The last time the Imps were at home on the opening day of the season was August 2015. I’d only just moved up here to the Wolds, only been back from Cambridge for a couple of months.
The last time we kicked off in League One, or whatever it was called at the time, was August 1998 and I was Poacher for the first time. I’d only just got my first tattoo and hadn’t yet matured beyond three nights of drinking and four days wishing it was weekend.
The last time we kicked off a season in the third tier and remained there nine months later was 1984. I was five and most likely still playing with cardboard boxes and stickle bricks.
Every season brings hope, it’s the essence of this beautiful game. Whatever you’ve done in the summer, whatever the previous season brought you, this is a new start. I confess for Bury and Bolton it’s not so great, but under usual circumstances, every single one of us, every football fan in the country, has that little bit of hope that it might be our year. Except for those guys from Arsenal Fan TV, the miserable gits.
I recall the opening day of 2009/10, I’d written something very much like this for a blog I did on Sky Sports. We were playing Barnet and I was excited; the pre-season had been crap, our signings had been average and we’d disappointed the year before. So what, right? It’s a new season and when Janos Kovacs gave us a 1-0 win against Barnet I was convinced we were on the up. Peter Jackson was sacked a few weeks later, but for that one moment, I believed.
We all believe, don’t we? We’ll put our reserved predictions of mid-table in, talk our chances down and acknowledge we’re behind our competition, but as football fans, we think it might just happen again. It’s the very nature of what we do; believe in the impossible. In the past, we’ve believed in the hopeless, the insane and the unimaginable. We’ve envisaged staying in the third tier in ’98 or winning the play-offs in 2003 less than a year after coming out of administration. We’ve believed Chris Sutton could lead us to the play-offs, that Steve Tilson could win the National League and that a pair of brothers from Essex might get us to League One.
Well, here we are. Three years, three trophies and a whole lot of fun later, we’re bigger and better than at any time since I started following this wonderful club in 1986. You see, belief isn’t always well placed; it’s not always fulfilled, but it’s always there, driving us, feeding our obsession and keeping us flocking to Sincil Bank through the good times and the bad.
This is the day for the belief to be sky high, the day where anything is still possible. Being promoted autmatically isn’t impossible, nor is the play-offs.. Why? Because we’ve seen what belief can be like when it’s fulfilled. Beating Burnley, winning the EFL Trophy, winning two league titles. Impossible, so I’m told, is just an opinion.
We’re here again, fuelled by that experience and as hopeful as ever that Danny and Nicky are steering us onwards to heights we’ve not seen in my lifetime. Would you bet against them doing it? I wouldn’t. Maybe not this season, but I wouldn’t never bet again them achieving what they set out to achieve.