Long before George Lloyd nodded a deserved equaliser for Cheltenham this afternoon, a song rang out across Sincil Bank.
We’ve heard it ten thousand times before; “The Imps are going up, the Imps are going up, and now you’re gonna believe us…” This time was different though wasn’t it? Because this time it wasn’t wishful thinking. This time it wasn’t us pushing for the top seven, or just winning a game of football prompting the chant.
This time, we really are going up the Football League.
There was a surreal feeling to that second half, a feeling of inevitability encrusted with drippings of ‘the fear’. Let us be entirely honest, if we had failed to rubber-stamp League One football it would have been incredibly disappointing. Especially after a first half which we deservedly led, and with other results going our way.
This wasn’t about one game though, this was about a whole season. This was the culmination of a journey, or at least the penultimate stage of a journey.
I’ll do my usual piece tomorrow, tonight for me looks pretty much like a steak dinner in Belchford followed by Beechams and a long night’s sleep, but my 100% killer man flu does feel a little less serious in the cold hard light of League One football.
There’s still work to do, but for a few moments at the end of the game we got that buzz, the sneaky little pleasure that’s dogged the Cowley’s reign at Lincoln City. I’d worked out we were up on the final whistle, as had a few of the lads around me, but it still had to be confirmed. Even though I knew, it didn’t seem real.
Then Alan Long, the voice of Lincoln City, made it final. Breaking news; Lincoln City are promoted to League One.
Even though I knew, even though it’s been inevitable since Bruno’s goal last weekend, even though deep down I’ve believed it since Northampton away, it still felt emotional to hear it. It wasn’t a belief anymore, it was real.
Ipswich. Bolton. At least two of Sunderland, Portsmouth, Charlton or Barnsley. All opponents next season, all playing at the same level as my club, as OUR club.
‘Three years ago, who would have thought…’ is an easily rolled out rhetoric. It’ll form the headlines and opinion pieces across the Football League this weekend. Three years ago, we drew 2-2 at Southport en route to finishing in the middle of the National League pack. Now, we’re heading to Portman Road on level terms. Fiction writers wouldn’t dare be so bold as to pen a story as incredible as ours.
The title is still to be won, but it will be. Right now though, that’s not in my mind. Right now, all I can hear is Alan Long’s voice telling me we’re playing League One football next season and I can see the watery glint in my Dad’s eye as he hears it too. I know he was thinking about his Dad, who passed away 27 years ago this weekend.
League One football, coming to Sincil Bank. As inevitable as it’s been for a while, it still barely feels real. It is though. The Imps are going up and you don’t just have to believe us; it’s fact.
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