The Imps are already two friendlies deep this pre-season, and yet there’s little excitement around the upcoming campaign.
The main reason, in my opinion, is that friendlies are not what they once were. I remember a time when the friendly schedule was almost as exciting as the start of the season. In fact, before Christmas 1996, I bet I saw more friendlies at Sincil Bank than I did home matches. I’m pretty sure I watched Norwich, Aston Villa, Derby and Newcastle United before the season started, but then struggled for money through until Autumn. Those were the days when a top-flight team would bring first-team players, so we saw Southgate playing for Aston Villa, Dean Sturridge at derby and, of course, alan Shearer for Newcastle.
Now, because of how football has changed, you’re just as likely to see a bunch of 18-year-old lads as you are big stars. With work being done on the pitch, the Imps rarely get a big name team here. I can think of Sheff Weds, Norwich and Blackburn in the past few seasons, but those games didn’t really capture the imagination like Celtic did, or any number of other big clubs we’ve had in the past.
Today, I’m firmly of the belief a friendly is nothing more than a training exercise that some pay to watch. This weekend, as the Imps make their first appearance at Boston’s new ground, I shall be hosting a party with no thought at all to what the result might be. I’ll know that after the game, City will be 90 minutes fitter, but nothing can be gleaned from the outcome at all. Nothing.
That isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed friendlies in the past, I have. I’ve been racking my brains to recall my favourite pre-season friendlies here. I have omitted Liverpool and Manchester City, mainly because only one sprang to mind and I’ve already done articles on them, which you can find by clicking the links.
Are you ready for my five favourite friendlies? They’re only the ones I’ve attended, but I’d be interested to hear yours, if they differ.