After choosing Alan Marriott as your Stacey West Imps keeper, it’s time to move on and into the defence.
The pick of Mazza was controversial, many feeling that age is subjective. My comment to that? Of course it is. Anyone getting all chagrined because Peter Grotier wasn’t mentioned didn’t spare a thought for poor old Dan McPhail of the 1930’s, did they? Any vote of this type is bound to be as selective as the age range that takes it. We don’t claim this to be a definitive Xi, the best of all time, it is the SW XI, voted for by you.
One person is evening boycotting because there are too many U23s in the vote. It’s kind of funny, in a way. I guess. Sort of.
Anyway, less of this and on with the nominees. Before you see the vote, here are the three players who seemed to get the most Twitter nominations.
Wooooaaaaah, hang on, what? I know the vote is favouring recent full backs, but Eardley has only been with the club a few months. Surely there’s been others hasn’t there, other right backs who have caught the eye?
Well, no it seems. Eardley was getting nominations from old and young, being compared to Ian Branfoot, Paul Casey and Dean West. His nominations didn’t just come from kids who can’t remember Paul Green, they came from young and old, seasoned Imps who have seen it all.
I’m not going to call it yet, but some feel Neal is a shoe-in for this position. He’s had international honours and was an established Premier League player. He is as good as you’ll see in this division or the one above and every single week his quality shines through. He’s composed and calm, but also aggressive and decisive. There will be those who favour someone from a 1950’s black and white photograph, or some obscure player with ten appearances who could have been a star, but I suspect when the votes are counted and verified, this man will be somewhere on the podium.
Eardley is as good as I’ve seen. Great on the ball and defends properly
— Kevin Tilson (@KevinTilson5) March 18, 2018
Polls like these always favour the more recent players. More people have seen them. I first went to Sincil Bank in 1975 but I'm struggling to think of somebody better than Neal Eardley.
— Peter (@SincilBanker) March 18, 2018
We have only ever had two decent right backs Bradley wood & properly one of the best players we have had in the last 20 odd years Neal eardley mans amazing 🇵🇪🇵🇪🇵🇪
— Damien Pridham (@pridsville) March 18, 2018
Now we’re talking my era and one of my all-time heroes. I liked full backs before they became wing backs, before attacking was their primary objective. In the classic Keith Alexander side of 2002/03 we had one of the best original full backs I’ve ever seen in Mark Bailey.
Let us be honest for a second, he was never going to win any prizes for skills. He was a competent player, but not one with technical ability that belied his level. Mark Bailey was a lower-league player, not a star masquerading as one. He had limitations and he played around them. What he did have was desire, a never-ending engine and a ferocious tackle that chopped Peter Beagrie in half more than once. Every time he fired that smug Scunny veteran into row Z, he went up a little in my estimations, right up until October 2003 when he finally saw red for his tackle on the same player. Cue legendary status.
The facts, for those who are below the age of 16. He was a former Stoke City trainee who signed for Lincoln from Northwich Victoria, having played there under Keith Alexander. He survived those dark days of administration and went on to be an integral part of the Imps team that made the 2003 play-off final. He was also instrumental in taking us to the semi-finals the year after and even scored to put us ahead on aggregate in the second leg against Huddersfield. He even scored from inside his own half away at Carlisle.
He left after the failure to make the finals and in June 2004 he signed for Macclesfield Town. Injuries hampered his career there and he was unlucky to miss out on a play-off final appearance as Macclesfield lost to the Imps in the semi-final. He joined up with former manager Keith Alexander for a third time in 2006 signing a month to month deal with Peterborough, but only appeared twice before retiring from the game.
Mark bailey hands down.
— Ryan Gray (@RyanG33109) March 18, 2018
— Rob (@McCuskerTweets) March 18, 2018
If we’re accused of having a young vote, then hopefully these little snippets can educate a few people. Branfoot is before my time, but I was brought up on a diet of ‘this lot aren’t as good as 1976’, and to some extent it is my duty as a Lincoln site to ensure some of the heroes of yesteryear remain known amongst fellow Imps.
Ian Branfoot started out at Gateshead in the early 1960’s before he joined Sheffield Wednesday in 1965. He then move to Doncaster Rovers when he made over 150 appearances, before joining the Graham Taylor revolution in 1973–74, he went on to make over 150 league appearances for the Imps as well, always cultured and strong at right back, part of the record-breaking 1976 Fourth division title-winning side.
Branfoot learned from future England manager Graham Taylor at Sincil Bank and harboured coaching ambitions from a very young age. He was fully qualified by the age of 21 and became player-coach at Lincoln by the time he was 30. His tenure with City came to a close in September 1978, becoming Youth coach at Southampton under his former manager at Doncaster, Lawrie McMenemy. He later managed Reading, leading them to promotion in 1984 and again a year later, as well as winning the Simod Cup in 1988. Later spells at Southampton and Fulham didn’t prove to be as fruitful.
Ian Branfoot from 1976 champions gets my vote but Gareth McAuley was a decent right back and I wouldn’t be too disappointed if Eardley was picked
— Colin Cottingham (@ColinCottingham) March 18, 2018
— Paul bee (@BuzzerimpBee) March 18, 2018
Other names you might not recognise
Both Clive Evans and Paul Casey harp back to the GMVC days, Evans brought experience whilst Casey we snatched from under the noses of Boston just before Easter. I always liked Paul Casey, tough tackling and strong as month-old cheese.
Jason ‘Baby’ Barnett was a long-serving player from the mid to late nineties, a strong character in the long-ball John Beck teams. How Nicky Eaden got a nomination I don’t know, he was a veteran when he rocked up for six months or so in 2006/07.
Dean West certainly deserves to be an outsider, he emerged from the youth ranks and went on to be a really good player at Bury and Burnley. If memory serves me correct some absolute numpty thought it’d be hilarious to swap him for a midfielder called Kevin Hulme. West went on to have a fine career as for Hulme, I suspect he ended up on a building site because it’s where he appeared to have come from when he was on the pitch, both times.
Whoever nominated Cian Hughton, I should block you on Twitter. You get one vote, choose wisely. I’ll take the reading sometime on Thursday I imagine.