Looking back: The reign of Steve Wicks

The Lincoln City side he inherited had some very good players. Dean West, Darren Huckerby, David Puttnam, Matt Carbon, David Johnson, Grant Brown and even Tony Daws had the potential, if they could have been moulded correctly. Wicks didn’t persevere with the players he had though, he quickly made changes without thought.

David Puttnam and Dean West had both scored in the opening day win against Preston, but both played their last game for the club as Cambridge beat us 3-1 at the Bank. Wicks even brought back Darren Davis, although he was told to sling his hook the minute John Beck came in.

Players like Puttnam and Johnson shouldn’t have been striving to make a long ball game work under Ellis, but players such as Steve Brown and Kevin Hulme were not faces you wanted at a team playing slick football. The policy of Wicks seemed at odds with his philosophy and perhaps that muddled approach reflected on the performance against Cambridge Also, how could a partnership of Joe Allon and Tony Daws not have brought goals? Allon played four league games for Lincoln, his final appearance also coming after the 3-1 defeat against Cambridge.

The end of the road for arguably the best player we had at the time

The final nail came away at Plymouth a week after the Cambridge game. With so many players appearing for the final time against The U’s, it stood to reason there was a new look to the team at Home Park. Alan Johnson made his first appearance of the season, Paul Wanless made his penultimate appearance for City and defensively, we were shambolic. Adrian Littlejohn’s 20th minute goal was the third the hosts bagged and a massacre looked on the cards. City were abysmal, although we didn’t concede any more, many fans were left wondering what on earth was going on. Only younger players such as Matt Carbon, the subject of a failed £300,000 bid by Birmingham, and Darren Huckerby looked as though they cared that afternoon.

After the Plymouth game both Allon and Puttnam left. Puttnam, once rated as a £300,000 player, went for a pittance. We broke even on Allon, although he was another prolific striker to endure the Imps curse. Maybe those transfers prompted the board to act, maybe not, but they took place in the final week ahead of Wicks sacking.

Wicks’ spell in charge lasted from September 2nd until Sunday 15th October officially, but before he went everyone knew it was going to happen. His departure was leaked ahead of the game with Scarborough on 14th, just over a month into his tenure. In that time City had won just once, a somewhat swashbuckling win against Rochdale in the Auto Windscreens Shield, a game in which Darren Huckerby and Magic Johnson bagged a brace. It wasn’t enough to save his skin.

The fans still found Wicks endearing, chanting his name the Imps ground out a 0-0 draw at the McCain Stadium showing unwavering support for the soon to be unemployed Head Coach. He sat alone watching his last game as manager, also watching Andy Leaning’s last game as keeper, as City drew 0-0. At the end he came over to the fans with Darren Davis to applaud their efforts. That was October 14th, Lincoln hadn’t won a league game since August 12th.

Darren Davis in Imps action. He went immediately after Wicks

The next day Wicks got the call he’d been dreading or expecting. He was out and John Beck, spotted in the Scarborough stand, was in. Could you say the rest is history? Probably.

John Reames later admitted that sacking Wicks wasn’t the mistake, employing him in the first place was. He also spoke of the manager having ‘unprofessional’ standards, but the truth is nobody will ever truly know what went on, why Wicks was ever appointed, or how he got away with passing two of our best players to other clubs for next to nothing.

Ironically, after he left he went to do some scouting for Newcastle where he recommended Darren Huckerby to them. That move funded the John Beck era, so maybe there was a silver lining to the big black Wicks cloud.

Since his spell at Lincoln, Wicks has tried his hand at Coaching and managing in Singapore and Malaysia. There he met up with Tony Cottee with whom he forged a good friendship and laid the foundations for his return to the English coaching ranks. Cottee took over at Barnet in 2000 and he appointed Wicks as his head coach, again.

Wicks lasted just a few months there before Barnet followed Lincoln towards the conference under Wicks’ coaching. The board at Underhill fired them both in March 2001, but couldn’t help stave off the threat of relegation and once again Conference football beckoned for Barnet. Most recently he’s worked with the QPR hospitality team.