I imagine that a lot of you, like me, came away from Sincil Bank yesterday with the horrible feeling of loss sat deep in your stomach.
We’ve not seen defeat all that often at Sincil Bank and although we certainly knew we would this season, I don’t think we’d expect to be beaten by a side like Bristol Rovers who were, with the greatest of respect, no better than Southend United of a couple of weeks ago.
It was a feeling that crept over me during the game, beginning to seep into my comments as I spoke to people after the game and was then compounded by my Dad’s utter desolation as we drove home. My Dad is not a man to admit he’s upset about anything; upset is always manifested as anger. On the way home, he was angry. Not at Carl Boyeson, but at the team and at Danny Cowley. He knows we’ve done brilliantly these last three years and deep down, although he won’t admit it, he’s scared it’s over.
That’s how a lot of people felt before and after the game yesterday. There are fans who are desperate for us NOT to come through this. You’ll know one, as do I. They’re the ones predicting lower crowds, worse football and almost revelling in the fact they’re right. It’s as if certain elements are keen to see the club go backwards so they can sit back with their pint, smile smugly and say ‘I told you so’.
Some were desperate to relay to me that Jorge Grant had opted to go back to Forest after Danny had left. I heard it from three or four people and yet minutes later there was Grant with Tom Pett, at the ground and not Nottingham. I’d also ask how he can go back to Forest when we signed him on a permanent deal? Have the doom and gloomers forgotten that?
Those people are going to be as damaging to this club as losing a manager, delivering a self-fulfilling prophecy and loving every minute. They are to Lincoln City what Nostradamus would have been to matrimonial bliss if he’d sat in his chair all day writing the words ‘Mrs Nostradamus is on her way out’ until she finally turned up her toes.
I think most of us expected yesterday to be different. We expected it to be flat, the performance to be dour and the visitors to win. I did. Those who listen to the pod will know I put a tenner on us to lose. I didn’t do it because that’s the outcome I wanted, I did it because I wanted some small crumb of comfort if we actually did lose.
The first game of the post-Cowley era was not one to look back on fondly. It was not one that reflected where we’ve come from over the past three years and it was not one that followed the pattern of our opening fixtures. Our passing, usually tight and quick, was laboured, forced and at times inaccurate. Our chance creation, high in the opening fixtures, was woeful. Our defending, stoic and organised, looked hurried at times. In truth, the central defenders were probably the only players on the field I thought were approaching their usual game, along with Josh in goal.
What did we expect though? Did we expect that things would be normal? The club can deliver whatever message they like to supporters, but the truth is that no player will be completely unaffected. The training might well have been much the same in terms of drills and conversations, but the messages would have been different; they came from different people. Jamie McCombe might well have wanted to ensure us all it was business as usual, but it won’t have been. It’s not possible.
I often used to refer to my job as a manager of a Builder’s Merchant in my writing. If I was off work and my assistant took charge, he would often try to keep things exactly as they were, but it wouldn’t work. Never. People are different, different in what they see, how they react and without the former managers of the club, the structure might have been the same but things most definitely were not.
I think a desperate attempt to keep things the same ended up contributing to our downfall
In fact, I think a desperate attempt to keep things the same ended up contributing to our downfall. That, and the referee, who I have deliberately waited to mention until 650 words in. There is a reason for that; I don’t want to be seen to be trying to cover up what was wrong yesterday with excuses. I don’t want to paint the picture of ‘everything is fine’ either, because until we get a manager, it isn’t. What I want is to give an accurate picture of 90 minutes of football, but to set context. This first page is the context.
On Monday, we lost our managers. Those men brought all of these players to the football club, some of them very recently. They set the tactics, made many of the decisions and affected things from the touchline. That, in itself, is enough to disrupt our flow. We’re led to believe that the players perhaps knew last week, explaining the poor showing at Wycombe and it’s still very much a period of uncertainty for them.
Couple that with missing Jorge Grant, our most creative player of the opening fixtures, and it was always going to be a tough afternoon.
The people in charge are good people, but neither are managers. I interviewed Andy Warrington once and he told me he had no inclination to be a manager. I’ve spoken to Jamie too and he never appeared to want to progress to management. They’re good men doing a job unfamiliar to them. Yes, they had input, but they weren’t the managers and they won’t be going forward.
There as so much pressure on the players and staff to be the same yesterday that it was inevitable they were not going to be, but for the first fifteen minutes I wondered if maybe, just maybe, the patterns implemented by the former regime would hold firm.