300 Miles of Smiles

Another piece today from a guest blogger. Ben Bradford took the time to write the following piece about how Lincoln City impacts his life. Enjoy.

Every Lincoln City fan’s journey must start somewhere. For me it was the Keith Alexander era. This is where my Lincoln City journey and football connection with my Dad begins.  As a young boy we would visit Sincil Bank through the highs of the season and the lows of the play-offs.  This continuing struggle between the dream of League 1 and the reality of heart ache eventually came to an abrupt holt when we moved 150 miles up the A1 to Durham when I was seven.

As time past the trips to Sincil Bank became more scarce. The drug of watching live football most weeks seemed to die down and had to be compensated with Sky Sports. This drawn out and painful separation did not help to silence the nightmares (and reality) of non-league which had long since replaced the youthful dreams of League 1.

Obviously, we made the trip down as often as possible, and there were still the mandatory away trips to Halifax, Darlington and Gateshead. Looking back, I don’t think I can ever remember a game against Darlington that didn’t end 0-0.  The highlights of those games were standing outside their impressive, large stadium to only then venture inside and hear the silence of the empty stands and the shallow echo of the referee’s whistle.

For many years Lincoln City probably optimised that Darlington stadium. During the summer holidays, when looking from the outside, my dad would generally say that there was optimism for next season.  However, in reality this optimism had been misplaced. As the years dragged on school was replaced by college and finally university up at Northumbria. With age came a solemn acceptance of what we had become, a middle table non-league side. Therefore, you can forgive me for sensing deja vu when my dad had the same optimism last August.  The names of the Cowley brothers still fresh on my tongue.  How wrong I was.

For years my dad had been waiting, searching for that one glimmer of hope that he could attach himself to and use as a tailwind back down the A1. He had found this in Danny.  Therefore, from that moment on my dad had found an excuse to invest the hours of driving and petrol money back into Lincoln City.  Usually, with my brother and I in tow (though my brother always sleeping) we would embark on the adventure.  By the end, our Saturday routine was so rehearsed it was conducted to military precision. Leave the house at 9, arrive at my grandparents in Lincoln for a bacon sandwich for lunch before driving into Lincoln for game time.  The journey back was filled with football talk and listened to 606 on 5Live.  We would then relive the game to my mum when we got home for 8.  By the time my dad brought his ‘Final StrEight´ ticket the journey was set in stone.

Final StrEight joy as we beat FGR 3-1

There were a few mid-week trips that took some more dedication. Leaving Newcastle on the Tuesday afternoon and making sure I was back for a 10 o’clock lecture on Wednesday was difficult. Also, as I was in my last year of university maybe I should have spent my Saturday’s in the library like my friends.  However, the thought of a raucous and ecstatic Sincil Bank dragged me in every week.   All in the name of Lincoln City.

For my dad, the countless miles and long days seemed like an easy sacrifice, and asking him to contemplate spending his Saturday’s in any other way would be a waste of breathe. He would happily take a day off work mid-week just to go and queue at the ticket office so he could ensure that me and my brother would not miss out on the Imp’s journey.

We will all have our own memories from the season. For me one of the best memories had to be the Torquay, Gateshead and Macclesfield matches.  Eight days of pure leg jangling nerves and ecstasy which were optimised by the Gateshead game. A small metro trip for me and the shortest drive of the season for my dad but arguably the biggest step of the club’s season.  When Nathan Arnold scored that volley I turned to my dad in disbelief and jubilation.  In that moment I had been transported back to childhood and those days where it was ok to dream as a Lincoln supporter.

But in my dad, I saw more. Not only was there the youthful and careless shouting and fist pumping but also a man where a heavy weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Within those three games alone, Danny and his men had repaid my dad for the countless 300 mile round trips. He had proven to my mum that his faith was well placed and he had restored that love of football that I feared he may have lost. My dad’s trip to Burnley and both of us witnessing the Emirates gave us a sense that cannot be described and one which I believe can only be witnessed at a football match.  For me it is the desire and hunger for this feeling which makes people love football and optimises why it is known as the beautiful game.

The other week our neighbour popped round to give my dad a present. He had met Danny at an airport and ask him for his signature. I have never seen a simple two-line message on the back of a travel brochure mean so much to someone.  As the song goes, Cowley is our King and, in our household Danny, Nicky and their dad are practically worshipped.

So finally, in an untraditional manner, it’s time to thank some people. Thank you to my mum, a Grimsby supporter, and my girlfriend who we have deserted every week for our second love. Thank you to my dad for the unrelenting miles of tarmac that he has covered. Finally, thank you to Lincoln City itself who has made the tedious, road-work infested A1 the happiest journey it has ever been.  Now, as the A1 seems to be entwined with Sincil Bank, I cannot wait for the next journey to begin.

4 Comments

  1. Excellent article. Did you and your dad stay at the Premier Inn at Burnley with some mates from the navy? If so, I was the bloke who joined you on Friday night when my wife threw in the towel and went to bed

  2. Err no that wasn’t us but sounds like quite a night! Thanks for the article Ben, almost brought a tear to my eye.

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