Friday, May 10, 2013

They came, they saw, they at least tried

Hello all

Yesterday afternoon it emerged that Jake Jones, a player who had been on loan at the Imps last season, wasn't going to join City afterall and it caused many to question his desire to play football, and his professionalism. Whilst I don't share that view, I decided to come up with a team of Lincoln players (that I have seen) where you would never, ever question any of their commitment to the cause.

This list is compiled from each team since the 2000/1 season, which was the first year I started watching the club on a regular basis. Some are club legends, some are names few of the younger fans will ever have heard of, but each one of them gave their all for the cause.

Goalkeeper - Alan Marriott

Goalkeeping legend Alan Marriott broke so many club records it was ridiculous. He holds the record for the most appearances for a goalkeeper, totted up over 100 clean sheets for the club and was the only man to play in all of Lincoln's 11 Playoff matches. He joined the club from Tottenham in 1999 and quickly established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the lower leagues, often scouted by teams much higher up in the structure, including Bradford in 2005, who were in the Championship at the time.
Marriott after the 2002/3 Playoff Final

Marriott was also the last player that we offered a three year contract to, yes, three years. No player has been offered that length since and most are lucky to get a two year contract. He left the club in 2008, just one season shy of a testimonial, and went on to play for Rushden before eventually joining Mansfield.

There is not one person who can question Alan's commitment to the Imps during his 9 year spell. Every match he put in as much effort as he could and when he made a mistake, you could tell that he was absolutely devastated.

I have a lot of time for Alan, he would gladly talk to fans about any issues, and at one point in the 2006/7 season we had a lengthy discussion about my rather unfair criticism of the team at that time.

Alan has been linked with a move back to the club at some point, but one thing is for sure, the club certainly haven't been able to adequately replace him since he left.

Defender - Mark Bailey

Mark Bailey joined the club from Northwich after Keith Alexander had recommended him to the then
manager, Alan Buckley. Whilst Bailey's first season at the club was quiet, it was the second season that he soon became heavily noticed by the fans.

In the first half of games at Sincil Bank, the Imps were generally shooting towards the South Park end of the ground and Bailey would be in a start position right next to the CO-OP, before every single game he was there getting the crowd going and you knew that he would always give 100%, and the defenders knew it to.

He was an extremely reliable defender who few wingers liked playing against, and his battles against Scunthorpe's Peter Beagrie were epic. He rarely didn't put everything into tackles and it got him in trouble with a lot of referees, even getting the odd sending off.

At the end of the 2003/4 in a Playoff Semi Final second leg against Huddersfield, Bailey scored a dramatic goal that put the Imps 3-2 up on aggregate. It wasn't to be enough however as the hosts eventually won 4-3 on aggregate and despite the pitch invasion from Huddersfield fans, Bailey made his way over to the away end to applaud the 3,500 Lincoln fans. It was the last time he would be seen in a Lincoln shirt.

We haven't had a right back like Bailey since he left, and it's a shame that he couldn't stay with us longer as we certainly weren't as effective on the right hand side of defence, with Peter Beagrie enjoying a field day against the Imps at the beginning of the 2004/5 season.

Defender - Simon Weaver

If you still have your programme from the 2002/3 Playoff Final, you will read a quote from Ben Sedgemore that says "Simon Weaver would jump in front of a moving train if it meant it wouldn't get to the Lincoln goal" (or words to that effect) and that sums Weaver up for me.

One of the unsung heroes of the defence of that season, a defence that only conceded 37 goals in a 46 game season, Weaver was one of those who you believe would still demand to play on even if his head had been ripped open and the blood was pouring down his face (similar to Terry Butcher). Alongside the ever dependable Paul Morgan, and Ben Futcher, they formed a central defensive rock that has seldom been seen at any level beneath the Premier League.

Weaver was a man who gave his all and it was just a pity that City's success on the pitch meant that we could bring in better defenders (such as McCombe and McAuley) and he soon get left behind before leaving in late 2004 to go to Kidderminster.

Simon went on a tour of the non-league afterwards and eventually found himself as the manager of Harrogate Town, a team who now play City in the pre-season.

Defender - Mark Camm

Right now I imagine all the City fans who started supporting the club after 2004 are thinking "who?" and to
be honest, I think a few fans from before then would also be struggling to remember Mr Camm, but that's what happens when you only make 32 appearances over a four year spell.

Camm joined the club from Sheffield United in 2000 as a midfielder but semi regularly found himself in the defence.....and it was hard to tell him apart from Paul Mayo when they played next to each other, and they played in a relatively similar way....with one major exception, Camm was very nippy. Camm could sneak in between two players and they'd only notice he was there when it was too late, he was also busting a gut to get there.

He was never deemed a regular at Sincil Bank, average just eight games a year, but I was personally very excited to see him play as he was one of those who you knew wouldn't give up.

The youngster, when he left, disappeared into non-league and his last major contribution anywhere was helping Boston win promotion in 2010.

Defender - Matt Bloomer

I feel sorry for Matt in many ways because the one game he is always remembered for is that game against Wycombe when Nathan Tyson danced around him like he wasn't there, it made a lot of people forget just how reliable Bloomer generally was.

He started life at Grimsby before joining Hull. He struggled to get into the squad at Boothferry Park and was eventually loaned out to Lincoln, where he made enough of an impression for the club to sign him permanently.......after he had joined Telford in the summer of 2002. Bloomer went on to become one of the most consistent performers in the Lincoln squad, but much like Weaver, he was a bit of an unsung hero, often letting other's take the glory.

What you got with Matt was the knowledge that he was a consistent performer and would do his utmost to make sure that the Imps won, he even chipped in with a goal every now and then. He never established himself as a regular first team player though and left in 2006.

Midfielder - Chris Herd

I was a big fan of Chris Herd's and still am to this day. Virtually no-one had heard of the Australian before he walked out of the tunnel in the FA Cup game at Northwich Victoria, but what the fans who were there saw was 90 minutes worth of effort, sweat, and an ability to beat people to headers who were at least a foot taller than him.

To say Herd was full of energy was an understatement, he was an incredible little bundle of energy, and I still say to this day that if it wasn't for him and Davide Somma, we would have gone down a year earlier than we actually did.

Chris was the last player to play in a City shirt who I got excited when he got on the ball. He wasn't afraid to run at defenders or shoot, and get stuck into tackles, which won him many fans.....and conversations with referees.

His loan spell ended and he was offered a new contract at Aston Villa. We almost got him back on loan before an injury. Injuries have restricted him to just 34 appearances for Aston Villa in the three years since he left Lincoln, and many wouldn't be surprised if he gets released from his contract when it's up.

I would definitely have him back at Sincil Bank without even thinking about it.....whether he would come back is a very different matter of course.

Midfielder - Richard Butcher (1981 - 2011 RIP)

If there is a Lincoln fan who doesn't know who Richard Butcher is, then there is something very, very wrong. Butcher played for the Imps on three separate occasions during the last ten years and there is not a single time during any of those spells that anyone could question his commitment or desire....except for maybe Chris Sutton.

Butcher was the great chaser (and rescuer) of lost causes. The amount of times the ball was going out of play and he would sprint as fast as his body could carry him just to get to it was unbelievable. He was in many ways the perfect Keith Alexander player, he was skillful, he had all the effort you could possibly ask of a player and best of all, he was extremely approachable.

Lincoln seemed like home to Butcher, he never really seemed to fit in anywhere else (except for Macclesfield at the end of his career). He was heavily heckled at Oldham and despite a record just shy of a goal every four games for Notts County (a record a LOT of strikers would be pleased at), he wasn't popular there, and he only ever really seemed truly happy when he was at Lincoln.

His first two spells at the club were heavily successful, whereas his third didn't go quite according to plan under Peter Jackson, and went even further downhill when Chris Sutton took charge. He eventually signed for Macclesfield and played for them until January 9th 2011, the day of his death.

RIP Richard.

Midfielder - Danny Lloyd

It's December 2011 and the Imps are doing something they wish they didn't have to do, and that is
participating in the FA Trophy. The first round saw the Imps drawn away to the Colwyn Bay, a lengthy trip considering that the draw was regionalised. City comfortably won 3-1 but there was a member of the Colwyn Bay side that caught the eye, winger Danny Lloyd.

A few months later and Lloyd had been signed by the Imps and although his City career got off to a slow start, Lloyd soon became one of the key members of the first team. He had bundles of energy and the enthusiasm you would expect of a young player getting his first proper taste of professional football. Whilst not to the same extent as Chris Herd, whenever Danny got the ball you expected things to happen, and by the end of the season he had gained the respect of a lot of fans.

Unfortunately things didn't quite work out with the contract and he left the club, rejoining Colwyn Bay. I would personally love to see Danny back at Lincoln, and whilst some might not agree with my view of his contribution, you will find very few people who didn't think he put in a LOT of effor.

Midfielder - Jake Sheridan

The only current member of the squad on this list is a player who surprised many last season. In 2011/12 not many people really rated Sheridan, however, the opinion of a lot of people changed in the 2012/13 season
as Jake suddenly turned into this player who would never give up a lost cause, would never stop and didn't know the meaning of the word quit, he just changed completely overnight.

More than anybody who played for the Imps in the 2012/13 season, you knew that Jake would always give his everything for the cause. He was the only man who you could rely on to give 100% for 100% of every match that he played. When others were having bad games, their heads would sink, Jake would just get on with it and try and make up for his mistakes, it might not have worked some of the time but it was a nice changed to see someone who tried their hardest, even when things weren't going their way.

Jake signed a new contract to stay at the club for the 2013/14 season.

Forward - Dave Cameron

No, not the Prime Minister.

What can you really say about a man who's nickname was "Soggy Dave?". I'll be honest, I don't remember a lot about Dave Cameron, but the one thing I do remember that tells you all you need to know comes from what would have been his final touch as a Lincoln City player.

It's April 2002, the Imps are playing their last game of the 2001/2 season (and possibly their last game ever
due to financial difficulties) away at Hull City and it's 1-1 going into the final few minutes. Hull hit the bar and the Imps take it down the other end, Tony Battersby bursts.....well, I say bursts, he casually of the defender but instead of shooting he decides to pass to Dave. Dave is busting a lung to make it into the box in time to reach the ball, the sweat dripping down his face and that look of desperation that tells you that he wants to get there. He arrives just in the nick of time to meet the ball, he swings his boot at it......and completely misses the ball......six inches out from goal....and the ball rolls out for a goal kick.

If that doesn't sum up Dave Cameron, I don't know what will.

Forward - Simon Yeo

Every man and his dog at Sincil Bank knows who Mr Yeo is. More than 50 goals for the club between 2002 and 2006 makes him easily the highest scorer at the club this millennium, however, despite what a lot of City fans will tell you and despite what the stats may say, there was a time when Simon Yeo couldn't hit a barn door.

It's September 21st 2002 and Simon Yeo scores against Southend and the Imps eventually win the game 2-
1. It would be Simon's last league goal until May.....and even that took a heavy deflection off of someone's shoulder. During that time Yeo missed chance after chance after chance. In a 2-0 defeat at Bury, Yeo at one point hit a shot at the keeper, it rebounded to him, he hit the post, it rebounded again and he hit the same post again, it rebounded AGAIN.....and Yeo hit it wide.

In all honesty, if Yeo had stuck away even just a quarter of the chances he spurned during that season then we wouldn't have even needed the Playoff Final, however, the reason Mr Yeo is in this list is that during the season, despite all the missed chances, the wild volleys from two yards out that went nearer the corner flag that the goalkeeper and the general bad luck, there wasn't one time when I questioned Simon's effort.

It's safe to say that none of the strikers we had that year really shone above any of the others, the fact a defender was the leading goalscorer backs that up, but there was only one who was trying for every single minute that he played, and that was Simon Yeo. Obviously it all worked out for him in the end and he went on to be the most prolific striker we've had this millennium in terms of goals scored, but for me that effort put in during that spell was incredible.

So there you have it, my "They At Least Tried" XI

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