Our First Matches: Two more fan stories

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Two more of our ‘how we started series’, starting with Marcus Burton and Jake Blackbourn on the second page.

Marcus and Olly: We are Imps, we really are.

Early 2014, and I’m in the kitchen of my RAF quarter in Oxfordshire telling my wife I have an unexpected chance to move the family back to Lincolnshire for the first time in 24 years of RAF service. As we are both Yellowbellies it’s a no brainier, especially to move 3 hours closer to our family. Olly, then aged 7 was starting to like football; wore a Chelsea shirt for a kick about (Mum bought it…), had a Forest supporting Grandad and Man Utd mad Grandpa (Stratford End veteran of the Best, Law, Charlton era). Me? Born into a Man Utd family, born and bred in Lincolnshire but not lived there since I was 20, I’d been closer to Portsmouth, Plymouth and Aldershot for longer than Lincoln.

I had no football identity beyond what I could watch on the TV in the days pre-Sky. Well, that’s what I assumed until I thought back to my first posting in Cornwall. 365 miles away from home my only contact with my roots bar a weekly phone home (queuing on camp for the phone box), was copies on the Echo my Mum would post to me. In a pre-internet age I would read about Lincoln City and other local clubs (no names!) and follow my local team from afar with my Leicester City and Bolton Wanderers supporting mates. We would have a kick about on camp and I even had a Lincoln City shirt purchased from the club shop even though I’d never watched a match at The Bank. So, perhaps it was there all along; I just needed a reason to go.

So forward on to 2014, me and Olly made the commitment; lets go and watch some proper football (live and not on the telly) and let’s watch our local team, my local team. I enrolled Olly in the Poachers Club and we excitedly went along to our first match, Gary Simpson’s Imps vs Torquay. Sat in the Co Op Upper 2 I recall we weren’t that great and lost 3-1 (according to Olly), who 2 years later would recount his first Lincoln City match as ‘terrible’ live on BBC Local radio outside Portman Road.

It might not have been a great result, but a few more matches and we were hooked. It didn’t matter that the team were not doing that great, we could sit where we wanted (although we always sat in the same seat!), meet the players outside the tunnel, get autographs, sing along with 617 and generally tell the referee he wasn’t very good. It was all so accessible, yes, we were newbies but we never felt like it. I would go to night matches on my own (too late for Olly on a school night) and sit with a work colleague, I saw my first Lincolnshire Derby and that late Hamza Bencherif winner, maybe I was really an Imp all along. In fact, I recalled those posted Echo reports- Grant Brown, Simon Yeo, Peter Grotier and many others, names I now see coming to The Bank and standing outside the Travis Suite recounting past events that for me were only ever in print.

As for Olly, for a 12-year-old it really must be nirvana. Less than 5 years since we first took our seats it’s all gone a bit mad, in a very good way. That FA Cup run and Nathan Arnold at Gateshead ignited our love of an away game that started at Portman Road with the Cowleys. I keep telling him that he’s watching a golden age at present and that at some point maybe it will change, but he doesn’t care. He has a team, an identity, a club and a passion to match his now encyclopaedic knowledge of the game and team he loves. It’s rubbed off on me too, our pre-match routine, my lucky socks and we still sit in the same seats.

So, we are Imps after all, we really are.