Every summer, transfers happen and you look on, often with envy, as players you admire switch clubs.
I’m less invested in the jealousy these days because I have the utmost trust in Michael Appleton and Jez George to do the right thing for the club and bring good players to Sincil Bank. I didn’t always have that trust in management though, and in the days before social media, I’d often flick through the paper enviously as clubs all around us signed players I bloody loved.
I think the very first memory I have of wanting a player from another club was a player called Darren Rowbotham of Exeter City. Does anyone remember him? He had a great season for them, maybe 88/89, and at ten years old I was convinced he could one day play for England. He didn’t, he played for Torquay, Mansfield and Crewe, but he was a player I’d have loved to see in the red and white of City.
My first example of being careful what you wished for was with Joe Allon. I rejoiced when I saw we’d signed him, especially as he’d been at Chelsea, but it was a false dawn. That proved to me that signing a big name in the summer is all well and good, but they have to do the business. I must confess seeing Jayden Stockley go to Charlton did leave me with a pang of envy, but it might not work out for him – a player is only ever as good as the season he is having. John Akinde is a classic example of that I feel, a goal machine with Barnet, but not so much since.
As we all wait for a new signing (some a little less patiently than others…) I thought I’d put together a fun XI of players I always wanted us to sign, but we never did. I’m not saying these are the best players we played against, but they’re the ones that for some reason, I always fancied at Lincoln City.
Disclaimer: There are no tactics to this, yes I’ve got three at the back, but one full back. The midfield is unbalanced and I’m playing three strikers, but these are players that deep down, I always wanted at City, and finding XI that fitted into some sort of structure was hard enough.
GK: Christy Pym
I would have loved to see Pym between the sticks for us, but it would never happen. he is the only player on this list who is recent, proving I don’t make a habit of coveting other team’s players in the modern era. Pym is different though, he was outstanding for Exeter the season they beat us in the play-offs and I always felt he could go on to be a Championship keeper. I wonder if he will, now Posh have been promoted. The bastards.
DF: Matt Lockwood
Matt Lockwood was a left-back primarily who appeared for Orient. Researching this, I see he got in the PFA Team of the Season five times, and it isn’t difficult to understand why. He always seemed so composed on the ball, he had a decent delivery too and for some reason, he reminded me a lot of Ian Baraclough, a vastly underrated Imps player from the past. Remembering he was a full back, get this stat – in 328 games for Orient he scored 50 goals, a rate of one every six games or so.
DF: Efe Sodje
Oh, how I hated Sodje. The big bugger was always there, kicking our players, winning headers and rubbing our noses in it. He was part of the Huddersfield team that beat us in the play-offs, then he was at Yeovil, Southend and Bury. With every move I’d mutter something about him being a massive shit under my breath, secretly wishing he’d sign for us. He was a great defender, big and strong, purpose-built for Keith’s tactics I feel. Plus,. imagine the money the club shop would have made on that hat thing he used to wear.
DF: Andy Crosby
When we talk about players that are easy to hate, Crosby is right up there. I remember him playing for Oxford and giving almost as much stick back to fans as he was getting. He went to Scunthorpe and was always there, kicking our players, beating us in the air and celebrating victories like he’d won the FA Cup. I think a mark of a good player is if you hate them for no real reason (unlike Szmodics, where there’s good reason). I disliked Crosby because he was good, pure and simple. he would have fitted in brilliantly with City, even after Keth left when we needed a proper leader.
MF: Danny Schofield
Ah, the summer of 2008, a time of the Magnificent Seven, of hope and belief. It was short-lived, but for a few days, I genuinely thought we might sign Schofield. He was an attacking midfielder who had spent ten years with Huddersfield, class on the ball and just as likely to create a goal as to score one. When Peter Jackson began to talk up the players he was meeting with, I thought it might be Schofield. He worked with Jackson, he was a great player and surely a shoo-in for a role with City. Instead, he went to Yeovil and we got David Graham. Cheers Jacko.
MF: Lee Hodges
If some bloke down the road has a big TV, you might think you want one, but you don’t WANT one in the same way as if your neighbour shows his off to you. I wonder if that’s why there have been players I’ve liked, but several that I’ve REALLY liked have been from local rivals. Lee Hodges falls into that category. He was what my dad terms ‘a footballer’, not in that he plays the game, but that he treats it like an art. He passes and moves, never lumps it forward, and he had a technique that could bamboozle the best defenders in the land. He came from West Ham, but my experience of him was purely whilst wearing another clarent and blue, that of Scunthorpe United. Oddly, he never really did much after leaving Scunthorpe.
MF: George Boyd
This might be a bit of a cheat, but I desperately wanted Boyd when I understood Keith did. The rumour is that Keith wanted to sign Boyd, Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron Maclean from the National League, but was priced out. he went to Peterborough, signed them, and never looked back. Boyd wasn’t much when he went back to Peterborough, but in his day he was the same as Jorge Grant and Peter Gain in my eyes, a player with the sort of skills to unlock doors at any level of football, if the chance had come his way.
MF: Paul Groves
Maybe Groves shouldn’t be on here, because we did actually have him for a short while. What I loved about Groves was his work ethic, attitude and application. he was the sort of player who led a team, a fighter who didn’t brawl, but who was cunning, clever and composed. His time at Grimsby hurt me, because we’d been seen him firsthand, then he buggered off to Grimsby and showed us what we’d been missing for a decade. across two spells.
ST: Miguel De Souza
De Souza played for Wycombe, Dagenham, Peterborough and Bury to name a few, and was never that prolific. He got 15 in 21 for Dagenham, 29 in 83 for Wycombe but that was about it in terms of his impact. Here’s the thing – he’s the only player I never saw live. Why did I want him then? Championship Manager. Pure and simple, I bought him on Champ Man (Football Manager for all of you too young to remember), and he smashed the arse out of everyone. I was utterly convinced he was going to be a big star and I dreamed of him signing for the Imps. Mind you, I did the same with Tommy Svindal Larson but being Norwegian I can’t have him on this list.
ST: Chris Greenacre
There are hundreds of strikers I’ve wished we’d sign, from Adam Le Fondre to Mickey Boulding, Michael Bridges to Luke Beckett. Most of those were unreachable for the Imps, but in the same way people expect us to sign Tyler Walker or Jayden Stockley now, you don’t stop dreaming. I liked Greenacre, and he should have been within reach – he left Manchester City for Mansfield at a time when they were a similar-sized club to us. He was sensational for them, and I always thought he would go on to play top-flight football. He didn’t, he managed a couple in the Championship before ending up in League One with Tranmere.
ST: Jack Lester
Of course, who else but Jack Lester? Whenever anyone talked about ‘proven strikers’, Jack’s name came up. When he left Forest in 2007, fans wanted hm, and rightly so. He hit double figures in five of his six seasons with Chesterfield, with 48 in his first two seasons. Sure, we hated playing against him, he always scored past us, but even when he left them well into his thirties, I’d have taken him at City. He always scored against us, even during an eight-game stint with Gateshead he scored against us. Mind you, my one memory of him is missing a Boxing Day penalty in front of the Stacey West in a game we won 2-1. The fact the great ‘Jack Lad’ had failed to score was celebrated more vigorously than when we bagged! Hell, he’s only 45 now and as we’re only getting the dregs from the market, maybe he’s worth a shout, right?