Being a football fan is all about moments, it’s all about taking the rough with the smooth. To make being a football fan justifiable to yourself, you have to place great importance on times such as last season, and not so much on the five years of malaise we endured prior to that.
It’s like being in a long-term relationship, eventually you notice all those little things about your partner that aren’t idea, but you ignore them because the good times make up for it. When you’re at work you endure the 40 hour monotonous dredge because once a month you get the kicker, a new pay packet.
Pre-season is a time when all football fans can be optimistic too, a time when the table is reset, the good teams move out of your league and the worst of those about you drop down. It is a time when mid-table obscurity is suddenly viewed as a sound base for a promotion challenge, a time when even fans of relegated teams can console themselves with being in a lower division containing weaker teams. Even if you are inherently crap, you can still glean a bit of hope in July. I’ve done it, year after year, always believing this is our year. In 2016/17, I was right.
That isn’t why I believe now is a good time to be a City fan, nor is it purely because we won the league last season. Firstly though, a word on football fans. I know of nothing else where people can believe so vehemently in one thing, but argue so much about the same subject. A glance on social media will tell you all you need to know, people falling out over missing right-backs, over when tickets are available, on whether to boycott games or not. All around me fan are arguing away as if there is no tomorrow, and you know what? I think it’s great.
I means more people than ever care about our club. I never saw any debate like this before, two years ago the 1200 season ticket holders didn’t really want to get their tickets, I think they did it out of duty. We weren’t in the EFL Trophy to fall out about it either, and nobody cared sufficiently about our players to care whether they stayed or went. All we talked about was the possibility of challenging the top ten in England’s fifth tier, a forgotten club lost to the wider world of football and abandoned by all but a few diehard supporters within our own city limits.
That is one of the reasons it is so great to be a fan now, because more and more people care. No longer do you have to walk into your local and scour the room for the one other person who thinks that Welling away is a crucial fixture. No longer do you greet the new person at work excitedly in case he (or she) might harbour the same secret desire for the red and white as you. No longer are you a secret Imp, now you’re out. Now you can scream ‘We are Imps’ randomly in a town centre pub and almost immediately everyone will join in with you. We bided our time, but finally Lincoln City are back in fashion.
We’re not just back in fashion now, but we’re breaking new ground every single day. I can’t recall a transfer policy in the close season that brought the leading scorer from a team who played the season before at a higher level. I can’t recall us tempting tenacious Premier League youngsters, not ones who actually have skills to match their status. I can’t recall us ever bringing in a player like Billy Knott, skilful and tricky with the sort of pedigree reserved for a higher division. I certainly can’t recall our best players being linked with moves away, and then staying put. If you think pre-season itself is cause for optimism, then the actual facts of the situation should feed that even more.
I wonder how many other teams could put on a screening of their season highlights DVD at the Odeon cinema in their City, and need two screens for the demand? That whole event is a testament to how much the club has grown and morphed into something everyone can be proud of. I can’t wait, I’ve had to juggle all sorts of appointments around to take my place on the red carpet, but just like the open top bus ride, that evening is a celebration of the club and the city settling into perfect synchronisation. Lincoln City is loved by fans, but also by the everyday residents of our fine home city. I’ve never known it, I’ve never known so many people be proud of the football club.
Financially we’re stable, the crowd funder isn’t a cry for help but an opportunity to help. The future of the football club is assured, now we raising money to help build the beast bigger and better. Fund raising isn’t always about being on the bread line and paying bills, as Danny Cowley says it’s all about adding value to what we already have. If you’re proud of this club then it’s another opportunity to put cash in. Some don’t want to, that fine, that’s your prerogative. The fact people are arguing over whether they want to invest in the crowd funder, or save their money for other schemes is yet another sign of how far we’ve come.
A popular football blogging site asked 22 fans of League Two teams who they felt the dark horses were this season, and 10 of them said Lincoln. That’s 10 out of 21 (I was asked and couldn’t really say Lincoln) other fans recognise what we are building here. They see the buzz and the industrious work around our club, ad they’re looking in from afar. The tag of ‘dark horses’ perhaps isn’t something we want, sliding under the radar did us nicely last season, thank you very much. What it does show though is that our optimism is founded, that our club is experiencing something unique, something it has not experienced in many years. That isn’t disrespectful to previous chairman, managers or boards, they did what they could. No, it is instead a pat on the back for the current regime in achieving a level of togetherness and belief that I have never witness in my thirty-one years following Lincoln City.
So, whenever people wonder why we’re football fans, we can tell them about how things feel right now. We’re on the cusp of a return to the Football League, bigger, better and stronger than we’ve been in decades. Nobody has burst that bubble yet, we haven’t lost our opening three games, we’re not knocked out of the cups yet. Our new signings are still world-beaters, they’ve not proven to be over-hyped. There’s money in the bank, we’re well managed and the whole city cares.
It’s a great time to be an Imp, it’s a great time to be alive.