Ex-Imp retires: We look back at the Imps’ career of Paul Green

It been reported that a former Imps’ full back has retired this week, finally succumbing to the injury than undoubtedly stopped him from having a much better career.

The 31-year-old has finally given up on his playing career after a hip injury, despite his intention to remain in the game. He had last been a player coach at Tamworth, his third spell with the club. He’s also been with Solihull Moors, Hereford and Forest Green since leaving Lincoln.

It might seem by the list of former clubs that the tenacious and able defender had found a certain level, but that wouldn’t tell the whole story. Were it not for a back injury, he would surely have played much higher.

He came through the ranks at Aston Villa, perhaps far enough away from the first team not to be noticed, but still able enough to remain there throughout his younger days. He appeared in their squad for the 2006 pre-season friendly fixtures, but was later released after failing to impress. Where he did impress, was Lincoln City.

It was John Deehan who helped bring him to the club, using his contacts at Villa to secure Green’s trial and ultimately his move in the winter window of 2007. It’s often remarked that window was a flop for the Imps, we crashed after that and fell away from the top seven, but signing Dany N’Guessan and Green on the same day was shrewd business.  After a couple of games coming off the bench, he started his first match as we went down 2-1 at home to Mansfield. Six days later he bagged away at Hartlepool in only his second start to earn us a 1-1 draw.

Courtesy of Graham Burrell

He went on to make himself a first team regular, starting most of the matches for the remainder of the season. Although failure in the play-offs against Bristol Rovers marked a start of the decline for the Imps, Paul Green went on to prove himself worthy of praise in a succession of poor Lincoln sides.

The following season was an unmitigated disaster for City, losing 4-0 at home on the opening day to Shrewsbury, slumping to the bottom of the table and getting Peter Jackson in as manager. Green was a shining light in an increasingly poor side and one of the few players trusted by both John Schofield and his replacement, Jackson. Green played 40 matches and we narrowly avoided relegation. He scored again, only the once, earning us a 2-1 win at Morecambe in April.

The following season, that of ‘magnificent seven’ fame, Green was once again impressive. He earned his first red card as we drew 2-2 with Brentford, but still played 36 times and again, grabbed a single goal. Once more, it came away at Morecambe, this time in a 1-1 draw. Sadly, his injury problems began at the end of the season and after appearing in a 1-0 defeat against Exeter, he missed eight months of football. 

It was a serious hip injury that prevented him from breaking into Chris Sutton’s side when he first took over. Peter Jackson had long gone by Boxing Day 2009, but as Jack Lester skied a late penalty and we won 2-1, Green completed his first 90 minutes since April.

That brings us to 2010/11, a season I prefer not to talk about. Paul Green began as a permanent fixture in the side, starting all of the opening eight fixtures in league and cup. His injury caught up with him once more and following a 3-0 thrashing at Accrington Stanley, he was once again absent. The Imps were 15th when he went off for treatment, with Chris Sutton at the helm. When he came back after Christmas, we were 22nd under Steve Tilson.

When he did play the season we went down, he looked like the only player capable of organising the inexperienced and weak defence. We lost four games heavily at home that season (6-1 Rotherham, 5-1 Shrewsbury, Bury 5-0 and 4-0 Gillingham) and Paul Green did not play in a single one of them.

He played just once between January and March, a 2-2 draw with Aldershot. He scored too, earning us a 1-1 draw at Crewe in the fateful run in towards the end of the season. Had it not been for a late penalty for them, we’d have stayed up. It was Green who conceded the penalty too.

Courtesy of Graham Burrell

It is rumoured that he was one of the players told by Steve Tilson in March 2011 they wouldn’t be retained, although he then proceeded to play Green in every game he was fit during that abysmal run-in than cost us our league status. 

Few will forget that day against Aldershot in May. He was perhaps the only player on the field who played as though it mattered. Doubtless, he was one for whom the future did matter, he wasn’t a faceless loan player. He was a Lincoln City player, one who had amassed 129 appearances, of which 120 were starts. He wasn’t a super sub, he wasn’t in and out of the side because of form, it was purely injury that prevented him getting closer to 200. Whether it was the relegation or injury that led to his departure, it would have been sad to see him go under normal circumstances.

The trouble was, when he left it was a quiet departure. We’d gone down, recriminations were flying around and one of our stand out performers from the previous four years just slipped out of the back door. I doubt he got as much as a thank you, such was the anger at our relegation.

He did get revenge on Steve Tilson though, he was in the Tamworth team that beat us 4-0 the year after and earned Tilson the sack.

If that hip injury hadn’t affected Paul Green than I have no doubt I’d be writing about a player who enjoyed a good career in the Championship or maybe higher. He had a natural ability, the instinct you need to be a competent and rampaging full back, but his fitness proved to be his short coming.

His non-league career was stellar, but he could never shake the spectre of injury, with him leaving Tamworth for a third time last month thanks to his ongoing hip issues. He did score against the Imps for Forest Green in 2013, adding to a James Norwood brace to help sink us 4-1. Chris Sharp scored for us that day.

The Stacey West wishes Greeny all the best in whatever he decides to do next.

 

 

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