The following article has been submitted for publication by guest blogger Roy Thomson and is not necessarily reflective of the views of the editor.
The expected social media criticism following the 1-1 draw with bottom of the table Notts County did not disappoint with Big John once again at the forefront of people’s anger. Danny even predicted it in his post-match comments, spoken with the air of a man who was getting a little fed up with a section of fans who cannot see the good, and always see the bad.
As the week wore on, certainly on my Twitter feed, there appeared to be a lowering of the temperature, as even some of the biggest and loudest critics came to accept that negative energy from supporters could adversely affect the team’s performances in the crucial games to come.
I was disappointed with the display on Saturday, but I like to think I’ve got a bit of perspective from following the club for thirty-six years. I’m not opposed to giving criticism and don’t agree with everything the club or Danny and Nicky do, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m prepared to cut them all a bit of slack. The last two and a half seasons have given me some of the best moments of my Lincoln supporting career, and I don’t forget that quickly. It appeared that many fans shared my opinion and the moaning about the moaners seemed to be doing some good. I started to look forward to the Northampton game and a great atmosphere at Sincil Bank.
It was a bit of a surprise then when I had a look at my Twitter feed on Wednesday night to see the club was getting slaughtered. People were not happy, and when I read the announcement of what the club described as ‘exciting news”, I instantly understood why.
It is currently an expensive pastime supporting the Imps and to spring a new season ticket renewal period on people with little notice, only six weeks after Christmas, and with many having clocked up a few miles following the team away already this year showed a worrying lack of empathy with the fan base. It also felt like the club was backing fans into a corner saying it was cheaper to buy now, but we are not telling you by how much. The trumpeting of unrivalled demand, to me anyway, was the club hinting if you don’t want to renew, we want to know soon because plenty will take your place. I found it difficult to cut the club any slack on something I felt was poorly worded, a little confrontational and without publishing the full pricing structure, as ill a thought-out announcement that I have seen from the club in a long time.
I’ll put my cards on the table. I am in the fortunate position that I can renew in this new window and take advantage of the yet to be revealed discount and will still be able to travel to the away games. However, unlike the club, I understand that many supporters will not. The push for promotion is not going to be easy. We will need Sincil Bank rocking, and we will need good loud support at places like Crawley, Morecambe, Newport and Carlisle and these trips are not cheap. The timing of the new scheme with so much to play for and off the back of a busy month for away fixtures was at best misadvised. Backing people into a corner over money is just plain stupid.
I am not being critical of the increase in price, I think most people understand that if you want players like Jason Shackell in your back four they do not come cheap. However, the worry is by keeping their powder dry on what the next renewal price will be, there is a danger the club are waiting to see what league we are in to try and gauge how far they can push it up. This lack of transparency together with the timing is perhaps the biggest criticism of the club.
Obvious anger and the non-appearance of any club representative on Twitter wishing to explain the Club’s thinking behind the new scheme led to some fans directing their frustrations to members of the supporters board, which meet regularly with club officials to give supporter feedback to the club on policy matters such as this. I found this a bit uncomfortable. Throughout football history, clubs have instigated such initiatives, but they invariably end up with the clubs continuing to do whatever they please. This is not a criticism of anyone on the board. Some of them I know bought season tickets when you couldn’t give them away. I’m sure all have the best interest of fans at heart, but the fact of the matter is they are just there to give opinions. They don’t have any power, the club only consults them on a decision, and either takes their views on board or doesn’t.
I will say this, reading between the lines of their Tweets, it seemed apparent the supporters board was consulted about the increase in price but had no idea the club was going to announce a new renewal strategy. In doing so and then going very quiet on the matter once it was clear they had misjudged the mood, the club hung the supporters board members out to dry. This is an entirely unacceptable way for the club to treat volunteers, who are only trying to do their best for the club.
Fans also speculated as to the reason why the club changed policy with much concern voiced that the accounts published this week showed we had made a loss in our first season back in the EFL and wondered whether this was behind it. Some questioned the nature of modern football which sees the working man and woman shafted continuously by clubs looking to attract or more middle-class, affluent fan base. Others thought it was a good idea, but they were few and far between on my timeline. At the time I am writing this the club has yet to release any further information or explanation regarding the new policy.
It is fair to say I feel the club has made a massive mistake and can only hope the deathly silence on the issue from anyone directly involved with the club means they are reconsidering because to get League One football for the first time in twenty years the club needs its supporters to be on side. This, in my opinion, was the clubs biggest mistake, taking fans for granted when they need them most.
Look at what happened In the last time we were chasing a league title. A totally knackered team was pushed over the line in large part by the supporters. We won seven on the trot to break Tranmere and Forest Green with many magic moments along the way. During that run of games we played against teams on paper we should have beat easily and struggled. What did the fans do? They didn’t moan about the player’s wages and perceived lack of effort or sulk because we weren’t winning 4-0. They accepted that our league position meant nothing and we were not entitled to beat them and got behind the team, dragging them over the line.
There were some magic moments along the way, Sam’s free-kick and Arnold’s volley being the pick but who remembers a scrappy 1-0 home win over Chester who we had stuffed out of site in the Autumn. We were crap and with fifteen minutes to go Alan Power got himself sent off. Did we sulk because it was all going wrong, moan at the players or nervously go into our shell and hope we could hang on? No, we got on our feet, ramped up the volume and sang them home for a vital three points.
The club will hopefully see sense and try again with this one because we need to get right behind the team and the announcement has done nothing to engender a feeling of we are all in this together. I will say this though, I doubt very much this has anything to do with Danny or Nicky, Big John or Lee Angol.
For that reason, I hope that whatever you feel about the club’s handling of this, for the next sixteen games you get behind the team one hundred per cent and help them not only get promoted but get a Football League Championship in the bag for the first time since the 1970s.