Continuing the series on former Imps who played for us and the club we are about to face, let me introduce Gary Bannister.
Bannister was a veteran forward by the time he arrived at Sincil Bank, who came to the club towards the end of a successful career in top-flight football.
He joined Coventry City as an apprentice, making his first-team debut in May 1978. His time at Coventry wasn’t a huge success, but he did have a loan spell in the United States with Detroit Express in the now-defunct North American Soccer League. However, he returned to England and left the Sky Blues with just 22 appearances and three goals in over three years. That was still enough to convince Sheffield Wednesday to spend £100,000 on him in 1981, worth around £400,000 today.
The move was a massive success and he quickly became a crowd favourite at Wednesday. He finished top scorer in the three seasons he was there, bagging 22 goals in each campaign. In 1981/82 he was voted Player of the Year and earned a call up to England U21s. In the 1983–84 season, he formed a terrific partnership with Imre Varadi, sharing 41 goals between them as Wednesday were promoted from the Second Division.
He never represented the Owls in the top flight; instead, he left to join Queens Park Rangers as a replacement for Clive Allen. Like his time at Hillsborough, he enjoyed massive success with his new club, despite them playing on their plastic pitch. He made 168 appearances and scored 66 goals, including two hat-tricks against Chelsea. He later stated he felt the pitch took its toll on some of the players with injury, and he left the club, In 1988 he went ‘home’ (although he was born in Warrington, so that’s loose terminology) by rejoining Coventry for £300,000 deal. He scored 13 times in two years before a £250,000 move to West Brom, where he bagged 19 in 66.
Whilst at West Brom he had a short loan spell with Oxford United, back when loan spells usually saw senior players move, not the kids. He bagged twice in ten games before returning to the Hawthorns. He then had spells with Nottingham Forest, Stoke City and Hong Kong Rangers, before coming to Sincil Bank, very much as a veteran striker.
On his arrival manager Sam Ellis commented that; “Gary has scored goals consistently throughout his career and is an important addition to the squad”. A satisfactory return of a goal every three games or so was adequate if not spectacular for a player nearing the end of his career. He netted on the day the Linpave Stand (now the Coop Stand) opened as we beat Hartlepool 3-0. In total, he scored eight times in 34 outings, and despite not being a world-beater, he certainly didn’t embarrass himself. He also got goals against Hull in the FA Cup (1-0), away at Fulham (1-1) and In wins against Colchester home and away (2-0 at home, 2-1 away) and at Carlisle on the final day of the season. He was released by Ellis ahead of the 1995/96 season, where he moved to Darlington.
After finishing in football he’s spent time in property development in Cornwall, and also played for (and coached) Porthleven in the South Western Football League.