Category Archives: Fans Memories
Victory over mighty Cardiff City saw the Imps relegate local rivals Notts County and Doncaster on the very last day of the season, but only just and after six wins on the bounce. The visit of Cardiff City, full of Welsh internationals fit for the 1958 World Cup Finals, saw 18,000 witness the culmination of the greatest escape the Football League has ever witnessed. The Imps were still in Division 2, in what is now the Championship, as the Magpies, the Leagues oldest Club, had their birthright stolen by a single point.
We had won only two of our first fifteen after Grimsby had crocked £4,500 signing George Hannah. Bill Anderson’s other big gamble Roy Chapman would,not surprisingly, struggle for much of the season, under the huge weight of expectation. In those days the Imps support came mainly from the foundry workers. Many would come straight from work, or via the pubs, where they would link up with their sons. In many ways this timeless bond, or passage to manhood we modern fans still take for granted, would see the only prolonged period of father son time. As one can imagine the regulars would expect something for their hard earned money, giving out far more than abuse.
Their patience and pockets had been sorely tested too, although football crowds were peaking as postwar austerity continued to come to an end. This season would see typical gates over 8400 with a healthy average of 10,146. The proud Second Division Imps had suffered 7 months of woe, with just one win in the November and December. January February and March saw none won. Two vital games at Easter had failed to melt any of those luxurious eggs either, yielding 3-1 reverses to Stoke and Barnsley. The defiant yellow-belly pride saw a gallant Imp scale the Sincil terrace flagpole to lower the club colours to half mast during the Barnsley game. The mighty Bill Anderson, conjurer supreme sat, head in hands, by the famous old Sincil stove heater in the home dressing room. The national press wrote the obituaries, the fat lady was on stage doing the old one-two to check the PA.
Perhaps Bill drew inspiration from high upon the hill, whence the Imp spirit had escaped all those centuries before? The burning embers of the fire inspired, as he shuffled a pack of cards fraying at the very edges. But then Bill was good at looking the devil and the riders of doom in the face and laughing all the way to the Bank in both senses of the word. He had got us back into the League twice, on one occasion building a side for under two thousand pounds. Back came two old but dependable defensive stalwarts, Downie and Emery (who would make 406 appearances for the Imps) as we went to Barnsley for a return we simply had to win. We did, in a reversal of the 3-1 scoreline in the previous encounter. but the hard way as usual. Hannah gave us the lead to the delight of the travelling diehards. Alas the Tykes equalised on the stroke of half time. The Imps went for the jugular, Harbertson; a £2,000 panic buy in February came good. Finally, poetic justice for boo boy target Chapman. When all around was blood and thunder at a corner, his cool clinical finish sealed the win.
Four days later, fierce local rivals Doncaster Rovers, one place and one point above us, came to the Bank expecting easy pickings. On 14 minutes, very much against the run of play, they went one up against a spirited Imps attacking five, who had done everything but score. Wingers Smilie and Withers ran Rovers ragged, roared on by the partisan Bank. A withers cross was met by Hannah on the penalty spot, and few would want to stop his bullet. Chapman capitalised on a poor back pass to beat the keeper one on one. Harbertson then made it three. As the huge crowd dispursed, the talk was of whether the Imps could pull off what would indeed be a great escape against all the odds.
Even the national media echoed the Lincoln Chronicle’s belief that a great escape was on. After all 3 of our last four were at home. We beat Rotherham 2-0, thanks to Smillie & Harbertson again. Then came the 4-0 home demolition of Bristol City thanks to a Harbertson brace, a swashbuckling Smillie solo and Chapman rounding off the rout. Next came highflying Huddersfield. We attacked once at their place in the fifth minute and held for the remaining 85. Alas all around us got results. So to that Cardiff game up our sleeve. Thanks to heavy snow back in January it had been called off with us three down.
Wales had qualified for the World Cup, and with the selectors in town things wouldn’t be easy for us. Still needing a point 18,000 crammed into the Bank to will the lads to it. A wall of noise cheered until the 51st minute when Joe Bonson (later to don the Red & White)scored then taunted Emery, boasting that we were down. The noise picked up again as only we Imps know how, driving, sucking in an equaliser. On 69 Hannah waltzed past two and centred. Chapman ‘the Chump’ crashed home a towering header to become Chapman the Champ. His last for games to be fare, all had been forgiven. Around the City, those unable to get in, huddled around the wirelesses. The Mighty Imps hadn’t finished yet, driven by the pride of the City. The City erupted in the 80th minute as the Imps punched above their weight once again. Harbertson went wide and centred for Chapman again, this time he slotted home.
Five minutes later the most awesome strike ever seen at Sincil Bank. Harbertson sprinted past two defenders from the halfway line. Thirty yards out he hammered a thunderous howitzer of a drive that literally broke the stanchion. The keeper never moved. But Lincoln were 20th out of twenty two and still members of the two tier football league. Notts County and Doncaster Rovers were down and out as the underdogs continued to prove the doubters and their bigger rivals wrong.
First the scorers & crowds, then the match results and finally the League table showing just how close things were.
|J Grainger||10||Biggest Gate||18,000||Blackburn|
|R Chapman||8||Ave gate||10,146|
Match by match
|Aug||24||West Ham United||Away||Drew||2-2|
|Dec||21||West Ham United||Home||Lost||1-6|
The Final Table
|1||West Ham United||42||12||8||1||56||25||11||3||7||45||29||1.87||57|
John Beck was my next memory; his long ball game was not my cup of tea. He actually had confrontations with Imps fans as we started the “Beck out” chant away at The Posh. But in the end we were proved wrong. As much as I didn’t like the long ball game, John Beck’s team got us promoted, although Shane Westley took over for the last few games. We beat Brighton on the last game of the season 2-0. I celebrated like never before, as I probably knew that it was a 1 off. We were soon relegated the season after, as I predicted, shame the board didn’t back the management!
As the seasons passed I don’t really remember anything really memorable (I may have forgot something), but I made good friends – a chap from Newark, Brian – was a cracking lad who was as mad about city as I was/am. For about 10 years from about 1990-2000 we followed city home and away. The 2 wackiest moments were 2 Tuesday night games. Away at Exeter, on the Monday I got the call from Brian, ‘are we off mate?’…,’yes of course’ I answered. So off we went at midday with the 5 hour journey to watch a 1-1 draw. I reckon it was about 3 in the morning when we finally got in. We must have been mad, or maybe just loved the Imps; I still went to work at 7 that morning, absolutely knackered! Brighton was the same, not quite as far but people thought us barmy, – well we were – bugger it the imps were our lives, our team!!!
The next hero was the great late Keith Alexander. If his first spell as manager of city didn’t really bring a lot of excitement, his 2nd spell certainly did! After the administration and the great Rob Bradley steering the Imps back from the brink…..the march through the city, the buy a seat, which still has my name on it 🙂 The Imps got rid of Buckley (he was shite anyway) and made Keith number 1 at the Bank. We were favourites to go down that season, but he built a team that I honestly thought was going to struggle to keep us in the league. But the rest is history, 4 playoffs and 2 visits to Cardiff. Yes, probably the most memorable spell of watching city in all the years I had been going. 15000 went to the first visit to Cardiff and, I believe 12000 the 2nd. The fans are out there waiting for ambition to knock!!!!!
But it was not to be, we were still in league 2(wish we was now). Keith resigned after the game at Grimsby; I was saddened at his resignation, as I somehow thought that things were not going to be the same ever again at the Bank, how bloody true that was!! After Keith, things at the Bank just went from bad to worse. To us older fans who had been going for many years, we more or less knew what was happening.
With the appointment of Sutton, and Tilson, although most fans welcomed Tilson, you could sense things were on a very slippery slope. The inevitable happened and we were once again out the league. I remember saying to a mate that we had 10 games to save our season and the winnable game to keep us up was the game at home to Cheltenham. I said, that was our only winnable game to keep us up, we got beat. I knew at that time we would be relegated.
I bet Paul Lambert, the guy who should have got the job, instead of Tilson, would have kept us up! So Tilson leaves (us in a mess) and in came David Holdsworth, not my choice and still isn’t, although I would love him to prove me wrong, I doubt he will. Last season we managed to escape relegation to the BSN with a small purple patch that saved our season – and Holdsworth wins himself another year’s contract.
He has built another team, that I believe will finish half way, which will be a better season than last, but I doubt he has it in him to take us all the way to the top in the future. But I now look forward to the new season. Although I’m not expecting promotion or even the play-offs I have red and white running through my veins and I will be there every kick of the ball.
I won’t say too much of the board as they have got a lot wrong and they know it. Trew and Michael Foley, to name just 2 mistakes in my eyes!!!! I believe that they must be held responsible for the relegation of our beloved Imps to the BSP. And the fact they made a lot of people redundant because of their mistakes! But I still hope and believe that the Mighty Imps will once again be in the Football League, but maybe not for 7-8 seasons.
But with supporters like the Lincoln city banter facebook group and other fund raising groups, I believe we have superb fans that will see the Imps rise again!!
Take my hand, take my whole life too…… well 37 years of it and counting anyway. Raise a glass please as guest writer Dale Radley shares his memories with the mighty Imps
The clanford End looking towards the west terrace
“Sat in my cab on quite a few occasion while we have no work, my mind so often wanders to the years I have spent watching the Imps. 1975 was the first time I watched city. Memories are not quite so vivid as the old grey matter doesn’t work that well nowadays, even at the young age of 48. My two uncles first started to take me to Sincil Bank and I never thought 37 years later that I would still be watching them. We would be stood on the oldWest Bankwith me struggling to see over the wall, not really understanding football at the age of 10 (not sure if I really understand it now at the minute).
‘But the game that sticks out in that season was the League Cup Round 2 game against Stoke, we won 2-1,with over 13000 in the ground, the atmosphere was electric. I was in the oldSt Andrewsstand with me 2 uncles on that night, when the pressure of the unruly crowd behind the South Park Stand toppled the wall over. As an 11 year old lad I was fascinated at what was happening, watching the police and then the firemen who were watching the match from the station, who were trying their best to keep the fans off the pitch, not realising there had been a few injuries I was excited to watch it all happening.
‘But a 2-1 win over a division 1 team was a superb scalp for the Imps in an historic night, with goals from Harding and Booth. But we lost atLeicesterin the next round in front of 7000 travelling imps, going down 2-1. The 1975-76 season was when we had the 2 points for a win and 74 points were amassed. That record was never beaten and still a record under the 2 points system. A record of winning 32 games and only losing 4 was also set. City also became the first club in over 100 years to score over 100 goals in a season(111 to be exact). We won 21 of 23 home games while drawing the other 2, winning 11 games away. Graham Taylor – what a manager – until Elton whipped him away toWatford.
But boy, did I think city were the dogs danglers, but it seems to be mostly downhill since that first season!
‘My next real memory was the Colin Murphy side of 80-81, we managed to get 2nd place behind Southend and promotion to the then Division 3 thanks to Gordon Hobson’s 21 goals. 1981 was another very eventful season with the Imps knocking out Leicestercity in the league cup and leading Division 3 for if I remember right 2-3 months. But alas, boardroom unrest about transfer budgets upset the club and we fell away badly with our form going out of the window. I was still 17 at that time and I remember the game down in Fulham that Lincolnneeded to win so badly. I was sat in my old Hillman avenger on the high St on me tod, listening to the game on the radio. Its still very misty, but I seem to remember we were 1 down when Thommo got sent off…..we brought the score back to 1-1, with a reported 5ooo Imps that travelled spurring their team on. But it was not to be. I seem to remember some fun on the streets that night at Craven Cottage as well. We ended up 6th that season, missing out on promotion to the then div 2, now the championship!
‘In 1985 Colin Murphy resigned. He resigned 10 days before the tragic fire atBradford. I was courting a girl from Sheffield at the time and decided to visit her instead of going to see the Imps atBradfordthat day. A wise choice for me, but not for 56 others that perished – they just went to watch a football match. Tragic! I was sat in her living room when she said, Dale look here what’s on TV atBradford. I couldn’t believe what I was watching and my thoughts and worry were with my brother. I thought he had gone to the game, but he decided also against it and work. I Called him and call it fate if you want, but somebody up there didn’t want us to go to that match!
‘My next memory was that fateful day when we were relegated from the football League. I was listening from home, thinking it was just an end of season match that meant nothing, but as results came in, we all know what happened, our beloved Imps were relegated! Shocked, I remember sitting there with tears in my eyes ,not believing that we were not in the football league anymore…..
Onto the promotion season ,87-88, and Murphy was back. If I remember rightly there was some great games….the games against Barnet especially exciting. But the game that sticks in my mind was the last game at home to Wycombe – goals from Brown and Setori, with an official attendance of 9000+. No chance! A chap I know on the turnstiles said they stopped letting Imps in at about 14000+. The excitement at the final whistle was amazing, Murphy’s mission was complete. Colin Murphy, a legend in my eyes. The cheek of him – he raided his old club Stockport, after we had raided Murphy fromStockport. On the pitch celebrating as one of my heroes that season, the mad nigel batch lifted the trophy, what we could do with that team now. I’m sure it would spank this last season’s team.