I was lucky enough to attend a sponsors event yesterday, meeting some of the players at Sincil Bank for a short time.
I think I was more excited about meeting a few of the other fans and figures from the club I’d not seen in a while. A group of us stood in the car park for fifteen minutes or so, chatting away about all things Lincoln, and it felt normal. I’m not sure anyone has felt normal at the ground for a long time, and it was a nice way to ease into a fortnight on Saturday, just chewing the fat and appreciating the changes around the ground.
There have been changes, and although I tweeted a couple of them, I thought I’d put them up here. In terms of the squad, all the lads were there bar Liam Bridcutt, all accessible and really chatty. It’s the first time I’ve met some face to face, and although I didn’t get to chat to every one of them, I did have a bit of a natter with Lewis Fiorini, Chris Maguire and Cohen Bramall for the first time. All seemed lovely lads, especially Cohen, who then took a programme around a few of the others to get it signed.
I noted no cliques – the new boys and old squad mixed freely and seemed completely at ease with each other. It was nice to get five minutes with Jovon Makama as well, such a softly-spoken young man who (with the greatest of respect) looks such a child to me. These youth players are mixing it in a man’s world, but they’re barely shaving, and it really hit it home. I watch them in action for the first team, judging them by the same standards and yet I’m old enough to be their Dad. It’s only when you’re close up you realise you can’t judge them now because they’ve got more growing to do.
I hope Josh Griffiths doesn’t grow much more though. He was stood behind the sponsorship boards, and had a slight ledge over us, maybe four inches, but he’s so tall he had to stoop down to take things to sign. He’s 6ft 4in apparently, and with the ledge, it was closer to seven feet. He made me feel like a toddler. The same goes for Freddie Draper; he might be young, but boy, that lad looks tough, he’s powerfully built, and I certainly wouldn’t want to go into a challenge with him. Two words: Big Future.
I did get lost in a chat with Remy too. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, he’s just a lovely bloke. There’s a touch of the Nathan Arnold about him in that you forget you’re talking to a football when you’re chatting to Remy. He’s enthusiastic about everything, and he’s clearly loving life. We went from NLP to video games, hill walking to Skegness beach, and if the session hadn’t ended, I would probably still be there now. He’s a great ambassador for the club, and I hope he finds some form when presented with a chance this season.
As for the ground, a lot has changed. As you can see from the pictures, there are a couple of surprises. The South Park Stand now has red seats, something I always felt it should have. I’m sure when the Stacey West gets done, the seats will be replaced in there too, but seeing more red in the ground is a great thing. It’s only a small touch from an aesthetic point of view, but it is another example of the club just making the right choice.
There’s a new temporary stand too, the first new seating area in the ground for as long as I can remember. I would think the last time we had a new stand was the mid-nineties, so it is a big thing, but not literally. It is a temporary structure, much like that one Accrington had (or have), but with fewer seats. As an old boss of mine once said, ‘it’s not going to make us rich’, but it is a chance for 100 or so more fans to get into games. That’s going to be big when teams like Sheffield Wednesday are in town, and we’re looking to up that all-seater attendance record once again.
The grass looks great too, almost artificial, and in the next week, the new digital advertising will go in as well. I wrote a piece the other day where I stated Goal 2010, the project to have Championship standard everything in 2010, has finally been realised, only a decade later. We have young players coming through the academy, a ground that looks newer despite only have tweaks here and there, and staff members who care. Yesterday, I didn’t take anything to get signed, so I asked Charlie Russell if he had anything – two minutes later, he appeared with programmes. Then, another blog reader had the same issue, and Adam Chantrey disappeared and found something for them. The whole event was Covid safe, lots of free handwash given out, players with their own pens, etc. It just all felt professional, but personal too.
I hope that’s the blueprint for the new season because fans deserve a repeat of last year, a top-six push, but in the flesh. We all felt lost last year, but already that connection is coming back. Go see for yourself August 5th, in the Waterside, where the boys will be signing autographs for fans.