Looking Back 1989/90 – Imps open with 100% record (Part 1)

Sometimes I find myself drawn to writing articles that don’t attract huge viewing figures. Most of my day, away from this site, is spent chasing views so it’s refreshing to write something because I want to.

That pretty much sums up the articles I do looking back at previous seasons. The one looking back at 1985/86 got fewer views than almost anything I’ve written before or since, but it gave me great pleasure to do it. Why? Because I could get the programmes out and immerse myself in another time. That was the season before I start going and for the next series, I’m going to fast forward a year or three.

That three-part series started in the summer of ’85, a thoroughly tragic and dismal summer for football as a whole. This time, we’re starting in the summer of 1989, a time of optimism and excitement at Sincil Bank.

The new St Andrews Stand and been completed and opened for a year, so the 1989/90 season would once again see a Sincil Bank surrounded on four sides; at least until later on in the campaign. On one hand, we had our spanking new stand, designed with fire safety in mind first and foremost. It’s staggered walkways, large roof leaning upwards and vast empty space were all intended to make it as safe as possible. Opposite we still had the Sincil Bank terrace and at either end of the ground the stands that had been there for years; the Railway End and the South Park Stand. Both would be gone by the end of the season.

There was optimism around the place after out tenth-placed finish the season before. Colin Murphy had led his GMVC Champions back into the Football League and despite a 1-0 home defeat to Hartlepool on the opening day of the season, we’d flirted with the play-offs. Much of the side remained the same from the promotion year, with the exception of Gordon Hobson, returning from First Division side Southampton, and Tony James, a classy centre half plucked from non-league obscurity.

As Colin Murphy had experienced success with the Imps before, he knew what it took. He’d already recruited one of his former generals in Hobson, but another joined in the summer of ’89 – Steve Thompson. He’d been with Charlton and Sheffield United, as well as having an ill-fated spell at Leicester City which he still enjoys talking about in after-dinner speeches to this very day.

Matt Carmichael

He wasn’t the only recruit joining the club in the summer. Mark Wallington had missed the end of the previous campaign with Ian Bowling taking over, but Murphy added Andy Gorton to the side. Gorton was a former Oldham stopper who’d enjoyed a loan spell under Murphy at Stockport in the 86/87 season. It was believed during his time at Oldham a First Division club had made a substantial bid that was turned down, or at least that’s what the club programme claimed for the opening day fixture.  

A young trainee was given a first team contract too and although he didn’t make the grade straight off, he would go on to become very well known in Lincoln. Steve ‘Sherlock’ Holmes, as he was known at the time, had completed his YTS with the club and earned a full time deal. He didn’t make an appearance, but his name would soon be one Imps’ fans everywhere were familiar with.

Pre-season took the Imps to the likes of Boston FC, Fisher Athletic and Alton Town, as well as bringing Yorkshire and Humberside cup matches with Bradford, Barnsley and Huddersfield. A pre-season training camp saw the club head to Aldershot where Murph spotted a centre forward by the name of Matt Carmichael. He dropped Matt into pre-season games against Scunthorpe and Barnsley, where he bagged goals to make a claim on a first team place.

Another name appears on the opening day programme which, had it come off, might have given the Imps a real edge. George Shipley was another former Murph protege, with over 250 outings to his name for the Imps in the late seventies and early eighties. He returned to Sincil Bank after spells with Charlton and Gillingham and looked set to add to those appearances, but injury eventually put paid to his hopes of playing at the Bank.

Schofield – started the season injured

Sadly, injuries were the story of the season, at least for the first few matches. The Imps had a strong squad of players, in addition to those new faces stalwarts such as Graham Bressington, John Schofield, Gordon Hobson, Shane Nicholson, Paul Casey, Paul Smith and Dave Clarke were still around the club. Many observers had us as amongst the front runners for promotion and perhaps if we’d stayed injury free, it might have been the case.

Smith missed the August 19th clash with Scunthorpe through injury, as did Hobson and Schofield. Thommo had also picked up a knock in pre-season and he too missed the first game of the season. Bob Cumming was still on our books too, but we’d have to wait for Albany Capitals season to end in the USA before he returned.

That meant the opening day line-up was as you see below.


The unused subs were Phil Brown and Mick Waitt, with Waitt having not appeared since the Cheltenham Town leg break in 1987/88.

Murph was well aware of the pressures the injury situation was creating early doors, remarking in the programme: “I am aware that the injury situation in the club is creating various pressures with regard to incoming faces and I suppose it is also true to assume that at this particular time of year you are looking for incoming faces to be incoming injuries apart.” Essentially, that translates to ‘you don’t want me signing injured players’.

Oddly, he added at the end of those notes; “Our conkers are in order, a little bruised, but much more well mature, some have dropped and some are still gaining their varcity but in general terms, they are more resilient with the vinegar and oven having taken respect. In this respect I once remember owning a successful 46er and if this is to be the case this season will complete on the sunny side of the strata.”

No wonder he won gobblygook awards, eh?

Next page – Imps go top after great start

1 Comment

  1. Good stuff, Gary. I’ve an idea Matt Carmichael had played against us for Wycombe in the 1987/88 season but I haven’t checked. A pity we couldn’t have signed Paul Groves as well as Grant Brown but I don’t think it was ever likely.

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