Tomorrow Imps fans venture down the A1 (or drag themselves round by Spalding if they’re living in the Wolds) to face Shaun Derry’s Cambridge.
Being in such close proximity, City and Cambridge have a history of swapping players, or at the very least picking up each other’s cast offs. Here are three players of varying quality to have represented both sides.
I like to describe Bimmo, as he was known, as uncomplicated. It’s a phrase I like to think looks favourably on players who may have lacked certain techniques or facets to their game, but who I still want to heap praise on. In that respect Stuart Bimson was definitely ‘uncomplicated’, in every positive sense of the word.
He spent seven years menacingly prowling up and down the line at City. He originally came in as cover for the injured Jon Whitney, and made 13 appearances in the 1996/97 team before losing his spot towards the end of the season. However, he forced his way into the team after we were promoted, and he went on to make over 200 appearances for City in a strong career. He survived the administration scare and remained an Imp to help herald in a brave new era under Big Keith.
Bimmo was a set-piece specialist of sorts, often caught trying to score directly from the kick. Many fans expected an effort at goal every time we got a corner, and it added to his popularity no end. As part of the five-man defence that Keith built in 2002/03 he was crucial not only for getting up and down the line, but also for encouraging younger players and putting his experience to good use.
In that season he also scored a penalty at the KC Stadium, Hull as we became the first team to beat Hull City in their new home. He gave us a 1-0 win in a memorable match against the now-Premier League giants. Sadly, he was the only squad player to leave after that play-off final against Bournemouth, the lure of a two-year deal at Cambridge was too much to turn down, and it brought the curtain down on seven years as a City player.
He played just 25 times for Cambridge before dropping into the Conference with Accrington Stanley. In 2006 he replaced another former Imp, Nicky Platnauer as manager of Lewes, but recently he’s been coaching at Southend’s centre of excellence.
Calm down, I know what you Imps are thinking. Why do I have to bring Champion up whenever I get the chance? Well, I still maintain he was not a bad footballer, he was just the wrong man in the wrong place at the right time. In 2016/17 the Imps were going places, but Tom Champion didn’t have a valid ticket for the Lincoln Loco.
Champion arrived as a commanding and combative midfielder who had experienced success at this level with Cambridge, where he was highly thought of. He had two seasons at the Us, helping them to promotion from the National League as well as a cup tie with Manchester United. That two year spell was akin to the period we’re enjoying now, so naturally he is well thought of. In May 2015 he decided to move to Barnet, before a loan move to City materialised.
He immediately dropped into the first team for the 0-0 draw with Solihull Moors which ended a five match winning streak. Fans were on his back and further outings against Dover and Barrow ended in defeats, and Champion became the scapegoat. He dropped out of the side and returned from the bench for the away trip to Bromley where less than ten minutes after coming on he gave the ball away twice to allow Bromley to equalise. He was recalled by Barnet before his loan spell had expired to prevent further damage to his confidence, oddly went back into their first team but was released in the summer.
This season he’s enjoying moderate success with Boreham Wood, proving he isn’t the terrible player most Imps have him down as.
Walling was a defender signed from Carlisle for a club-record fee of £75,000 in 1997. He formed part of a formidable defence along with Steve Holmes, Jason Barnett and Kevin Austin as the Imps steamed to automatic promotion, scoring eight goals in his first season. That included winners against Leyton Orient (1-0), Scunthorpe (1-0) and Hull City (1-0). He even grabbed the equalising goal in the FA Cup 1st round against Gainsborough, then scored a brace in the replay to give us a 3-2 win.
In his prime at City, Walling had it all. He was strong and combative, but could get forward and threaten the opposition defence. He was an integral part of John Beck’s promotion side, and epitomised everything good about a John Beck team. He was strong, tough and absolutely 100% committed to the cause. He was called up to represent St Kitts and Nevis due to his performances for Lincoln, and it’s fair to say we got our money’s worth in that first season.
Injury kept Walling out for all but three games of the following season, and he returned just in time to see us relegated back into the fourth tier. He featured in the final day defeat against Wycombe Wanderers before sealing a £15k move to Doncaster Rovers.
After playing the 2000/01 season in the Football Conference, he earned a move to Division Two side Cambridge, coinciding perfectly with John Beck’s arrival for a second spell as manager. He was virtually ever-present under Beck, but after the controversial manager’s dismissal in November 2001, Walling’s Football League career ended. His final game for The U’s was a 2-0 defeat in the FA Cup against Notts County, a game in which another former Imp, Terry Fleming, was on the bench.
He now runs a soccer club in Lincoln, coaching young players and can be found writing for the local paper about all-things Imps related.