I didn’t get to write a piece about Stephen Bradley’s apparent decision to remain in Ireland last night, mainly due to being a bit disappointed.
A week ago, I didn’t know who he was, nor could I have told you who won the LOI two years on the spin. Seven days later, I’m gutted because I man I knew nothing of will not be joining my football team. Football, it’s such a wonderfully ironic sport, don’t you think? I genuinely felt a bit gutted that we weren’t (or apparently aren’t) getting a new manager I’d never actually heard of. There are a lot of you out there who feel exactly the same.
I don’t think there’s a huge reason to panic right now, and as I laid in bed perusing the internet last night (I should be reading, but my murder mystery is slightly less morbid than many people on Twitter), it occurred to me how prone many of us are to overreacting and hyperbole. I’m as guilty, I’m not calling fans out here, but the disgust at us not securing our top target was really interesting. For a start, who knows where our intentions laid? Remember, my articles, your knowledge, all relate to the Irish media and their reporting. Very few (if any) English papers reported the story without citing the Irish sources. There’s seemingly no denying we were interested in him, but how do you (or I) know he was the first choice? We don’t. We don’t know he wasn’t, but I find anger and indignation based on assumption, not fact, quite baffling.
I have it on reasonably good authority that we interviewed a couple of people when Michael came in, with one widely reported as our number one target not getting through the interview stage. At the time, some people felt we’d been made to look like fools because it was reported that said person had turned us down. How would a manager we chose not to go with deal with the speculation? In my eyes, they’d acknowledge our interest, reaffirm their desire to remain at their club and leverage it to gain support with the home fans. I’m not saying Stephen Bradley has done that, but it’s a possibility, is it not?
There are plenty of reasons he may wish to remain in Ireland, not least because he is within touching distance of a third successive LOI title. That’s an actual title, like the Premier League, a proper piece of major silverware. A year or two ago, his Shamrock Rovers side played AC Milan in Europe and were narrowly beaten 2-0; this year, they’re seeded in the qualifying draw and have a pathway through to a group stage, be it Europa League to Europa Conference. Also, Shamrock Rovers are not National League North size (a slur I’d expect from a ‘football Twitter’ moron, not a grown man by the way), that’s massively disrespectful. They attract crowds not dissimilar to ours, feature on the back pages of their national papers and on the television. Just because you haven’t heard of them doesn’t mean they’re rubbish. Yes, Stephen Bradley has spoken of wishing to come to England, but right now, the time appears not to be right.
Also, why is Jez George the enemy? I have met Jez a couple of times and I’ve been lucky enough to witness his recruitment talk etc. Now, because the Irish Mirror said Stephen McPhail would accompany Bradley as DoF, and because we already have a DoF, fans have assumed the move broke down because of Jez. The Mirror didn’t help by referring to Lincoln City as ‘Jez George’s Lincoln City’, which is lazy journalism at best, rather than Jez insisting on the narrative. There’s no proof at all that any possible move for Bradley broke down because of Jez; I’d say the opposite is probably true. Jez is very prominent in Ireland, scouting and the like, and it’s more likely that it is he who has been involved in initial identification. That makes me chuckle in itself; people are angry we haven’t got a man that Jez is likely to have been involved in identifying, but at the same time want Jez replaced because of our recruitment in the summer. So, which is it? Is he bad at his job, in which case we’ve had a near-miss with Bradley and don’t need to be angry, or good at his job, in which case the recruitment failures are as much down to the players themselves as it is one person involved in bringing them to the club? Oh, by the way, Freddie Draper, the darling of supporters, was attracted here by Jez. Don’t forget that next time you’re taking aim at a man whom many of you know little to nothing about.
I get that some are not keen on Jez, and also come from an informed point of view and as I’ve always said, I respect any who has an opinion born out of knowledge. However, if your opinion is based purely on a guy on the internet saying Cambridge fans didn’t like him, then I’m afraid I’m not interested.
I’m actually really surprised to see things like ‘we’ll struggle next season’ plastered about as well. You know what? We might, but it’s May 7th, and we don’t know who will be in charge or what players we’ll have. How can we possibly know whether we’ll struggle or not? What indicator do you have of our possible struggle? Because seven days after Michael left we haven’t got a new man in charge? Jesus, the League Two season hasn’t even finished yet, it’s not like we’re balls-deep in July and without a striker, is it? The problem is this; for many, social media hyperbole becomes a state of mind. people are easily influenced. I read yesterday there was negativity around the club at the minute, but how do those people know this? Do they work for the club? There are some who are not happy, they’re allowed that, but is bringing Ross Burbeary in bad? I’ve seen people complaining about injuries on one hand, and then getting mad that we’ve reacted and appointed a head of performance on the other hand. That’s mad, it’s like complaining that you’re hungry, and then moaning when someone buys you a burger because you don’t like burgers.
I stress that this isn’t me having a pop at supporters, but the fear that grows and envelops social media is not entirely reflective of the position we’re in and I just ant to help add some balance. Many wanted Michael out, not me, but some did. Now that’s happened, we’re apparently in big trouble. There’s no way forward for some, is there? We don’t know who is on the shortlist, we can speculate, but we don’t know. We don’t know anything really, nor will we, until a decision is made and a manager joins us. I did chuckle when I saw Ian Burchnall’s name mentioned, and people said ‘what’s he ever won’ in response. What had Liam Manning ever won when he joined MK Dons? Not a lot, but they’re in the play-offs. What had Neil Critchley ever won when he joined Blackpool? Same. What had Danny Cowley proven when he joined us in 2016?
Right now, there may be divisions at the club, there may not be. You might not like certain staff members (spoiler, I’m not keen on everyone who works at the club), but it doesn’t mean they’re bad for us. We don’t know what was said between the club and Bradley, we don’t know what prompted him to remain in Ireland; it might have been him, it might have been us. We don’t know who is on the shortlist and we don’t know what is going to happen. They are, to borrow a title from a Terry Pratchett book, Interesting Times right now. A quote from that book has always lived with me; “There is a curse. They say: May you live in interesting times.” Interesting times are not interesting, they’re all about upheaval, proving points, uncertainty, distrust and worry. They are a curse. They lead to narratives that may or may not be true, they cause people to fear something that may not even be there to be feared. Right now, we’re living in interesting times for Lincoln City, and I don’t like it, nor do you. But we can make it better for ourselves.
I recall when I was off work with stress and anxiety, the Steps 4 Change program wasn’t for me, but one thing they taught stuck with me about worry. They told me worry was pointless because it has two aspects. You either worried about something that was happening anyway and you were powerless to change, or you worried about something that would never happen. Either way, you’re wasting your time. With that in mind, take a deep breath today, remain calm, and remember Clive Nates has not made a single appointment at this football club that didn’t turn out well.
What happens between now and August will happen, you’re powerless to change it, and when the next manager is gone, when the current squad are retired, when every board member is younger than you, there will most likely still be a Lincoln City Football Club, and we’ll still be none the wiser as to what goes on behind closed doors. Therefore, try to enjoy it, don’t spread fear, and let’s hope our trust in Clive, which has served us so well, remains well-founded.
Which, by the way, I’m sure it will.