It’s been a great couple of days to be a Lincoln fan, but not so much to be this Lincoln fan.
In the past 24-hours I’ve missed the chance to interview Shay McCartan, I’ve missed Cowley v Cowley and this is the first time I’ve sat at my desk since Sunday evening. I’ve immersed myself in the debate and discussion surrounding our promotion, but haven’t been as prominent on the site as I’d have liked thanks to a whole new strain of man-flu worse than anything I’ve ever had before. Or, as my partner might judge it, the sniffles.
I’ve been awoken from my slumber by a thread on Twitter started by Danny Nez, who is interested in the impact of the atmosphere at Sincil bank, this season and next. Having bigger clubs visiting means the Stacey West is likely to be handed over to travelling fans more often next season and the challenge is for us to not only keep the high numbers of individuals within Lincoln happy, but also to ensure any advantage being at home brings us is maintained.
vocal support to other sections? would like to hear your thoughts on wether today's modern fan would welcome this? Possibility one for @Staceywestblog to pick up on and write about.
— Nez… (@nezdanny) April 16, 2019
It’s certainly an interesting point and it’s as good a place as any to begin my series of articles about the different challenges and hurdles we’ll need to overcome when playing at the highest level we’ve been in 20 years, or more pertinently how we can begin to look at getting to the next level, one we’ve not graced in over 50 years.
The atmosphere seems a good place to start. Often I’ve come away from a ground thinking the atmosphere was poor, both Sincil Bank and further afield. The one game we’ve lost at home this season was Crawley, a match notable for the rather flat and tepid noise levels. When that happens the 617 get blamed, they point to others not joining in and a whole discussion starts as how best to combat it.
There’s also been the train of thought that the ‘anti-atmopshere’ has cost us matches this season. By that, I mean the odd bad touch being greeted with sighs, John Akinde’s first miss of the game getting fans on his back and that sort of thing. The beast that is a Lincoln City home crowd can be unforgiving at times, never more so than during Carlisle, Cambridge, Stevenage, Northampton and a host of other drawn home matches.
I don’t subscribe to the feeling that the team have been nervous playing at home because of that, nor because of the expectation. The reason our home form has been ‘disappointing’ at times (we’re top, one of only four teams to lose fewer than two at home all season, so disappointing is a little strong) isn’t due to the crowd at all. It’s due to tactics.
I’ve said it before but, for those at the back, I’ll say it again. At Sincil Bank teams come and expect us to break them down. We’re the best team in the division without the ball, but one of four or five who are amongst the best with it. When you play as we do, with wide players looking to deliver crosses, other teams can simply defend deeper and in numbers to cut down on the space. That means a slow, methodical approach is required. Think back to Saturday, how many times did Cheltenham pin us in our half? Never? They came and soaked up our pressure, hitting us on the break.
That’s a game plan we’re great at and it’s why we’ve done so well on the road. It might even be said, in contradiction to my blog last weekend, that the second goal against MK Dons didn’t come because 5,500 fans sucked Bruno Andrade towards goal, but because MK Dons were pressuring us and we were able to break at pace, using John Akinde as the catalyst as we’ve done all season. It’s why when you look at our away record against teams in the top seven, we’ve lost once.
That doesn’t change the need to tweak things at the Bank though. The case point for me came as we waited for the news at the weekend. The were ripples of ‘we are going up’ and the like, but in the main it was subdued until Alan put the microphone to his lips…. the chants began in the block seven area and quickly spread, but the problem with a spreading chant is timing. It seemed that by the time it reaches blocks four onwards, which is where I’d got to, everyone is out of time. It can’t spread equally which means the noise seems badly paced.
Is it an actual problem, or is it perspective? Consider this. against MK Dons you’d be hard pushed to find a single Imp who could say, hand on heart, they heard a full MK Dons song. However, ask Graham Burrell who spent time sat directly in front of them at times, and he’d tell you there were moments when their singing drowned out the noise from our fans. It wasn’t all match and we didn’t notice it, but where you are makes a big difference.
We all want to be involved in a loud cacophony driving our team on, but it can seem much louder in some places than others. The obvious choice, if we want that to spread widely and evenly, is to move the 617. This prompts a couple of issues though; the main one being they wouldn’t want to move. The other being wherever they moved to would displace someone else, again not something the club will want to do.
Let’s say, just as an example, the 617 and associated singers moved to block four. They stand up all games, so what happens to those who sit in the upper rows of blocks five and three? Are they forced to stand too? Not everyone wants to. The club cannot simply reorganise the ground on a whim.
No, the 617 will stay put. That prompts the question of whether the singing section should be expanded, say into block six. Again though, if you’ve sat in block six ever since the stand opened and suddenly you’re told either stand up and sing or you’re moved, how would you feel? I can see the merits of doing something like this, but there’s too many other factors that would make it a non-starter.
There’s also the noise tourists. You might not be aware of them, but ask Connor, Nick or any of the other 617 lads. They’ll tell you at some matches, kids on their phones filming the action and not joining in are rife. Fans wanting to be part of the atmosphere, but not join in actually degraded the block seven impact for a while. Expand the section and there’s a chance you’ll dilute the singers not expand them.
Next Page – the solutions?