I sometimes find nostalgia tough, especially when it is something I still consider to be recent history.
If you say Paul Mayo, Scott Kerr and Paul Morgan to me, I don’t think of that as ancient history. I forget that many fans going today won’t have seen those players play, and therefore memorabilia from that time is probably just as interesting to some as stuff from the eighties or seventies. At least that’s what I’ve told myself about today’s article.
As part of my look at the club programme from recent years, I’ve literally opened a filing cabinet and grabbed a random season. That season happens to be 2005/06, one which I think we Keith’s second most remarkable achievement. It was the summer we lost Yeo, Taylor-Fletcher, Butcher and Gain, and replaced them with Gary Birch, Marvin Robinson, Scott Kerr and Omari Coleman, and yet we still made the play-offs. We opened our campaign against pre-season title favourites Northampton Town, who would indeed go on to finish second and earn promotion.
The programme was now more of a matchday magazine, and I think that distinction is important. Through the nineties, it did feel like a one-off publication for a game, with the usual features, but as we entered the new millennium, our programme bulked up like it was on steroids. That started around Keith’s first season, but by 2005/06, it was a finely honed product that I was lucky enough to be a part of. This edition came to 73 pages, and it remained consistent at that throughout the season.
The staples of every programme are here, from the manager’s notes to the season’s progress. Keith’s notes were certainly more extensive than those you’d see through the nineties, with plenty of discussion about the team and the season. I found the admission prices interesting – £16 for the Coop Stand, which is more than my season ticket works out at now. With 16 years between this programme and today, you would have expected a sharper price rise. Worth noting, I think.
The opposition analysis certainly ran to more pages than older programmes too. There was a double-paged spread on their progress and key players, with another two pages dedicated to their biggest seasons from history. As someone who likes to read up on clubs, this was goldust for me and continues to be a source of reference for articles today. I cannot overstate how much I loved these programmes, from around 2003 through until 2011 because they were so much more than a simple record of a game that took place.
Full-colour photographs were next on the agenda, with Bubs and both Chris and Andrew Vaughan contributing shots throughout the season. The news pages ran to a double spread as well, and I fear it must have been tough for JV and James Lazenby, the programme editors, to fill those constantly. Luckily, they had four pages filled with a look back at a game from history, and this edition kicked off with a look at a game from 1975/76. The season started with a look at the Torquay game from that year but then picked up the 75/76 season and reflected what happened on the corresponding weekend during our title win. It’s a great read for anyone that enjoys such things.
The history angle has been taken from the current programme, and whilst I understand why (fewer and fewer geeks like me on the streets), I find it a bit of a shame. That said, I do like the current streamlined programme because it’s the best way to ensure the printed edition remains on sale with minimal fuss. Quite how the team put 70-odd pages together every other week is beyond me, although I guess social media output was far less back then. With more than 70 pages, they needed a few columnists, such as Dave Stacey, Richard Wheeler, and my good self.
I was tasked with writing about anything from the world of football, and interestingly I started with a rant about rich clubs buying success. How little did I know, 16 years later, I’d be complaining about the same thing, only getting angry at clubs in our division (ahem, Ipswich) outspending everyone else. I suppose at the root; it is only jealousy.
Before the centre pages, there was a look at our Centre of Excellence back then, and the team reads quite well: Scott Loach, Ayden Duffy, Shane Clarke, Jack Hobbs, Phill Watt, Tom Wilkinson and Leon Mettam all played either for other clubs or for us, and it reflected the fine work John Schofield did. It’s no surprise he’s just got a job working with Northern Ireland’s Under 21 side because his coaching record at City was impressive.
After that, another glimpse into the future with a stats page. Again, for a geek like me, this was one of the programme’s key elements and something I loved turning to. The website the stats came from, soccer-stats.com, doesn’t exist anymore, but there are plenty in its place. I genuinely love this seasons programme because you can see how football was changing in terms of information. I’m just a bit sad that much of it is now online, and therefore won’t be pulled out of a drawer by a geek like me in 15 years.
Player interviews were a big part of the programme too, with McAuley naming his dream team and cover star Paul Mayo giving a QnA as well. Further on in the magazine, Alan Marriott is the subject of one of those quick-fire profiles, the like of which you rarely see now. Did you know his favourite single was In Da Club by 50 Cent, but his favourite album was Definitely Maybe by Oasis? No? Me either. I never read those bits. I enjoyed the Mayo interview though, and many like it since.
After more articles from contributors, such as Philip Harbridge and the timeless Chris Ashton, we came to a feature that did make me chuckle – Goal 2010.
I wrote a lot about Goal 2010, a project that was well-meaning but failed to deliver. The idea was to have the club Championship ready by 2010, a four-year plan that included ‘Championship standard (we’ll call it CS) management’, ‘CS training facilities’, ‘Centre of excellence producing CS players’, and a couple of other things. Sadly, it never said ‘CS players’, and after Keith left, things just never took off. It’s a shame really, with hindsight, I’ve become less bitter about it, maybe because we don’t get beat by Welling anymore, but the club didn’t get anywhere near some of its aims. The one I really get annoyed at is the last section, titled ‘Team Lincoln, with a Championship attitude and community spirit’. I never felt that; in fact, after Rob Bradley left as chairman, I personally felt it eroded, as I outlined in my book. By the time 2010 arrived, I felt more disassociated and undervalued by the club than ever. I think it proves that words and good intentions are never enough, and believe me when I say that right now, on and off the field, we are Championship ready. If only they’d stated Goal 2020, they’d have hit the mark!
There are two pages dedicated to the Women’s team, who were very successful by that point. They finished fifth in the Premier League North the season before and would go on to reach an FA Cup Semi-Final before cruelly being stripped away from the city Notts County. Again, at the time, it angered me, but the current Lincoln City Women did rebrand from Nettleham, so once again, time and perspective have altered my view somewhat.
That was pretty much that – the customary ‘up next’ section outlined future games; there was a bit on away travel and the stats page with results and league tables on it, although that didn’t have a lot in it on the first game of the season. It is interesting to note the back page has not only the squads but also their odds to score and a number you could ring to place a bet. I can tell that would cause a furore now, but I don’t remember anyone moaning about it at the time. Again, funny how different things are just sixteen years later.
At £2.50, I think the programme was of great value. It was packed with stuff to read and would usually provide me with something to do for one lunch break at work the week after. Often, another lunch break was taken up by me rushing to get something written as a deadline approached, usually ignoring phones ringing in Jackson’s timber department whilst doing so!
Another impressive aspect was that just ten of the 72 pages were taken up by advertising, so not only was this a huge undertaking to put together, but it was primarily good content rather than pages and pages of filler. The sad thing is they’re worth peanuts today – you’ll be lucky to get 10p per programme on the open market, and very few are deemed as rare. With only one EFL Trophy game away from home, there is no lack of supply, and as they’re bulky to store, people often choose to get rid rather than keep. In fact, I must have been offered 20 boxes of recent programmes in the last couple of years, and whilst I take most of them as I can’t bear to see any thrown out, they just never sell.
Who would want to sell them anyway when they contain so much great stuff?