I’d say I don’t know what came over me with Friday’s article, but to all intents and purposes I stand by my points. I wasn’t looking forward to yesterday, the prospect of a big result hadn’t entered my head and I’m so anxious about us being promoted I felt it was an unwelcome distraction.
Assembling in the square and singing the songs means little to me, I’m delighted everyone who went there had a good time, but I just wasn’t feeling it at all. Even when the so-called Goodison roar greeted the players, I hadn’t quite immersed myself in the day. Call me grumpy, call me focused, whichever side of the fence you sit my views will be seen differently.
After ninety minutes of football, I knew that it would be a day I would remember far more fondly that Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-final. It was a day when I got a reminder of what Lincoln City Football Club is, what we can achieve and what potentially lies within the red and white striped shirts, the Michelin men jackets on the bench and the several thousand vocal fans who made the journey.
I’ll start at the beginning, eight o’clock in the morning in a Wragby café with the motley crew I’ve made a habit of travelling with recently. At that point the day was purely about the boys on the bus, my Dad and my friends, one of whom might soon be called family due to his indulgent with my niece, but that’s another story entirely.
I wasn’t happy even then. Up at 7am on a weekend, not smoking due to a bold New Year’s Eve promise I made to my partner, not drinking due to the medication I’m still on for my back and worse of all, enduring the second-best (or worst) breakfast in Wragby due to the best café being closed. As I munched through badly cooked bacon and mediocre hash browns we discussed results. ‘4-1 to Everton’, ‘3-0 to Everton’… ‘I think Lincoln will win’ said nine-year old ‘Little’ Shane. Bless him, children are so naïve.
We clambered aboard the rustic mini bus, some full of nicotine, some contemplating a good few cans and me. I’d cheered up a bit, Chris had brought me a match worn Shane Clarke shirt he didn’t want anymore and it’s always good getting together with he lads and having a bit of crack.
We wound out way across the country, stopping to get Little Shane some headphones, some say to stop his incessant chatter, others to stop him hearing the borderline banter being shared be the other passengers. A little further along the way we pulled in at the services for a wee and got the first taste of the 2019 Impvasion.
The services were packed, the queue for the gents came past the entrance to Burger King, necessitating me going over the footbridge to the other side of the road. It was remarkable to see some many Imps, some buses had just stopped for a break which didn’t help, but for the first time since the draw I got a bit of the ‘Ipswich’ feeling. we saw Bob Dorrian in the loo queue, Ben my podcast co-host was there as were several hundred other faces I couldn’t put names to.
Back on the bus the mood lifted as the drink flowed and I confess I managed a few sneaky shots of a Sloe Vodka I’d put in my hip flask ‘just in case’. That warmed me through and by the time we were entering the city of the Liver bird, Jennifer Ellison and Curtis Warren, I was happier.
I’ve never been to Liverpool, never seen Stanley Park nor realised how close the two grounds are. Like many we parked near to Anfield and walked across to Goodison from there. The number of Imps fans excited me even more, even though many were wearing half and half scarves. one disappointed fan told us that the vendor had sold out. Tragic.
The quest for a beer ended in a pub called the Thomas Frost, but it was heaving and genuinely uncomfortable to be in. We did get a beer, in actual glasses no less. Our Wetherspoons should take note, I didn’t mind a lager from a pint glass, but from a plastic beaker it tastes much worse. I could have had a second beer, blog reader Becca brought me a bitter over but given how much I’d already consumed, and the fact Dad wanted to get into the ground, I refused. Sorry!
Getting in the ground was carnage. Everton don’t usually have that many away fans, they’d been very generous with the allocation but not so with organising how to get us in. They wanted to search everyone, but had no idea where the queue started our ended. We went up one side and back down another, whilst some were cutting the queue. Eventually a Lincoln fan opened a gate and pulled us through to jump in ourselves. I’m not proud of it, but some said they’d queued for minutes whereas we’d spent the best part of twenty getting nowhere. Aside from that, the stewards were very good, laughing and joking with us.
I’ve heard comments that their ground wasn’t up to scratch behind the scenes, but what do you expect? Goodison is an old ground and certainly never built to modern standards, so the toilets will be a bit aged. My Dad loves to call everywhere a ‘shithole’, from Wycombe to Grimsby and everywhere between, so he was in his element.
I got a coke, bottle top firmly in place, and took my seat. I have the lid removed at Lincoln in the fan zone, yet at a top flight ground I can keep it on in the stands? What I that all about? Anyway, never one to complain (you know me) I settle back and waited for the game. Bubs popped over, the guy responsible for most of the photos on this article and gave me a team sheet. I laughed to my Dad as I’d opted to buy a programme after the game on eBay to save carrying it, but a kindly fan heard and passed me his; ‘I’ve read it mate’ was his response. Top bloke.
That was that. I was in a traditional English stadium for an FA Cup third round match I hadn’t been looking forward to joined by four times as many fans as we got for home fixture three years ago. As the famed ‘Goodison Roar’ turned out to be piped in music turned up loud to drown us out, the players came out and the excitement levels went up a notch more. it was match time.
Next Page – The Game