) “That Angol isn’t much better, all he does is run and tackle. Why can’t he win the flick ons. We never look like scoring. (when Angol or Rhead score) “About bloody time as well. Now get them both off and bring Freeman on).
They’re the guys who never speak up on social media, probably because the rose-tinted brigade would slap them down, but they’re there, lurking behind the closed curtains of Lincoln. They’re probably members of the ‘I pay my money so I’m entitled to moan’ club too, and I suspect a few of them are even season ticket holders. All of that combines to create this self-absorbed completely indignant football moron who believes that supporting his club is all about pointing out everything he perceives to be wrong, loudly.
One phenomenon not seen at the Bank in a while is the mascot Poacher. You remember him right? Ugly fella, furry? Quite clearly a guy in a costume? Yeah? Up until this season he was a regular fixture at Sincil Bank, but since we’ve been good he’s hardly been seen or heard of at all. He was at Arsenal away, but that was the last he was seen. I’m beginning to wonder if he is just another day-tripper. You RON’s might not have seen him, but trust me once-upon-a-time we had a mascot who turned up for the less important games to. Maybe that is it, maybe he’s just waiting for another Braintree at home or Hartlepool in the EFL Trophy to make a triumphant return.
There we go, I was going to wrap this feature up in two parts, but I have a few more groups to identify before I do so we’re going to run to a third. Please do remember that this is entirely tongue-in-cheek, my Dad is a season ticket holder and I’m on very good terms with the 617 as well. Or at least I was.
Next time out we try and root out the remaining sleeper cell members of the fabled Moyses Mafia, we turn our attention to the Stacey West and we’ll examine the other peripheral figures that make up the rich tapestry of a packed Sincil Bank on match day.