“Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?”
90% of you will recognise the lyrics, but as I laid my head on my pillow last night I couldn’t help but have those words going around my head incessantly. I’m going to ignore the politics, the ‘success shaming’ from other club’s fans and all of that. Yesterday afternoon, Lincoln City won a trophy at Wembley, something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.
I’m going to talk about the match, the club and all of that later on, but I wanted to throw the personal bit out there first because, after all is said and done, yesterday was about more than a game of football. It was about 27,000 (okay, 9,000) personal stories of supporting the club through thick and thin, from afar or close to home. It was about individuals as much as it was the team because what is a football team if not just a collection of individuals all desperately wanting the same thing from generation to generation?
My weekend started on Saturday, we parked at Stanmore, wandered up Wembley Way and did the obligatory nose around Central London. It was very routine, ride the tube into the city, grab a bite to eat on the South Bank, bump into Casey near Blackfriars Bridge, on to St Paul’s Cathedral… wait, bump into Casey? The DJ guy? Yup.
Okay, we shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s not every day you’re walking in London and you bump into a friend of almost two decades and even though we were invading en mass, it was still a touch surreal to hear someone shouting me in the big city. As for St Paul’s, it was £18 to get in. Looks alright from outside, on to the pub.
First up was the Punch and Judy where we saw Maria and Jackie of the Lady Imps, plus their entourage. Even as we had a cheeky vodka 24 hours before the game, you could see lots of Imps, sporadically cheering, waving to each other and sharing excited talk about being at Wembley.
Then it was down to Drury Lane to meet my Dad who had by then located his favourite London pub (the only one he ever goes in) and had already smashed his way through half of their Guinness reserves chilling with Mo. The media portray London as this simmering den of iniquity, where anyone with dusky skin has a knife and anyone with a shaved head wears Union Jack underpants and harbours a hatred of all things foreign. In truth, it really isn’t. We got in the pub and immediately found ourselves chatting to a QPR fan who, in broadest cockney, asked us why we were in town. After three or four-minute of conversation he asked me to slow down as he couldn’t understand my accent, which was a relief because I’ll be buggered if I knew what he was saying. Diversity, it doesn’t just come in shades of skin colour.
We left Dad in the Prince of Wales, happily watching Sky Sports news and people, whilst we went back for a shower before the first big meet of the day.
I’ve known Sam and Rawiri White for a while now, they grew up in Horncastle but I must confess are a little older than me. Rawiri has been watching Lincoln since the days of Sam Ellis and for a big, practical man is extremely emotional when it comes to football. Sam, who many have disagreed with on social media, is remarkably less argumentative than many take her for. They’re both really nice people and Saturday was our first face to face meet in a long while.
You may or may not know, it is they who sponsor Matt Green, but they asked me if I’d like my name by the shirt. Apparently my writing helps Imps in exile feel connected and with them living 11,500 miles away, they couldn’t really be in anymore exile than they are at present. They’d travelled over from New Zealand for the game, not just the final but also Exeter and Carlisle away.
We shared drinks, had some dinner and generally put the world to rights ahead of the big game. Most of the chatter was about being at Wembley and how far the team had come. It seemed a nice night with which to start the main event and, upon retiring early, a fitting way to bring our first day in London to a close.