Lincoln City On The Cusp Of History, Once Again

Credit Graham Burrell

I started this site more than five years ago now. When I did, we were languishing in the National League, backed by a group of hard-working people dreaming of restoring the club to former glories.

Since then, I have written 3615 articles, give or take, charting our rise from the ashes as I did. I have had the pleasure of writing words such as these (if you don’t want to read a load of hyperbole from years gone by, skip the quotes. I wouldn’t though….), which I’d like to replicate before I jump into this article.

Credit Graham Burrell

“To all my fellow Imps, enjoy tomorrow. Enjoy making your memories, maybe you’ll watch it on the big screen at the ground, or at a mates house. Maybe you’ll be chatting to those mates in twenty years team recalling the day….” Burnley away.

Courtesy of Graham Burrell

“Usually dreams are reserved for situations that you wouldn’t get in real life. Often after sleeping you wake up and realise although you’ve been dreaming about something so fantastic and unimaginable, it briefly feels real when you open your eyes. That sensation usually wears off as you adjust to the surrounding of your bedroom, but for me this week it hasn’t gone, it hasn’t worn off.” Arsenal Away.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

“Tomorrow is what being a football fan is all about, it is what we dream about and what we dare not dream about at the same time. It is what we watch others achieve year after year knowing one day, if the gods all line up and Pluto enters Uranus at the right angle, if the right blend of managers, players and luck can be brought together, if the fans get behind the club and we all push on as one, then one day it could be us. Tomorrow it is us. Tomorrow it is our time.” Macclesfield Home.

“Whatever the score, however the game goes down, words cannot of justice the pride I will feel at watching my beloved Lincoln City take to the Wembley turf to compete in a Cup Final. I’m a little choked writing this right now and only now am I truly allowing myself to get a little bit excited. We’re the famous Lincoln City, and we’re going to Wembley.” Shrewsbury 2018

“Whatever it meant to you, whether you celebrated in a pub with friends or like me, with a glass of Cherry Pepsi Max and a beef dinner with your partner, you’ll always remember it. What occurred today was history, to be written about, talked about and toasted for years to come. Who knows, with three trophies in three seasons we might not have to wait 43 years for the next.” Tranmere 2019.


Of course, there are more where they came from, more moments where I have sat in my office, looking out the window wondering how I can ever sum up what it means to see the success we have seen of late. Each time I do I think to myself I can’t get better, it can’t be topped, and yet here we are, on the cusp of a Wembley return, a potential promotion and yet another benchmark and another chance for me to wax lyrical about a football club that rarely afforded me the chance in the past. Often, supporting Lincoln City felt like punishment for a bad deed, the agony of just missing out on play-offs, battling relegation or having promises broken by inept managers. Success was something others enjoyed, not us. No, we were the nearly men, happy when a season was over in March because we knew we were safe. Okay, Keith’s side banished that a little, but we never got promoted, and our victories were small compared to others.

Today, things are so very different. Today, as we lay on the cusp of genuine club history, I can’t help but glance back over my shoulder at those quotes above, the moments that have defined the site, the Imps’ recent history and which have left an indelible mark on our culture and the club as a whole. They feel applicable to today as they did four years ago, three years ago or whenever I wrote them.

Five years ago to the day I wrote about Matt Rhead handing in a transfer request as Danny Cowley looked to build a squad capable of getting out of the National League, and I looked forward to a European Championship where a former Imp was likely to feature. Today, we look ahead to a potential promotion unmatched in 70 years, and to a European Championship in which one of our current players might appear. Five years in real-time, but five years which have contained a lifetime of trophies, promotions and excitement.

1951/52 – the last Lincoln City side to be promoted from the Third Division

I say 70 years because that is (almost) the period of time that has elapsed between our last promotion from the third tier and today. It was April 23rd 1952 when more than 21000 fans were in Sincil Bank to see us beat Stockport 2-1 and clinch the Division Three (North) title, sealing enough points to ensure Grimsby could not catch us. Johnny Garvie hit both goals and doubtless, fans dreamed of promotion to Division One the season after. Nine seasons of Second Division football followed before we finally slipped back out in 1961. Very few fans alive today will recall that promotion, which only serves to underline this really is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

Is it though? It is once in the last lifetime, but what of the next sixty years? Already, in just five, there have been more moments to savour than at any time in history, more promotions in a short space of time, more Wembley appearances and more silverware. The success and rise of this football club has been astonishing, galvanising and nothing short of a fairy tale. Little Lincoln City, getting beaten 3-2 at home by Woking a little over five years ago, are 90 minutes (or maybe 120) from going toe to toe with Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers. All week I’ve done media bits and have spoken about how great the rise has been, what a ride we’ve experienced and yet only now, as I sit here and properly contemplate the possibilities, that it has really hit me.

Joyce moves to Salisbury | Football News | Sky Sports

In terms of tomorrow, I’m not overly excited, nor am I nervous. I just feel quite calm and relaxed, a feeling I know will go once we get underway, but I think all the success and big occasions of the last few years have left me at ease with our future. When you have watched your team get beaten by Bradford Park Avenue, Salisbury and North Ferriby, it really is hard to feel anything other than positivity towards a game for a place in the Championship. I shall thoroughly enjoy the day and I know I’ll be crapping myself when the game kicks off, but right now I’m just looking forward to it. Maybe I’m suppressing my nervous energy, maybe I’m burying the fear of losing the game, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just aware that other fans are more expressive of their excitement or easier to hype up than me, perhaps at 42 I’ve just become more stoic and grounded than at any other time in my life.

What I do know is a win tomorrow will be life-changing for the football club and a result just as big as any of those I wrote about above. We can look for hints as to how we might do in the past, we can talk about their great play-off record, our failures and even the league matches. The truth is, none of that matters. All that matters is 90 minutes on the Wembley turf, between two teams who may wear the same colours as players of the past, bear the same badge and name, but are not in any way affected by what has gone before. Keith’s sides and this team are different in every way, it’s a different game in 2021, a different level and for fans it will be a different experience.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

That doesn’t mean if we lose I’ll feel any different though, I will have that desolation deep inside, the empty feeling you get when you get so close, but are so far away. If we win….. I don’t know. I can remember looking to the skies in March 2017 and wondering what it might feel like to be promoted from the National League. I couldn’t fathom what that joy would feel like in real terms and to a degree, the same has to be said of now. The difference is that now we stand on the cusp of something never done before. There is no GMVC/National League comparison to be had, not really. Victory tomorrow would be the first promotion we experienced from a national, merged third tier and it is into a division unlike any we have ever been in, where million-pound transfers are the norm and occasional, tens of millions are spent. It would be a brave new world for Lincoln City, stepping into unknown territory the like of which we have never stepped into before. The Championship was the third most popular division in Europe in 2016/17 in terms of attendances and is currently fifth. Next season, Lincoln City could be a part of that and I find it terrifying, exciting and unbelievable in equal measure.

I’ll tell you something, I bloody love football and I love my club even more. Let’s go to Wembley, make some noise for the boys, and celebrate their achievements this season whatever happens. Hopefully, tomorrow we witness more history being made by this truly amazing football club. Up the Imps.

If you want some motivational quotes and you happened to skip the bit at the top with pictures, now is the time to scroll back up!