Groundhog Day II: Imps 0-1 Hartlepool United

Credit Graham Burrell

Before I got into town yesterday, I went to Waitrose to get petrol.

I was wearing a Lincoln City hoodie, and the attendant said, ‘are you going to the football?’. Obviously, I replied yes, and she said, ‘they won’t score’. I got a horrible sense of deja vu. Back in May 2011, I went to the same petrol station and an attendant asked me if I was going to the game. I said yes, and he asked me if I thought we’d win. I replied no, and he said ‘me either’. That day, we lost 3-0 to Aldershot and went out of the Football League.

I’ve just done something that I’ve spent the last 12 hours or so desperate to avoid; senseless comparisons with Steve Tilson’s gutless army. It’s the only one you’ll get, because the point wasn’t to compare the two teams, rather to compare my complete acceptance of where we were yesterday. Was it apathy? Expectancy? I don’t know, but my experience yesterday oozed Deja Vu. I got to the ground early due to a cancelled TV pickup in the morning, spent a miserable hour in the TP Suite nursing a single bottle of Pepsi I’d bought on the way. It rained, the fan zone was deserted, some stands packed up early, and then the quiet home support was easily outsung as we got beat 1-0 in a game we should have won comfortably. I left five minutes early to beat the Christmas market traffic, wandered back to the car cold and wet without even mustering up an argument with my Dad.

Credit Graham Burrell

That’s the experience. That’s the reality. For a third home game in a row, fans have sung, ‘how shit must you be, we’re winning away’. It’s funny, really, because two of those teams (Hartlepool and Accrington), haven’t even been good. You don’t need to be good to beat us on this form, do you? You just need to be able to score a goal. In fact, you don’t even need to do that, just let us score one for you and that’s it. Let’s be honest, Hartlepool showed virtually nothing of their own invention yesterday, nothing at all. When they got a chance, it was an errant pass from us that led to it. Good luck to them; their support was tremendous, (apart from the incidents in town after), but this wasn’t a game they needed to try to win; right now, all you have to do against us is turn up and try not to lose. It’s a sure-fire way to three points or cup progression.

I do have some positive stuff to say, so if you’re here for the ‘let’s see what the daft ginger bugger can say positive this week; hold your horses, it’s coming. Firstly, I want to direct a question to the people wanting Michael Appleton to go (he won’t, by the way, because he’s got conviction in what he’s doing and is backed by the club). Let’s say you start a job. I don’t know what you do; I’ll use the example of a plumber, but imagine your job if you will. You need tools to do that job; a plumber needs his van, tool back, wrench, pipe cutter, mobile phone; you get the image. Think of what you need to do your job. Let’s assume you start this job and tell your bosses the tools you need for success. On your first day, you’re missing an important tool, so our plumber gets to the job and is missing his pipe cutter. He’s told he can’t have a pipe cutter until Christmas, but he should be okay as he’s got plenty more. Then, randomly, other tools get taken off him, pinched. Suddenly, he’s got no solder, no PTFE tape, and no mobile phone to make appointments. When he gets one of those back, another tool disappears. Then, three weeks before Christmas, when he can see some tools under the tree and a chance to prove he can do the job, his customers start wanting him sacked because a pipe is leaking. That’s where Michael is now. It doesn’t matter if you think his approach to plumbing isn’t the right one; he doesn’t have the fundamentals to prove you wrong or right.

Credit Graham Burrell

There’s no plan B, right? What do you suggest? Lumping it long to a striker who doesn’t seem capable of winning headers? Putting a defender up top because ‘he can’t do any worse?’. They’re the desperate moves of a team probably not cut out for League One. This philosophy is not just Michael’s, you know; it’s the clubs. We play football as we do because it is how you attract the best Premier League talent on loan (Rogers), or even exciting Championship talent (Johnson). It’s how you attract end of pathway youngsters from the top flight to join you instead of Gillingham or Wycombe (Scully, Edun and Eyoma). It’s how you attract League One quality footballers to your club over moves to Hibs or Bolton (McGrandles, Bridcutt). If we were to change manager, that philosophy wouldn’t change. That is our way right now, and if you don’t like it, may I suggest turning your season ticket in and heading off to a ‘lump it and see’ League Two club. Sorry to be brutal, but saying the buck stops with the manager, in the situation we’re in now, is as short-sighted as me blaming the attendant at Waitrose because my diesel was almost £1.52 a litre.

If you think he should make a change, what do you suggest? Seriously? He’s lost Scully, Hopper, Bridcutt and Walsh to injury, 100% been let down by new signings who, contrary to you not thinking they’re good enough, have been good footballers and showed promise before. Adelakun (who I thought did well yesterday, better than most) left Scunthorpe for a rumoured £800,000. N’Lundulu, who has been poor, was chased by 12 clubs in our league this summer, more than Brennan Johnson the year before. How do you predict these players are going to be poor here? Magic? Hindsight? Neither of those things exists I’m afraid. That said, neither does our forward line.

Credit Graham Burrell

Also, this ‘passion from the bench’ is something I’ve never understood. People don’t want to get behind Michael because he doesn’t bang his chest at every kick of the ball. What do you want, Evans charging up the line frothy-mouthed with rage when he doesn’t get a throw-in? No, I suppose it’s more about Sweet Caroline and a few fist pumps, right? It’s funny how many people tell the likes of me you can’t keep saying ‘look where we’ve come from’, but are happy to do exactly that when it suits their narrative. Jeez, I’m this angry without even seeing what social media has to say; imagine what I’d be like if I wasn’t staying off them at the moment! Last night, on my personal Twitter account, I mentioned I was ignoring football and I think some people thought it was the performance I was hiding from. Nope., it was fans. It was division. It was booing, arguing with players and even fighting amongst themselves. Those who like to be negative say that they’re not allowed an opinion; my mate Jimbo was chased in the stands last night because he voiced his, a positive one, to someone getting angry at Michael Appleton. Only allowed an opinion when it’s negative, right?

My opinion is this; Michael Appleton isn’t the problem at our club right now; the attitude of a section of our fanbase is. I find it desperately sad that we’re happy to bang the drum when 10,000 are in the ground and we’re winning, or going to Wembley, but as soon as we hit a sticky patch, the knives are out. That’s not support, I’m sorry, but it isn’t. I’m not telling you how to support your club; I’m telling you what you perceive to be support is not. Anyway, we’re 1300 words deep, that sufficiently got stuff out of my system; let’s move onto the game, shall we?

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