Imps Writing Competition – My First Game

Credit - Graham Burrell

It’s been a week or so since we launched the exciting writing competition which gives you the chance to explain what Lincoln City means to you.

The idea is you get to tell your Lincoln City story; it might be your first game, it might be a memorable away match, or it could be a personal interaction with a former player. Whatever it is, we want you to put pen to paper, finger to keyboard and tell us all about it. The ‘us’ here isn’t just The Stacey West either, it’s a club-backed competition with a great prize. If you are successful, you win a copy of the book, signed by Michael Appleton and presented at a special event when the pandemic allows. Plus, you get to make your story part of Lincoln City history, sold in the club shop and recalled for years to come by anyone reading the book.

Al, the money raised will go to help the club too, making this a massive win/win situation. all you have to do now is enter.

If you are stuck for what to write, I offered some tips in this article, but I thought to cover this slow news day, I’d give you an idea of the sort of thing we might be looking for. This is an adapted excerpt from my book, giving you an idea of the sort of story that might just make it in.


On Saturday 4th October 1986, my Dad had finally had enough of my whining about football. I was seven years old and after the World Cup in Mexico, I’d become hooked on the game. Whether it was swapping stickers in the playground with my friends Danny, Matt and Dayle, or kicking a ball around in the yard near my house, I’d gone from lego to football in just a few months.

My Dad had regularly been going to watch Lincoln, along with my Granddad and it hadn’t much bothered me until the World Cup. I didn’t watch many of the game, I think it was the sticker album that really did it, but suddenly I had a thirst for football. I didn’t understand who Lincoln City were, not properly, and given that we were struggling in the Fourth Division, a level dad felt we didn’t belong in, he tried to steer me away from the club I now love.

Under the pretence of a family day out, he had decided to take me to a football match. It was possible to just turn up at a ground and pay to get in back then; so me, Dad, Mum, and my little brother set off for my first ever game. I couldn’t wait, I knew how much my Dad and Grandad enjoyed watching Lincoln, and I couldn’t wait to be a part of it. I didn’t know it, but our destination wasn’t Sincil Bank, it was the City Ground to watch Forest play Man Utd. It was seen to be a real treat too, perhaps saving me from a lifetime of pain punctuated by the odd fleeting glimpse of success.

Fate played a hand in the proceedings and took me down a different path; perhaps it was fated. Once we’d got down the A46 my brother spotted a plane out of the window at Newark Air Museum. He began to make a bit of a fuss, and with the clouds coming over all black (and his sixth birthday being just a few days away) we were given a choice: planes or the football. Paul’s teary little mind was already made up, and I suspect Mum wasn’t too happy about the football either. I had the deciding vote, and I went with the winged wonders too. Why? I got told we weren’t going to Sincil Bank. I’d seen it across South Park one day when we picked Dad up and although I didn’t know who Lincoln were properly, I knew it was where I wanted to be. I didn’t understand the difference between Forest and Lincoln, not at seven years old, but I knew I didn’t want to go to Forest. My Dad went to Lincoln City, and no matter how hard he tried I was going there too, sooner than I realised.

Early the next day Dad had a bonfire behind the house, as he so often did. It was October 5th, and in the afternoon we were going to Lincoln, to see my Aunty June who always bought us a toy car. Daniel (of Mexico 86 fame), Paul, and I were enjoying the autumnal weather in our Wellington boots and Parka coats behind the six-foot fence panels erected to block off the scrubland from our garden. We didn’t know Dad was on the other side of those fence panels, and, as we poked a stick into the dying embers of his fire, I remarked how hot it was, only I uttered an expletive to impress the other two. I shouldn’t have known bad words, though doubtless, my old man taught me it, but even so it meant trouble. Dad heard it and he grassed on me to Mum.

Mum didn’t fancy taking a potty mouth with her to see Aunty June, so she suggested, as punishment, I stayed with Dad. That spoiled his plans a little, because his intention was to drive to Sincil Bank to watch our first Sunday match of the season against Hartlepool. (From that day, Lincoln City became ‘we’. It’s something I know frustrates those who don’t understand. How can a football club be ‘we’, when all ‘we’ do is pay to get in and chant? Well, it is. So that’s that.) My punishment for swearing turned out to be a lifelong addiction to Lincoln City, as it was that day my undying love affair with the red and white began.

We were thumped 4-1 by Hartlepool and I’m sure we were outplayed. I can’t remember the game clearly, but I do remember so much other stuff. I mainly remember it being alright for everyone to swear a lot, which as a young kid is pretty cool. It is probably why I think the odd F-bomb is okay nowadays.

The result didn’t bother me at all, and I imagine it is the only 4-1 defeat that I will ever come away happy from. The ground was cold and sparsely populated (2101), but I was transfixed with it. The big concrete steps leading up into the Clanford End seemed like a stairway to heaven, and then the pitch coming into view was like nothing I had seen before. I shivered away in my smoky-smelling Parka coat, resting my chin on the granite wall, hidden from pitch view by the advertising hoardings in front of me. Dad bought me a programme which was generous of him, considering this was 1986, and most working-class families were skint. I flicked through it at half time, trying desperately to name the players on display. Gary Lund certainly stuck out, he crashed into the hoarding just in front of me at one point, close enough to touch and certainly close enough to smell the Deep Heat.

Lund in action in 86/87

All around people swore, people were angry, and everyone wanted the same thing. I had never been in part of a large group before, I’d never got riled up, and I had never heard so many people say rude words in one place. For a young lad it was heaven, and on our way home Dad even bribed me with sweets to not tell Mum he’d been swearing. It was basically the best day out a young boy could hope for, without meeting Santa Claus and falling into a river made of chocolate.

In another twist of fate, we had a school trip planned a couple of days later. Our primary school was quite progressive with trips, and it had been arranged for us to go to the Lincolnshire Standard Group offices, a newspaper long-since defunct. We got to draft our own stories the day before, and then go and have them printed up in the same way the paper was produced. I wrote about City losing to Hartlepool and (if memory recalls) added a little drawing of what I thought looked like Gary Lund although I am sure it looked more like a sock with a deformed face drawn on it. My work was chosen (doubtless for the expert punditry and not the sock-like form of Gary Lund) and put onto the plate for printing, and in the space of two short days the direction of my life was assured. When I saw my story nestled away in the corner of our own ‘newspaper’, I knew what I wanted to do.

I was back at Sincil Bank just before Christmas of 1986, and Gary Lund treated me to an early present. He netted a hat trick in only my second game as we thrashed Swansea 4-0. He was awesome that day, he needed the attention of a fire engine more than Will Grigg and Matt Rhead put together. He scored eight in seven games, something I tenaciously recounted to my Dad on the drive home, thanks to my second match day programme. Even the shy ginger-haired kid at the front of the Railway End knew Lund was something special. He was quick, powerful, and it seemed every time he got the ball, Lincoln scored a goal. If memory serves me rightly (and it is 30 odd years ago) he even won the penalty that Steve Buckley scored.  I remember leaving the ground and simulating the keeper’s despairing dive to my Dad, and in doing so landing in a pile of dog faeces left near South Park. I still laugh at that today, although I’m sure my parents don’t.

No doubt I smelled of dog faeces as I told my Dad about Lund’s goals, no doubt he struggled to hear with the windows wound down to let the smell out all the way back to Chambers Farm. I probably wasn’t cleaned up properly until I got home, and I certainly hadn’t stopped telling my Dad how much I loved Gary Lund and Lincoln City. I imagine as he scrubbed that vile canine excrement from my legs, I was telling him that I wanted to be Steve Buckley and score penalties. By the time I was being tucked into bed, with filth-free legs, I was telling Dad how there were 2101 fans at the Hartlepool game, and I must have been the ‘one’ because I hadn’t intended to go.

That was it, I was a Lincoln City fan. I talked non-stop about it, night and day, despite having just two programmes for reference. My Uncle Keith in Exeter heard about my passion, and I recall a few older programmes arriving in the post one day, a couple from the early eighties. My Dad had a couple too, which he passed on to me, and finally I was given a charity-shop copy of the 1985 Rothmans Yearbook to feed my constant craving for football material. I still have that book, a little dog-eared now, from which I tenaciously learned all of the club’s nicknames and grounds.

I still know them today, because, in that short space of time almost four decades ago, I became an Imp for life. I’m glad I did.

Me and Dad, much older but not much wiser

So, you want to be featured but don’t know what to write? That’s not a problem, as I’ve put together a few prompts below that might get you reaching for the keyboard.

 

  • What was your first match? Why did you go, and what was it like? What do you remember, which players stood out? Why were you hooked?
  • Why do you support Lincoln City? Are you a Lincoln native, or have you come to us late? What keeps you coming back, what is it about live football which attracts you to Sincil Bank?
  • Which player has influenced you the most? Has one gone over and above to impress you, or to make an impact in the community? Did you meet them and what were they like?
  • What has been your favourite away day? Did you read the first book and wish you’d contributed? Why was that game so special, who went with you?
  • Have you had an experience at the ground which has stuck with you for life? An injustice that still rankles now? Maybe a game you went to stood out for you but not for others, for some special reason?
  • Have you proposed at Sincil Bank, spent a milestone birthday there are suffered a loss in the family which is made easier by following the Imps? Have the club affected you life for the better and if so, how?

 

These are just a few ideas, but remember to make your story as unique as you can, personal to you and about your feelings. We all know Burnley away in 2017 was great, but if you’re writing about that why was it great? Try to steer away from obvious things unless there is a real personal connection. For instance, if you went to Burnley with your son or daughter and it was their first game, that would work, but just telling us about being in the FA Cup perhaps wouldn’t.

Inspired? You should be. The judging team are back together for round two as well, that’s me (Gary Hutchinson of the Stacey West), Alan Johnson (Freelance Journalist) and Ian Plenderleith (Author, Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer/The Quiet Fan), as well as Lincoln City’s Media Team. We’re all excited to be back on board and can’t wait to read your stories and experiences. Remember, every single story published wins a copy of the book, signed by Michael Appleton and (hopefully) presented in person at an event at the ground. I suppose we just have to wait and see what Colin Covid has to say about that, of course.

As an example of the sort of thing we think would work, I’ve got a link to a story by Val Daniels that was published on the site a year or so ago. This is exactly the sort of experience that I think makes great reading. Have a look at it and keep an eye out over the coming days for other articles either published on here, or written for the site to give you further ideas.