I’m beginning to tire a little of the posts on social media which appear to be trying to isolate the influx of new fans as plastic, asking where they were last night for instance, despite over 1700 Imps making the trip. It’s been bubbling away ever since the FA Cup run last season and it’s time to put a stop to it.
I can see both sides of the coin, I sympathise with those who missed out on the big matches despite being at Carshalton away, or Welling away or whatever, but similarly I can celebrate the fact we have attracted new fans, and tempted back some older faces. It really is time for the one-upmanship to stop and for us all to get on with supporting our football club.
At this point I would go back over my own pedigree in a hypocritical analysis of my own time as a fan, but it is not relevant. Whether I was there in 1988, 1998 or 2011 is history, now is 2017 and now is the only time that matters. Money spent now supports the club now, and whilst those who were there in the dark times can take pride in sticking with their club, it isn’t a reason to look on disdain with those just finding Lincoln City.
One of the issues we have had over the last decade has been bums on seats, everything has been driven towards appealing to a new crowd. We desperately wanted fans to come to games as far back as 2009 when Steff Wright was putting impassioned pleas in the local media. The entire focus of the club was to attract new supporters, and yet now we have it has created a certain disharmony. Some might say ‘be careful what you wish for’, but I will raise a glass and say ‘it’s been a great ride so far, thanks for joining us’.
There are two types of fan, neither are ‘better’ than the other. There are the die-in-the-wool fans, those people for whom Lincoln City is a way of life. They will have attended their first game as a child and from there on they will have stuck with the club. They might move away, might not always be able to get to games, but being a fan isn’t always about being able to get to watch them play. If you move to Sussex for work and can’t travel to every match it doesn’t lessen the fact you’re an Imp. I like to think of myself in that category, Lincoln City is pretty much all I know about, and for me the thought of not supporting the club is as bad as the thought of not breathing. It is part of my life in the same way that my arms and legs are.
Then you have the fans that discover the club later in life, and that doesn’t make them less of a fan. It might be a chance viewing of the Oldham FA Cup game, it might be that they came to every match in the 1998 season as they were here at university, and now they’re coming back. It is this group that has attracted a certain amount of criticism, unduly in my eyes.
I want to tell you about one of my friends, because they perhaps fall into the latter category and yet I don’t class them as a plastic. Dave Adams was a kid I grew up with in Wragby, and through our teenage years we would go and watch Lincoln with a larger group of lads whenever we could. Life progressed, Dave moved away and I stuck with City. In truth I didn’t really see much of Dave, we took different paths through our twenties, and those paths only crossed on the odd occasion. Then, last season, I bumped into him at one of the evening matches before Christmas. Dave had come back to watch City having seen that we were playing well, and he was in a personal position to do so. He’d spent a year or two following Lincoln United home and away, but Sincil Bank was always close to his heart. We got our final strEight tickets together, we’ve got our season tickets together and we’re as close now as we were two decades ago.
Is he less of a fan because his life took him elsewhere? He’s thrown £300 at a season ticket, and trust me that isn’t a small sum of money for him nor me. Should he be chastised because he’s rediscovered Lincoln? You might ask where he was in 2011, but think back to 2011. If you weren’t one of those first types of fan I described, the masochist that thrives on watching bad football and feeling cheated every week, would you have paid to watch us? I was there because it is what my family have done for generations, but Dave’s parents weren’t City fans, he had no history of supporting the club, he just did. His money is the same as anyone else’s now.
Some of the LISA girls were new last season to the club as well, hooked after a couple of games and now part of a celebrated supporters group recognised by the FSF and championed in local media. Just because they discovered our club when the product was good, why should they be earmarked as different to all of us? They buy replica shirts, read this website and pay their entry fee, they’re the same as me in every respect, only they’ve not been doing it as long.
It’s okay to start shouting about taking 1700 to Rotherham when we have 5500 season ticket holders, but occasionally real life gets in the way. How many of that 1700 are going to Exeter? Would the 350 that travel down there be better fans just because they have the disposable income to do a ten-hour round trip and maybe stay over as well? Is being a Lincoln fan means tested? Those that were there last night got soaked, it was perhaps the worst August match in terms of conditions I’ve ever been to. The drive back was petrifying, I came along the M180 and Caistor High Street, and in places there was river-sized puddles spanning the entire road. Shouldn’t parents of children be forgiven for not dragging their offspring out in those conditions?
Some people do not have the means to go to every game, a season ticket might be the one luxury they can afford in a season. Why should they then be chastised for not travelling to Wycombe or Rotherham or wherever? I’m sure if we all had infinite time and infinite money we would love to attend all the games, but life isn’t that easy is it? I wonder if those who did question why we ‘only’ took 1700 last night were at Gateshead in the FA Trophy last season? There was 169 Imps there that day, were we better than all of those who didn’t travel? Of course not.
Supporting Lincoln City isn’t a competition, there should be no rivalry between all those wearing the red and white stripes. There’s a popular saying that goes ‘we’re all Imps, aren’t we?’ and I think that is really apt. Whether you’ve been coming one year, ten years or fifty years it shouldn’t matter. What is to say those new fans coming this season won’t stay with the club for generations? What is to say that this isn’t the start of us regularly attracting 10,000 fans, the start of our ascendency to the Championship in terms of numbers? These attendances are what we have aspired to ever since I first stepped onto the Railway End in 1987, there is nothing like a full Sincil Bank to get the heart pumping. We should celebrate our fans, all of them, and stop trying to separate the so-called loyal supporters from the new and returning faces.