The club caused controversy last week when they suspended the use of the air raid siren, and the Dam Busters entrance music, as a mark of respect for those in Ukraine.
It caused uproar, didn’t it? I noticed The S*n blasted the club as ‘woke’, just like they do (they’ll be round with their begging bowls if we ever go on another cup run, the parasites). Local news stirred up some emotion too, and I got stitched up by Look North as an angry fan unhappy at the decision when that wasn’t what I said at all. Beware, if you ever do an interview, you can easily be edited to look angry when you’re not. Lesson learned.
Imagine the furore then if the club were to not just ‘try to erase’ (loosely speaking) history, but removed something that had been a part of our club tradition for many years; the Imp. Social media would have Liam Scully hung, drawn and quartered would it not, if he were to take away the Imp from the club? I guess John Reames, had he known what social media was, would have been utterly delighted in the summer of 1993 that it didn’t exist, after telling the Lincolnshire Echo how the club planned to get rid of the horned fella from club shirts.
“Some people may think that the Imp on our shirt is all part of our tradition,” he told Rob Singleton. “All we are doing is going back 40 years or so, because in the fifties we probably had our most successful times in the then Second Division and at that time we had the city crest on our shirts. We are going to set our stall our for promotion next time round and if this helps in some psychological way then it will be worth a try. Success has eluded us for a long time and we don’t want even the smallest problem to stand in our way.”
That’s right folks. Rather than a war where people are dying, the club made a decision to remove 40 years of history on a whim, psychology if you like, and poor old Mr Reames had to sell it in the papers. However, much like the Dam Busters, which won’t be played but is still sung, the Imp wasn’t completely erased from the club. “It will still appear on the ground surroundings and in all other mains areas of club operations,” he added. “Of course, our nickname will still be the Imps.”
We’ve ascertained there was no social media for people to work themselves up into a lather, but there was the Echo letters column, where Mrs Whitehead of Hume Street in Loughborough expressed her anger. “What nonsense,” she wrote, with far more restrain than many managed on Facebook and Twitter this week. “These young men should put their barrow down and get stuck in and play football, not behave like a bunch of superstitious dunderheads.” Ouch.
Reports at the time suggested a run of bad luck on the field, such as relegation from Division Four, as well as other tragedies involving Lincoln had prompted the board to consider the Imp bad luck. I remember it at the time and seem to recall national newspapers showing a bit of interest, but not as much as the last week. Why? Probably because many outlets are measured by clicks these days, but back then only column inches alone needed filling and a story like this (and the one over the last week) shouldn’t really be headline news. It would have appeared in a little box under a proper story, or if it was in The S*n in a little box with ‘Woke Wallies’ in bold and no more than three sensationalised, misinformed lines to support it. Somedays, I almost miss life before social media.
Did the ban work? Well, in 1993/94 we moved to a badge with no Imp on and drew Everton in the Coca Cola Cup, before welcoming Bolton and Sky TV in the FA Cup. That certainly brought some money in, but we finished 18th, after finishing eighth the year before, so there wasn’t a whole lot of success. The following years saw Sam Ellis come in and get sacked before the infamous Steve Wicks affair led to John Beck arriving at the club. It remained off the shirts until 2000/01, when we had the worst kit I think I’ve ever seen us play in, but the ban on the Imp, if it could be called that, was lifted. In 1998, the club introduced Poacher the Imp as the mascot, ahead of only our second relegation in my time as a fan, so whilst there was no Imp on the shirt, there was a six-foot one on the pitch. By the time he was reinstated on the shirts, we were teetering on the brink of administration, although he smiled away from the badge during those terrific Keith years, dispelling any notion he might be a curse.
It did prove unlucky for me though; ahead of our 3-0 win against Peterborough in 1997, I had the badge tattoed on my arm, minus the Imp. Three years later, he was back on the shirts, and I was condemned for eternity to have my arm adorned by an out-of-date badge. Blast those dunderheads.