The Civic Award, another victory for the Cowley Brothers

It was a privilege to be invited along to the Civic Award ceremony last night, by virtue of being one of those who nominated Danny and Nicky for the honour.

For those who do not know, the award is given out yearly to anyone thought to have promoted Lincoln in a positive way. It could be a group, organisation or business, their input could be on the national stage or even something done locally. Previous winners include Rob Bradley and the 1976 Imps team, as well as Chris Illsley, Ruston (twice) and St Barnabas Hospice. It is prestigious in that it recognises those who work within our fair city to make it a better place.

With all of that in mind, how could there be anyone else winning it this year than Danny and Nicky? That’s what I thought anyway, so I nominated them which earned me a place around the huge table they have in the Guildhall, situated above the Stonebow.

The question on everyone’s lips isn’t about the journey we’ve been on, it is about the one we’re about to embark upon, perhaps more succinctly who is going to be coming along for the ride. More on that shortly, but first the event.

I’ve never been in the Guildhall, there’s never really been a need for it. With a little red carpet and bouncers on the door, I felt pretty special being able to watch this great occasion, perhaps even more so when I realised I’d be sat around the main table. It was big enough to house about six Subbuteo pitches side by side, a thought which oddly stuck in my head for the twenty minutes or so I sat awkwardly around it waiting for the event to start. I’m not comfortable in situations such as those, especially not when I’ve left my glasses in the car and can’t work out whether people are making eye contact or not!

The ceremony had all the pomp and ritual as you’d expect. We were upstanding for the mayor, a rather witty and friendly man by the name of Chris Burke. Mayor Burke, as it turns out, likes a glass of wine and has a wonderful repertoire of Lincoln stories to regale you with. He didn’t do it straight away of course, there was an award to present.

It’s days like this I wish my camera phone wasn’t, for want of a better word, crap.

After the formalities we got straight into it, Danny and Nicky wearing their Wembley suits were handed the Civic Award, a rare honour bestowed only upon those who do Lincoln a huge service. I suspect very few of us will ever get our hands on it, if any. I doubt very much whether I’ll ever get to witness it being handed over again, so it was a really nice moment. It became even nicer when, after a raft of official photos, Danny and Nicky beckoned me up for a picture. I didn’t get it on my phone, I was in it, but hopefully I can lay my hands on it at some point.

We were then invited into the Mayor’s private chambers, the ‘plotting room’ at the NatWest end of the Stonebow. I met some interesting people too, Henry Ruddock whose family are almost as old as the city itself, and blog reader Charlie Partridge. It was nice, getting over the early nerves to appreciate the evening.

I caught a little bit of Danny being interviewed by several different media outlets, one of which asked about ‘you-know-what’. Danny straight-batted it, played it cool, but I’m sure I heard him ask ‘why do they keep asking about that?’ when the microphone was down.

I’d already decided not to, it isn’t my place to question another man on his career moves, even if I do have such a vested interest. This wasn’t a time for such questions, it was a ceremony in which they received an honour they so richly deserved. The questions should be about their reign, about Wembley and how they went about beating League One Shrewsbury.

It was incredible looking at the 500-year old building, wondering what great conversations or slices of Lincoln history were played out within its walls. I’m really into all that, and hearing some of the Mayor’s stories about Queen Victoria or the abdominal Tory MP Charles Sibthorp just enhanced the evening for me. I also met the Sheriff, Jo Rimmer, who had her own stories about Henry VIII. Here I was nibbling on rather fine food surrounded by local history, both from the past and right in the present.

I did get a nice long chat with all of them at the end, Danny and Nicky, Alan Long and Kate and Lauren. I once again saw the reasons these two guys have been such an influence in the city and on myself personally. They’re not a pair of football managers, not when you’re talking to them. They’re humble, they play down their achievements and deflect the accomplishments on to the team. Their relationship with each other, and as a foursome, is a heart warming and fond one. The banter that switches between all of them is just like I swap with my brother and his partner, it is just another reason we identify with them so much.

It was a pleasure to witness the human side to them, the main reason we’ve all fallen under their spell. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; they’re just like you and I. Sure, they work harder and they know a bit more about football (just a bit), but they know what it is like to be a real fan. They know what the 9-5 grind is like, they understand people far better than most of the managers we’ve had.

Everyone else wanted selfies with the men of the moment, I just wanted proof I’d been in the Mayors quarters invited, without a torch or a bag on my back marked ‘swag’.

Whether it was joking that Danny reminds Lauren of Ross from Friends, talking about the set piece routines or hearing how Nicky identifies with my stories about my Dad because he recognises that ‘father and son’ behaviour from his own child hood, not once did I think I was talking to Lincoln managers. I never do, because they don’t see themselves as special. They are unique, they way they conduct themselves is unique and it has me wondering if all this speculation about ‘you-know-what’ is pointless.

I eventually left far too late, a good half an hour after my NCP car park had run out, but I was thoroughly enjoying myself and couldn’t bring myself to leave. It was the first time I’d met Lauren and Kate, two incredibly friendly and approachable women who clearly have to adjust an awful lot to their husbands chosen profession. They don’t seem to be phased by it though, I could have been meeting two of my workmate’s partners down the pub such was their warmth. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, there hasn’t been one member of the Cowley family that I’ve met who hasn’t been exactly like that.

I came away feeling much more relaxed than I did prior to the event. I’ll confess I’ve been concerned about the future, but last night’s article followed by the ceremony has allayed my fears somewhat. Without sounding too saccrine and pompous, Danny and Nicky will always be a part of this city now, whether they remain here for one season or fifty. They’ll always be back at some point, for dinners or for ceremonies.

They might move here soon, they might not, but they’re part of Lincoln right now and I suspect, they always will be. Just like Colin Murphy, just like Graham Taylor and just like Keith Alexander.