Lincoln City Awards Night – The SW Experience

I had the immense pleasure last night of attending the awards night at the Showground, thanks to an invite from friend of the site, Rob Cox.

What I didn’t get to do was watch the open-topped bus parade through the city, having a prior family engagement, so it was nice to be able to say my own thanks to some of the players and the staff for the past twelve months.

These events are not widely popular, I understand that. I can see the elements which people do not entirely appreciate as well. It’s costly, but then again it’s a great venue with a really positive feel to it. The glitz and glamour won’t have come cheap and having been at some awards nights in the past, the FBA’s in particular, there was very little between that and ‘little ‘ol Lincoln’ last night.

Shall I deal with the elements I guess some fans might not wholly appreciate? I stood outside talking to a chap for a while, just chewing the fat as you do, and I asked him how long he’d been a Lincoln fan. His reply? He wasn’t, a friend had a business table and he was there for the free beer. I guess that could rankle a few people, but that is the nature of these events. Not everyone is a supporter which is a shame, but if you buy a table you’re welcome to have whoever you choose on it.

The compere for the evening switched around a bit, but for a while we had Frazer Hines and Colin McFarlane on stage. I know what some will be thinking; we didn’t see them about whilst we were on our arse in the National League. No, we didn’t, but like a lot of supporters they’re here now and have a profile. I try not to judge anyone who is on the journey right now and two people with profiles being involved isn’t the worst thing to happen to us. 

Remember, we spent years wishing we had more fans, wishing we had a profile, so to reject that now would be hypocritical and a little crass. It’s the same with the event as a whole, who would have paid £700 per table for a chance to watch Joe Anyon get his Player of the Year in 2012, or Sam Smith to lift the Golden Boot? If you’d given me £700, I might have gone along but as for the endless selfies, not a chance. I’d rather take my picture with a bag full of tarantulas than Ali Fuseini or Paul Robson.

I’m getting the negatives out of the way because I know for some this sort of event is the enemy. It’s an odd notion, but even those who are against the cost in general found the lure too great when invited. Andy Pearson is a friend and someone whose view I respect and I was pleased to see him there. I’ve seen Citizen Needham giving him some stick online, something I’m sure he’ll get over, but proper fans should have a chance to attend these events if they can, as well as the corporate clients. I noticed a few faces there, Grant Moyses is a lovely lad and was on a table, looking dapper in a Dickie bow and waistcoat. I also saw some very vocal detractors of the event dressed up smartly and not even acknowledging their own previous social media comments. 

That’s dealt, I hope, with the aspects that some of you might not entirely find comfortable. For me, it was a top night and one I was incredibly grateful to have attended. The awards were good, self-congratulatory and well scripted, but still a chance to sing a few songs and get sore hands from incessant clapping. Bozzie, ever one to stay out of the limelight, wasn’t there in person and Lee Angol wasn’t present either, but the rest of the squad were, from Harry Toffolo to James Brown and every one in between.

There was lots of emphasis on celebrating the staff, the medical team have picked up yet another award for their superb work and rightly so. I’m not sure who knows what I’m about to tell you, but enough time has passed for me to reveal it and hopefully not get into trouble. 

One year ago I had a major back operation, as I’m sure you know. It involved putting steel rods into my lower lumbar in a procedure called decompression. It affected three vertebrae and if I’m honest, it was absolute hell. In the aftermath I had no improvement in my pain, nor my flexibility.

Knowing that I was struggling, I got a call from a senior member of the club’s staff, asking if they could offer some help. I saw Ross, Danny’s closest friend and someone who had previously worked on Michael Owen’s back. In just half an hour he did more for me than the surgeon did over an eight month period before and after my op. The staff and people at our club deserve their awards and the recognition a night like this gives them because they do so much over and above the norm, as I found out first hand.

Neal Eardley picked up the Player’s Player of the Year, something I didn’t see coming. Eards is a cracking player and to be honest, nobody reading this can predict who the players will vote for because they’ll see everything behind the scenes, as well as knowing which players they feel help them most on the field. I would imagine both Jason Shackell and John Akinde were there or thereabouts in the voting. Bozzie too. 

You’ll see through the piece I played fanboy, getting my picture taken with a host of players. Why not, right? One I was ultra keen to chat to was Michael O’Connor. For those who don’t know, the wording of one of my recent blogs seemed to suggest I didn’t think he could play League One football, when my intention was merely to point out the large number of central midfielders we might have on the books. Mickey was great, he put his arm around me and began to joke about the article, which did settle my nerves a bit. I’d stand by comments I make on here, always, but I do feel regret when they’re not interpreted as I’d intended them to be.

I enjoyed chatting to a host of different people too. You’d be surprised the sort of supporters the Imps have. I met Ryan Armstrong for the first time, he works for the FA and is heavily involved in the FA Cup Final as well as other major events at Wembley. We had a chat about programmes, the Imps and the ever-changing face of media output.

It was also cracking to get a chance to speak to Paul Reames. He’s the son of John and knowing he reads the blog is nice. We had a chat about his old man and I confirmed that his input and legacy has only truly been recognised after he left. John picked up the reigns of the club during the turbulent mid-eighties as the aftermath of the tragic events of Valley Parade reverberated around the club. He didn’t get everything right, but he had been dealt a bum hand and in the end, his gift to the club enabled us to move forward. I’ve always wanted to tell his son that face to face and I’m glad I did.

There were few surprised within the awards. It was great to hear Jordan Adebayo-Smith speak as he got Academy Player of the Year and of course, seeing a visibly bigger and stronger Ellis talking about working hard for the future can only inspire belief that we’re getting in good shape. It was interesting to hear Kanu and Stephen Pienaar congratulating the Imps from a video link, an odd combination if ever I’ve seen one.

The wine flowed, the auction started and it seemed a wise move for us to be on the back table. Three shirts in a frame, one from each successful season signed by the squads, went for £3000. I don’t think anything went for less than £1000, a shame because I’d earmarked at least £150 for Shay McCartan’s ‘Goal of the Month’ trophy. Bidding started at £1000 I think. 

I’ll stick to the raffle.

All in all it was nice for me to be able to thank some players personally for their efforts, especially as I missed the bus parade. I’d like to think that between the two, everyone got a chance to say thank you to the players and staff, be it by waving flags, singing songs or drunkenly waiting by the exit to the toilets and grabbing pretty much anyone that walked past. 

Finally, a heartfelt thank you once again to Rob and a great mix of guys on the table with us. They made the night as we laughed and joked through some bits, paid attention through others and swapped stories and opinions. When all said and done, whether you’re at a table at the Showground eating chicken in posh gravy (or ‘jus’ as I know it’s called), or whether you’re in Mailbox downing shots and climbing on tables, this experience of winning a title is all about fans. When you collar a player for a photo, you do it to show the people you know will care, people you know will be a little bit jealous or have one of their own lurking away on their phones.

Football and our recent success isn’t about the where and the why, it’s not about dinners, lights and stars on video screens. It’s about who you share it with, swapping stories, memories and enjoyment. I’ve drunk with Rob away at Barnet, bumped into him in a shop in Louth and now drank (lots of) red wine and chewed the fat with him and a terrific group of lads I’ve barely spoken too before at the Showground. 

These realy are the very best of days and whilst living through them makes them seem normal, when we look back we’ll do so with pride.

Oh and Beef; that hat trick for Gareth Ainsworth was definitely at home and we it was Bournemouth we played at home in 2010 with Steve Fletcher as a sub!