I’ve held off on doing a follow-up on the Moses Swaibu interview last week.
There are a number of reasons, but one is personal judgement being clouded. I like Moses, he’s a great lad to chat to and he was honest and candid as they come. I found our hour on Facebook to be enlightening, surprising and a must for all Lincoln fans. I didn’t want to write an article afterwards without being considered in what I wrote.
Let’s be honest, before last week, if the name Moses Swaibu was mentioned to Lincoln City fans, you would instantly think either ‘chicken’ or ‘match-fixing’. As football fans, we make these links with players and I’d be lying if I said I felt differently before we started talking a few weeks ago. If anything, the match-fixing, or conspiring to commit bribery, came second to the chicken story.
Having come out of the interview last week, it almost felt crass to have broken a man’s life down to two simple events. I know, for some, the stigma of the goings-on at Bromley and Moses’ conviction will take a lot of washing away, certainly more than a chat with me on the internet, but I know there are many of you out there that have changed your perception of a character who perhaps had infamy more than anything on the Sincil Bank terraces. Sure, Moses is open about the fact he didn’t make the most of his time on the field, but there are reasons behind that. Crucially, there are no excuses, no ‘poor me’, no ‘what would I have become?’ from the defender. No, instead there was just searing honesty and a desire to make sure nobody repeats his mistakes.
One aspect of the situation we couldn’t touch upon in the interview was the suggestion of match-fixing at Lincoln. It might come as some surprise to you, but the Guardian article Moses did explain that the first time he encountered any time of match-fixing approach was during his time at City when a (legally) unnamed player offered Moses and other players €60k. It came before a game against Northampton in the 2010/11 season, a game we lost, and Moses was quoted by the Guardian as saying: “He put money in front of us and said: ‘I want you guys to lose and that’s how much I’m willing to pay. It was a wad of cash worth €60,000 but we all said we weren’t interested. The next day no one who had been in the room said anything on our morning walk and it turns out we were all on the bench anyway. That was the last I heard.”
For me, that does tie up the question of whether Moses was involved in fixing games in our division. A listen to This Is Moneyball podcast recounts a similar story and is well worth a listen. Interestingly, for those who have questioned Moses and his involvement in our relegation, he actually scored goals in two of the five wins we registered before he left in January. No, Moses Swaibu did not fix football matches at Lincoln, although the spectre of such practice does still hangover that campaign, through the actions of others.
Moving on from that, what I felt through the interview and what a number of you saw was a young man who should still be in the professional game clearing up how easy it can be for one change of manager to affect your entire career. Had Peter Jackson remained at the club, would Moses have still been a player today? Would things have been different for him, for us as a team? I was behind Jacko’s sacking but the more I hear from other players (Danny Hone another who rated Jacko) the more I wonder if I might have been wrong.
I was delighted to hear him singing the praises of Scott Kerr though, naming him as the best player he played with at Lincoln. It sounded to me as though Kerr tried to keep the spirit of Jackson at the club after the enigmatic manager left, helping young players and acting as a father figure and an enforcer. I’ve always rated Scott, I firmly believe had Steve Tilson not got rid of him, we would never have been relegated. Whilst relegation help cleanse the club, it still hurt and a decade later I feel no shame in picking over the finer details.
Moses interview had two very different effects on me. I was flattered when he said he’d turned down interviews with local press, seemingly due to their coverage of the two Tesco incidents, but felt confident enough he’d get a fair portrayal on this site. I do hope we were an impartial voice, addressing key issues without prejudice but without whitewashing either. He also made me feel a little ashamed when I look back to 2001, particularly our relegation when I was vocal about Tilson inheriting a duff hand and not being to blame for our demise. I have no doubt at all that Tilson was firmly to blame and that had Sutton stayed, as much as I would have loathed him, we wouldn’t have gone down.
Look, it is all in the past now, but as fans of the club we thrive on understanding our history, the key heroes and villains that emerge and leave indelible marks on us. For the best part of a decade, Moses Swaibu felt like a villain’s sidekick if I’m honest, not a big player in the demise of the club, but not one who would invoke positive memories. Whilst he might not ever be remembered as a hero, I do think Moses is doing everything he can to ensure that across the game, his legacy is one of positivity, of being an example for younger players to follow and thus avoid making the mistakes he did.
I have spoken to Moses since the interview and he’s been blown away by the positive comments and support form Imps’ fans on the back of his interview, saying: “It was 10 years since I last played for the club and in those 10 years, I’ve never ever spoken about my time and the real reasons as to why I left.
“Every football fan up and down the country, from the Premier League to the Football League, are all supporters of their team, just as I am with Palace and Lincoln. Out of respect for managers, staff and the Lincoln fans, it was only right I cleared up a few things, just stating facts with no bias to anybody.
“I had numerous times I could have spoken to every major news channel in Lincoln but what’s the point? Life’s full of opinions which everyone’s entitled to. We only had an hour to scratch the surface, remember there are almost three years of my time leading up to my arrival and departure.
“Recently I’ve only started to gain public awareness with the work I do within the Premier League and my community. The feedback and response that I receive are what really makes me happy, as is knowing I can affect and change young lives, not only with my story but through my experiences and mistakes I’ve made in life.
“I’m from South East London, born and bred, the place where football meets the streets and cages and breeds some of the best talents now in the world of football. I’m so happy and proud to witness that, but also be apart of that football legacy and journey especially with what’s happening in our society amongst youth.
“To each and every Lincoln fan this won’t be the last you’ll hear of Moses Swaibu lol Thank you all for your support and kind words.”
I’m delighted to have been able to play a role in Moses telling his story. Listening back, I have to feel it is one of the most telling interviews I’ve ever been involved in, one that changed more perceptions than anything else. That’s not to belittle the other work we do here and on the podcast, but few interviews will have started with someone making a joke about a chicken in the comments, and finished with scores of best wishes and changed views.
I hope to remain in touch with Moses, to watch him continue his personal journey from a place of darkness to a regained reputation. He has lived more than most players, from his upbringing in a tough area, a background in which friends have died and the line between lawful and illegal has often been lost. He has made mistakes, big ones, but stealing a chicken or a 25p newspaper does not seem to be part of that, despite the official narrative. He was linked with something sport’s fans see as the most heinous of crimes, cheating fans and athletes alike, but the facts are much less salacious and sensational as the papers would have you suggest.
Most of all though, he isn’t hiding from all of that, he’s met it head-on and now holds his head high in illustrious company at top Premier League clubs, a man reborn and focused on being a force for good. I respect that and wish him all the best for the future.
If you missed the interview, you can catch up here.