I’ve been seeing lots of people’s favourite XI’s from players they’ve seen play for the Imps.
It’s something I did way back, I can’t find it on the site now, but I wondered if my opinions changed at all over time. It’s funny how you can be influenced, be it by things that have since happened, or by other means.
For instance, I’ve noted in my first team I picked Simon Yeo up front. No disrespect to Simon, he was a top player for us in his day, but was he better than some of the others I’ve seen, such as Davide Somma? I saw many people pick Somma, but was his impact the thing that marked him out for fans, rather than his ability? As for Ashley Grimes, he scored some belters, is he tainted by the season in which he appeared?
Anyway, with a few minutes to spare, I’ve decided to once again go through my Lincoln City XI, as of 2020. I’m going to line up in a traditional 4-4-2
There was only one choice as far as I was concerned when I did this in 2016, but since then Paul Farman has given my previous pick a run for his money. However much I liked Farms, which I did, I’m afraid he can’t usurp my choice (and doubtless the choice of many supporters), Alan Marriott.
I have seen some good goalkeepers in my time alone, starting with Nigel Batch. He was a touch eccentric and only played for the one season, whilst another favourite of mine, Ian Bowling, didn’t get the recognition he deserved. Since 2016 I think Matt Gilks has perhaps been the best of the bunch, but he wouldn’t get in my best ever.
Alan Marriott edges it because as a relatively small goalkeeper he more than earned a place in the squad with eight or nine years of good, solid performances, breaking appearance records and clean sheet records during his tenure here. It was a travesty the way Peter Jackson let him go.
When I chose to do this in 2016, there was really one choice for me, the enigma that was Mark Bailey. Bails had an engine that would just run and run, he could deliver a wicked ball and he was capable of scoring the odd goal, not least one from his own half against Carlisle. He played through administration and out the other side and never once let Lincoln City down. He certainly stood out over Tom Miller, another quality player who could have come in. I overlooked Baby Barnett, a solid performer but not what I’d consider to be one of the best I’ve seen, whilst Paul Casey and Paul Smith both had good spells for us.
Time has since changed my opinion here. Bails was a decent footballer, limited in some areas but more than making up for it in others. He was the sort of player we like to see as supporters, strong and aggressive with a commitment to the cause. However, I now feel that the best right back I’ve ever seen at Lincoln City is Neal Eardley. Eards has been a big part of our climb from League Two to League One and the trip to Wembley. He was sensational in his first season here and although he hasn’t stood out quite as much this season, he’s still got a great delivery. I fear we might see the end of him this summer which would be a shame, but in three seasons he’s certainly not been one to let us down.
Writing this three years after Sam Habergham’s free kick against Torquay could have led to clouded judgement. I really liked Sam during his time with us and it is a crying shame injury seems to have curtailed his career. He was a steady seven apparently, but in those dying moments three years ago he was a definite ten! We’ve had some good left backs over the years, Ian Baraclough is one who stands out from my early years as an Imps’ fan, as does Dave Clarke who served us diligently from 1987 to 1994. Stuart Bimson would be many people’s pick I imagine too, especially for the period in which he appeared.
I’m going to drop Kevin Austin in here though. I know some have put him in the centre of defence, but it’s hard for me to do that with the competition there. I remember Kev in his prime, he was a proper physical specimen and as powerful as any player I’ve seen before. Injury put paid to his aspirations and although he went on to have a decent career, I firmly believe had he stayed injury-free after leaving us he would have played Premier League football.
Right Centre Half
Imagine having to pick from the central defenders we’ve had during my tenure as a fan. Whether it’s Trevor Matthewson, Grant Brown, Ben Futcher or Gareth McAuley, I’m going to leave a lot of really good players out here. It genuinely pains me not to include Grant, a man who gave his entire career to us, but perhaps even by his own admission, he played with some absolute monsters.
Think who could play here; Jamie McCombe. McAuley. Futcher. Waterfall. Even Michael Bostwick doesn’t get the nod from me. There’s only one player from my time as an Imps’ supporter who I’d pick here, Paul Morgan. Captian Morgan, Ireland’s Bobby Moore, was a top defender who I feel could easily have played higher up. Maybe my memory picks out the positives, but he was sensational for us, he was quick enough to cover some of the other lads, he had a fierce tackle almost always timed to perfection and perhaps the only thing holding him back was his height. I remember bumping into David Moyes in Waitrose after one Imps’ game, I can only guess he’d come to watch Morgan after having him at Preston and I was certain he could have played higher. Morgan was loyal too, remaining right up until the end of the Keith era and beyond. Top player.
Left Centre Half
I tend to steer clear of newer players in these sorts of things, sometimes to my detriment (remember when I picked Newton over Toffolo in Team of the Decade? Ouch). I suppose the fear is it is easy to overrate what you have and underrate what you have lost. In terms of the 2016/17 season, it would be easy to pick some players from there who did well against Bromley and Boreham Wood, but would it be fair to some who were equally as good against Bristol Rovers and Blackpool?
At left centre back, I’m on safe ground. Sean Raggett might have struggled a bit with injury since leaving us, but his time at Lincoln was suitably impressive. He had a great aerial presence, in both boxes, and led by example. I think paired with Paul Morgan he would have looked even better, with Morgan playing a sweeper-type role and covering for pace, allowing Raggs the freedom to carry the ball forward and get into the box for set pieces.
Time often fades player’s reputations, or perhaps it merely reveals their true ability rather than their perceived ability, but with Raggs it only serves to strengthen his legend and, in my opinion, he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as any centre half I’ve seen since October 1986.