Guest Article: The Plastic Fan File

Huge thanks to Valerie Daniels who has taken time out to write down her experiences as a so-called plastic fan of Lincoln City. It’s an accusation that hurts Imps fans, that our big crowds are false fans, especially those of us who remember who Rory May is, but is it really a cross a new fan should bear? At what point can a new supporter just become a supporter? Why the stigma attached to people discovering this great club of ours and why the snobbery from the same fans who were trying to boost the crowds when times were bad?

“I DIDN’T REALISE WHAT I HAD BEEN MISSING….”

I always read Gary’s blogs but I have never commented on any of the posts, or in fact any that are written about Lincoln City by other people on social media. If you are wondering why, it is all about respect. I am a ‘new fan’, a fan that some people may choose to call a ‘plastic fan’. I am respectful of the pecking order that exists, and I have seen other ‘new fans’ or ‘plastics’ shot down for a casually worded, naïve, or careless post on social media. There is a kind of arrogant supremacy within the club (you are only entitled to an opinion if you have been following football here for the past 35 years etc.) I get it… I don’t believe I have earned the right to comment, I don’t know much about past players, former managers, playing tactics. In fact, if you want me to be honest, I don’t know much about football…..

Having just read the above, I guess you might be wondering what prompted me to write this article!?  It is hard to explain my motivation, even to my husband, who (I am sure) secretly believes I have gone slightly crazy!  I enjoyed reading the ‘Plastic Fantastic’ blog and found so many links to my own recent experiences that it made me want to share my ‘plastic’ football involvement with you all. The blog was based on several generalisations, so I thought you might want to hear about what my actual experience has been as a ‘newbie’, to help you understand how the ‘plastics’ see things, and fundamentally how it is that I have come to be at the club at all. In part, what I have written is for me too, so that (hopefully in 30-35 years if I’m lucky) I can look back at this and remember how my journey started. 

I am a 47-year old mum of three girls. I am not from a sporty family, and, despite having three younger brothers, football was not a feature of our family life.  My dad vaguely followed Bristol City, his childhood home team, and I have early memories of him tuning in to get the Final Score football results on a crackly radio at the end of a Saturday afternoon. At junior school I was wooed by the romance of the big club magic and bought Liverpool football stickers for my collector’s book. But that was it.

Courtesy of Graham Burrell

My colleague is a steadfast Arsenal supporter, so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that my first introduction to LCFC was linked to the excitement surrounding the Lincoln-Arsenal FA Cup match. As an employee of Lincoln University, I was fortunate to see the FA Cup when it visited the university prior to the match. My colleague was much amused by my resultant notion that “maybe it would be nice for my family to be able to go to the match” as he smugly secured his tickets with the Arsenal fans. It shows how little I knew about LCFC’s popularity and what was happening within the city. From that point on it was impossible to escape the excitement within the city in the build up to the match and beyond.

I didn’t realise that LCFC league game tickets could be purchased through the Uni Imps scheme until I noticed an advert a week or so before the 2017 Christmas holidays for the Boxing Day match against Stevenage. As my husband had followed the club when he was younger (before I met him), I thought it might be fun to surprise him with some tickets for the match, so bought tickets for us both and two of our girls (at the time aged 9 and 14).

Lincoln City v Stevenage; 26 December 2017; One of the first goals I saw scored in a football match.

         

I didn’t know what to expect: I had never been to a football match anywhere in my life, not even a children’s match!  My experience until that day had been limited to seeing occasional football highlights on the TV and haphazardly following the World Cup. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy spending a couple of hours in the cold watching a bunch of guys chase a ball around a muddy piece of grass; but it was the chance to spend time with my family, so I was happy to give it a go. We were lucky, it was a good match, Lincoln beat Stevenage 3-0, and everyone went home happy. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight and my youngest daughter was a bit niggly with the cold, but I was completely smitten with the passion for the game that the fans showed, and the noise that was blasted out by the 617 lads.

Disappointingly, my youngest daughter decided that she did not want to go to any more matches, so I only went to the odd match between January and April, when I could organise to go without her. Wembley was different however – it was scheduled for a date when we were on holiday in Herefordshire, there was no way we were missing it, we couldn’t leave her on her own, so she had to come!  Tickets were bought and train travel from Swindon organised.  It was at Wembley that my youngest daughter changed her view of football, which is hardly surprising; being part of such a massive crowd of people all singing, clapping and cheering for their team was one of the most incredible experiences I had witnessed. It really was not just about the win that day – it was the whole experience – and my girls bought into it. Having secured their endorsement, all the pieces fell into place. We became a family of ‘plastics’.

Next Page: Falling in love with the Imps

 

34 Comments

  1. Valerie you are no more plastic than I am if I found a new love like knitting for instance. Those old supporters of 35 years or morswho look down their noses at new supporters are exactly that… old. New blood is what’s needed at any club to keep it going. Some of the oldies live in the past bemoaning the format and tactics of the modern game. Before long your understanding of today’s game will be as good or better than theirs. Just look at the Lady Imps LISA organisation. As for fan and supporter… I’ve been a Liverpool fan all my life. I don’t get to many matches at Anfield because of cost and distance. I have been a Lincoln City supporter for 20 years. Supporter because I contribute to LCFC financially by buying tickets, merchandise, food and drinks the same as you do. So you are a very welcome supporter and the genuine old timers would be the first to welcome you. One more thing, you are in a great place with LCFC and the currently lower leagues because it is much more honest and much less corrupted that the overpaid prima donna premier league!!
    You and your family keep on coming to the games… You are the future!!!

  2. “I don’t believe I got caught up in the glory of the success. It was the success that dumped it on my doorstep.” – that’s a great turn of phrase to explain what the Cowleys have done for our club.

  3. What a great article. Seeing Lincoln blossom after so many horrendous years has been fantastic and reading someone’s journey into supporting the team I have loved, and hated at times, for so long brought a lump to my throat. Welcome to the roller coaster.

  4. I’ve just loved reading your article Valerie. I’ve been an imps supporter for over 40 years I’ve seen a lot more downs than ups .I witnessed two relegations and also the Bradford fire and seen the club go into near bankruptcy and fight for their existence. I never thought I would see my beloved club come back into the league and do what they are doing now.The Cowleys have been magnificent they have transformed the club not just on the pitch but off it too and the board deserves praise too for backing them which has my upmost respect but the thing I love more than anything these days is new supporters it proved the club are doing something right.supporters have to start somewhere and what better a time than the last two seasons.i hate the word plastic new supporters to me are always most welcome at the club I dearly love.

  5. Excellent piece. Such a shame we’ve some people who want to label fans – probably the same lot that think John Akinde isn’t good, or Ben Toner is a decent referee. We should readily embrace all fans as far as I’m concerned. The new, the returners, the ever presents. I’m another label- the dreaded Expat – 6 hour round trip to get to home means I don’t go often, anywhere in the west of England and I’m there – including having to sit with Everton supporters! Once you’re an Imp, you’re always an Imp

  6. Welcome aboard Valerie , this is great read. I for one as an Imp of 50+ years am truly happy to see the demographic change in the Imps following over these last two years. It truly is a pleasure to see so many Ladies, Families, Parents , Kids following the Imps these will be the future of the club for years to come. Results have played a massive part but the Cowleys family values and ethos, a board that backs them and a sense of civic pride have produced what we have now – with more untapped potential to come.

  7. 1. Everyone was a new fan once that got hooked
    2. I think it is the vast minority that use the term plastic in reality. Most, I am 100% sure, love the thought of ever increasing attendances as you will see from the feedback to your article.
    Negative posts on Facebook get tonnes of bites, positive ones none – human nature?

    3. Any die hard that bemoans plastics need to ask themselves what would happen without new fans? Ask Woolworths how that goes. It is dumb to think that way.

    4. Great artilce so please ‘stay on over Valerie’

  8. The sentiment of what you say is spot on but you have articulated your story so well that your article should be compulsory reading! I would make 3 points:
    First – we all have to start being fans at some time and it is logical that more will do so in good times than in bad times. Personally I went with my Dad 2 or 3 times in the early 70’s but guess what – I only started going regularly in the Graham Taylor/ promotion era!
    Second – 90% of long standing fans (as borne out in these comments) welcome you and all other new comers with open arms. It’s great having you on board. The 5-10% who moan and use the ‘plastic’ word are simply moaners. If they weren’t moaning at you they would be moaning about something or someone else. It’s their problem not yours!
    Finally if fans of other clubs call our new fan base plastic then it is pure jealousy!! Case in point the amount of Grimsby fans who call our fan base plastic, and then brag about the fact they’ve taken more than their average home gate to Crystal Palace in the cup! If their club had the dynamic and momentum that we’ve had over the last 2-3 years their crowds would be going up as well – but they’re not – they’re just jealous!

  9. Great read. I too maybe a “plastic “although I started following the Imps in 1965.Moving to London for work 50 years back made it difficult to get to many/any home games although I did get to see them when they played in the London area.Those years, in the 60’s re-election was almost an annual event Living in the North-east for the last 30 years reduced the chances of seeing them play even more, but plastic, try Hartlepool on a cold wet night or perhaps Berwick Rangers for a pre-season friendly.( I could go on and on !!)Plastic, I think not but welcome to the mighty Red Imps family, enjoy the ride.

  10. Great article Valerie – you are not plastic, you are a dedicated Imp. I’m really proud to say that my wife started to come to matches in the later part of 2016/17 – she is now a season ticket holder, reads everything about the Imps and loves to go to away matches. I’ve been an Imp since 1959 (first game was Sheffield Utd at home) and sitting next to my wife, in a stadium which is no longer a male adult only venue, is amazing. Those who look down at Imps who have recently arrived do not represent the club which we are now creating.

  11. All fans were new fans once. May I add to the discussion around “plastics” that not all of the increased attendance is down to new fans. Surely there is also the phenomenon of supporters who have attended sporadically becoming more regular. Not everyone can attend every match. But as the quality improves, and the results improve, there is more reason to attend more regularly. Plastic? No, a fan is a fan. A ticket sold is a ticket sold, and probably a programme and 50/50 ticket too. An extra voice cheering a good pass, good save, or any sort of goal for The Imps is an addition to the atmosphere.

  12. We used to moan about the number of premier shirts been worn around the city, saying if they supported their own club, we may be able to build a team.
    Well people are now supporting their local club only to get slated by some as been plastics.
    Well as a supporter of 50 plus years I say welcome the more the Merrier as far as I’m concerned.

  13. My only thing on this is I have no problem with new fans, as long as they stay this time. It doesn’t matter when you became a fan (97/98 promotion) but what matters is will you still be a fan. At the height of Keith’s era we had 5.5k a week. Where did they go? How did we end up nearly going out of business when the city turned it’s back on the club and the dambuster campaign? Where were they when the echo did entry for £5?

    Yeah I am a bit bitter, but all of the new fans enjoying Lincoln were not there when the club needed them in 2015/16 and only he Chairman saved them. So great that we have new fans and I hope they stay, but I still can’t forget we nearly didn’t have a club and not many people cared that much if we did

  14. Welcome Valerie and girls.Its never been easy supporting Lincoln and wont be in the future when the Cowleys have gone.I hate this plastics term everyone is Welcome to me and the greatest thing about our current success is the families and more importantly children now supporting our beloved club.You/They are the future of the club and long may they continue to support us in the less successful days which will come.
    I just hope the club can facilate the new supporters and you can buy/afford the next step “season tickets” in May.
    Truly Crazy but Fantastic times for US ALL!!!!

  15. My husband is a big football fan and that pretty much makes me a fan too 😉 We’ve moved to Lincoln (from Poland ) 5 years ago and since then he is attending games with our little daughter. They both ST holders but only from the last season so I call them plastics too 😁 Am working most of the weekends so can watch Imps live only from time to time (need to find a new job lol) but i think it is fair to say that we all fell in love with Lincoln City and tbh few years ago we didn’t expect that at all … UTI

  16. Great article. I hate the term ‘plastic’ it makes no sense to me. I was lucky that my Dad did take me in 1979 (although to be fair I did nag him) but it took me until the relegation year in 2011 to buy my first season ticket. To see the stand filling up around me during the last few years has been like a dream. People like Valerie make the experience better for us all. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Happy days!

  17. I would very much resent being called that “p” word as my wife and I, both 70 last year, only moved to the area in 2015; our first game coincided with Danny and Nicky’s debut home game and we have become regulars ever since, as season ticket holders for two seasons now. We also get to as many away games as possible, buy merchandise and programmes, etc. We love Lincoln City and missing games while on holiday is very sad for us. I am writing this from Benidorm where we did thankfully get to watch the Bury fixture in a local English bar!

  18. I’ve been going since 1975, my old man took me as a 10 year old, I’ve a season ticket since 2004, Gary went to the Grimsby play off game courtesy of my ST token (my ex-wife at Jackos gave you it). I dislike the word ‘tourist’ or ‘plastic’, to me we all pay our money into the pot which finances the club, I also think that they have the rite to have a good old moan about how we are playing. For me we should embrace fans old and new, away fans that are there to watch football and give/take the banter, all of them add to the match atmosphere.

  19. A lovely article and it is – quite rightly – getting positive comments all over social media. And well done Gary for putting it out there. We all have our stories. All are valid and all are welcome. This one is told in such an engaging way. Love it.

  20. A very engaging story and, as a long-standing fan, you are welcome on board.
    The explosion in interest and pride in the club is fantastic and long may it continue. New fans/ returners/ those finally seeing the corrupt self interest of the PL are all welcome so far as I’m
    concerned.
    The one cautionary word from me would be that there will inevitably be down times and I’d hope the majority of the new fans will stick by LCFC when they come round.

  21. An excellent piece Valerie , if I may say so. I too am considered by some to be a “plastic”, I only started supporting the club some 51 years ago (yep that’s not a typo- 51 years ago) but after a comment I made on a banter page which was quickly answered that I was a plastic. I never make ANY comments on any banter pages now simply because of those comments I have received in the past. But stick with us, great times at the moment, do expect a bit of a dip sometime or other though (thats football), we are all in this together and you will enjoy. A big welcome from one of the oldies

  22. I’ve been a fan for 60 years but you are a better fan than me. I’ve not lived in Lincoln for over 40 years (when I did the odd bit of dj work for Bob Dorrian’s mobile disco!) In the old days if you lived away you survived on bits from the Echo when you visited home. I can now follow on every media imaginable with Gary and the BBC team leading the way. But! You go to way more football matches than I ever did. You and your family are the future. I really feared for the club and not just because we struggled to get above the lower half of the Conference. A short time ago the Imps were supported by a few increasingly decrepit fans. The youngsters, anyone under 40, were way outnumbered. Every single real Imps fan welcomes you, your family and and all the new generation of Imps fans. It was getting a bit lonely before!

  23. What a great piece Valerie and welcome aboard The Lincoln Loco! I first went in 1979 for my 6th birthday but would struggle to describe myself as a ‘regular supporter’ since then. There is no such thing as ‘plastic fans’, just people who have chosen to join in at different times. The enthusiasm and passion that you and your family are now showing for Lincoln City is brilliant! Long may it continue and long may this club continue to attract new fans and to expand its supporter base even further. We are always going to attract the ‘plastic’ criticism from supporters of other clubs, but the same would happen with any of them if they found the success that we did. The moaners and groaners within Sincil Bank who resent this growth in support and still want to sit in Sincil Bank surrounded by empty seats are the people that need to change their outlook and attitude.

  24. Here is a post i put on a forum discussing plastic’s and my view on it as an Imp with 42 years under my belt.

    I hate Danny Cowley, he’s ruined my club, god knows why i was a season ticket holder in the late 80’s to the mid 90’s it’s not like I couldn’t just rock up at 5 to 3 and just wander in and stand/sit where the hell I liked.

    From 95 I’ve lived in the NE, NW, stratford on avon and Weybridge and until Feb 2017 I’ve been able to wake up on a Saturday morning and think fu@k it I go to Lincoln today and rock up and pay on the gate, sit high up in the Westbank or in the Stacey West. But no the clown Cowley rocks up with his ‘Method’, ‘Relentless hardwork day in day out’, ‘the very best versions of ourselves’, ‘league championships’, ‘cup runs’, ‘expectations’ and now we’ve sold out of season tickets, away games are sold out regularly. If i do come up I’m sat in a corner somewhere and have to sit on my hands in the home end at away games.

    Quite frankly I’m over the fu@kin moon, my little club is now not little any more, the City is behind it, the kids love it, the future is bright and long may it conitue.

    Obviously I don’t hate DC, I love the bloke, 16/17 may go down as LCFC being the greatest non league team in history, 17/18 we achieved a 100% winning record at Wembley and we are currently 5 points clear with 1 and 2 games in hand.

    I welcolme all the new and returning fans and I encourage you all to invite new ones to the bank at every oportunity, even if it does bugger up my saturdays.

    Love you all. UTI

  25. Most posts on this blog usually get a response of about 5 on average. Already there are 20 on this beautifully crafted piece of writing. You should have a Blog of your own Valerie. The success of this Football Club both on and off the field has been driven by the energy and charisma of the Cowley Brothers. They work incredibly hard, know what to say in any given situation and know how to work a crowd but they are much much more than that. In a word they are visionaries. They saw the potential of a Stadium with 10,000 seats and had the self belief and determination to put bottoms on every one of them. This period looking back will, I’m pretty sure be labelled “the Cowley effect” Football is an entertainment industry, an escapism from our often troubled and pressured lives… Right now it is the best of times, it lifts the spirits with the buzz and hub hub as families and friends meet up in anticipation of the game. I for one have little care how long each individual has attended matches. All I know is that I’m bloody well pleased they do.

  26. Great read and consider you and your family as fan’s. My first game was in 57 as a six year old walked from the coop butchers shop on monks Road now a Chinese as dad was manager had had to work on Saturdays. Big crowds on cup games remember Burnley lost at turf Moor in a replay. Lincoln have a great times and heart break times we will again no doubt but let’s all ride the wave as long as we can. We the more people with the imps the better.

  27. Given that all of the posts here are positive, who exactly is calling fans “plastics”?

    To that point, happy to have lots of fans at Lincoln. Bit annoying that it now makes it hard to get tickets rather than paying at the gate as it has been for decades, but it is part of what it is about. Also bit annoying that the first game for the writer was one I couldn’t get a ticket for and had to sit in the corporate end. But again that is part of it.

    As one other has said though, the real test of all this is when the bad times come. It is at this point we can point the plastics finger as we could in 2015 at the thousands who left the club to it’s own fate. And in 2000 before that.

    • Hi R, sorry about the frustrations with tickets and such! I can empathise a little, though with a different sport. About 20 years ago I started following professional cycle racing and went to France to watch the Tour de France a couple of times. Cycling wasn’t popular in the UK at that time and it was really straightforward to go to watch it, in fact we were the only people there from the UK on the race route – and had as much space as we wanted. All of a sudden as a result of the Olympic successes everyone wanted to be a part of it and the next Tour de France I went to I found myself surrounded by Union Jacks and red, white, and blue bunting. It was impossible to park near to the race route, buy refreshments, or get to see the cyclists go past without people 5 deep stood in front. It took away a bit of the magic…

      I am a little confused about your reference to the first game I went to as I am pretty sure there were plenty of spare seats in the Stacey West stand which is where I was sitting? If you are referring to the Arsenal-Lincoln FA Cup that was before I started following Lincoln City. Knowing what I know now, I can’t imagine why I had a vague notion that going to the match might even have been remotely possible!

  28. Thank you so much to everyone that has taken the time to add a comment. Gary will vouch for the fact that I sent this to him because I just wanted someone to read this who would be able to relate to my story, and I didn’t expect that anyone else would be all that interested. I have truly been humbled by the number of positive replies and the wonderful effect this has had. Danny Cowley says that Lincoln has the best fan base there is and you are testament to this. Please take Gary up on his suggestion of sharing your stories – I have so enjoyed reading what I have seen and would love to hear more about how everyone came to be a fan. Thank you for the welcome!

  29. A lovely and well written piece, thank you for sharing your experience Valerie. And you are certainly not alone. I’m a Lincoln fan who found football individually rather than being taken to games by a family member.
    As someone who has never lived in Lincoln I still get asked askance “Why Lincoln?” when people find out who I support. Not that there is any one credential that makes anyone a more “valid” supporter than anyone else, but even though my first Lincoln match was a seeing the team squander a goal lead to lose to Cardiff at Ninian Park on a cold November evening in 2000, and many countless matches attended since then, I still wonder at what point, if ever, I count as a true Lincoln fan myself. But I mostly just enjoy supporting the team, even if it is in my own way. I’ve seen victories and defeats, highs and lows, and a few dodgy pies in between… I’m proud of supporting “my” team through it all, even more so now that I get to take my children along to matches as well. In fact my last match was the first one I’ve attended not because I particularly wanted to go (time and money mean I don’t usually get to 3 matches in a month, let alone 4!) but because my son asked me to take him! And sitting there, watching Lincoln squander a two goal lead (although we did at least draw rather than lose this time) and watching my son enjoy the atmosphere and being part of the crowd, and starting to share my interest, was a truly special moment. I don’t know where the current journey Lincoln are on will take us, but I know I’ll be enjoying every moment I can of the highs and the lows. And I’ll be enjoying it with the rest of my family, as we are all firmly Imps.

    Thank you again.

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