Rich’s Monday Morning View

With apologies to Guido Fawkes.

If you have ever visited the Guido Fawkes blog site, you might have come across a cartoon, posted on a Monday morning summing up the political goings on of the weekend just passed. The drawing is not a patch on Chris Wray’s Imptoons and the humour rarely is either, but it’s titled Rich’s Monday Morning View which makes it an easy crib for a headline that will work only if Gary chooses to put this out on the appointed day (it’s the afternoon, but let’s not split hairs – Gary).

Call it an alternative opinion following our host’s take on Saturday’s encounter and the implications that flow from the result. Yes, we’ll be watching League One football at Sincil Bank next season and do you know what, I’m delighted about that.

The fact is, we’re not ready for the Championship, either as a team, or as a club and that being the case, a play-off campaign come May will only get in the way of preparations for a renewed assault on the top end of the table next time. There will be those of you who, like me remember the last day of the 1997-98 season, when the Imps squeezed into the final automatic promotion place from the fourth tier to the third amid great rejoicing and a euphoria that had evaporated entirely 12 months later. Make no mistake, I am as anxious as the next Imp to see City playing Championship football, something we haven’t done since I was four years old and too young to witness it, but you see, I’m not going to be satisfied with the football equivalent of a one night stand, a quick in and out that sees us back in League One after a single campaign. No, I want a repeat of the 1950s when for nine unlikely seasons Lincoln City grappled with the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur as well as those we are encountering this season such as Derby, Barnsley and Orient. I firmly believe it’s coming, but not quite yet.

Grappling with Liverpool – Credit Graham Burrell

To do that we need the kind of financial muscle which I don’t think we possess yet, unless of course the current investors have even deeper pockets and longer arms than appears to be the case. I think it’s fair to say that the quest continues for new investors who have the same outlook and values as Clive, Harvey and co. They are right not to rush this process and that they are not is testament to their respect, passion and indeed love for this football club. It’s as much about finding the right people as it is the size of their wallets and I for one am prepared to trust our board to get this right. After all, there is so much else Clive in particular has got right since walking through the door in 2016.

Michael Skubala has talked of evolution and not revolution in the squad and whilst in the early days of Clive’s involvement there was a much needed element of the latter, greater stability will come from the former when it comes to the club’s future progress.

There will be those who argue that we should not pass up an opportunity when it is presented and I would agree, but has there really been one such these past couple of weeks? If we’re honest it was an illusion, a dream and a fanciful one at that, however warm inside it made us feel. Every season contains its share of ifs, buts and maybes and this one has given us more than our fair share, what with a seemingly perpetual injury crisis that has undoubtedly constrained our progress, not to mention a managerial reshuffle that looks like it could pay remarkable dividends.

Credit Graham Burrell

Looking back at Saturday’s game, Stevenage came with a plan: A plan not to lose, which they executed pretty ruthlessly. That is not to say their style was faultless. On the contrary, they were full of faults (or should I say fouls), many of which went unpunished by a lenient referee who also let some of the home side’s players off lightly. No doubt we had a plan too; a plan that involved refusing to be bullied, but being prepared to go toe to toe and when necessary, give the visitors a taste of their own medicine. In the process and I know I’m biased, if there was going to be a winner, it wasn’t the visitors.

If that dream was to survive the cold light of dawn, City needed the win more than Stevenage who will have gone home satisfied with the single point that keeps their play-off ambitions alive. Before they realise them, they still have to face Bolton, Barnsley, Oxford and Peterborough, all of whom are in the mix for the knock out finale to the season. Will they go up? I doubt it. If the season had finished on Saturday they would have to overcome Bolton Wanderers in the semi-final before a Wembley encounter with the Tykes or Posh. That having been said, Stevenage have outperformed most observers’ expectations. Stacey West readers had them finishing in twentieth. I don’t mind admitting my own prediction was twenty first.

As for Lincoln, I’d say we have pretty much lived up to pre-season expectations. Both you, the readers and I predicted a ninth place finish for the Imps, something I still think we will achieve.

Credit Graham Burrell

As for planning for next season, I think we can be fairly confident that has been going on for some time. Take Saturday’s team selection for example. Whilst to a degree it was enforced, there has to be a growing feeling among the coaching staff that Jack Moylan, who was already ensconced at the EPC a couple of months prior to his official transfer, was worth a run out from the whistle. His performance suggests that feeling was spot on. His acquisition was always geared to next season rather than this and on Saturday’s performance, I’d say he is going to be key piece in the 24-25 puzzle. I’d be happy to see a couple of our loan players turn out for us next term although that is about as likely as it was that we would be contesting the play-offs at the end of this season. It would be nice to think that we could make a case to Luton that Joe Taylor’s development would benefit from an extended spell under the tutelage of Michael Skubala, but given the progress being made by Freddie Draper, the recovery of Ben House and the likely return to match fitness of Tyler Walker, are we going to be able to offer him the regular first team selection that Luton would be justified in expecting?

Of course, much will also depend on who we can, or indeed wish to retain this summer and whether other clubs have any of our in and out of contract players on their shopping list. The club’s ‘model’ is supposed to involve picking up and polishing players before turning a profit on them, enabling us to go back into the market to secure ever better prospects and repeat the cycle. So we should not be surprised or even disheartened if some big names move on to pastures new. We have a few who fit that particular bill. Step forward Sean Roughan and Ben House, just for starters. Judging by Saturday’s bench and those out on loan, I’d say the next generation is lining up and chomping at the bit and raring their chance to shine.

We may not be going up this time, but we’re in a good place and unlike Gary, but like the Murphy’s, I’m not bitter.