Following on from my article about the visit of Manchester United Under-18s, director Roger Bates has spoken of negotiating for FOUR YEARS to try to entice the Red Devils to play at Sincil Bank.
Roger is the club director who has overseen the fundraising for the Future Imps Fund over the last six years, and his roots with Lincoln City run extremely deep indeed. He was the first ever editor of the Deranged Ferret fanzine, something that would seem like a rather unconventional way to become a club director.
After reading my article about the match earlier, he got in touch to tell me that the negotiations had been taking place since Gary Simpson was in charge of the club, underlining how much of a coup it really is to finally get them to Sincil Bank. Roger told me in a brief chat we had after he read my article earlier.
“Enjoyed your article earlier (obviously!), I just wanted to say how delighted we were to finally get this fixture. We’ve been in talks with Man Utd on and off for four years now so we’re thrilled to have got the fixture at last.”
Whilst these youth games are not everyone’s cup of tea, they are a superb opportunity for our younger players, and they offer the chance to see stars of the future up close for local Manchester United fans. Those who stand against modern football might not agree, but there is definitely validity in staging the matches.
“We played Liverpool a couple of seasons ago, and that attracted 2400 fans. We’re really hoping to exceed that for this fixture, this is the one we really wanted to get.”
I’ve heard rumblings of discontent about the number of events the club has staged recently, and the constant call for hands to be dipped into pockets. In particular there has been some criticism of a second crowd funder, and of the costs for the screening of ‘Impossible is Just an Opinion’, the season review due to be shown on two screens at the Odeon this Friday.
“All the proceeds from this event will go straight into Academy funds. Danny is keen to develop the Academy and 100% of the money will be used for that purpose.”
I know some people who began to feel exploited when the club charged £60 per head for the end of season awards dinner, and since then they’ve taken every opportunity to maximise income, whether it is sponsors covering the cost of the Portugal trip, the Odeon showing or the quick-fire friendlies at Sincil Bank. Surely, the club should maximise every opportunity available to them though, should they not? Nobody is holding a gun to people’s heads asking them to do everything. If you want to help crowd fund a new training ground, then by all means contribute to Cowley’s Perfect Pitch, but if you do not there is no campaign of hate against you. Despite the criticism of the Odeon screening, tickets still sold out within a couple of hours of going on sales.
Besides, this friendly isn’t about just boosting the club’s bank balance further. Roger has worked tirelessly through some very tough times just to keep the Academy ticking over, and now we’re on our way up again I’m delighted to see that impetus isn’t waning. Along with the Manchester United game there is the ‘You’re Supposed to be Away’ book coming out, again all proceeds going directly to the development of the Academy and therefore the development of young players around our club.
We have some superb people working with our younger players, Damien Froggatt commands an awful lot of respect from the players he coaches and all around the Academy there are committed and hard-working individuals wanting to provide a stream, even a trickle of players to the first team. In recent seasons the likes of Alex Simmons and Connor Robinson have come so close to establishing themselves, hopefully with extra funding a player or two will emerge as the ‘next’ Lee Frecklington or Lennell John Lewis. Goalkeeper Richard Walton is still highly rated and is out on loan looking to develop into a first team contender, and with youngsters such as Ellis Chapman, Jacob Fenton and James Hugo all coming through the investment will not go to waste.
It is also worth noting we have a young player called Harry Troop, and if he goes on to achieve the same as his namesake did back in the fifties then he’ll have almost 300 appearances and 30 odd goals to his name by the time he hangs up his boots!
I hope the Man Utd game attracts a good crowd because of the work that has gone in to getting the friendly and because it is funding the next generation of young players coming through. If you don’t want to go because it is a youth fixture or because you think there are too many games, that is okay too. I know the 617 lads don’t do friendly games, I wouldn’t criticise them for that. I know others who will attend Wednesday but don’t agree with the first team playing Forest Under-23s. That is fine also. You spend your money with the club how you like, matches, cinema, DVDs, shirts, books, whatever. These ventures are not intended to capture everybody, but with 5500 season ticket holders the passion for this club has never been so intense before the big kick off, and as the saying goes, make hay whilst the sun shines.
I’m delighted to see all the different directors, commercial guys and fundraisers out in the field working hard to make things better for our football club, nobody should be criticised for their efforts and nobody should be pressured into supporting things they don’t want to either. We’re all Imps, aren’t we?
If you would like more information about the Cowley’s Perfect Pitch crowdfunder, or would like to contribute, please click this link.
If you’d like to know more about the Manchetser United game, please click this link