Who I’m Backing For Imps Top Job (It’s No Surprise)

Courtesy Graham Burrell

It’s been just under a week since Mark Kennedy left Lincoln City, and there’s been plenty of debate about who should take over.

I’ve seen all manner of names suggested, but there seem to be three favourites, certainly in the bookies’ eyes. Stephen Bradley is one, but he appears to have confirmed his future with Shamrock Rovers this week. Tom Shaw is the bookies’ favourite, and he’s certainly won over some supporters with eloquent interviews and the win against Fleetwood. There’s another candidate who is getting tongues wagging around the place. Sir Danny Cowley.

I’ve stayed silent, to a degree, on who I’d like to see in the dugout. The truth is that almost any head coach the board chose would have my backing, aside from perhaps Mark Cooper or Karl Robinson. I could put belief in John Eustace, Damien Duff, Dean Brennan, and a host of the other names that have already been mentioned. However, I’m going to make no secret of the fact that Danny Cowley would be my pick for the new head coach. I think him and Nicky would be a perfect fit, and here’s why.

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Dan and Nick broke my heart when they left. I remember the exact date – September 9th, 2019. I never thought they’d leave; I never truly believed they would move mid-season, but they did, and for a while, that really hurt. I never lost respect for them, and Danny stayed in touch, the occasional phone call, a reprimand over something I’d written, a message when they changed jobs. I know he was Lincoln’s manager, but it always felt like there was a genuine human connection there. That’s what him and Nicky did so well here, they created connections, and they made every fan feel like they belonged.

That’s great for a National League club or a League Two club with a big budget, but how does that transfer across to League One? It’s easy to say they’ve struggled since, but that’s not entirely the case – they kept Huddersfield up, and they held Pompey in a top-ten spot in League One. It wouldn’t be fair to say they’ve failed since leaving Lincoln, not at all. They may not have raised eyebrows to the degree some expected, but there’s certainly a case for them becoming more experienced at this level without having truly struggled.

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So, why would they fit us now? They’re older and wiser; they’ve experienced the Championship and a bigger club with more expectations. They’ve worked with different players, played different tactics and styles, and will have become more rounded coaches as a result. They have expanded their network off the field, with coaches and staff, but with Danny still only 45 ( as of two days ago), youth is still on their side. People talk about them going to the likes of Colchester or Gillingham, but they won’t want to be dropping back into League Two just yet. They’re still capable of much more than dropping out of sight, like Paul Hurst did, for instance, and they’ll have that hunger.

What do we need? We need a feel-good factor. We’re not on our arses, not at all, but attendances have tailed a little bit. A return for the Cowleys would certainly see a little uplift, a bit of goodwill and nostalgia coming back into the club. There would be no rumblings about how they treated this person or that person, be it me, staff, players, fans or anything else. In terms of PR, this would be massive for the club, without a doubt.

If there’s any doubting how popular they might be, almost 600 fans took our poll asking who would be their preferred choice, Danny or literally anyone else. Danny got 53.6% of the vote.

They know how to stay tight against bigger clubs, but they also found a way to attack those teams we’re ‘supposed’ to beat. I think they’re more rounded in terms of game plan than our previous head coaches, and that’s not saying anything negative about Michael or Mark. However, Danny doesn’t have a single set method of playing, so we’d be likely to attack and have a good go, but when we needed a backs-against-the-wall performance, we’d get it. Let me ask you this – how many of the big crunch games with them in charge did we lose? I’m thinking title charges, cup games, play-offs? One Exeter semi-final that was about it. When we first went into League One I recall us hammering Southend 4-0, beating Fleetwood at the Bank and putting on some really good attacking displays.

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I also liked their methodical approach and their ‘next game’ mentality. I always felt we were the best-prepared team in any game with them in the dugout. Contrast that with Charlton away in January, when we played a two-man midfield against their three, and Scott Fraser murdered us. That wouldn’t happen under Danny Cowley. It wouldn’t be allowed to happen. They study the opposition, plan each game as a single occasion, and never take a one-size-fits-all approach.

Also, what profile of player did they like? A warrior centre back, like Paudie or Adam Jackson. Midfielders with great engines, like Michael O’Connor, Ethan Erhahon, and Ethan Hamilton. They liked a ten, Shay McCartan and Jack Payne (briefly) thriving here, and we’ve got Danny Mandroiu perfect for the role. They also like a wide man, and Reeco is custom-made for that role. They were rumoured to have been interested in signing TJ when we did, and you know Tyler Walker can play under them despite his poor loan spell down there. I can imagine Ben House being their type of striker as well – the squad wouldn’t need a lot of work for it to fit their ethos. We have hard workers on board, good people, more so than last season and the season before.

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Then there’s familiarity. They know the club, they know Clive, Liam, Jez and some of the coaching staff. The EPC was their baby, they helped grow this club. Of course, things have changed, and there would be less autonomy, but I always got the feeling they were happy to step back once a process or asset was in place. There’s a view that they were overbearing megalomaniacs intent on running every aspect of the club, but that’s not true. They just wanted the best they could get, and I believe we’re much more like the club they wanted us to be.

We’re also in a better place financially, which might help. With our US investment, we’re not rich, but the infrastructure has got better, and you could say our budget feels like it has gone further this season. This club is in a stronger place than when Danny left, and that would suit him as a coach. He might not have been a part of the journey, but his fingerprints are still all over the crime scene, even down to some of the mantras on the wall at the training ground.

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Of course, there are questions about developing youth, for example. I mean, they did identify, sign and develop Harry Toffolo, but they don’t have the same background training youth players as Mark or Micheal did. Whether there’s any residual ill feeling over their departure is something nobody knows, and of course, some think you should never go back (good job, nobody told John Reames that in 1987 or 2002). For every reason why Danny Cowley should be the next Lincoln manager, there’s probably an equally good reason why not from the other side of the camp.

I don’t know whether they’re in the running. I’d like to think they’ve been considered, absolutely. Talking to Danny a year or two ago, he intimated he’d happily come back to Lincoln one day, and a recent clip on Twitter saw him doing an interview where he said the same thing. The board are a sensible bunch, and they’ll be looking at all options with far more knowledge than the likes of me.

However, for the avoidance of doubt, I wanted to put this out there. I think Danny Cowley would be a great appointment at Lincoln City in 2023, and whilst I’ll back almost any other appointment when they first come in, I would wholeheartedly embrace a return for the king himself.

There Ash, I said it. Sorry, not sorry.