Monthly Archives: November 2013

Goodbye

A massive thanks to our Lincoln City and Skrill Premier readers, but I have decided to throw in the towel. The fact is football writing  is just too much hassle and I have an eye and foot injury to contend with.  Wordpress will continue to host us and our archives, but after this post like the bubbles and dreams, STMI will fade and die.

Thank you for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs

A lot of Lincoln and Conference fans will probably miss us for a while but an independent writer or  blog has no chance of protecting itself legally even if you are in the right and can back up your facts. I cannot watch Lincoln games due to a ban that the nameless hecklers find humerus and several copyright infringements from other sites have not helped matters. There are other issues but I do not want to labour what is a courtesy post to our readers.  It has to be about the football for that is what makes the turnstiles and my keyboard click.

Thanks, health wealth and good luck to the thousands that travel home and away every week. Oh and apologises for using ‘I’ so much, its bad form and football clubs, managers and players can ill afford that.

Good luck to the Imps against Plymouth on Saturday – remember who dares wins.

Hoist up the Lincoln FA Flag – 1 drum 1 Voice 1 Passion

STMI urge all Imps to raise the fallen for Plymouth Argyle on Saturday and get them down the Bank – young and old – for what has been and could well be our biggest opportunity on the national stage for some time.  Let’s show the world passion is always in fashion in the land of the Mighty Imps. 

Lincoln City F.C. badge.png V The initials "P.A.F.C" underneath a shield featuring a ship called the Mayflower in full sail.

Saturday 9th Nov 2013 KO 3PM

Did you know you can blood a young Imp into his rightful heritage for a fiver? Mums and dads are just £15 with concessions a tenner for mid Lincolnshire’s big game on Saturday.

And our wall of sound can drown out the Pilgrims who will be packing our former home end. Imagine 4-5,000 Imps getting behind the lads and witnessing a giant killing think Spurs, think Man City, think the Rise Of The Mighty Imps.

How many of them will then be back for the next home game if we win.  This is lift off. Its like when Graham Taylor finally turned it around after a shocking start as the Imps kicked on to greatness. Our team need us to believe in them and back them, not grumble about our lot.

Its time to be loud and its time to be proud

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Hoist up the Lincoln Flag

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Hear the RED IMPS sing

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And if you don’t join in I’ll sing on my own 

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Sing on my own

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Don’t  wanna go home, 

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Don’t  wanna go ho-o-ome, 

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Because this is the best I’ve ever been on!

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Budget: Is It Time For Trust To Be Critical Friend?

Alfreton Town, Welling United, Tamworth, Woking, Southport FC, Nuneaton Town, Tamworth, Braintree, Dartford FC and Hyde FC are all considered part time.  Yet with three training sessions a week they could be labelled as what Lincoln manager Gary Simpson has recently described as part-time in disguise.

Perhaps this is why Lincoln struggles to beat sides who have superior budgets and look to raise their game in order to gain the scalp of a big team. The real issue and reality check for Lincoln fans, is that the club is anything but a big team when it comes to the playing budget. The forecast budget is still less than that enjoyed by David Holdsworth last season, this, despite better than expected season ticket sales, higher admission prices due to the closing of the home end and better average crowds than last season. 

After an interminable half decade of misery and decline, the team finds itself mid-table yet we are failing to play the dream football that fans wish to see.  At £18 for an adult they do have a point, but the economic reality and real issue is the competition from the 23 other Conference clubs that the Imps are struggling to match. They show ambition, they inspire, while a club with the potential of Lincoln, does anything but shrouded behind  non disclosure agreements that frustrate fans and keep them in the dark.  Who would like answers on the Stadium, the recent supporter director elections etc etc etc? What about a fans forum and not one that shortens a Trust or club AGM?

But back to money, the route of all evil it would appear. Lincoln and Macclesfield have the lowest full-time budgets in the Skrill Premier League, dwarfed by Luton, Forest Green, Grimsby, Wrexham, Cambridge, Kidderminster and Gateshead.  But these disguised part-time sides are also outspending the club thanks to rich benefactors and commercial deals that allow them to punch above their financial weight.  While geographically challenged Lincoln cannot afford more than 5 overnight stays, Salisbury identified and funded the 15 they face before a ball was kicked in earnest.

When we look at the performance on the pitch of Alfreton, Salisbury and Welling, they are doing so because they have the ability to fund better loans and can pay wages in excess of ours.  Lincoln have an average of £350 per week, but many of our part-time competitors can easily offer far more – sometimes double – our highest earners. Surely everyone realises consistency costs and that you get what you can ultimately pay for on the creative and goals front, which is the lifeblood of the sport.

Alfreton, Welling, Woking and Tamworth all have bigger playing budgets than Lincoln despite our gates.  Southport and even Nuneaton are certainly on a par with the Imps, but able to pay money and get loans that are out of our reach. Only Hyde, Braintree, Dartford and Macclesfield have an inferior budget to Lincoln, but their geography is less challenging when it comes to attracting talent.

We cannot really do anything about it any more either, the dye is cast.  The Trust historically appear in fans eyes to be anything but a critical friend, despite the two long-term gold member and supporter director reigns on the board of the club. The 1 million shares have gone to the Holding Company and even the current supporter Director is now a business partner of one of the board members on the Holding company, suggesting a cosy closed shot relationship remains. All we can do is keep faith it appears and be thankful the club is still in business even if it had to give away the fans crown jewels to sustain itself without any long-term guarantees.  Not that we had a vote on it of course  – this at of all clubs, the one Supporters direct once saw as the model community club.

Please note we have omitted the actual figures for each club for legal reasons, alas, as our regular readers are aware, STMI does not have the legal backing to publish the full truth as bigger publications would.

Lincolnshire Cup Fever For Grimsby, Scunthorpe & Lincoln?

Grimsby Town V Scunthorpe United and Lincoln City V Plymouth Argyle are massive games in the FA Cup, this weekend, but while our Lincolnshire rivals are set to enjoy a sell out The Imps have not even cranked up the hype and marketing with just 4 days to go before the game that will even see our foe given the traditional home end at Sincil Bank.

Grimsby have just 997 tickets left in the home sections while Scunthorpe fans are eager to show their metal in the Fisheries.  The three home sections at Blundell Park hold  7158 fans and, if the maths are to be believed, that suggests 6161 tickets have been sold to Mariners.  The Iron season ticket holders snapped up 650 Osmond Stand seats, with an additional 300 members enjoying a chance to get a ticket before the remaining tickets go on general sale on Wednesday.  The Mariners offer away allocation chunks of 600, 1100 or a full stand of 2200 to large opposition followings.   With four days to go the 7100 sold looks set to rise to between 8,500 and the reduced capacity of 9338.

Sleepy Sincil Bank, meanwhile, appears to be missing an absolutely massive opportunity to boost the manager’s budget.  After a 1-0 defeat to Welling and a poor run of form the club has gone into its shell before a game that should have Imps turning up in their thousands. One of the best supported sides in the division is dwindling due to a slide in results and the usual lack of inspired leadership on and off the pitch once again.  With £15 tickets, a bargain, The Pilgrims should bring 700-1,000 to boost a gate that has recovered to 2700 in the last couple of games, suggesting 4,000 should be a realistic target to aim for althouth anything above 3,000 looks to be an acceptable result.  The initial allocation of 550 to Plymouth will hopefully be boosted by pay on the day to see a bigger gate than the 1345 that turned up last Tuesday.

Long gone are the days when they opened up the gates and the working classes trooped through the gates, modern football marketing knows haow to tap into the fans psyche again and again. Look at Grimsby, despite the failures, despite the losses their club inspire them again and again. Yet, as of Monday night, no proclamations on either the official site or via the normally friendly media partners of the club.  Is it any wonder the fans are side-tracked by the usual in-fighting over the latest under-performance on the pitch? Instead of getting behind our potential giant killers to get the local pride and cup fever going lack of ambition and being reserved Lincoln has taken over as usual.

There should be 4-5,000 Imps there Saturday, but to do that we need to bang the drum and play the local pride card. Instead it looks as if we will look even poorer relations to our local Lincolnshire rivals. As soon as the whistle blew last Tuesday night everyone should have followed this sites lead by bigging up the game. Yes even in spite of the fact that we all half expected part-time Welling would continue to raise their game in from of a 746 crowd.  Anything can happen in a cup game against a side 18th in League 2 struggling to get strikers in – 3 loan forwards have turned Sheridan down – but instead no one at the top is beating the drum or reassuring the fans that progress is still being made.

This means the economic reality at Lincoln is threatening to kill the optimism and resurgence that inspired us to begin to dream again after 5 years that have nearly killed us.  Yes the team has stumbled and had some bad luck, but togetherness and daring to dream is all you have got when you can only pay an average of £350 a week. No wonder the players need that top 8 bonus, but they also need backing and their cause to be championed if they are to succeed. Cup fever and a big pay-day Saturday will help, but at the time of writing it looks to be passing us by.  Win Saturday in front of 5,000 and we could be looking at £50,000.

Holdsworth Sacked

Former Lincoln City and Mansfield Town manager David Holdsworth may want to give his brother Dean (who got Aldershot Town relegated) and his nephew a helping hand after both left Chelmsford City today.  That is of course if he has time as he has been a very busy lad in the transfer market…….

Vic Erzantarz gets the abacus out

The Clarets lost 6-0  to Boreham Wood in the Conference South on Saturday and have now lost 8 of their last 11 games.  City sit 17th in the table after just four wins from thirteen this term. Dean, with a massively redused budget it must be said, agreed to stand down after just five months in charge – this off the back of almost getting Aldershot relegated although Andy Scott got the honour – with assistant Kenny Brown put in caretaker charge of the side. Holdsworth’s son Jordan, a striker, has also left the club.

David meanwhile is getting busy at his Goole gig, with three new faces on Friday alone. Midfielder Anton Fosterjoins from Matlock,  striker Ryan Williams joins from Guiseley AFC on dual registration and defender Jack Freeman from AFC Darwen in the North West Counties League. Goole beat Chasetown 3-1 on Saturday to move to 14th as Holdsworth and Chairman Baron’s brave new dawn continues.

The previous week was even busier with 6 out and 4 in as David Holdsworth looked to ring the changes.  The released half dozen were George Wysocki, Brice Tiani, Regis Kimba-Mavambu, Chris Ovington, Matt Semley and Nick Guest. The arrivals were former Scunthorpe United, forward Reece Richiardi, former Crystal Palace forward William Johnson-Cole, former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder James Cottingham from Worksop Town (waiting on the registration) and former Notts County and Mansfield Town winger Danny Bisungu who is awaiting international clearance.

Simmo’s Fox – In – Box Loan plans Hampered.

Gary Simpson’s plans to get a striker in on loan seem to be facing the same obstacle as his plans to get Leicester City hot-shot Adi Yussuf some valuable match time, with both the FA Cup and FA trophy playing a massive part in proceedings.

Simmo has been sniffing around Leicester City, Derby Co, Bury (he already has Marlon Jackson) the South Yorkshire clubs plus some North-West big names in search of a big target man and a wide midfielder as he waits for Yussuf, Fairhurst and Wright to rediscover their undoubted talents.  But timing looks to be against him in the immediate term. Loan clubs from higher Divisions in the Football League do not come into the Competition until November and December and there is also the small matter of the FA trophy that has ruled out a loan move for Yussuf in the other direction. Yussuf’s name has been mentioned on the Gainsborough grapevine but the manager has already stated that he will want him to play at least four games as well as continuing to train with the Imps on a daily basis.

With specific regard to inbound players, the loan budget has very little in it, although the prize money from the previous round of the Cup has given the manager enough for additional reinforcements.  However with loans normally running for a month or two the club can ill-afford to be paying a contribution to a Football League players wages with two Trophy and Two FA Cup weekends, possibly dropping to one apiece should Lincoln be eliminated.

The postponement of the Gateshead game, thanks to their cup progression, was a case in point, although the Imps won their replay over Worcester and now entertain Plymouth, who will further add to the loan budget win lose or draw. Therefore far from being ‘caught in the headlights’ as many people are suggesting, the manager appears, perhaps he is keeping his powder dry in order to best use and indeed maximise the funds at his disposal?  Simmo has good contacts in South Yorkshire and the North-West and will doubtless make a move next month when the pitches have changed and players are available ahead of the winter transfer window.  Clubs tend to offer some amazing loan opportunities in December, at very reasonable wage contributions, if they can get them off the payroll for good in the January.

Branston Suspended For Argyle Thanks To Cobblers Card

Plymouth Argyle centre-half Guy Branston’s Northampton Town booking means he will not get the opportunity to renew acquaintances with the Lincoln City faithful after all. It could also force a change to a formation that has seen Plymouth improve their fortunes with some hard-fought but narrow victories thanks to successive clean sheets in the last few weeks.

Thankyou for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs

Lincoln City F.C. badge.png V The initials "P.A.F.C" underneath a shield featuring a ship called the Mayflower in full sail.

Guy Branston received his fifth caution of the season after a 74th minute foul on Cobblers winger Chris Hackett to rule him out with a one match ban.  This is good news for the Imps as John Sheridan’s side have enjoyed an upturn in form since switching to three centre backs and an attack minded 3-5-2 formation that has kept 3 successive clean sheets in the five games played.  The formation began at Portsmouth with a 1-1 draw, the Pilgrims then lost 0-1 at Hartlepool, before a stalemate at Newport and back-to-back 1-0 wins over Mansfield and Northampton.

Guy, who spent six games on loan at the Imps in 1999, has made 27 moves, 14 of them loans, in his 16 years as a no-nonsense centre-back.  He has a take no prisoners image, boosted by his shaven skull, but, that could not be further from the genuine man he is off the pitch.  He has recently had a baby and is a doting dad, who helped Richard Butcher in his career as their paths crossed at Rushden, Oldham, Peterborough and Notts County as team-mates.

STMI Biopic
Full name Guy Peter Bromley Branston
Date of birth 9 January 1979 (age 34)
Place of birth Leicester
Height/Weight 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)/12st 2lb (77.1kg)
Playing position Centre back
Current gig in the game
Current club Plymouth Argyle
Number 5
Senior stats
Tenure Team Apps
(Gls)
1997–1999 Leicester City 0 (0)
1997 Rushden & Diamonds (loan) 31 (1)
1998 Colchester United (loan) 12 (1)
1998 Colchester United (loan) 1 (0)
1998–1999 Plymouth Argyle (loan) 7 (2)
1999 Rushden & Diamonds (loan) 0 (0)
1999 Lincoln City (loan) 6 (0)
1999 Rotherham United (loan) 7 (2)
1999–2004 Rotherham United 111 (13)
2003 Wycombe Wanderers (loan) 11 (1)
2004 Peterborough United (loan) 14 (0)
2004–2005 Sheffield Wednesday 11 (0)
2004–2005 Peterborough United (loan) 4 (1)
2005–2006 Oldham Athletic 50 (2)
2006–2007 Peterborough United 32 (1)
2007 Rochdale (loan) 6 (0)
2007 Northampton Town (loan) 4 (0)
2008 Notts County 1 (0)
2008–2009 Kettering Town
45 (0)
2009–2010 Burton Albion 23 (0)
2010 Torquay United (loan) 16 (0)
2010–2011 Torquay United 52 (2)
2011–2012 Bradford City 19 (1)
2011 Rotherham United (loan) 4 (0)
2012–2013 Aldershot Town 4 (1)
2012 Bristol Rovers (loan) 4 (1)
2013– Plymouth Argyle 29 (0)

Fofana Needs Time Not Pressure

Mo Fofana has understandably suffered a lapse in form but the pressure is mounting on the lad to deliver with fans cries for him to start probably doing him more harm than good.

Vic Erzantarz chews the cud

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Mo, a native French speaker, earned a one year extension after some bright performances in a hit and miss first season for both his good self and the Imps last term. He deserved a new deal, possibly more as a versatile defensive squad player, but, with so many other midfielders in the side the work horse was going to have to be at his best in order to get a regular starting place as a centre-half, right-back or defensive midfielder. Mo has therefore not been cast aside and recently got an opportunity against Gainsborough, however his confidence and display on the night showed that he is currently a shadow of what he can be when he is at the top of his game.  At this level players cannot be expected to show the consistency of the pros plying their trade further up the pyramid. If they could Lincoln would be counting the luca and wishing them well for the future.

Mamadou’s Stats 

No NAME St Sub Mins G On M Ass F’s F’ed YC RC
6 2013/14 10 3 901 0 3 1 2 6 7 0 0
37 2012/13 29 2 2140 1 3 8 0 28 23 6 0

Ratings (last 10 games)

Name G Tot Ave                    
Fofana 13 99 7.7 8 8 7 7 7

MOMs: 1

Fofana’s early season form was a credit to his desire and tenacious tackling but his right foot bias and inexperience puts him behind two-footed or left-footed players when it comes to playing to the left of Nolan.  Foster was certainly far from his best on Saturday, but he was replacing Nolan with Todd Jordan to his left. Jordan is two-footed but he is much stronger on his left peg and has played well.  In a crowded midfield moving the ball from your left to right foot allows your opponent to rob you as well as making it easier to beat you when going past with the ball at his feet.

It is a frustration for fans, but to rush Mo back into a slot that will further erode his confidence would be the wrong move at the moment. With the side struggling for consistency it will also add pressure to our 25 year old hero and maybe even further add to what has seen him suffer the lapse in form that the team are also trying to overcome.  Todd Jordan meanwhile was a stand-out performer against Worcester laying on a brilliant ball for Tomlinson to head home to ease the tension and set-up the plum Plymouth tie. He has made the step up from the NPL and is going from strength to strength yet become a target for a small section of fans, despite some brave performances of his own and a hernia condition to boot.

 
STMI BIOPIC
FULL NAME Mamadou Fofana
DATE OF BIRTH 7 January 1988 (age 25)
PLACE OF BIRTH Sarcelles, France
HEIGHT 6 ft 1 in (1.81 m)
WEIGHT 12st 4lbs (78.2kg)
POSITION: CD / DM / CM
CURRENT CLUB Lincoln City / 1 year deal
NUMBER 37
YOUTH CAREER
Sarcelles
SENIOR STATS
YEARS Team Apps (Gls)
2012–2013 Lincoln City 31 (2)

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Farman Set For Plymouth Comeback

Inspirational Lincoln and England C keeper Paul Farman looks set to face Plymouth Argyle in a winner takes all encounter as David attempts to slay Goliath in the First Round of The FA Cup on Saturday.

Rose Tinted is getting excited

Lincoln City F.C. badge.png V The initials "P.A.F.C" underneath a shield featuring a ship called the Mayflower in full sail.

Farman has been a solid ever-present presence between the sticks for Lincoln and will be vital if we are to keep out the Pilgrims who have won their last two games 1-0 against Mansfield and Northampton respectively.  Farman was forced to miss the 0-1 reverse at Welling with a knee injury as experienced keeper coach David Preece came in to cover.

Sq No Starts Sub Mins Saves Let In C/S YC
1 Paul Farman  18  0  1620  62  16  7  0
31 David Preece  1  0  90  4  1  0  0

The Pilgrims had a tough start to the season but have now lost just once in the last 5 games, the defeat coming at the Monkey-Hangers (Hartlepool) with home draws against Portsmouth (1-1) and Newport (0-0).  Both the Stags and Newport have made solid starts to the season suggesting John Sheridan’s side look set to climb the table with an FA Cup run also very much in the plans.

The up-turn in form should also boost the gate with the Pilgrims perhaps bringing anywhere from 700-1500, boosted by the atmospheric former home end the Stacey-West, named after the two Imps who died in the Bradford Fire disaster.

Ambition Costs ask Hull City, Doncaster and Scunthorpe.

Doncaster Rovers, Scunthorpe United and Hull City used to be League rivals to Lincoln City but all have dared to dream while we have been happy with a lot in life that sees us drop from the League  with apparently no real ambition to return. When are we likely to play Donny, The Tigers or The Iron in the League again? It hurts almost as much as the death by a thousand cuts our club is enduring.

thanks for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs.

Lincoln City F.C. badge.pngHull City badgeDoncaster Rovers FC.pngScunthorpe United FC logo.svg

 

Doncaster and Scunthorpe have recently tasted the Championship on two occasions, eclipsed by Hull now back in the hallowed Premiership, but having shared fourth tier status with them all. the Imps in contrast have preferred the safe option as the way forward in what is an entertainment and results led business. Rovers and The Iron have had their downs but their set-up has enabled them to attract new owners and investment. Lincoln would have loved Peter Swann and the Wilcos millions, instead he chose the Iron over the Imps. The same can be said of Hull who also got into a mess but ambition has seen all three capture the imagination and ambition of  eager suitors, while the Imps have not. Lincoln still needed a bailout to avoid going back into admin again as attendances fell, budgets dwindled and relegation came calling to knock the final nails in the coffin to allow a Holding Company to take control.

Our rivals have put cash in on top of what the club generates on an ongoing basis, while at Lincoln £75,000 (most on that board only put in £50,000) gets you prawns for life while the faithful stump up £18 for non-League football. The manager may be generous to the board for their help but should we be, given a budget on a par with the part-timers who are beating us in front of their sub 800 gates?  The Lincoln fans have also lost their stake in a once vaunted Community club, with  1 million shares going into a Holding Company that has still not decided what is going to happen with our last remaining crown jewel  – the very church I am still banned from going to – the ground.  But naturally we should be thankful and take our frustrations out on the only bloke at fault, with the perennial manager bashing now getting into full swing ahead of a Cup tie that might just help the cause.

The succession of managers has been blamed yet in reality surely it is the constant at the heart of the club and not the variables that has to be to blame, as the fans start to question the latest to be given the poison challis.  This is one who has kept them up and with a bottom eight budget, now been lambasted that a promising start has led to mid-table mediocrity.  Normally a manager gets the push in October so the latest is doing well, but for all his hard work a growing number feel he is on borrowed time.

Cautious tactics are to blame and the under-performance of a reasonable quality squad prepared to play full-time for £350 a week plus a weekly bonus if they are in the top eight.  Is it any wonder the excuses are consistent with the manager backing a hard-working side that is struggling to score but going down narrowly to part-timers in front of 746 fans – of which 167 were travelling Imps.  These part-timers are paying some of their lads 2-3 times what Lincoln City can afford and willing to pay to fund overnight trips while the hat went round amongst Imps fans sites after we appealed for the funding of two for our team. Are we really that rinky-dink now?

Next up is part-time Southport, paying a new striker £525 a week plus accommodation and bonuses on top.  Yet Lincoln with a much bigger turnover than Port cannot compete, lost to Welling and Salisbury who have agreed to fund 15 overnight trips for their team.  Geography works against us both ways because they visitors to Sincil Bank are small enough to put in a Community stand that could be confused with a secondary school bike shed or supermarket trolley station.

Quite where Lincoln City spend their money is not something I want to go into, well not again anyway because budget questions and freedom of speech costs at Lincoln City, the former community club.  Don’t ask for any help from the Supporters Trust which is anything but a critical friend these day, that’s if it ever was, with legal action pending and a track record that brings tears to the eye. Then again so does having to doff your cap and be thankful for what we are and where we are.  The club deserves better and, when we laugh at Grimsby losing £450,000 last year just think on.  They are playing Scunthorpe next week and their crowd could top 8,000.  That is another £60,000 each in the kitty of both clubs plus the chance of £18,000 prize money.

The Mariners are not going under and continue to inspire their fans by putting in cash and not just expecting the club to generate a miracle funded by fans and commercial sponsors who will put love above the risk of being associated with a losing brand.  Alas at Lincoln the game plan is caution and we can see how that is working in the face of 16 clubs with far superior budgets who are a mix of part-time and professional NON-LEAGUE clubs.  And bar an optimistic spurt at the start of this season we can see how that is working for us as a club can’t we.  It is probably also leading to a smaller and smaller new ground as every year goes by.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Being an optimist is what being an Imp has always been about, well that and being able to lump it I’m afraid. For a start the fans need to give this manager and his players continued backing because they are the underdogs and so are we, so we need to stick together.  Given the fact that fans and citizens in an otherwise thriving city have turned their back on the lack of ambition and overpriced product, we need to don’t we? Or at least start asking the right questions of those who are custodians of a local institution that do not seem able to match the ambition we have for our club.  If they did ex-Imps might stop going to Nottingham to watch their football or sitting at home in front of the telly and adopting a Premier League pet.

Who will volunteer to turn out the light before we get our coats then?