I’ve always had a passionate interest in players, past and present. I love the cult of the former player, knowing who played for us, how they did here and what happened when they moved one.
I have my favourites, some because of their input on the field, others for different reasons. Sometimes I admire a player for both of those, which brings me to this weekend and Paul Farman.
Let me stress right now, for 90 minutes I want him to have a mare. I hope we score six and win comfortably. If he makes a great save, I won’t applaud and if he scores, heaven forbid, I certainly wouldn’t clap him. Not even if it was a good goal, not even if it was their fourth of a 4-1 hammering.
Something else I won’t do though is barrack him and abuse him, not a chance. Paul Farman was one of the players who came through our National League experience as a hero, someone who epitomised what was positive about the whole damned experience. I like Paul Farman, I respect him and most of all, I appreciate what he did for us.
He joined at the tail end of the 2011/12 season on loan, coming in from Gateshead which in itself tells you how far we’ve come. He was likeable, a bit eccentric as keepers are but full of life and energy. It wasn’t easy to like players back then, we were utterly abysmal and the turnover was so high that no sooner had you bonded with a player than he left.
When Farms joined permanently in the summer he joined a side still very much on its arse but for me, he always showed a great attitude. Was he a great keeper? At that level he was a good keeper, but people remember the negatives as much as the positives. Ask anyone about him and those who don’t like him will tell you about his keep-uppy error, or where he’s dropped a cross. Others, like me, will refer you to his positive traits.
Like when he lost his first team place to Nick Townsend. Did he sulk? No. He went on loan to Boston and was made to fight for his place. In a 2016 interview with the site, he said: “I was gutted (to be leaving) but just thought ‘it is what it is’, and got my head down. I was wanting to enjoy some games. Boston as a club and lads were ledge to be honest. I said if I was going to go down a level I wanted it to be them. I did want to stay in our league but to be real I had no offers, so that’s when I said I would like to go Boston.”
That was the right attitude. That was what we, as fans, wanted to hear. No strop, no refusing a loan, just an honest desire to play games and get back in the side. He did get back in and went on to win Player of the Year as well as the Echo’s Player of the Year. That’s what Farman was all about, focus and determination.
Something else Farman did was to help make an unlikeable team likeable. Gary Simpson’s side had the likes of Nolan and Newton in, talented players but as likeable as a man in a balaclava turning up in your room at 4am. Farman was a member of that squad, but he had that ‘cheeky Geordie’ thing going on, always laughing and smiling and more often than not, turning in strong performances. Along with Alan Power, he became something of a beacon during rough times, someone we could identify with as a Lincoln player, not a short-term mercenary or another inadequate new face.
He was well respected behind the scenes too. Need a player to go to a school and chat to kids? If you could find an interpreter, he was your man. Want a media-friendly soundbite? Again, get the interpreter and he’s there for you. He’d shake hands with everyone who offered and made such an impression on my missus we still have a Paul Farman fridge magnet. she tells me if I take it off the fridge she’ll burn a random programme from my collection and not tell me which one….
Before the FA Cup run, Farms spoke about his desire for promotion, his one single goal to be a Football League keeper: “I want one thing in my career and that’s a promotion under my belt. If I can look back and say that I’ll be a happy man. It’s simple which club I want it with!! Some might say I have no aspiration to push on and play higher, but I could happily play my career out at Lincoln. I want to achieve my career goals with this club.”
In 2016/17, he did that and more. Not only did he become a Football League keeper, but he also got a Man of the Match award at The Emirates and was in sensational form as we beat Burnley. He made a lot of crucial saves during that season and made very few mistakes. Those who knocked him the season later forgot very quickly how much he influenced the back four and what a tough unit they became.
They also forgot that the infamous ‘Farman time’ wasn’t just a tactical ploy, but a real injury which needed attention. The one time he sat out of a game, the FA Trophy semi-final at York, we lost 2-1 with at least one goal I believe he could have saved. Once the league was won, he went off and got the treatment he wanted.
Having earned the right to play in the Football League, he would have been disappointed to drop to the bench. As last season wore on, it became obvious his time with the Imps was drawing to a close. The game against Swindon sticks in my mind, he was barraged for his performance in a match we perhaps should have won. A Sean McConville strike embarrassed him against Accrington too and then despite playing in most of the EFL Trophy run, he was dropped for the semi-final and final.
He never complained though, he never spat his dummy out and I confess I was delighted when he got a move to a Football League club. We had progressed and without being cruel, we’d perhaps passed the level at which he was comfortable. That said, we finished seventh last season and right now, with him as their number one, Stevenage are hoping to do the same.
I’ll hope to see him before the game, shake his hand and wish him all the best for the season after 5pm. He’s up there with Alan Marriott as one of my favourite ever Imps keepers and his appearance record speaks for itself. He’s move on, so have we but to erase what he did for the club from your mind would be unfair.
Please, remember how he served us diligently, and how he deserves our respect and thanks for his time here. However, whatever you do, if he saves a penalty, do not cheer.