Steve Wicks has the dubious honour of being the Lincoln City manager who served the shortest tenure, a reign that may not have lasted long but had a significant impact on the club and squad.
Despite not being a controversial character, Wicks had already fallen out with one chairman, whilst in control at Scarborough. He’d been the darling of former owner Geoffrey Richmond with the pair presiding over a promising Scarborough side. However, Richmond sold his shareholding in the club and moved to take control of Second Division outfit Bradford City.
Despite the drama in the boardroom a Wicks inspired Boro began to string some good results together including three straight wins which clinched the Third Division manager of the month award. Boro finished 1993-94 in 14th position in Division three, suffering just one defeat in the final six weeks of the season.
The end of season form showed promise for the following campaign, but Wicks was sensationally sacked just 12 days before the start of the 1994-95. There was a clash of personalities between Wicks and new chairman John Russell, with Russell admitting, “Some of the fans will be disappointed but we feel that Steve Wicks was not right for Scarborough Football Club.”
Meanwhile, over in Lincoln, things weren’t going well. The bullish, long-ball driven Sam Ellis had remodelled the squad, but was not having much success. Even the £42,500 purchase of proven scorer Joe Allon couldn’t get the season off the ground, despite an opening day 2-1 win against eventual champions Preston.
After three defeats and a draw, the unpopular Ellis was sacked. His last home game was a 2-2 draw with Scunthorpe in which Lincoln were direct, unattractive and incredibly lucky to get a draw. Just 2674 watched Tony Daws and Udo ‘boom boom boom’ Onwere score for us. One week later, Steve Wicks sat in the stands watching on as we lost to Barnet.
What fans didn’t know at the time was that Wicks had twice applied for the Lincoln job before, or at least that was what Geoff Davey told Impsline, a phone line you could call at a premium rate to hear the latest news. It suggested the board had finally relented and given a persistent man the job, only he didn’t agree. Wicks was adamant he hadn’t applied before and was approached by John Reames. It wasn’t the greatest start for the new head coach.
Wicks arrived, not as manager, but as a head coach. That basically meant he had control over the playing side, but anything to do with money went through John Reames. The idea was widely panned by fans but, given the later dealings of Wicks, perhaps it was wise.
He had a strong playing career behind him at both Chelsea and QPR. He came with a recommendation too, from none other than his pal Geoffrey Richmond and it was rumoured he had been suggested as an ‘up and coming’ coach by FA officials at a meeting John Reames had earlier attended. Wicks hadn’t just managed Scarborough, but he’d also been assistant manager at Portsmouth before becoming part of the management set up at Newcastle Utd.
His coaching credentials couldn’t be questioned and he seemed perfect to sit in the hot seat and pass on his progressive ideas to the squad. The fans warmed quickly to Wicks, who was both charismatic and convincing. That was a breath of fresh air in the wake of City’s poor start to the season.
He hosted a fans forum in which he convinced those assembled he was proud to be in charge of City and would work hard to turn things around. The signs all pointed to a long and emphatic success, just as long as he could get the squad playing the sort of football he felt won games. Early results weren’t good, but a desire to play attractive football won some over.
One early turning point came against Bury, where City bagged a 2-2 draw (Daws and Onwere again). They equalised late on and Wicks sent the subs boards flying in rage at the blow. It was a rare show of passion after seeing an impassive eEllis hunched in the dugout, but kicking boards doesn’t bring results.
Results weren’t good, but his transfer policy proved to be something else entirely. He got rid of the incredibly popular Dean West in a straight swap for a journeyman midfielder by the name of Kevin Hulme. West went on to represent Burnley for many years, whilst Hulme went on to be a scaffolder and van driver, probably.
As well as that transfer, Joe Allon handed in a transfer request and defender Colin Greenall followed suit. Was there a mutinee, or was Wicks just clearing the decks of deadwood, albeit £42,500 prolific dead wood?
On getting rid of Dean West, Wicks said; “A lot of people have come up to me and expressed surprise that I let Dean West leave the club. I felt we needed a tough backbone to the side and Kevin Hulme fits the bill.”
Next page – flawed transfer policy, capitulation at Home Park and the end of the road