Continuing from yesterday, here’s the second part of my feature on the 2005 team compared to our current squad.
Disclaimer: I’m aware our current squad is bedding in, I’m aware the 2005 team were an established League Two club. What I’m am doing is a pound for pound comparison, for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, just because Gareth McAuley played for Northern Ireland does not make him an automatic choice. He didn’t play for them in 2005 whilst with us, and this is an analysis done on the squad at that point in time.
Some of the positions are a little ambiguous. As I’ve done so-called central midfield I’m going to have to assume Peter Gain goes on the left, Francis Green on the right with GTF and Yeo down the middle. If this upsets the purists, again my apologies. Also, for the purpose of the comparison, I’m going to assume City play Nathan on the right, Billy Knott on the left with Rheady and Matt Green up front.
Billy Knott v Peter Gain
If there has been two players with more technical ability in Imps colours then I’d be surprised. Billy (pictured top) and Gainy are my type of footballers, unpredictable on the ball, mercurial talents that should have been plying their trade further up the league spectrum. Billy has drifted down from Chelsea, Gainy had his education at Spurs. Billy has shown a degree of loyalty by joining us this season, Gainy turned down better contracts to remain at City. Off the field they’re very different though, Billy is a typical ‘cheeky chappy’, full of banter and belief. Gainy was a quiet and unassuming player, one who perhaps often lacked confidence in his own ability. Both would walk into any Lincoln City squad of the last forty years too. How do you separate them?
Easy I’m afraid. Billy has an awful lot to prove in the red and white, he’s at the start of his journey, whereas Peter Gain is, in my opinion, a Lincoln City legend of epic proportions. Gainy often ran games under Keith, he was a ball player that settled into a long ball side and still made a difference. On his day he was beyond unplayable, I’ve seen him rampant against the likes of Hartlepool, Mansfield and Carlisle. When he showed up, the other side may not have bothered. He’s one of my all-time favourite players, a Lincoln City great and an icon of the Keith era. How he left the club was a travesty, how he was treated after he left was despicable. I hope his interview with me made some amends, because Peter Gain was simply brilliant.
Francis Green v Nathan Arnold
Franny Green wasn’t necessarily a winger, he often played on the right or left of a front three for City. He liked to work the flank, but similarly he liked to work down the centre to. I think he suffered for playing in the same side as GTF and a 20-goal Simon Yeo because he was often the third man, a forgotten part of a deadly trio. He worked tirelessly up and down the wing, and my vivid recollection of him scoring a winner away at Oxford will remain with me for a very long time. He was a wise acquisition by Keith, a player we signed for a cash sum and (I believe) the first player to cost a fee after we emerged from administration. He was an incredibly effective player on his day.
Nathan Arnold though, he’s an out and out winger and someone who was instrumental last season for us. He would have loved to play in that Keith Alexander team, the emphasis on working the final third would have appealed to him, and with the ing backs providing protection he would have thrived. Nathan showed last season he has goals in him and the ability to play down the centre, and on the right side of a three man attack I think he’d excel. Choosing between these two is tough, but for me Nathan edges it. Some are saying he hasn’t started this season with a bang, but I disagree. He provided the assist for our opener against Wycombe, and his tireless running means we always have an out ball. Look at the Luton game, five minutes from the end he sprinted clear as if it was the first minute, only to be scythed down mercilessly.
Matt Rhead v Simon Yeo
I think we know who would win a 100m race between the two, similarly we’d be fairly sure who’d win a header. These are two completely different players, both of whom won over the fans with their all-action displays, and both of whom have their doubters. How many people still knock Rheady for his lack of mobility? It was a similar story for Yeo back in the day, people knocked his temperament and his relatively poor goal to game ratio. In 2002/03 he drew a blank for seven months in front of goal, had he not turned into a hero in the play-off race he might not even have gotten another contract. Both Simon Yeo and Matt Rhead will be remembered fondly by history though, and rightly so.
Which one wins over in this little duel though? In 2004/05 Simon Yeo really was on fire, and no matter what Matt Rhead brings to the table it would be hard to ignore that. 23 goals including a hat trick in a 4-2 away win at Grimsby and a sublime finish against Scunthorpe live on Sky? Rheady can knock defenders to the floor like skittles, but no Imps striker since has had the sort of season Simon Yeo had that year. He left for NZ Knights at the end of it, and despite a six-month return 2004/05 really was his finest hour as an Imp. As much as I like Rheady, it would be a travesty to choose him ahead of Yeo.
Gary Taylor-Fletcher v Matt Green
The ‘scores’ are poised at 5-5, a real testament to the strength of our fledgling Football League side. Some might argue the 2003/04 Imps side was the strongest of their lifetime, but that side didn’t feature Gareth McAuley, nor the on-fire Simon Yeo. No, 2004/05 was (in my opinion) the very best Imps side of my lifetime. It all comes down to this pick to decide whether that has changed already.
Matt Green is a great striker, I believe I said the best we’ve had in my period as a fan the other day. I believe that still, but he needs to prove it over a full season. The senseless red card on Saturday will be a set back for him, and tonight if Ollie Palmer turns in a good performance I can see him being benched for Mansfield. Gary Taylor-Fletcher was, quite rightly, the first name on the team sheet back in the day, and with good reason. Remember, he started that campaign by scoring six goals in six games, shooting out of the blocks like a greyhound chasing a rabbit. After that he managed just six in 39 outings. Okay, we had the chip against Scunthorpe which is still one of the best finishes I’ve seen live at Sincil Bank, and he always possessed the talent to excel, but for some reason he didn’t seem to turn up every week. For every moment of genius there was a spell of indifference. He ended up being released rather than being offered a new deal as Huddersfield had apparently been sniffing around for a couple of months. So who do I choose? The enigmatic striker that went on to play Premiership football, or the new face that has worked harder in six games than (arguably) Taylor-Fletcher did in 39?
I’m going for Gary Taylor-Fletcher, handing the first XI of 2004/05 a narrow 6-5 victory over the current squad. As someone said on Facebook last night, this could look very different come the end of this season though, a Matt Green 20-goal haul will change the complexion, as would pitting Richard Butcher against Alex Woodyard. Fine margins, that is what Danny Cowley often talks about, and it is an indication of how far we’ve come when the great Imps side of Keith Alexander’s is so marginally close to our current squad.
What about the subs? Perhaps we should award one point for the strongest subs bench? I’ll whizz through this very quickly, five man bench I’m afraid, and I’ve picked the ‘average’ bench from Keith’s side as a lot of players featured!
Jamie McCombe v Rob Dickie: McCombe
Ciaran Toner v Harry Anderson: Anderson
Michael Blackwood v Neal Eardley: Eardley
Martin Carruthers v Ollie Palmer: Palmer (based on Carruthers in a City shirt, not his overall record)
Marcus Richardson v Josh Ginnelly: Ginnelly
On a technicality, I make that a draw. 6-6.
The winning side would be:
Alan Marriott, Sean Long, Sam Habergham, Sean Raggett, Paul Morgan, Alex Woodyard, Richard Butcher, Peter Gain, Nathan Arnold, Simon Yeo, Gary Taylor-Fletcher SUBS: Harry Anderson, Jamie McCombe, Neal Eardley, Ollie Palmer and Josh Ginnelly.
As an indication of how strong both sides were, here is the ‘losing’ line-up.
Paul Farman, Matt Bloomer, Kevin Sandwith, Gareth McAuley, Ben Futcher, Luke Waterfall, Michael Bostwick, Billy Knott, Franny Green, Matt Rhead and Matt Green SUBS: Rob Dickie, Ciaran Toner, Michael Blackwood, Martin Carruthers, Marcus Richardson
I hope you enjoyed this analysis, please discuss on social media or in the comments. Would you like me to pit two other eras together? I can go back as far as 1987, but I won’t do anything before my time as I haven’t seen them! Let me know if you want to see which was the worst, our 2011 side or the relegated side of 1987…..
Thanks to Graham Burrell and Lincoln City for the photos