It’s taken a little longer than I anticipated to get this out there, but we’ve finally got our winner for the best left back our readers have seen in a Lincoln City shirt.
From 531 cast, three players stood out head and shoulders about the rest, although some almost certainly suffered through the time they played for us. Therefore, before we crack on with the top three, it’s worth giving these guys a mention.
Jeff Smith got 20 votes which equates to 4% of the vote, not bad for a player who left Sincil Bank in 1967. That means realistically, votes for him came for those 55 or over at the youngest, so his ability has resonated with them for an awfully long time.
Smith was voted at number 55 in the Imps all-time top 100 legends back in 2007, unsurprising considering he made 315 appearances spanning three divisions in a turbulent period of Imps history. The Sheffield-born defender joined from the Blades in February 1958 for £2,500 but was released just one year shy of his testimonial by Ron Gray. He’s described by Donald Nannestad as ‘quietly efficient defender who showed skill and a high degree of consistency’.
Shane Nicholson also deserves a mention I feel, he was left back when I first started supporting City, or at least a supporting left back. Were
it not for Jack Hobbs, Shane would still be an Imps record holder having once been the youngster player to feature for City. He played against Burnley on November 22nd 1986 at the age of 16 years and 172 days. City lost that game 3-1 but it didn’t deter the Collingham-born defender. He went on to play in seven league games during the 1986–87 season, a campaign which ended in relegation. He was one of the few players retained for our GMVC season, and he became a part of the first side to bounce back from automatic relegation from the Football League. After the club’s promotion to the Division Four, defender Nicholson became a first team regular, playing 126 league games in four seasons, scoring six goals and he went on to start 193 times in Imps colours.
In his youth at Lincoln, Nicholson oozed talent. He was youthful, energetic but still possessed a thunderous tackle. He operated primarily at left-back, and one of my endearing memories of him came as he scored the only goal of our FA Cup tie with Billingham Synthonia on November 18th, 1989. Once established as a first team regular at such a young age other clubs were bound to pay an interest and he ended up moving to second division side Derby County for a reported fee of £100,000 which was no small sum of money in 1992. He flirted with the first team without ever becoming established at the Rams before a move to West Brom followed. In his third season with West Brom he was suspended after failing a drugs test. The club sacked him, but later spoke to the Independent about the troubles he had endured. He underwent a spell of rehab, and emerged from his hell to finish off his promising career. He featured for Chesterfield, Sheffield United and Tranmere before returning to the Spireites. He returned to City in 2007, albeit briefly on loan, to help John Schofield 20 years after first appearing for the club. He played eight final times for the club, including great wins over Peterborough away (2-1) and Boston (2-1) and Grimsby (2-0) at the Bank. He finished his professional career with Boston United, before moving into fitness training coaching and personal training. You can find out more by visiting www.shanenicholson.co.uk.
Also placing highly, but not high enough for the top three were Sam Habergham, a vote perhaps reflecting the age of those being polled (no disrespect to Sam of course), George Peden and Jon Whitney. However, on with the final three.