Malcolm Johnson is far more prolific than I am, whilst I’ve done one part of the 1989/90 season, he’s got two of the sixties ready for you. For those with the inclination, sit back and immerse yourself in a season that culminated in England winning the World Cup and Lincoln winning nothing.
Following Lincoln City’s successful re-election plea after finishing 22nd in Division Four the previous season the summer of 1965 saw a number of changes to the playing squad. With 99 goals conceded – two short of the club record – not surprisingly player-manager Roy Chapman identified the defence as most in need of strengthening. Out went goalkeepers Bob Graves and Malcolm White to be replaced by Peter Wakeham with a record of over 200 Second Division games for previous clubs Charlton Athletic and Sunderland.
On the sidelines at the start of the season were centre half Brian Heward and full back Alf Jones, while young Joe Jacques left to win promotion with Darlington. Incoming was half of Third Division Gillingham’s back four – 33-year-old full back Geoff Hudson and wing half Alec Farrall. Two seasons previously the Gills had set a Fourth Division record for the fewest goals conceded and it seemed at the time quite a coup to have acquired almost a ready-made defence from the Kent club.
With strikers Bud Houghton and Alan Morton having been released, Chapman made arguably his best signing for the club: £2,000 was paid for 29-year-old Barry Hutchinson whose 46 goals had just helped Weymouth win the Southern League championship. Prior to dropping into non-league ‘Hutch’ had a record of 51 goals in 107 league games for Derby County, and as the son of Lincoln’s 1947/48 leading scorer Jimmy Hutchinson it meant that along with Jim Grummett City had two sons of famous former Imps on their books. Hutchinson’s strike partner was intended to be Keith Ellis, signed on a free transfer from Cardiff who had recently taken over a pub in his native Sheffield. Another new face was Mick Farmer, a 20-year-old midfielder released by Birmingham City.
The season started as the last one had finished, with one win and three defeats from four games plus a League Cup exit to Third Division York, so City were in an all-too-familiar 23rd place when I saw my first game of the season against Halifax Town. After a programme cover unchanged for many years my father and I were confronted with a second new design in two seasons, plus a reduction of four pages although still costing 6d (2½p). A familiar advert was: ‘Records played on this ground today are by courtesy of C. R. Spouge Ltd, 12 Cornhill’. On the back page you were invited to rendezvous at the newly-opened social club underneath the South Park stand complete with a three-lane bowling alley. Open every night, membership cost 10 shillings (50p) for men and 5 shillings for women.
A shock was to see a change to the traditional playing strip – red shirts with a white pin-stripe and red shorts. This was also the first season in which a substitute was allowed, supposedly only as replacement for an injured player. The distinction of being City’s first fell to Roy Chapman, replacing Bunny Larkin in the second game of the season at Darlington.
The centre half and centre forward positions proved to be problematic in the early days of the season. With Heward no longer in the picture, the central berth alongside Farrall was alternated between Tom Brooks, aged 17, and the scarcely older Jim Grummett. The latter played against Halifax, with Geoff Hudson switching to left back as changes were already being made to the defence, Alf Jones coming in at right back. With goalkeeper Wakeham missing through illness a hurried search for a stand-in produced the signing of veteran George Hunter from Southern League Burton Albion for his only City game. Other changes saw Roger Holmes make his first start of the season on the right wing, with Ken Fencott in midfield alongside John Milner.
Up front, Roy Chapman partnered Hutchinson and these two shared the goals as City chased the game throughout to finish with a 3-3 draw. Maurice Burton (MB) in the Echo declared: “The loss of a point by City was farcical in the extreme” and considered they had “wasted their advantage by conceding stupid goals to a team which had not scored in any of their previous away matches”.
Changes were made, but form continued patchy as Chapman rang the changes to find the right combination, declaring he’d had enough of “players with ability and no fight”. The centre half problem was dealt with by the signing of 32-year-old Les Moore, a player with around 150 games for Derby County behind him but who had spent the last season playing for the newly-formed Boston FC as they won the Lincolnshire League. He was in the side for my next game, a 1-1 draw with Newport County with Chapman’s goal breaking a run of seven games in which the only scorer had been Hutchinson. The latter in fact had been on a run of 9 goals in 9 games without which City’s league position would have been a lot worse than the 18th it was.
In an ever-changing lineup I had my only sight of Keith Ellis whose solitary goal for the club came in an immediate exit from the FA Cup in a 3-1 home defeat by Third Division Barnsley, their scorers including later Imps manager George Kerr. “Not for the first time this season, Lincoln City promised much and achieved very little”. MB also went on to say: “Another application for re-election next summer would be too much for the fans to take”. Little did he know…