Following the excitement of England’s World Cup win in the summer of 1966 attention turned to more mundane matters with Lincoln City having again topped the poll for re-election to the Football League. Despite finishing 22nd, an end of season run of only two defeats in 12 games was evidently enough for the services of Roy Chapman to be retained as player-coach.
Players released during the summer included young winger Roger Barton, Geoff Hudson and Alec Farrall, the latter two having rarely featured in the second half of the previous season. Farrall and Barton, unusually for players leaving City in those days remained in the Football League, joining Watford and Barnsley respectively. More typical were the moves of Bunny Larkin to Wisbech Town, Mick Farmer to Skegness and the annual change of goalkeeper which saw Peter Wakeham join Southern League Poole Town.
Wakeham was replaced by Colin Treharne, a team-mate of Chapman in Mansfield’s Fourth Division promotion-winning side four years earlier. Treharne was backed up by Dave Tennant who had been with Worcester City and Walsall. Chapman also returned to his old club for right winger Geoff Anderson, like Tennant aged 21, and who had made 43 Third Division appearances for the Stags. One other new signing was blond midfielder Dick Scott who joined from Scunthorpe after previous experience with Cardiff and Norwich. Also, a significant addition to the staff was former long-serving Notts County centre half Bert Loxley as trainer.
The season opened with a 2-2 draw at home to Newport County with basically the side which ended the previous season apart from the inclusion of Treharne and Anderson, who was on the left wing in place of the injured Harry Godbold. A fine 1-0 League Cup win followed against newly-promoted Second Division side Hull City and hopes were high for my first game of the season which was a second trip of the year to Chesterfield, and a still floodlight-free Saltergate. Being August, this time the only gloom came in City’s 3-1 defeat. The return of Godbold on the left wing produced City’s first league win of the season including two goals from player-coach Chapman as Brentford were beaten 3-1.
The end of an era then came with the final departure of Bill Anderson after 21 years at Sincil Bank during which he had presided over Lincoln City’s days as an established Second Division club. After two years of being vaguely described as ‘General Manager’ he quickly found employment as assistant to Nottingham Forest manager Johnny Carey.
Readers of previous articles may remember that I had previously gone to matches with my father while spending weekends with him in Leadenham, but following his death I now had to make the journey from Nottingham instead. At that time, I was not railway-oriented so it meant two hours each way by bus, including the infrequent Road Car service from Newark. Despite now having started work and able to afford the travel the tiresome journey caused me pick and choose games to attend and the first didn’t come until late October.
A return of two points from seven games had seen City only off the bottom of the league on goal average going into their game with Exeter. Brighter form had briefly been shown in another home League Cup win over a Second Division side as Huddersfield were beaten 2-1. However, the cup run had come to an end with a 5-0 defeat at Leicester and in the same week, with public opinion turning against him, Roy Chapman was relieved of his coaching duties although remaining as a player. So it was a manager-less City who faced Exeter and on-field changes saw Dave Tennant make his debut in goal with Dick Scott now in midfield in place of John Milner. With Les Moore injured Tom Brooks had been deputising at centre half but he was now at full back in a pairing with fellow teenager Alan Pilgrim. At the other end of the age scale, 32-year-old trainer Bert Loxley found himself having to play alongside Jim Grummett in defence.
I found no change to the programme from the previous season, including most of the adverts: “You will score every time when you visit The Viking Coffee House, Clasketgate, for Good Food, Snacks or an excellent Cup of Tea or Coffee in congenial company”. World Cup programmes were still on sale from the Secretary’s Office, price 2/6 (12½p). The writer of the Supporters Club notes considered: “The new manager when he is appointed has a terrific task on his hands to bring some sort of cohesion and solidarity to the team, we all wish him well but frankly his task will be a very severe one”.
The match itself, against an Exeter City side including later Imps Ray Harford and Dixie McNeil saw a late equaliser from Chapman fail to keep City from sinking to bottom of the league.
Rumours of the new manager ranged from Boston United’s Don Donovan, to former England star and Middlesbrough manager Raich Carter. The eventual appointment came as something of a surprise with the name Ron Gray not particularly well-known, with a record of an unsuccessful period in charge of Watford and two spells at Millwall which did include winning the Fourth Division championship in 1962. Since then he had run a physiotherapy business and worked as a freelance scout, giving him many contacts within the game, something which was to stand City in good stead.