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My time at ..Lincoln City. Part 3. A new era

November 9, 2010 Leave a comment

 

find-me-a-gift Over 2000 Gifts and Gadgets

As I reported for pre-season training I hadn’t managed to sell the house in Bristol. This was a real pain. Luckily for me my mother-in-law allowed me to stay with her in Grimsby meaning that I was to commute to Lincoln during pre-season training. I travelled in with Martin Gritton. Although it was under an hour from door to door I wanted to get all the family moved up as soon as possible. John Schofield was brilliant for me during that time. We had weekends off during pre-season for the first few weeks which allowed me to get back down to Bristol. It was a 5am departure on a Monday morning to trek back up to Lincoln for training though.

John Schofield was promoted to first team coach with John Deeham coming in to assist him. John was brilliant as youth team coach and I got on well with him when he was assistant to Keith Alexander. In my opinion he was rightly given the opportunity to lead the first team following the departure of Keith.

Two of Lincoln’s biggest players, both in height and status, had left over the summer. Jamie McCombe and Gareth McAuley left to play for Bristol City and Leicester City respectively. Both were leaving for higher divisions so you can fully understand their departures.

Although there were other players that left at that time you always felt that McAuley and McCombe would be tough to replace. The budget was cut, as it so often is at lower league clubs so the recruitment was important.

Adie Moses was brought in. Nat Brown and Paul Morgan were the other recognised central defenders. Paul Mayo played at centre half occasionally too but John Schofield was to put a larger emphasis on attacking when he took over. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as if he completely neglected the defensive side of the game but he had so many attack minded players at his disposal that it made sense to play the way he did. When a new manager comes in they always like to put their stamp onto their team as early as possible. John made his values clear from very early on.

Mark Stallard was signed too from Shrewsbury. We immediately hit it off both on and off the pitch. We are the same age, only separated by a week or so, and we had played against each other many times for our previous clubs over the years.

We adapted a 4-3-3 formation for the pre-season matches but also worked on a 4-4-2 formation. We had the personnel to change formation without changing players. I really didn’t mind which formation we played but I think we were more effective when we played 4-4-2. Mark Stallard and I seemed to have an understanding of how to play up front together. Lee Frecklington burst onto the scene too which made us both look better than we were. Freck had a rare quality of being able to run beyond both Mark and I. His energy along with his quality gave the team so many options. The younger legs of Jeff Hughes and Ryan Amoo also took the pressure off the two of us up front. Our football brains and re-vitalisation that playing in that team gave us allowed us to be a big reason why we reached the play-offs that season.

A 1-1 draw at home to Notts County saw us get off the mark. The next two away matches were perfect for me. Hereford United and Torquay United were not too far from Bristol and John allowed me to stay down that week. These gestures go a long way for me. He could so easily have made me train up in Lincoln that week.

6 points from those two games gave us a great start to the season. A stoppage time winner at Torquay by Martin Gritton was a great way to win a match. A defeat to Scunthorpe United after extra time in the league cup was not ideal but allowed us to focus on the league matches which definitely helped. Although I had contributed towards our results I hadn’t scored in the first four matches. My experience taught me not to get too uptight yet I always felt a pressure to get off to a scoring start to any season. I think John Schofield saw that and pulled me to one side. He said that the goals would come and he proved to be correct.

I would like to say thank you to the sponsors of this blog: JJB SPORTS who have a 3 for 2 offer.

 

find-me-a-gift Over 2000 Gifts and Gadgets

My time at…Lincoln City Part 1. A debut to remember

November 1, 2010 1 comment

I knew that the management team of Lennie Lawrence and Paul Trollope wanted to ship me out. He had not long taken over and, even though we played together at Northampton and Bristol Rovers, he thought that my legs had gone. I remember him calling me on my day off on the Wednesday before the traditional Thursday deadline day.

At that time I was being used as an impact player at Bristol Rovers. I would come on in most matches. If we were chasing a goal I would be given a free role behind the front two. It worked on a couple of occasions where I had made a difference to the outcome of the result.

I never thought that I had the suitable qualities for a decent substitute. A good sub normally has pace of height. You can make more of an impact with those attributes and I didn’t have either.

So Lincoln City wanted me on loan until the end of the season. I genuinely felt that this was my last chance. If things didn’t work out for me at Lincoln then it was the non-league circuit for me. Who would take me if I had not done anything at Lincoln City ?

 I had not made much of an impact at my two previous clubs, Hull City and Bristol Rovers. At both of those clubs there was lots expected of me and I hadn’t quite lived up to the billing. At Bristol Rovers I had been particularly disappointing. I don’t know why. It just never happened for me. I genuinely believe that Bristol Rovers were glad to see the back of me and I really needed a change.

At that time Bristol Rovers were not in with a chance of reaching the play-offs but Lincoln City were. Lincoln were higher up in the League 2 table so it was a step up for me. Although you could argue that Bristol Rovers were a larger club in terms of fan base they were under achieving where as Lincoln had reached the play-offs the last few years at that stage.

When I spoke to Keith Alexander I was instantly impressed. I had been told that he was interested at the start of that season but nothing came of it on that occasion. Due to the distance between Lincoln and Bristol Keith offered to allow me to train with Bristol all week. I could travel up to Lincoln on a Thursday evening to train with the Lincoln squad on a Friday to play the Saturday match.

I must admit that this was a great gesture and a huge reason why I decided to agree to the loan. Being in a hotel away from the family for 6 weeks would not have been ideal. 

There were about 10 matches to go of that season. We needed to guarantee our place in the play offs so there was still some work to do.

My debut would be at home to a former club, Grimsby Town. They too were well placed in League 2 and Russell Slade had done a great job at Blundell Park. I hadn’t started many matches for a while so wasn’t sure how rusty I would be. Before the game Keith just asked me to give him an hour. He said he would be happy with that.

It turned out to me one of the most memorable matches of my career and one that Lincoln city supporters still like to talk about with me. We got out of the blocks very quickly. We were leading 4-0 at half time thanks to goals from Luke Foster, Paul Mayo and Marvin Robinson. I managed to squeeze a debut goal in between which allowed my Lincoln City career to get off to the best possible start. An instinctive left foot volley gave my confidence a huge boost. In fact the half time score could have been much more than 4-0. I must say that we were awesome that day. It was one of those matches that everything seemed to click.

It led to the infamous half time team talk from Russell Slade which he conducted on the pitch. This was not something that we were not aware of. All of the Lincoln city squad has gone into the dressing as normal and we only realised what had happened after the match had finished. Grimsby had been completely outclassed in the first 45 minutes and I think that Russell wanted to make his point in a public manner. Not that it made any difference to the result. A fifth was added by lee Beevers to secure a memorable victory.

I was off and running and it immediately reminded me that I could still do it. My goal was very pleasing on the eye but I was also pleased with my all round contribution on that day.

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