If you’re a fan of a certain vintage, the name “Ringo” may be more synonymous with Saturday afternoons at Sincil Bank rather than the grooves behind a certain four-piece from Liverpool, writes Ben Ward.
It is with a heavy heart that I type these words, but Ringo has sadly played his last beat, after a short and aggressive battle with cancer. I distinctly remember the moment Mick came into my life. My mum had seen the band busking in town to drum up some support for the club, and approached them. She told him that I played the trumpet, and Mick was more than willing to bring in another member. In a moment of confusion on her part, she mistook “The Centre Spot” as “the middle of the pitch” and told me that’s where I needed to meet him prior to the game. It was a bit of a baptism of fire. In my first match as part of the ensemble, we were interviewed by BBC Look North. I’m sure there’s footage of it out there somewhere, but it was my first exposure of being “more than a season ticket holder” at Sincil Bank.
For the next eleven years or so, my dad and I had a very strict Saturday routine. Head to Sincil Bank, go into the Centre Spot, catch up with Mick and the guys, then get set up ready for the game. Putting the flags out behind the drums, making sure everything was tuned up and then watching and reacting for the 90 minutes ahead. When Helen and Rebecca (sax and trumpet respectively) left, my dad decided he wanted to learn the trumpet, so I taught him how to play, and he joined in and became firm friends with Mick as well. We would practice in my dad’s workshop during the close season, and practices would inevitably end with Mick heading off to a gig that night with his band. I had the pleasure of seeing him gig only once, but he was just as full of life on stage as he was at the top of the Linpave Stand (as it was), hammering away with perfect timing and rhythm that could have easily outperformed his Liverpudlian namesake.
There are so many stories that I could share about Mick that I could probably fill a book, but I feel it’s important to get a measure of the man first and foremost. To me, it seemed like the first question he would ask would be “Will this help someone else”. Lincoln City came above pretty much everything else in his life, with few exceptions. He once organised a sponsored walk from RAF Scampton to Sincil Bank before a game to help raise funds for the club, as we were in a bit of a dire situation at the time. I’ll never forget that day, with anecdotes flying as Mick, Paul, Jamie, my dad, my friend and I woke up at silly o clock, and set off from the RAF base towards our church. Matt, the infamous “Fat Kid” joined us as well, but was picked up after 200 yards and driven to a chippy. Mick helped keep everyone’s spirits up, and while the rest of us appeared knackered, he just soldiered on with his understated nature until after the game had concluded.
I’ve experienced some extreme highs, and astonishing lows with Mick by my side. Both in football, and in life. In footballing terms, one of the worst nights of my life was turned into a comedy of errors when the Imps made the trek up to Huddersfield’s McAlpine Stadium to face Emley in the FA Cup. On a bitterly cold evening, we were told that we could bring our instruments with us. After lugging several drums, brass instruments and associated gear up a long path that was literally covered in black ice, we got to the turnstiles and were told in no uncertain terms that we were going in without it all. Cue an extremely pissed off band heading back down the slope, with a few near falls, packing it back into the bus and hearing from a steward 5 minutes before kick off that they’d been told we could actually bring it in. God bless Helen, as she showed up late and had to go through the entire match on her own with Mick tapping on a seat behind her.
There were always “rumours” about the band that I heard from other fans. We got free tickets, we got free shirts, the club paid us to do bits here and there. But the thing was, we never did. In fact, the only thing that we were ever given by the club was tickets to the second playoff final against Southend. For the first against Bournemouth, we bought our tickets together and all played together cramped into a corner behind everything else. For the Southend game, we were practically on our own in a higher tier in order to get the noise out everywhere. Wherever Mick went, it was purely out of his own pocket, and out of his passion for the club. It’s no secret that Mick and the club had a bit of a falling out, which led to a self-imposed exile for a period of time, but his passion for Lincoln City still burned bright.
One of the lowest points away from the pitch came when my dad passed away. Mick was one of the first who offered his condolences to me, and gave me some advice that has been seared into my brain ever since. “Never expect to get over it, but learn to live with it” were his words, and I’ve lived by them to this day. Thankfully, Mick and I both found our ways back to Sincil Bank and we frequently had chats over the past few years.
Whether it was marching alongside Mick during the “Save the Imps” march after the ITV Digital fall out and hearing him tell a heckling lad on a bus to go forth and multiply, whether it was being repeatedly jolted out of my seat as Mick banged out another intro to a song without warning, or whether it’s hearing him scream “BEENNNNN!” in anticipation of trying to play “March of the Gladiators” (aka “the clown music”) when an opposition striker lumped a ball into the Stacey West car park, or whether it’s just catching up with him and Lyn before a game, there are so many memories that will stay with me for a lifetime.
I’ll miss Mick terribly. He was a huge part of my Lincoln City family. A selfless individual with time for everyone, My thoughts, and the thoughts of the Stacey West team are with Lyn, Paul, Gemma and the rest of his family. Rest Easy Ringo. You made the Bank a louder place for many years.