When a Famous Songwriter Was Linked With Imps Takeover

Sometimes, when I get a moment, I log into the newspaper archive and look at what was happening around the club at different stages in history. 

It might sound pretty sad to you, but I find it fascinating. I love getting information about the club, little snippets I wasn’t previously aware of. Today, I found out we almost signed Trevor Senior, a player who was once the leading scorer of all four divisions, and that a world-famous songwriter was once rumoured to be interested in buying the Imps.

41 years ago, the Imps had reached a peak and were starting a decline that would end with a relegation out of the Football League. Within a year, we’d gone from being a game away from the Second Division to tumbling down the Third like a stone sinking to the bottom of a river. Relegation to the Fourth was still two seasons away, but the wheels were in motion. Much had started the night we drew 1-1 with Fulham – chairman Dennis Houlston resigned, and Gilbert Blades took over.

His reign was troubled; the club sold Sincil Bank to the council, then Tony Cunningham to Barnsley to balance the books. Colin Murphy was forced to play a goalkeeper up front due to player shortages, and Blades became public enemy number one. His house was daubed with graffiti, and the whole board said they’d step down if an offer came in. The Imps – who had led the table and thrashed Bournemouth 9-0 earlier in the season – fell away from the promotion race. As the weekend of March 7th came around, there was uncertainty hanging over the club, like a raincloud ready to drop its load.

The Imps, without a win in eight, hosted Brentford at the Bank on March 5th. We were ten points off the leaders but were still in the promotion picture. However, vultures were circling – Portsmouth and Huddersfield were both eager to sign Glenn Cockerill.

Strapped for cash, the deal would see City get a six-figure sum from Huddersfield Town, two places and two points above the Imps. However, Portsmouth had an attractive deal on the table –  two players. One was winger David Crown, who went on to earn promotion from the Fourth Division with both Southend and Reading, scoring 45 goals in 116 outings for Cambridge and 61 in 113 for Southend. He wasn’t the only decent name linked to the deal – Trevor Senior was the other. Senior also moved to Reading, and in 1983/84, he was the top scorer in all four divisions, with 36 league goals. The following season, he smashed 27, and the season after, he moved to Middlesbrough for £200,000.

“I am not certain the players offered by Portsmouth would help much,” wrote Maurice Burton in the Echo dated March 5th, 1983. “Senior, the reserve team centre forward, has scored a lot of goals outside the league but clearly can’t get into Pompey’s first team.” In fairness, Maurice was rarely wrong, but on this occasion, he was.

Huddersfield might not have looked like such an attractive offer on the following Monday. The crowd were delighted when, instead of Blades and Dove, Dennis Houlston and Dennis Bocock appeared in the director’s box. Their joy was short-lived – Keith Cassells gave Brentford the lead, with the Bees buzzing for their first away win of the season. Glenn Cockerill drew City level, and after Jim McNichol was sent off for a crude challenge on our key man, City went into overdrive. Derek Bell netted a winner, to ensure the 3,600 home suppoorters went home happy.

I should perhaps say ‘placated’ because there was no joy in watching the Imps tumble from the promotion picture. However, as they left the ground, probably not yet aware the Imps were back up into third, there was a rumour doing the rounds. Elton John might have bought Watford, pinched Graham Taylor and climbed the divisions, but the talk of the town was about Elton’s songwriter, Bernie Taupin. As talk would have it, he wanted to buy Lincoln City.

For those who do not know, Taupin is best known for his long-term collaboration with Elton John. Born in Sleaford, Taupin spent time as a youth in Owmby-by-Spital and regularly drank in the Aston Arms in Market Rasen. He began working with Elton in the late 1960s, and together, they created some big hits, including “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”, written about his experiences in Rasen. In 1983, he was living in the US, and somehow, rumour got out he wanted in on the Imps.

It wasn’t an idle rumour either – it got picked up by the Echo, who ran a front page splash on the situation. A group of local businessmen believed to be Houlston, Bocock and their friends were accused of dropping a derisory offer in the same report that suggested the megabucks star was readying a bid.

Now, those of us who are sceptical might say that the ‘story’ around Taupin was released at the sort of time when PR was important. The group wishing to take the club over were popular with supporters, whilst the outgoing board were not. It seems handy that news of a possible big-money takeover broke around the same time the popular group were negotiating their own deal. After all, supporters would surely get behind a big star with money to burn coming into the club, rather than a local businessman and his local friends.Was this story a plant from the outgoing group, trying to push up the price for the club?

It really didn’t matter. There was no truth in the rumour at all, but in the days before the internet, it took phone calls to confirm the news. Taupin’s brother found out there was no truth, and the Echo printed a small disclaimer on the back page the following day.

That accelerated the takeover from the viable group, but even that came with a little of the gloss taken off. Dennis Bocock, who believed he was a key part of the takeover process, was cut out of the deal late on. Houlston and future chairman John Reames took his place at the table, but Bocock did not. “The bottom has been knocked out of my world”, he said.

The week ended with a new chairman, talk of Taupin thoroughly dispelled and promises of new players for Colin Murphy. 24 hours later, City signed Colin Brazier following his release by Birmingham. 48 hours later, Marshall Burke salvaged a draw away at Bradford. Two years later, almost to the day, Houlston resigned for a second time and two months later, the club dropped out of the Third Division. Three years later, we lost our Football League status.

If only Taupin had been interested.