World Cup Imps – Morrell and Johnson Are Not The First

Last night, Joe Morrell and Brennan Johnson both came on to appear for Wales at the 2022 World Cup.

Indeed. Johnson’s throw led to the incident that resulted in Wales’ equaliser, and he’s certainly a high-profile former Imps doing it on the bigger stage. I’ve seen memes and posts talking about how he was made in Lincoln, thanks to his strong 2020/21 season. As for Morrell, he was Player of the Season in the turbulent 2019/20 campaign and is another looked upon as one we helped to develop in some small part.

They’re not the first former (or future) Imps to appear at a World Cup. By my maths, there are two (but there could be more). I’m not talking England U17 World Cup winners either; we’re talking full internationals who made appearances in proper full World Cup tournaments. We also have some tenuous links with other World Cups as well, as you’ll see below.

Tony Woodcock (England 1982)


Oddly, I did some research on Woodcock the other day – I recall him playing for Koln, so I suggested Chris and I were on a bit of a pilgrimage the other week.

Woodcock signed for the Imps on loan from Forest, as Brennan Johnson did, but back in the days when loans lasted a month or two, no more. As a youth, he trained with another future Imps, Steve Buckley, and future Imps manager in Alan Buckley. He joined us on loan at the same time as Bert Bowery, playing four matches and scoring once as we routed Southport 6-0.

Two years after playing for the Imps he won the First Division with Forest, then the European Cup and League Cup the season after, and bagged PFA Young Player of the Year.

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At the 1982 World Cup, he was an unused sub in the first group stage games against Kuwait, France and Czechoslovakia, but he came on as a sub as we drew 0-0 with West Germany in the second group stage, replacing Trevor Francis on 76 minutes. He then started the crucial game against Spain, a game England needed to win, but was replaced by Kevin Keegan with England desperate for a goal. Sadly, we were eliminated without losing a game.

He played a role in qualification for the 1986 World Cup, scoring against Finland and twice against Turkey. He was the leading scorer for Arsenal for three years running prior to the Mexico tournament, but he didn’t make the final cut.


David Campbell (Northern Ireland 1986)


Shooting for Socrates - David Campbell Soccer

David Campbell came to Lincoln after his World Cup appearance, which came in 1986. He was on Forest’s books, and his form for Clough’s side saw Billy Bingham call him up for a warm-up match against Morocco. He only appeared in one game at the tournament, playing 71 minutes of the final group game against Brazil. To be fair, Northern Ireland had a tough group, with Spain and Algeria the other two teams.

Team North Ireland - Irlande du Nord - Mexico 86 World Cup sticker 275

He had a somewhat nomadic career after that, turning out for his country until 1988 before filtering down the divisions with the likes of Rotherham and Burnley. He joined us in 1994 from the Clarets and played four games on loan, scoring as we beat Hereford United 3-1. He picked up an injury and made two more appearances as a sub before leaving, winding up in his native Northern Ireland with Portadown. In his later life, he made a career setting up soccer schools throughout the UK.


Frank Sinclair (Jamaica 1998)


Credit Graham Burrell

Woodcock was the first former Imp to make it to a World Cup (I believe, I’m happy to be proven wrong), whereas like Campbell, Sinclair came to us after appearing for Jamaica in 1998.

Lambeth-born Sinclair came through the Chelsea youth ranks, spending eight years at Stamford Bridge. During that time, he won two FA Cups, two League Cups and the UEFA Cup, as well as appearing 169 times in the Premier League. Leicester City then paid £2m for his services, where he won another League Cup and the old First Division, now the Championship.

He was eligible to play for England, and was called up by Terry Venables in 1995, but he didn’t appear. In 1997, when Jamaica started calling up foreign-born talent, Sinclair signed on the dotted line, securing his spot in the 1998 World Cup squad. He started group matches against Croatia and Argentina, resulting in a 3-1 and 5-0 defeat, respectively. He then turned out in Jamaica’s 2-1 win against Japan, ut they finished third in the group and were eliminated.

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He appeared in their qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup, but they failed to make it to South Korea and Japan, and he returned from international football in 2003. Five years later, he was one of Peter Jackson’s Magnificent Seven, but his move isn’t remembered fondly.

He struggled for fitness at first and then struggled for form throughout the season. He didn’t last the whole campaign, joining Wycombe on loan where he typically helped them to achieve promotion from our division. He was released upon the expiry of his contract, an expensive folly and a shadow of his former self.


Honourable Mention – Kris Bright (New Zealand 2010)



Bright was a New Zealand international who appeared seven times for City, bagging two goals. He scored on his debut, a 2-1 home defeat by Welling but was sent off in his second appearance against Braintree by referee Amy Fearn. He drew a blank for five games before scoring again in his last outing, a 3-3 draw with Barnet. Lincoln only lost one game in which he played so he proved to be something of a good omen.

Before City, he had appeared across the world for (wait for it) Waitakere City, New Zealand Knights (where he was a teammate of Simon Yeo), Fortuna Sittard, Kristiansund, Panserraikos, Shrewsbury Town (scoring against the Imps), Budapest Honvéd, Balzan Youths, Bryne FK, FC Haka and IFK Mariehamn. During his Shrewsbury Town spell, he impressed enough to be called up to the New Zealand side. He scored for them against Thailand and made an appearance in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup against Spain. However, he narrowly missed out on the 2010 World Cup squad, being named one of five non-travelling reserve players.


Father and Son

Off the top of my head, I can also come up with three World Cup stars whose sons have since played for the Imps, two from the same squad. Firstly, Steve Hodge played for England at the 1986 tournament and famously got Maradona’s shirt; his son Elliot played for the Imps during our time in the National League. Hodge was also in the Italia 90 squad, but was the only outfield player not to kick a ball. Cian Hughton won Irish youth caps, and his father, Chris, played for Ireland at Italia 90 – he’s also at the current World Cup as part of Ghana’s technical team. Tyler Walker is often linked with a move back to the Imps – his Dad appeared for England in the 1990 World Cup. Also (thanks to Matt Gardner for this), Chris Sharp played three times for us under Gary Simpson, scoring once. His Dad Graeme was part of Scotland’s Mexico 86 squad – he played once, in the 0-0 draw with Uruguay which saw the competition’s fastest-ever sending-off.

DT92 ~ Steve Hodge


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If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy our look at The Imps and the European Championships.