I welcome another guest blogger to the Stacey West: Shaun Dixon gives us his views on the past season. This was going to be a Facebook post but he decided it was too long and he’d get moaned at!
Well I think we’ve had a fairly half decent season for a change. Some blokes called Clive Nates, Danny & Nicky Cowley joined us, followed by some half decent looking signings, Nathan Arnold, Sean Raggett, Sam Habergham, Alex Woodyard & Harry Anderson (on loan). We wondered if any of them will be any good for us. We open the season with a good away win at Woking and follow that up with our first home game of the season in front of 3622 fans which we thought could be our biggest crowd and biggest queues of the season ! Oh how little we knew !! 90 minutes later and we’d thrashed North Ferriby 6-1 and dared to dream that we might just finish higher than 13th for a change and could possibly push for a play off place. Oh how little we knew !!
The Lincoln Loco had started to rev its engines and we also hoped for a decent little cup run for a change. The early banana skin rounds were negotiated and we drew Oldham at home. The TV cameras turned up and soon became our new best friends. We roared into a 3 nil lead, Theo’s on fire, and we hold off Oldham’s fight back and cling on to victory as thick fog descended on the Bank. The final whistle blew just in time and massive celebrations began. Things can’t possibly get any better than this can they ? Next up Championship side Ipswich and an IMPVASION was born. Even the word began trending on twitter but we couldn’t possibly get a result there could we ? We’d be climbing mountains. But we are the better team and come away with a fantastic 2-2 draw and are unlucky not to win after conceding a late equaliser. Our replay was to be live on national television and angry Holby City fans took to twitter. We responded with a cheeky “Sorry Holby City fans” advertising board. There was an uproar about tickets, queues, and half & half scarves but anyway it would only be for one game wouldn’t it ?? The BBC cameras descended upon Lincoln, Gabby Logan’s a fitty and Trevor Sinclair’s an Imp. Max Arnold, Nathan Ireland and Cecil Bank become new catchphrases. But we couldn’t possibly win the replay could we ? The top teams always learn from their mistakes of the first game and non-league teams only get once chance to cause an upset don’t they ? Replays are rarely won. Then came the final minute and THAT PASS from Marriott and THAT FINISH from Arnold ! Cue the Titanic music !! Hortin’s commentary “Arnold does it ! Oh yes he does ! I’M HUGGING DANNY’S DAD” !! Things can’t possibly get any better than this can they ?
We draw top of the Championship side Brighton and cue more ticket issues, more queues, more half n’ half scarves ! But we couldn’t possible win this one could we ? This is where our cup run ends isn’t it ? We’d be “reaching for the stars” to get a result here ! 0-1 down at half time and it looks like they are right but the “footballing gods” have decided to jump on board the Lincoln Loco and a magnificent 2nd half fight back kick-started by Power’s balls of steel penalty and Connor McGregor strut set us on the way to an incredible win. Things can’t possibly get any better than this can they ?
We draw Premier League Burnley away. More tickets, more queues, more half & half scarves, but this is where the dream ends isn’t it ? We are peppered with “Burnley have a great home record and not many Premier League teams have come away with anything from there this season”. Mark Lawrenson gave our chances of getting past them a very firm “NO”. We had climbed mountains and reached for the stars in previous rounds but we would be in outer space and discovering aliens to get anything at Burnley wouldn’t we ? It would be impossible to win there wouldn’t it ? But Danny famously says “Impossible is just an opinion, not fact” ! Joey Barton appears to faint after trying to wipe his nose on Rheady’s arm and then comes Raggett’s dramatic 90th minute header ! Thank goodness for goal line technology! Cue the Titanic music again !
The Lincoln Loco isn’t so much as revving its engines as making an unstoppable roar as we also maintain our league form during this time with too many fantastic victories to include but special mention has to go to the period between mid-November and mid-December when we beat top of the league FGR 3-2 with 2 goals in the final 3 minutes to prevent them going 12 points clear at the top of the table. York and Maidstone are quickly beaten and then on a cold November Tuesday night we sing our hearts out to drag the boys over the line to beat Wrexham 1-0 to overhaul FGR’s lead and go top of the league after playing with 10 men for an hour and the roar at the end of the full time whistle is deafening. Our next league game is our new nearest rivals Tranmere and we feel cheated as their striker trips over a blade of grass to earn an undeserved penalty. But Danny comes up with his famous inspirational half time team talk of “we can either be victims or fighters” and Adam Marriott comes off the bench to fire home a fantastic winner to complete a great double over our rivals. We also reach the semi final of the FA Trophy during this time with our Lincoln Lizards !
Then its back to the incredible FA Cup run which captures the hearts of the nation and many people say has put the magic back into the FA Cup. We are the first non-league team in 103 years to reach the FA Cup Quarter Finals ! More tickets, more queues, more half & half scarves ! The boys walk out at the Emirates Stadium in front of 60,000 fans for a live TV game in the FA Cup Quarter Final. That alone is astonishing. Arsene Wenger loses his bottle and puts out a full strength team of multi million pound internationals to beat us. But for 45 minutes we go toe to toe with them. And there are a few if only’s. If only Arsenal hadn’t put out a full strength team. If only it hadn’t been for Cech’s first half finger tip save from Arnolds mazy dribble. If only it hadn’t been for that damn injury time ! But there is glory in defeat as nearly 9000 imps totally out sing 51,000 gunners for the entire match. Danny receives an unprecedented ovation from the national press at the end of the post match press conference. Proof that’s it not just Lincoln that’s taken him to our hearts but even the experienced grizzled national media hacks have been won over too. The cup run may have come to an end but the financial rewards mean that so too has the huge debt that has hung around the clubs neck like an ever tightening hangman’s noose for so long. Kevin Cooke says we no longer have a minus sign on the balance sheet and we even have a “war chest”. The Cowley’s contracts have been extended and some good loan reinforcements are added to give us cover in every position for the title run in.
Disappointment at missing out on a place at Wembley follows when we are knocked out by a controversial penalty in the FA Trophy semi final. But the league has always been the main priority and we bounce back live on telly yet again with a convincing win over Forest Green to complete the double over them and replace them back at the top of the table. Dagenham are also totally outplayed and beaten in front of our friends the TV cameras again at the end of 3 games in 6 days. Tranmere boast about wiping out the goal difference after racking up a score not seen since a game of subbutteo, but Raggett’s goes one better by heading the winner against Eastleigh with a tooth hanging out. (That new signing turned out ok too didn’t he ?). The Trannies think they’ve killed us but lose to FGR while we overcome Chester in what Danny says is the first time he has known the fans win a game for a team as nearly 7400 imps sing their hearts out for the entire 90 plus 7 nerve wracking minutes of injury time.
Tranmere still think Lincoln are going to bottle it on Good Friday as they go 2-1up against Aldershot while Lincoln are 0-1 down to relegation threatened Torquay with 4 minutes to go. But it’s Tranmere’s bottle and title hopes that go as they draw 2-2 while Good Friday becomes Fantastic Friday as following Jack Muldoons tireless warm up act, Adam “Beyonce” Marriott enters the stage to create two dramatic late goals for Harry Anderson and free kick magician Sam Habergham (those two signings didn’t turn out too bad either did they !) to cue utter pandemonium in front of the biggest National League attendance of the season of 9011. Then a few days later lightning struck twice as Easter Monday became Manic Monday. Tranmere are winning and we’re 0v1 down at Gateshead going into the 89th minute. Physically exhausted we may have been but never mentally tired or beaten. Bring on a nerveless Rheady penalty and then his beautiful headed pass (remember Arsene Wenger identifying Rhead as a danger because he said Rhead can pass the ball with his head better than some players can pass the ball with their feet !) to set up another piece of Arnold brilliance with superb chest control, turn and volley (That‘s another one of those new signings that turned out ok then didn‘t he). Cue pandemonium again. Cue The Titanic music again. Now that’s how you kill the opposition !
So it was all set up to win the title in front of our own fans live on telly yet again (no longer a surprise !) against Macclesfield in front of over 10,000 fans. We go 0-1 down but this team are capable of more comebacks than Mohammed Ali and two Terry Hawkridge goals win the game and the title along to Hortin’s commentary “Terry Hawkridge YOU LITTLE BEAUTY !!!”. The final whistle blows and the pitch Impvasion begins and the most amazing celebrations that will live long in the memory. The ground rocks to “Sweet Caroline”. Grown men are moved to tears and Danny, Nicky and the players are chaired around the pitch. We’ve only gone and won the League Title !! WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS !! WE ARE FOOTBALL LEAGUE !!
It was a season of firsts and breaking records. As well at the historic FA Cup run we continued to break away attendance records everywhere we went. The Junior Imps membership multiplied faster than rabbits on Viagra and the city was awash with youngsters wearing Lincoln City shirts instead of the Premiership giants. We broke new ground with the introduction of the Lady Imps Supporters Association and over 600 members in just its first few weeks. And John Robinson’s famous videos were born ! The night before every game became compulsive viewing as we eagerly awaited those immortal words “It’s only match day Eeeeeve……..COME ON LINCOLN !!!.” I expect Alex Woodyard will win at least one trophy at the Player of The Season Awards including the main one so I guess that’s the last of those new signings at the start of this piece that didn’t turn out too shabby either did he We were the headline act first up on Match of The Day on more than one occasion and even Danny had a shave as The Cowley brothers became the star guests on the show.
Danny and Nicky Cowley didn’t just awaken a sleeping giant and ignite the engines on the Lincoln Loco. They re-united a club and energised a city. They took us all on “The Journey”. The Board, the management, the coaching team, the staff, the players, the fans, the City. We were all made to feel “part of the process”, we were all “on method”, Danny was right “We ARE stronger together”. Together we became winners. Together we became Champions.
Have a great summer everyone. See you next season. See you in The Football League
PHOTOS BY GRAHAM BURRELL