An Ode To Michael Bostwick

Credit - Graham Burrell

Former Imps defender Michael Bostwick was released by Stevenage yesterday.

I don’t always comment on players when they leave other clubs unless it is a direct influence on us, but with Bozzy, there’s got to be an exception made. There’s no doubt he’s one of my favourite Cowley-era players, maybe even one of my favourite players ever to wear a Lincoln City shirt, and I felt it warranted a bit of an article to mark the occasion.

I’m not going to go through his appearances and goals, stuff like that. They’re almost too generic for Michael Bostwick. Unlike most footballers, his personality cannot be condensed into ‘scored a goal here’ or ‘played this many times’. Instead, he arrived as a cult hero, stayed that way throughout, and left with the adoration of an entire fanbase. I doubt there’s a single Lincoln City fan who would say they thought the big man was overrated. If they do, I’m not sure I value their opinion.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

We he first signed for the club, it was a huge deal, but like everything, there’s a story behind it. I was told the transfer fee was in the region of £150,000 for both him and Harry Anderson, and it was to be split half and half, to avoid putting the ‘most expensive player’ tag on Bozzy. There’s no doubt those two arriving when they did was a big shot in the arm for Danny Cowley, and it underlined our ambition in League Two. One year later, we won the Checkatrade Trophy. Two years later, we won League Two.

There were classic Bozzy moments in those two years, off the field, I mean. He signed an April 2018 contract extension, ensuring he’d be at the club for a year longer than originally planned, but in true enigmatic fashion, he didn’t appear at his own press conference. There was a surreal air to the announcement, the lined-up chairs, the manager chatting about how important the big man was, and an empty chair where he should have been sitting. It only added to the mystery behind the player; in a world where everyone is on social media, or giving interviews to programmes, YouTube channels, and the like, Bozzy remained elusive.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

He remained elusive to me as well. This was before the club stopped asking me to do programme interviews, so I’d get a text every week or two with a player’s name and telephone number, but it was never Bozzy. The only interaction I had with him was before the Barnet away game in 2017 when he walked past as I was smoking a cigar, and he turned around and took a deep breath, saying how good it smelled! Then, when he won the PFA Fan’s League Two Player of the Season, I was working for Football League World and was asked to present the trophy! Finally, I could meet Bozzy!

It was quite the day as well. I had it arranged for a Monday, but on that day, I got a phone call saying it wasn’t suitable and it would have to be Tuesday. Next day, the same thing – short notice cancellation. My understanding was that there were some days that he got off at his request, and those were two of the days. When I did get to go in, I arrived, and he hadn’t, so I waited around. It wasn’t tardiness on his part, by the way; it’s just how the club did some things with him. Finally, he came through the door, this huge, terrifying man with wild eyes and constant anger, and he said hello – he was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. We chatted, he got his trophy, and off I went. it turns out he didn’t do media because he felt awkward, self-conscious, and didn’t know what to say, so he was kept out of the limelight.

Covid struck and Michael Appleton made the decision to cut his squad: Bozzy was released in 2020. When recounting favourite Bozzy moments, on the field, three spring to mind. The first is from the Checkatrade Trophy semi-final, where a young Chelsea lad thought he could get a bit cocky with our midfielder (at the time). He soon learned that boys don’t come off well when squaring up to men. The second is bagging at Goodison Park against Everton in the FA Cup, a huge game for the club and one which will forever be etched in my mind.

The other moment is a bit reminiscent of Eric Cantona. In the film Looking For Eric, Cantona says how his favourite moment wasn’t a goal, but a pass to Denis Irwin. Well, my favourite Bozzy moment (and likely yours as well) wasn’t a header at goal, but a tackle. A thunderous monster of a tackle that put Marcus Maddison on his arse right in front of the Coop Stand as we beat Peterborough 2-1 on New Year’s Day, 2020. Four days later, he picked up a calf injury, two more home games passed, and he was gone.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

From the first moment to the last, Michael Bostwick was committed, solid, led by example, and helped us drive up the Football League. He was accessible to fans on a matchday but remained invisible in the media. He was an enigma, the like of which you don’t see very often. He also played 125 games for City, scoring ten goals, and despite his hardman image, he was only sent off once, and that was rescinded – perhaps there is something of a personality in a stat, after all.

Michael Bostick, the mystery man, loved everywhere he goes. I like to think when he retires, in will involve him pulling on his leathers, chewing on a fat Cuban cigar, striking up a Harley, and riding off into the sunset with his family behind him in formation, Born to be Wild playing him out.

It probably doesn’t, but if I ever did a film about him, that’s how I’d end it. Best of luck in the future.

An earlier version of this article suggested Bozzy had retired, but Tweets suggesting as much have now been deleted, so I’ve amended the article.