Whilst my 89/90 season review will take a bit to write, the ever-dependable site historian Malcolm Johnson has provided us with an overview of the 1964/65 season – part of the series that ran in A City United and latterly the printed Stacey West.
With three seasons of decline having been arrested by a mid-table Fourth Division finish, expectations were high for a promotion challenge by City as the first step on their way back to their ‘rightful place’ in Division Two, writes Malcolm.
My father and I were at Sincil Bank along with 5,131 others for the first game of the season at home to Hartlepools United. The first thing to notice was a new programme cover design for the first time in many years along with a doubling in price to 6d (2½p). We did get four extra pages for our money, though. Among the adverts, Reynolds Sports of 51/52 High Street (3 minutes’ walk from the ground) promised: “Our knowledge and experience are at your service.” And you were urged: “For the best food in Lincoln come to the Co-operative Restaurant, Free School Lane.” New features included ‘Soccer Searchlight’ in which the writer commented on the new season as one of ‘Berlin-or-Bust’ for City with chairman Frank Eccleshare having declared that he wanted promotion, and whose message along with an appeal for people to boost the gates at Sincil Bank was: “A considerable amount of money has been expended on new players…in preparation for this season. Our financial resources, therefore, have been extended to the limit in order to build up a team strong enough to get promotion”.
In the close season there had been an exchange of goalkeepers with Walsall, Terry Carling leaving and Malcolm White joining City, although usual reserve Bob Graves was in goal against Hartlepools. A loss was ‘Ironman’ centre half Brian Heward who had emigrated to Australia, Bryan Stainton taking his place in the side. Other incomers were 20-year-old right winger Ken Fencott from Aston Villa, and inside left or winger John Hawksby, a fringe first team player at Leeds United. Both made their debuts in a side which, apart from Stainton and Graves was otherwise unchanged from the end of the previous season, with 19-year-old defender Joe Jacques from Preston North End missing out through injury.
The season got off to an ideal start with a 4-2 win, with centre forward Bud Houghton off the mark straight away and a goal from Fencott.
Although by now desperately keen on City I was only able to see them play if, as recounted in the previous article, my fortnightly weekend with my father in Leadenham coincided with a home match. Perhaps enthused by my interest he went on his own for the first time in years and witnessed a 2-2 draw with Millwall, a game which prompted legendary Echo sportswriter Maurice Burton (MB) to declare “City’s manner on the field, and their mounting teamwork gives great hope for future success.”
On the Saturdays when I went with my father, as often as not pre-match would mean a bowl of soup in the café (wish I could remember its name) next to the Great Northern Hotel on the High Street – both now long demolished. Then it would be in his car to the ground, parking somewhere like Scorer Street or Cross Street – plenty of room! – then into the ground just before 3pm at the southern turnstiles onto the Sincil Bank terrace where we would take our places low down near the half way line. He liked it there so as to see both ends of the pitch equally well, but I later found after occasions when we had to take shelter from the rain in the Railway End I liked to watch from behind the goal and did so when I began going on my own. After the match we would sometimes wait for the Football Echo to come out then it was back to Leadenham and for tea maybe sausages in gravy and thick slices of bread or maybe kippers bought earlier from MacFisheries near High Bridge.
City’s good start was not followed up as three draws and only one win came from the next seven games plus a League Cup exit at Third Division Barnsley which saw defender Dick Neal’s last game for the club before his departure to Southern League Rugby Town. His place was taken by the experienced Brian Jackson who had joined from Peterborough United as player/assistant to Bill Anderson, but the disappointing early form saw the club’s directors decide to take over team selection themselves with Anderson and Jackson responsible for coaching duties. This made national news, the evening sports bulletin on the BBC Light Programme reporting on Anderson’s having “on a shoestring budget lifted Lincoln City into the Second Division and held them there, by their shoestrings, for nine years”.
A slight improvement in results followed, including a 6-0 victory over Stockport County who as substitutes were still in the future played much of the game with ten men due to injury. I read about this game, as for all the weekends when I was in Nottingham, in the Football Post, the cover of its football annual showing the Imp taking his place amongst the personifications of the other East Midlands’ clubs nicknames.
My next game was a 2-0 defeat by Chesterfield on 10th October. White was now in goal and Ken Bracewell in a run of games at left back. Roger Holmes was at wing half in place of the injured John Milner who had not shown the form of the previous season. City’s mediocre form had put them in 13th place, but the Supporters Club Notes were optimistic: “…no-one will deny that the players are giving us 90 minutes of whole-hearted endeavour – something we have not seen for quite a long time…Indeed, but for missed penalties, we should have been near the top of the table.”
A 1-0 defeat then followed at home to eventual Champions Brighton who included former Tottenham and recent England centre forward Bobby Smith in their side. Better was a 2-1 win at Doncaster thanks to a double strike by the 19-year-old defender Jim Grummett playing at centre forward.
I was back after two weeks to see visitors Aldershot take an early lead in a period of the game which saw: “…the Imps at their most inept, with bungling passes and poor positioning” (MB). A goal by Hawksby started an improvement, with a brace from Holmes putting City in 11th place. With Brian Jackson fading from the scene Joe Jacques was now alongside Stainton in defence.
A steady downward trend then began with a 7-0 thrashing at Newport – not pleasant reading for those who took advantage of the local paper’s regular service: “The result of tonight’s game will be displayed in the Echo office window, St Benedict Square as soon as possible after 9.10pm”.
Better news was the return of Brian Heward from Australia after he had failed to settle there. I was present for the next home game against Southport when, boosted by Heward’s return to the side, and with Jim Grummett now in defence, there was also a new signing in the shape of ‘Bunny’ Larkin. No rabbit, he had played over 170 league games and appeared in European competition for Birmingham City. He replaced the disappointing Alan Morton in the side, and a 3-0 win for City with Fencott starring preceded FA Cup action when Tranmere Rovers were beaten in a home replay on a Wednesday night. But a third meeting with the Merseyside club – for some reason played just two nights later – almost predictably saw a defeat in the league.
Cup progress continued with over 8,000 turning out to see Third Division Hull City beaten 3-1 in a replay, but in the league, there was gloom in more ways than one with defeat at Hartlepools, one of two Football League clubs still without floodlights.