Following on from the stories we featured during the season, Twitter user @ChrisDaynes2 has sent in another personal Lincoln City story. Enjoy.
When life treats you with adversity, I find myself dealing with it by focusing on the great loves of my life. Obviously, my family is up there!…. but in a particularly rough week I’m still basking in the excitement I witnessed last Saturday at my home from home, Sincil Bank.
I’m a long distance Imp, travelling to each game from Felixstowe (about 10 miles east of Ipswich…. basically a seaside tourist resort and major shipping port on the edge of the North Sea).
Sites like the Stacey West help me feel like I’m closer to the club and city, much easier than the old days when I’d ‘watch’ on teletext, screaming the house down, getting a bollocking from Mum! when Mark Sertori scored a last gasp winner one Friday night (I recall) or another night slumping to the ground when the page changed over to see that Cambridge had scored an equally late winner, with my Dad asking me several minutes later to get up off the floor, I was being ridiculous.
On Monday I came into Barts Hospital in central London to commence a Stem Cell Transplant, a last resort trial treatment for Crohn’s Disease that I’ve lived for over 30 years, as long in fact as I’ve been a City supporter. Laying here and having chemotherapy means I’ve got lots of time on my hands, more than I ever have on a regular day when I work as the Chief Operations Officers at my local club Felixstowe & Walton United FC. I’m kind of the non-league Liam Scully, spending my days creating a club that is a successful business, balancing the need for maintaining its community roots whilst maximising income streams and coming up with and implementing various procedures and developments. It’s not easy pleasing everyone as Liam will know!
Apart from playing several divisions apart (The Seasiders play at Step 4, same level as Lincoln United, in the newly named BetVictor Isthmian League North. Catchy!), there are similarities between the two clubs. Felixstowe & Walton also play in Red & White stripes, I’ve borrowed the match day programme and hashtags so we use #weareseasiders and have seen attendances quadruple over the last 3/4 seasons, helping by a near one million ground re-development….. all funded ourselves through various means, donations, sponsors, grants etc. I even took part in a ‘92 clubs in 92 hours’ tour 3 years ago, alongside my twin brother, sleeping in Huddersfield Towns car park for 4 hours one night and alongside the road between Bournemouth and Poole another. We raised about £4,000 with that adventure…. maybe I’ll have to re-do it when fit and well as the Imps weren’t included on that trip, still being in the National League at the time!
Anyway, I wasn’t born in Lincoln. Everyone around these parts were Ipswich fans, still having glory days back then…. not so many over the last 15 years though!.
My Mums parents and grandparents were from Lincolnshire, some in Spalding, some in North Hykeham and some in Mablethorpe. Every Christmas they’d come down to visit for a few days and I remember as if it were yesterday, standing in my Nana’s kitchen pantry doorway whilst Uncle Tex was telling my Grandad about Lincoln City, all doom and gloom after just being relegated from the old Third Division, we were talking 1986 here, and I’ll have been 12 years old.
Something stuck with me and I started looking out for the scores, but with info not being widely available back then, probably Saturday afternoon results on Grandstand being my main memory, and living 150 miles away from the local papers it wasn’t easy keeping up. Of course, Lincoln made the news that following season and I remember the BBC News catching the celebrations of Burnley, a former giant on the verge of going out of the league, staying up whilst Lincoln’s name was a mere side story, being the first club to be automatically relegated.
I recall seeing the results of the opening defeats in the Conference against Weymouth and somebody else…. before watching from afar again as the title race developed with Barnet. I was at a Felixstowe match with my little radio tuned into the sports reports and remember telling everyone in the clubhouse about City being promoted! It meant everything even back then, and meant the love inside me for the Imps just got stronger and stronger.
With my parents working full time and probably not quite understanding where this devotion was coming from….. Ipswich were only up the road after all!! Where did my little shrine in my bedroom of a pennant, shiny silk scarf and Shoot! team group poster make sense to them?!
Anyway, I finally managed to persuade them, that we should take a family weekend up to Lincoln. They’d love it, I said, they could visit the Cathedral and Castle and oh look, City happened to be at home on the final day of the season to Carlisle. What were the chances!
So, Friday 10th May 1991 and off we went up the A1 to the Hamilton B&B, arriving in the dark but when I strained my neck looking out of the bedroom window on Saturday morning, up the High Street, there they were….. a glimpse of the old towering floodlight pylons! What a thrill!
It was on this day that Tony Lormor, currently going through his own health battles, that can be blamed for my love affair with City going through the roof, scoring four goals as ‘WE’ beat Carlisle 6-2. I’ve still got the old VHS tape of the game that I bought by mail order afterwards. No machine to play it on for the past twenty years, but I can’t part with it!
A year later, and having learnt to drive, my twin (and Torquay fan due to family holidays down there) and I travelled to about 5/6 home games a year, arriving at about 2.30pm, parking right outside and taking our pick of what stand to sit/stand in. The football was terrible! Absolutely terrible!
But they were my team and I’d defend them to the hilt, despite my brother questioning why we’d driven all that way to watch that.
The play off years came and went, I missed both finals due to being in Ipswich Hospital after Crohn’s surgery, but the trips up a handful of times each year continued. In recent years, when trying to introduce Kate, the other love of my life to the Imps she wasn’t quite so enamoured….. I think it was the 1-0 dire home loss to Salisbury that failed to awaken the fire in her belly!!
But she allows my love to continue, not quite understanding how I can get so emotional watching a group of blokes kick a ball around, but still being strangely fascinated by the atmosphere and noise created. When the Oldham game came on tv we were on a pre-planned weekend Christmas shopping trip to London but she persuaded a local pub near to the BBC tv centre to turn the channel over from whatever the city-suits were watching to BT sport to watch 2 teams they’d never heard of play for a tie against Ipswich. The pub had heard all about Lincoln by full time!
I’d had a sense of what the Cowley’s had achieved at Braintree, not being very far away from me, and I remember tuning into the Facebook stream of that first press conference when they were unveiled and being absolutely absorbed and blown away by what I was hearing. It was only a year or so since I’d been reading all about the co-op withdrawing the clubs overdraft and fearing for the very future of my beloved Imps, not seeing any light at the end of any tunnel of how they could ever escape the National League….. in an upwards direction anyway!
As my casual trips up became more frequent, as that epic season developed I had to start buying tickets in advance, not easy with the club having no working online system at the time, so I’d drive all the way up in midweek and buy whatever tickets were on sale, desperate to avoid missing out.
Of course the rest is history and I’m now in my 3rd year as a season ticket holder, and will continue to be so, even if the good times become fewer and further between, with a second seat next to me for bringing either my daughter (she hates football), Kate (she hates the cold), or my brother (who must be cursed because whenever I bring him we play poorly!).
Sometimes I just come on my own, setting off at 9am, parking up by midday, having a wander around the ground and town, taking in the whole matchday experience that keeps me feeling part of the club, whilst living so far away.
My brother’s curse seems to have been broken as on Saturday, acting as chauffeur to me given my health situation, he drove me to the Accrington match…. and wonders will never cease…. he saw what can only be described as the best footballing performance from a City side I’ve personally ever witnessed. Even he was impressed with the attacking flair on show!
Of course, it’s early days, and many challenges lay ahead. Not just for the club, but for me. It’s the club 3 hours away, featuring a load of blokes kicking a bag of wind around that is taking my mind off the battle I face over the next few weeks and months. Sadly, my visits to Sincil Bank will be few and far between until the New Year, but I’ll be there in spirit, grateful for Gary and the Stacey West for giving me an outlet to share my love of the Imps as well as keeping me in the loop with all things City related.